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$20,000 Reward For Referring a United Airlines Pilot and a $110,000 Bonus

united airlines pilot, $20,000 Reward For Referring a United Airlines Pilot and a $110,000 Bonus, eTurboNews | eTN

Cleared for take off. Mesa Airlines is a regional commercial airline in Phoenix, Arizona, a regional carrier for United Airlines- and it needs pilots.

Cleared for take-off

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Mesa Airlines is one of the participants in United’s Aviate program which converts a Mesa Airlines Captain into a United Airlines pilot. Mesa is also desperate, and so is United, to attract new pilots.

Jonathan Ornstein, the Chairman and CEO of Mesa Airlines.

Prior to leading Mesa, Ornstein served as president and chief executive officer and chairman of Virgin Express, a European airline. From 1995 to April 1996, Ornstein served as chief executive officer of Virgin Express Holdings. Ornstein joined Continental Express as president and chief executive officer in July 1994 and, in November 1994, was named senior vice president, of Airport Services at Continental Airlines. Ornstein was previously employed by the company from 1988 to 1994, as executive vice president and as president of the company’s WestAir Holding subsidiary.

“We are thrilled to launch this program as a way to reward anyone willing to help us grow and attract new talent to our company,” said Jonathan Ornstein, “We are looking for motivated and qualified pilots who want to join our family and grow with us as we expand our operations. This is a wonderful opportunity to advance your career, have a direct flow to United through their Aviate program, and earn a generous bonus at the same time.”

Mesa Air Group, Inc. launched a program and is willing to pay $20,000.00 to anyone who can refer a pilot wanting to work for Mesa as a captain., and later for United Airlines.

Any captain hired by Mesa Air will receive the following benefits:
  • Participants will transition to United through Aviate after flying 1600 Pilot in Command hours at Mesa.
  • A $110,000 signing bonus is paid at the completion of their training.
  • A 1 for 1 longevity match based on qualifying experience at any Part 121 or Part 135 carrier. This will allow candidates to earn up to $215 per flight hour and accrue vacation at a much higher rate.
  • All Mesa benefits including 401(k), dental, vision, medical, and travel.

The referral fee is divided into two payments:  

  • The referrer will receive the first payment of $10,000 following the referred pilot’s successful completion of training.
  • The remaining $10,000 will be paid after the referred pilot completes 6 months of service from the date of their first flying duty with Mesa.

In the past, any of the major US Airlines was able to hire pilots directly. This made it a lot harder for the regional carriers to function. Now airlines, such as United only take pilots through the Aviate program when they become captains.

This process however is a loop pole. A pilot for an airline such as Mesa Airlines may get an offer from a low-cost carrier. United may not be able to keep the first officers at Mesa any longer, but it can certainly do it at other unaffiliated carriers. Some pilots may choose to go outside Aviate because they can get to United faster this way.

Mesa is United Express

Mesa is trying to be an 80-airplane airline flying exclusively for United Express. It has 80 Embraer 175s, but about a third of those are parked right now. Mesa has an expensive fleet that it wants to keep at 80, at least for now. But the one thing preventing it from doing that is having enough captains. 

This type of bonus and referral fees make it harder for regional airlines to fly profitably.

Pilot shortage in the USA

Pilot shortage is impacting travelers across U.S. One consulting firm estimates that North America may be 30,000 pilots short by 2032.

About the author


Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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