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Active member
Dec 6, 2001
Scope: What exactly is it? Could someone point me towards an article that clearly explains this issue.

I'm a CFI building time towards the airlines, and I see this topic discussed frequently, but I still don't completely understand it. I'm particularly interested in how scope affects Skywest and Air Wisconsin.

Thank you in advance for your patience at my ignorance in what appears to be an insanely contested issue:)
Scope clauses limit the amount that carriers with whom the pilots are contracting can use other companies/pilot groups to do flying. For instance, in the Delta contract, Delta has agreed to limit its use of Delta Connection jets to no more that X% of the total flying that Delta does. The X is in the neighborhood of 33-37% over the next several years. On the United side, it is expressed in terms of airframes. The verbiage is along the lines of "If United has 451 wide and narrow bodies on line, then United Express carriers can have X number of small jets." This can be modified upward by one small jet for each turboprop turned in or so many small jets for each narrow body jet added to main line or so many small jets for each wide body added to the main line fleet.

Both Delta and United contracts have further provisions that restrict the percentage of flights that can bypass the hub, are greater than a specified distance, or repplace mainline flying.\

I think the link below has details of the United scope. I don't know because the site has been blocked to my computer.

A lot of people will tell you that scope is a lot of different things. I will try to be as fair as possible here.

When a union negotiates a contract, they try to get clauses in place that protect their jobs from being outsourced to other airlines. Usually this takes the form of some sort of restriction on what types of routes or equipment that code-share airlines can operate.

Scope is controversial because Regional jets at regional airlines are getting bigger and flying farther, and the flying is starting to more closely resemble mainline flying, but with a more efficient cost structure. Part of that structure is cheaper pilots. Major airline unions try to "scope out" that flying, which hurts the growth and profitablility of the regional affiliate and the mainline carrier.

I beleive (as do many others) That putting all of the pilots on the same seniority list would get rid of this problem without severely damaging the growth and profitablity of the airline. Most of the major airline unions have not been too thrilled about the idea, although this has changes somewhat recently. Management has totally turned their nose up at the idea because this would increase the cost of RJ flying because the pilots would undoubtedly end up with better pay.
Thanks Andy. This does clarify it quite a bit. I'm beginning to see why this is so hotly debated, and how there are possibilities of conflicts of interest between the mainline and regional pilots.

Flyin Brian (like the Bill Lumberg pic by the way): How does a system of merging the seniority lists work at a company like Skywest that code-shares with two majors? Do they have two different hierarchies for the Delta Connection and UAX pilots? Tricky...

Anyways, thanks for the insights.
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Until recently, Delta was the only major airline that had regionals working with it that didn't have a scope clause limiting the growth of the regionals. As a result, Comair was allowed to grow, and had the highest profit margin of any airline in the world, before Delta purchased it. I feel that this also helped Delta to become a premium carrier. Now, the mainline pilots are hurting their own airline by limiting the flying that can be done by their regionals. They feel that more regional flying takes away their work, which I don't agree with. Hopefully, this will all be resolved very soon.

Also, the airline with the most restrictive scope clause, USAirways, and some of the strongest union contracts, is probably the next airline that is likely not to survive.
First of all, Merging lists is kind of a pipe dream right now. It would be fairly difficult for several reasons. For airlines that code-share with more than one airline, it would be even more difficult. I imagine that the pilots would have to be divided between the code-sharing airlines, with pilots receiving their preference in order of seniority. Also, there are some captains at regionals who have stayed at regionals because they are near the top of the list and like the security of their seat. It isn't very fair to these pilots to suddenly open them up to displacement by a mainline pilots in the event of a furlough. There would have to be some sort of transition, but it would not be much more difficult than a merger integration, and I think it would be worth it in the longrun.
Scope is the single most important thing in a labor contract. Without it, management is free to outsource your jobs whenever they want to punish the union, or whenever it's cheaper. If that happens, you might as well not even have a contract. You might as well be "at will" employees.

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