Start-up airline Connect Airlines is trying to entice captains with a new pay offer amidst a battle for pilots in the United States.
The regional airline, which plans to launch services with Dash 8 aircraft, is seeking up to 30 qualified captains, with a minimum of 2,500 hours, and is offering an annual salary of over $250,000.
“We recognize the hiring challenges the industry is facing and are taking these unprecedented steps to meet the business objectives of our start-up airline while offering pilots economic security and quality of life opportunities,” said John Thomas, CEO of Connect Airlines, in a statement on July 14, 2022. “Creating a new airline in a challenging market means we have to do things differently and smarter than others.”
Connect, which plans to offer US-Canada trans-border flights, said it was hoping to attract captains looking for a good work-life balance, highlighting that its aircraft will return to their home base each day.
The airline also said it was keen for pilots to participate directly in building and growing the business.
“There is a huge benefit in collaborating with our pilots to build a smarter airline and we are backing that up with a compensation package that is considerably higher than any other Regional in the USA and highly competitive with Low Cost Carriers (LCC) as well,” commented Chief Operating Officer David Marcontell.
Major US carriers including American and United are currently negotiating pay contracts with their pilots, with American having offered a 17% pay increase. CNBC reported on July 13, 2022, that United and its pilot unions are renegotiating a pay deal after a first contract, which included a 14% pay increase, fell short of some pilots’ expectations.
US airlines have been improving pay, benefits and bonuses to hire and retain crew in order to meet the bounce back in travel demand following the pandemic. The industry has lost thousands of pilots during the crisis, with many retiring early or not coming back. The roots of the current shortage stretch back many years, however.
Connect said it was “working closely” with US and Canadian regulators to finish its certification process. It plans to begin scheduled services between Toronto’s Billy Bishop’s (YTZ) convenient downtown airport and Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD) and Philadelphia (PHL) airports. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has tentatively approved Connect’s certificate authorizing foreign scheduled air transportation.
The carrier also has ambitions to become a zero-emission airline and has signed a deal to convert ATR 72-600 regional aircraft to hydrogen powertrains.