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A Compass E175 aircraft operating for American Eagle in Los Angeles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Regional Carrier Compass Airlines Operates Final Flight

Three hours and 32 minutes after pushing back from the gate at Tulsa International Airport, Compass flight 6047 pulled into a gate for the final time. Arriving at Los Angeles International Airport nine minutes ahead of schedule, the American Eagle-colored Embraer 175 and the crew and passengers inside were the last to play a part in Compass’ 13-year history.

After ceasing operations with its final flight the evening of April 5, Compass became one of the more notable corporate casualties of the ongoing coronavirus crisis and the economic fallout stemming from it. The airline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trans State Holdings, announced on March 19 it would pare back and stop its operations in the weeks that followed.

Trans Sate Holdings CEO Rick Leach told CNBC “insurmountable obstacles” in the wake of the coronavirus would prove too much for the airline to overcome as demand plummeted to near zero and numerous airlines scaled back their route network across the country.

“All our remaining capacity will be completely cut for an undetermined period and our other, once viable, prospective opportunities have been tabled for the foreseeable future due to the sweeping impact of this crisis,” Leach said in a release to employees at the time. “These challenges have forced us to make the incredibly difficult decision to pull down the Compass operation.”

The shutdown comes less than a week after a fellow regional carrier and Trans Stae Holdings subsidiary, Trans State Airlines, ceased its operations. While Compass operated principally for American Airlines and — until August 2019 — Delta, the St. Louis -based Trans State Airlines largely flew the flag for United Airlines, meaning the three largest U.S. carriers have all lost a feeder flight-operator in recent months.

“It’s difficult to articulate or even comprehend the speed at which the coronavirus has changed our industry and our world,” Leach wrote in a similar memo to Trans State Airlines employees March 17. “We received word late last night that the immediate cuts to our schedule are far deeper than we feared.”

With the first U.S. airline casualties of COVID-19 now in the books, the industry at large remains on thin ice. While larger carriers are at much lower risk than some previously-struggling regional airlines, billions of dollars in government aid are being pumped into the manufacturing, operating and contracting sectors of the market in hopes of saving employees and companies alike.

But other regional carriers still remain at risk. Industry insiders have named Mesa Airlines as the next regional affiliate that could be in trouble. The 40-year-old Phoenix-based company, which operated hundreds of daily flights on behalf of American and United Airlines, has also seen a large portion of its flights grounded and its over 3,000 employees forced to wait and see how the carrier will fit into the multi-billion dollar aid package coming soon.

While Mesa and the remaining independent regional airlines continue to subsist on the vastly reduced airline business, the loss of Compass on April 5 and Trans State Airlines on April 1 means hundreds of pilots and flight attendants, among others, are currently out of work.

A representative for the airline was not immediately available to comment on the shutdown.

Parker Davis
Parker Davis
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