On page viii of the introduction to my book Can Do Attitude: the mesa airlines story, I said, “I’ve tried very hard to get all of the facts straight, and I know I will get some wrong due to the sheer size of this story.” So, it was no surprise just after my book came out when an ex-Mesa pilot asked why I didn’t mention the furlough in 2009. The honest answer was that I didn’t know about it. I did mention the post-9/11 furlough in 2001-2002 when 318 pilots of over 700 employees were furloughed. I’m not surprised to learn that there was a furlough in 2009, after all Mesa ended up parking at least fifty-eight airplanes.
I have since discovered that Mesa management was predicting furloughs as early as 2008, but a memorandum to pilots near the end of 2008 said the anticipated furloughs were put off until the spring of 2009. A pilot on a message board said in June 2009, that he had attended a recurrent ground school and the COO Paul Foley told his class that Mesa was facing dire circumstances with the possibility of United Airlines pulling the CRJ-200 and Dash 8 flying from Mesa. He also said if Mesa lost the lawsuit with Delta Airlines over the cancellation of that codeshare agreement, we would lose the twenty-two ERJ-145s left flying under the Freedom certificate and the number of furloughed pilots could rise to as many as 700. Those aircraft cancellations did happen and another pilot told me that he thought at least 600 pilots were furloughed that year as he was approximately 100 pilots away from getting the axe. Although I could find no official announcement of a furlough, clearly there was one. Some of the furloughed pilots picked up jobs in Afghanistan where a few of the Dash 8s ended up.
I also discovered evidence of another mini-furlough. When the COVID virus hit in 2020 the company let approximately 90 pilots, who had started but had not completed training, go home. Mesa was awarded nearly 95 million dollars in funding from the Payroll Support Program created from the CARES Act - money that had a provision preventing voluntary furloughs. I am assuming the 90 pilots in training were sent home prior to the company getting the CARES Act funding.
To put this in perspective, furloughs go hand-in-hand with airline flying. One friend left Mesa and went to United Airlines where he spent nearly ten of his first twelve years at United on two different furloughs. Welcome to the airline world.