United hires American Eagle

At first blush it seems like quite a strange development. After all, why would United Airlines be hiring the regional carrier arm of American Airlines to handle operations at 8 airports across the south plus one in New York? Turns out it isn’t all that uncommon at all, and there is actually a good reason for it.

The airports in question are:

  • Waco, TX
  • College Station, TX
  • Killeen/Fort Hood, TX
  • Tyler, TX
  • Monroe, LA
  • Dallas Love Field, TX
  • Del Rio, TX
  • Beaumont/Port Arthur, TX
  • Binghamton, NY

These happen to all be airports that United Express has recently been operating to with service provided by Colgan, a subsidiary of Pinnacle, the regional operator that declared bankruptcy recently and which is moving to terminate the contracts with United.

So United needs new service in those stations. The company has pulled some ERJ-135 aircraft out of storage and their ExpressJet arm is going to be operating those, but they also need folks on the ground to handle operations. And, much like outsourcing the flying, the company is also outsourcing that to another company that already has resources on the ground, namely American Eagle.

Turns out that such arrangements aren’t all that uncommon in the industry, especially in stations where there is limited service from any one carrier. That said, it does still seem a bit strange. I wonder if the American Eagle employees will learn SHARES faster/better than the legacy employees who are still struggling with it.

Hat tip to Darren @ Frequently Flying for noting the press release on this one.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. It actually isn’t strange at all. AMR (Parent of AA and Eagle) through their American Eagle subsidiary already hold ground handling contracts for many UAX stations in LA, MS, and FL. In recent years, flying contracts have been separated from flying contracts and this has become more commonplace.

  2. I hope it’s nothing like the ground service AA provided at my home airport of ICT for CO for years and years. Insanely incompetent (both technically with the computers and with elite/VDB/etc rules), grumpy agents who clearly knew that they were working for their competitor and thus seemed determined to tick off CO customers. In contrast, when I got those EXACT SAME AGENTS for AA flights, they were beyond pleasant and very competent with the computer systems and rules. (ICT is very small and I recognize all the AA and UA and TSA agents.)

  3. Good for business
    Bad for unions and pay.
    Being United employee has benefits and certain union negotiated pay, but regionals are entirely on a different standard. The airline may save money doing this but in the long run, under paid and overworked may not result pleasantly

  4. It’s also evidence that American Eagle is interested in actively expanding its ground handling franchise, as they currently do not have stations at DRT, BPT or BGM. This is no doubt a move to improve the profitability of the unit pursuant to the spin-off from AMR.

    Odds are they will simply rehire the Colgan staff who are let go at these locations, and will likely do the same for some employees at the others to handle the increased operations. I do not expect this to have a major impact on the experience of UA passengers, since many of these employees (especially those at the aforementioned stations) have probably never even handled a MQ flight.

  5. I recently flew on Delta going SJC-LAX-DTW-IND, and the SJC-LAX leg was operated by American Eagle. Even though it was all booked on DL, check in was an issue. Because the first leg was operated by American Eagle, I had to use aa.com to check in. It didn’t recognize my elite status so that meant no priority check in, priority bag tags, or priority security line. AA also charged me $60 for the two bags that should have been free on Delta. Let’s hope that UA flights operated by American Eagle don’t have the same issues.

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