A deal between UK regional carrier Eastern Airways and British Airways' regional arm CitiExpress has been delayed by wrangles over pilot pay. Humberside-based Eastern is in the process of training 30 flightcrew to replace BA pilots originally scheduled to be transferred along with 12 BAe Jetstream 41s as part of a deal signed in December (Flight International, 31 December-6 January).

Eastern Airways, which is to double in size as a result of the deal, has already taken delivery of the first aircraft, which is currently in operation between Aberdeen and Leeds/Bradford. The delivery of the second aircraft, scheduled for this week, has been delayed as the two sides attempt to reach a final agreement for the transfer of 21 routes.

CitiExpress head of commercial development Mike Coombes says he expects the agreement to be completed before the end of the month and for Eastern Airways to begin full operation of the routes by 1 April with six J41s.

The entire deal, including the aircraft, is to run until 2007, says Coombes.

Delays are understood to have centred on personnel cost issues, with BA originally proposing a transfer of its J41 pilots under existing terms and conditions, which Eastern Airways was unable to accept. Bryan Huxford, chairman of Eastern Airways, says BA will provide interim crew for the services until its 30 newly recruited pilots have been type rated for the aircraft.

These pilots will be joined by an additional 10 by the time all 12aircraft are delivered in September. Eastern Airways last week also decided not to take on ownership of BA's J41 maintenance facility in Glasgow.

Source: Flight International