Republic Wants Pilots To Pay $100,000 If They Leave Before Three Years


Republic Airways is telling new pilot hires that if they leave the company in less than three years they’ll also be leaving behind $100,000. Like all regionals, its experienced captains are being poached at a furious rate by the majors and it has plenty of low-time FOs. It is now only interested in hiring experienced FOs who can build time on the line to become captains within a year and fly as captains for two more. So it’s making new hires sign a Republic Airways New First Officer Career Advancement Pathway Program Agreement, and part of the deal is that if they leave before three years, they will have to pay “liquidated damages” of $100,000. They also have to agree to not work for a competing airline for at least a year.

Of course, their union, the Teamsters, is apoplectic about the “egregious” agreement, saying it circumvents contract language about mandatory upgrades and forced overtime. It’s urging the company to reconsider before it faces legal action, arbitration or grievances. The union also says the gambit will backfire and “have a chilling effect on the quantity and quality of the pilots” who might try to join the airline.

Republic FOs start at $90 per flight hour and captains make $140 after Republic and virtually every other regional sharply hiked pilot pay in response to the exodus. The airline also offers a $60,000 bonus for pilots who complete the upgrade. The minimum Part 121 experience for captains under the agreement is 850 hours (military experience counts, too) and FOs who need to build hours are expected to bid on extra flights so they qualify within a year of being hired.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Back to the “pay to play” schemes! That didn’t last long. So much for any “pilot shortage”. Anyone crazy enough to sign this agreement must not be able to get a position anywhere else.

    • In the past pilots with too many skeletons often went to Mesa. The pay was crap compared to the other regionals but it was easy to get on and get that 121 time, and maybe redeem themselves enough to get on with a major later.

      At least Mesa knew better than to try this. I can only wonder what non-pilot good idea fairy came up with this gem.

  2. So, if new hires are expected to pay for not staying, how much of the cost of that new hire’s training prior to hiring will Republic pay for?
    Sounds like “you ought to be thankful we let you work here”. Not a good plan in the face of a pilot labor market that is unlikely to ease anytime soon.

  3. Yeah, good luck with that. Republic may soon fine that they need good pilots more than the good pilots need them.

      • OK, OK. You lost me. You mean, whatever you are looking for, you really don’t want to find it?
        If you find it you will be sad? Unless it’s your wife’s divorce lawyer or something like that, be happy when you find that which was once lost. (I really miss my mind!)
        That’s in the Bible. I think Pontius The Pilot said it.

  4. I wonder how much $90 per flight hour really is in terms of time spent working for the airline. Preflights, flight plans, waiting in airports, etc. I lost a couple of flight instructors to the airlines about 17 years ago. One made the comment that he finally was in a position to take the pay cut for the first year or two and go to the airlines. I think he made less than $20k the first year for a family of three.

    • In 2005 I interviewed with 3 regionals and none were paying more than 25k. Some like Endeavor are now paying 100k with all bonuses included for 1st year FOs.

      • The world has definitely changed. Endeavor FOs now make more than I did my first year at a legacy. I never made less than $58K as a regional FO.

        With the seniority system we have someone would have to be insane to shackle themselves to a regional for three years while they watch themselves slide further and further back in line.

  5. Article is fairly inaccurate. The issue is yes captains are leaving. That is the business model. Regionals need them to move on before they get too expensive. However, the real problem is, of the pilots leaving a regional, roughly 50% are captains and now 50% are first officers. The regionals are now competing for new hire pilots with the ULCCs who all offer more; more pay, quality of life, and benefits, but the ULCCs would rather hire a proven 121 pilot than a CFI. So they are proving to be a better track for regional first officers to a final destination like Delta or United. Add to that that Southwest is now hiring regional FOs and Delta has lowered their hiring minimums, why upgrade to captain at a regional where a training failure may sideline you at your Delta interview and you see the captain’s quality of life is worse than yours: continual reassignments, longer periods on reserve, 117 extensions, etc, etc.

    Republic has found that they are just a training academy for Spirit, Frontier and JetBlue and this contract is trying to stop that. It will. Pilots will stop applying.

  6. This sort of thing is very common across the pond. Airlines bond pilots for a fixed term, the overall value usually dropping as time passes. You could start with, eg 30,000 bond, decreasing linearly (or sometimes not!) over three years. Most common for newly type rated pilots but also for upgrades.
    The argument being the airlines pays up for the training and so wants a reasonable guarantee on its investment. If you leave early you pay the outstanding ammount.

  7. If this action is truly a contract, I fail to see what business it is of the Teamsters. I am all for unions – seriously – but a contract is an agreement between two parties and the union ain’t one of them here. The airlines’ employees have to be the most important asset or the business is destined to fail. The traveling public needs Regionals and the Regionals need Captains.

    No one is saying that an individual cannot advance his career. What they are saying is that career advancements need to involve a three (3) year planning factor. Sounds like responsible behavior to me.

    • I think the Teamsters’ bigger issue is the requirement for aggressive pickup of overtime to make the 1000 hours in 24 months requirement to upgrade, and also forced upgrades. Maybe that runs afoul of their current pilot contract. Someone who is familiar with RPA’s contract would be better qualified to comment on this than I am.

      Given the aggressive hiring at the majors, it makes no sense to be shackled to a regional for three years. That’s a hell of a lot of future seniority to sacrifice.

    • There can truly be no private contract between an employee and employer if there is a union. That’s the primary thing that makes standing unions pernicious.

      I find the idea that new pilots are stuck being fodder for older pilots ridiculous. Working for management and the FAA seems like it should be enough.