Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC


Pilot contract scope clauses, which limit the number of regional jets US airlines can operate, are to come under attack from a widely based alliance to be unveiled at the US Regional Airlines Association meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, in May.

The "Proposition RJ" alliance plans to lobby Congress to outlaw the regional jet limitations contained in airline labour agreements. A study being completed by US consultancy GKMG will argue that scope clauses have the same anti-competitive effect as access limitations at London Heathrow or predatory behaviour by major airlines - both contentious issues with Congress.

The alliance is expected to encompass airports, manufacturers, communities and consumer groups - but probably not airlines, because of the sensitivity of the issue with pilot unions.

GKMG estimates that 600-1,000 US city-pair markets that today lack non-stop jet services can support regional jet services. While industry forecasts demand for over 1,000 aircraft by 2008, it says, scope clauses restrict the number of regional jets available to five of the seven US majors to 233 aircraft, of which around 140 are in service.

Restrictive scope clauses "stifle real growth opportunities for small and medium-sized communities," GKMG says, arguing that they are "a significant impediment to greater competition in the US domestic market."

The Proposition RJ coalition hopes to "put the issue of the restrictive regional jet limitation provisions of scope clauses at the forefront of the competition debate" now raging in Congress, GKMG says.

Source: Flight International