Regional carrier SkyWest Airlines ordered an extra 10 Embraer E175 jets that it will operate for Alaska Airlines next year. A five-jet bump in the order is spurred by the capacity shortfall left by Alaska’s in-house subsidiary Horizon Air, which faces a pilot shortage.
In a move that Horizon Air’s CEO called “disheartening,” regional carrier SkyWest Airlines said Wednesday it will increase the number of jets it operates next year for Alaska Airlines, the parent of beleaguered Horizon.
SkyWest said it has ordered an extra 10 Embraer E175 jets that it will operate for Alaska Airlines next year — five more jets than was previously announced by Alaska in June. The order adds to the 20 E175s SkyWest is already operating for Alaska.
The five-jet bump in the order is spurred by the capacity shortfall left by Alaska’s in-house subsidiary Horizon Air, which faces a near-term shortage of pilots and has deferred deliveries of six E175s previously scheduled for delivery this fall and next spring. SkyWest’s order will fill the gap.
SkyWest is an external contractor that competes directly with Horizon to operate Alaska Airlines regional routes to smaller airports. So the expansion of SkyWest’s role takes business that Horizon might have had.
In an internal message to Horizon employees, Chief Executive Dave Campbell acknowledged that “this news is disheartening,” yet reiterated that the deferrals represent only a pause in Horizon’s growth.
He said the airline’s firm order for a total of 33 Embraer E175s will all be delivered, with the first 30 of those flying by 2020.
The deferral of the six jets last week prompted anxiety among employees and rumors that parent company Alaska Air Group would take the jets from Horizon and lease them to SkyWest.
In response, Teamsters union Local 1224, representing Horizon’s pilots, filed a lawsuit Friday alleging a breach of its contract and seeking a federal court injunction to ensure only Horizon pilots can fly the aircraft.
Campbell insists that the SkyWest order is separate from Horizon’s jet order, and will not affect it.
Alaska Air Group spokesman Bryan Zidar said Wednesday that “SkyWest is buying these extra planes to take care of the needs of the people who fly with Alaska,” but that the number of E175s Horizon will take by 2020 is unchanged.
Campbell told employees that the jet deferrals will “give us the time we need to catch up on pilot hiring and training.”
“We will get though this, stronger than ever,” his message said.
Horizon has already taken delivery of the first 10 of the E175s it ordered. In addition, it flies 52 Bombardier Q400 turboprops.
Based in St. George, Utah, SkyWest is a much larger carrier than Horizon, currently operating an all-jet fleet of more than 400 aircraft, including just over 100 of the new 76-seat E175s.
It also operates flights for United, Delta and American Airlines.
SkyWest also announced Wednesday a separate new jet order for 15 E175s that it will fly for Delta.