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SkyWest Acquires Stake in Contour Airlines, Bolsters Charter Presence

The regional operator is continuing its foray into the Part 135 charter market with a recent investment in Contour Airlines.

A SkyWest Airlines Bombardier CRJ-700 aircraft on final approach at O’Hare International Airport. (Photo: Shutterstock)

During a fourth-quarter earnings call on Thursday, SkyWest, the U.S.’s largest regional operator, announced that it had acquired a 25% stake in Contour Airlines, a Tennessee-based Part 135 operator. The acquisition includes supplying Contour with Bombardier CRJ airframes, engines, and parts. Specific financial terms were not disclosed.

“Shifting gears, we recently completed the acquisition of a 25% stake of Contour Airlines, a small operator in the Part 135 space for $25 million,” said SkyWest President and CEO Chip Childs during the call. “This minority interest stake strategically positions us to further monetize our existing CRJ assets through an asset provisioning agreement and to establish another pipeline for pilot supply.”

Expanding into the Charter Market

Contour Airlines operates over 20 Embraer E-Jets largely to smaller communities, aligning with SkyWest’s newly launched SkyWest Charter (SWC) initiative. With the acquisition, SkyWest is looking for broader access to Contour’s infrastructure, personnel, and operational expertise in the Part 135 charter market.

A Contour Embraer E135 nicknamed “Pride of Contour” (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

“To be candid, Contour is almost exactly like SWC and what we would like to accomplish with SWC,” Childs added. “There is a lot of alignment… with what both of the carriers could do.”

Like many of its regional peers, SkyWest continues to face pilot shortage headwinds, particularly related to captain retention. While the company says this trend has improved, SkyWest executives say that the Contour acquisition will create additional opportunities to manage captain retention.

“Now, the most important part that we probably would tag on to that is we’re working very diligently with partners in creative ways in which we can produce captains faster than what we producing today. That’s the Contour investment. That’s the pilot program investment with United,” Childs continued. SkyWest recently entered into a pilot pathway agreement with United last year.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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