Operations at Horizon Air are showing signs of recovery, with improved on-time performance and few cancellations in November. The regional airline has finalized a fleet plan to retire some Q400s turboprop planes next year and replace them with Embraer regional jet aircraft.
As a year of crisis at regional carrier Horizon Air comes to a close, its flight operations are finally showing signs of recovery, with improved on-time performance and few cancellations in November.
Internal company memos to employees provided to The Seattle Times also show the Alaska Air Group subsidiary has finalized its fleet plan for 2018, when it will retire some Q400s turboprop planes and replace them with regional jet aircraft built by Embraer of Brazil.
Alaska Air replaced the gaps left by Horizon with flights by competing regional carrier SkyWest or mainline carrier Alaska Airlines.
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A year ago, Horizon was averaging 360 flights per day. This month, that’s down to 295 flights per day, said Alaska Air spokesman Bryan Zidar.
But at least the reduced flight schedule is now running smoothly. And Horizon plans to resume delivery of the E175 jets in March, the internal memo said.
Pilot hiring and training has progressed, with 278 pilots hired, against a goal of adding 670 pilots by the end of next year.
Recently, the airline picked up some pilots from Hawaii who lost their jobs when Island Air shut down last month.
Horizon chief executive Dave Campbell, in a message to employees, called November “a fantastic month” for operational improvement.
“It shows our recovery is working,” Campbell wrote.
Department of Transportation data show 89.9 percent of Horizon flights were on time in November. On-time performance so far in December is 92.5 percent of flights, the best figure to date in 2017, said Zidar.
Morale up, worries remain
Interviews Friday with some pilots and a flight attendant, all of whom asked not to be identified because they spoke without company authorization, indicated that morale is improved — though worries remain.
The flight attendant, in her first year, praised Campbell’s increased transparency, with frequent memos tracking operational data to keep employees informed of progress.
She said employee morale is higher and passengers are responding.
“We’re getting more positive feedback out there,” she said.
A first officer in his second year at Horizon said, “There’s not as much doom and gloom as there was at the peak of the crisis.”
He said a remaining worry is that the company will close more bases, following the announcement that the Horizon base in Anchorage will close in March.
And he said that the airline is stabilizing, but not growing as had been the hope.
“The main reason we are able to fly our schedule on time is not so much that we’ve recovered but that we have less flying on our plate,” he said.
He said the pilots made considerable concessions in the last contract so Horizon management could afford to buy the E175s with an eye to expanding aggressively and creating better career opportunities.
Now, he said, the jets are coming in but without the promised growth.
The company memo laying out the new 2018 fleet plan says Horizon will take delivery of 13 E175s next year, starting in March, but also will retire 13 of its older Q400s.
However, that same memo offers hope of growth the following year, stating that Horizon will take 10 more E175s in 2019 and bring the total fleet to 70 aircraft of both types, up from 60 today.
The memo also notes that the carrier has purchase options for 30 more jets, which could potentially be taken up for expansion in the future.