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American Airlines

Mesa Air Hopes to Exceed Pre-Pandemic Capacity for Partner American by September

Madhu Unnikrishnan
May 11th, 2021 at 12:51 PM EDT

Mesa Airlines CRJ900

Mesa Air Group executives are almost ready to start popping the champagne. The summer is shaping up to be almost at pre-pandemic levels for the regional that operates flights for both United Airlines and American Airlines.

In fact, CEO Jonathan Ornstein said it will fly 100 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity for American by June. And, by September, the regional will fly more than its pre-pandemic capacity for the Fort Worth, Texas-based mainline carrier. Part of this is fueled by the addition of five Bombardier CRJ900s to the fleet Mesa operates for American.

The story is similar for United regional flights. Mesa expects to operate between 75-80 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity for United in June, rising to 85-90 percent by September. Between November of last year and this June, Mesa will add 18 Embraer E175s to its United operation. The regional also announced it is part of United’s Aviate pilot-pipeline program, with pilots trained at Mesa guaranteed a position in United’s mainline roster after completing the program.

Interest among aspiring pilots to fly for Mesa is strong, Ornstein said. The regional is hiring for all of its workgroups, and “the applicant pools are strong, and in the case of pilots, stronger than we have seen in recent history,” he said. One additional benefit of flying for Mesa, Ornstein said, is that it is the only regional to operate Boeing 737s, part of its freighter operation for DHL, giving pilots mainline flight experience.

Mesa had little to say about the DHL operation. Last year, Mesa said it could add as many as 10 737Fs for DHL within 18 months. Although executives were bullish on the operation, Mesa is not adding aircraft as fast as it predicted last year. It will take delivery of its third Boeing 737-400F in June.

Mesa is, however, bullish about its European operation. Concrete details were scant during Mesa’s quarterly earnings call on Monday, but the regional is moving ahead in getting a European air operators certificate and is working with Gramercy Associates on the project. European regional flying is undergoing a transformation in the wake of Covid, presenting Mesa with opportunities for growth, Ornstein said. Moreover, a European operation will allow Mesa to put some of its “surplus CRJ900s” to use, he said. Mesa did not define a timeline for when the operation may launch, however.

Mesa reported a fiscal second-quarter pre-tax net income of $7.6 million. As in recent quarters, federal stimulus funds fueled the regional’s profits. Mesa benefited from $48.7 million from the second round of payroll support in the quarter, and expects $7.3 million from that round in the third quarter. Mesa will get an additional $52.2 million from the third round of payroll support, passed by Congress in March, in the third quarter.

Madhu Unnikrishnan
May 11th, 2021 at 12:51 PM EDT

Tags: American Airlines, Mesa Airlines, United Airlines

Photo credit: Mesa Airlines plans to be flying more for American than in 2019 by year-end. Flickr / Alan Wilson

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