United Continental Holdings is pressing ahead with redeploying United Express 70-seat regional jets to three Continental hubs, but says the aircraft will only carry the United 'UA' designator code per a new arbitration ruling.
The merged carrier had hoped to redeploy 70-seaters - both Bombardier CRJ700s and Embraer E-170s - at Continental's Cleveland, Newark, and Houston hubs with Continental's 'CO' code. But an arbitrator recently ruled that such a move would violate scope clauses in Continental Airlines' collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with its Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)-represented pilots.
"We are of course pleased with the arbitrator's decision and the fact that the language and intent of the CBA [with Continental Airlines] that was negotiated by ALPA was affirmed. We are additionally pleased that the system for resolving such disputes worked as intended," says Jay Pierce, chairman of the ALPA chapter of Continental.
While the ruling forces United Continental to stop placing the 'CO' code on United Express aircraft with over 51-seats on flights to and from the three hubs, it does not stop United Continental from redeploying 70-seat regional jets under its own 'UA' designator code.
Consequently, when a passenger books a ticket on Continental Airlines' web site for a flight operated by a United Express 70-seater, the information will simply refer to the flight as operated by United, rather than 'Continental operated by United'. Passengers can book the flights on United or Continental's web sites.
While disappointed in the arbitrator's ruling, United Continental says it is pleased the decision "will permit the company to redeploy 70-seat aircraft in certain markets under the United Express brand to better meet demand and improve profitability of the combined company".
A company spokeswoman adds that aircraft in the three Continental hubs have already been redeployed. Since United merged with Continental, "we've redeployed aircraft all over our system", she notes.
Meanwhile, pilots at Continental and United continue to negotiate for a new joint CBA. Until a new joint agreement is reached, each pilot group will continue to work under their separate negotiated agreements already in place. Negotiations are scheduled to resume this month.