Regional and Major Airline Partnerships Explained

What Is a Regional Airline? Regional and Major Airline Partnerships Explained

Flying for a regional airline is likely to be your first airline pilot job.

Most people don't realize that when you are flying on an airplane with the American Eagle livery, you aren't flying on American Airlines. Instead, you are flying with Envoy Air, Piedmont Airlines, or PSA Airlines. Major airlines have subsidiaries and contracted carriers they own and partner with to provide commercial flights. For example, Delta has the regional brand Delta Connection and United has United Express.

Major Airline

Regional Banner

Regional Carriers

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American Eagle Operated by Envoy Air Embraer-175

American Eagle ERJ-175 Operated by Envoy Air

Regional and Major Airline Partnerships

Pilots work many years to get hired by a major airline and rarely leave one to work at another. Pilots at the major airlines enjoy substantial salaries and good benefits.

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Regional Airlines

Regional airlines typically fly under the banner of a major airline but are not actually part of that airline; an example of this is CommuteAir operating under the name “United Express®. Other examples of regional airlines are Envoy Air, Mesa Airlines, SkyWest, and Republic.

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Major Airlines

While some pilots choose to stay at the regionals, most use them as a stepping stone to the major airlines. Major airlines consist of well-known names, such as American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines®, and the cargo carriers FedEx and UPS.

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Major Airline

Regional Banner

Regional Carriers

Pilot Pathway Programs Defined Career and Pilot Training Paths

Pilot pathway programs help develop and mentor student pilots during flight school and as they work toward meeting airline pilot experience and flight hour requirements. Once you have decided what airline you would like to fly for, you typically then participate in the airline's pathway program or the pathway program of their regional airline. These programs vary by airline and include United Aviate, SkyWest Airlines Pilot Pathway Program (path to Delta Air Lines), Envoy Air Cadet Program (path to American Airlines), and more.

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Making Sense of the Airlines Compare the Regionals and Majors

At a Glance Regional And Major Airline Overview

Regional Airline Major Airline
Pilot Rank First Officer and Captain First Officer and Captain
Experience Level Low High
Pilot Salary Range $54,100 - $217,530 $98,680 - $450,000
Passenger Seats 50 - 100 seats 100 - 400 seats
Aircraft Examples
  • Embraer ERJ 140/145 (44 - 50 seats)
  • Embraer ERJ 175 (76 - 88 seats)
  • Airbus A350-900 (306 seats)
  • Boeing 737-800 (160 seats)

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