Great Lakes Airlines suspends service to six airports due to a pilot shortage

Great Lakes Aviation, Ltd. (Great Lakes Airlines) (Cheyenne, Wyoming) on February 1 suspended service to and from Devils Lake and Jamestown, North Dakota; Fort Dodge and Mason City, Iowa; Ironwood, Michigan; and Thief River Falls, Minnesota due to the severe industry-wide pilot shortage and its relative acute impact on Great Lakes according to a company statement.

Charles Howell, CEO released the following statement: “Due to the unintended consequences of the new congressionally mandated pilot regulatory requirements, the company feels it is in the best interest of our customers, communities, and employees to suspend service from these stations until we are able to rebuild our staff of pilots in order to provide reliable service. We deeply regret and apologize for this inconvenience.”

All customers with future flights in any of these stations will be given refunds.

Editor’s Comment: Many pilots and pilot groups (as the comments will attest) would strongly argue it is not a pilot shortage issue facing GLA but a pay issue. Simply put, higher pilot wages would probably attract more applications.

Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing/ Great Lakes promotes many of its destination with area displays on the tails. Beech (Raytheon) 1900D N202UX (msn UE-202) promotes Dodge City, Kansas as it arrives in Los Angeles.

Great Lakes Airlines: AG Slide Show

Updated Route Map: Despite its name, the airline does not serve a city on any of the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes 2.2014 Route Map

27 thoughts on “Great Lakes Airlines suspends service to six airports due to a pilot shortage

  1. mike

    The problem is pilot pay. Why would a bunch of guys spend $100,000 to get rated to make $16,000 per year?

  2. Jason Baxter

    Ah, I see that foodstamp money isn’t attracting talent. Lets see if there’s a market correction, or if they cut service and eventually go chapter 11.

  3. alex

    It is about time pilots start making the right choice and avoid low paying such as great lakes. I do not think they will be around much and for pilots its a good thing. This company pay $16h, no pay during training and make pilots sign contract to flight 19 pax airplanes..give a break…

  4. Frank Lorenzo

    I heard United Airlines has upwards of 10,000 pilot applications on file which if all hired could practically replace its whole pilot roster. Why can’t Great Lakes and the other airlines like it just ask United for some of those resumes and start making calls. Great lakes has under 200 pilots right? This just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    1. Dash 8 CA

      Ha Ha Ha Ha, ROFL. Frank Lorenzo? Now this is funny!
      I feel bad for the lakers pilots. Good group, but the airline is deplorable.

    2. niners

      Because United Airlines pays a liveable wage and Great Lakes do not, So no Jon Orenstein it is NOT an excellent point it is an uneducated one.

    3. dianna newton

      are you the person who fired everyone and hired them back at HALF of the wage they were making, you would not be that guy would you?

  5. john

    “Due to the unintended consequences of the new congressionally mandated pilot regulatory requirements” Yeah right- Lakes knew about this over two years ago, just like every other regional airline. Why aren’t other regionals cutting routes?

  6. Pingback: Great Lakes scales back - Airline Pilot Central Forums

  7. Casey Bates

    It’s not a pilot shortage. It’s a pay shortage. Pay enough so I don’t have to sell my wife into slavery to not live in my car, and I’d fly there. There are plenty of us with the required experience, (1500+ hours) but they won’t get many of us for less than what we could make at McDonald’s. Yes, that is correct. You could make more working at McDonald’s as a Cashier, than being a First Officer (copilot) at Great Lakes.

  8. Reik

    $16 per flight hour for a 75 hour monthly line equals $1,200/month. Multiply that by 12 months and that’s $14,400 in one year! How can a professional pilot survive on that? Now, answer these simple questions for me. Why doesn’t Great Lakes Airlines pay more? Why is it that they blame the government for their failure? I feel bad for the communities that they serve, but I don’t feel bad for the airline.

  9. fee

    maybe if GLA raised their pay scale, i’d highly consider applying. However, I’d rather be a CFI where i’m financially comfortable.

  10. Captain Rob

    This report fails to mention that Great Lakes new hires are not paid for company training which lasts about 2-3 months. First officers are paid $14400 salary for their first year, and $16200 for their second year. Senior captains might get to make $32000 after several years of service.

    Maybe Great Lakes is trying to get more money from uncle Sam for EAS routes.

    1. Nate

      Someone should have their head examined if they go work for great mistakes. Working for an EAS carrier is worse than indentured servitude…it’s borderline slavery.

  11. Unnamed Pulot

    Perhaps if you paid your pilots a starting wage over $14k/year you would be able to attract pilots. The lure of making just under $17k the second year definitely doesnt help either! Of course these pilots cant even pay the interest on their student loans they needed to get the ratings required to fly for your airline!

  12. Russ

    I wish a news organization would compose a piece that covers the entire picture. All I see is a reporter regurgitating what an airline CEO keeps saying. How about they look at it a little deeper and do some investigation as to WHY pilots aren’t applying to Great Lakes. Educate the public in a balanced way and you will see why this is happening. There are plenty of pilots to do the job. The problem is the pay. Pilots are smarter than to go to an airline that pays rock bottom wages. With United, Delta, American, US, JetBlue, and every other regional airline hiring right now, Great Lakes is doomed. It’s ALL about the money. Lakes should leave seen this coming.

    1. Nate

      It seems like every so called news organization is only interested in regurgitating the talking points of Roger Cohen. What has happened to real the real journalist who was an outsider looking for the truth. This is nothing new…I worked for an EAS airline back in 2006 called air Midwest. They had the same acute problem of attracting and keeping pilots Great Lakes has experienced and will continue to experience.

      I only lasted 2 weeks after training. They thought I was their personal slave and it was the worst career mistake I’ve ever made. They make their pilots sign an agreement that their pay may be less than minimum wage. The quality of life was horrendous. The best outcome for everyone involved would be for these type of companies to go out of business just like Air Midwest did in 2008. When you pay peanuts, you get a circus.

  13. Working joe pilot

    15000 hour ATP with 9 types right here willing to switch from 91 to 121 if they can beat my current salary. Just saying, they did this to themselves.

    1. junnyquest

      Just an aside… The article mentions that ZK doesn’t fly to a single community on the Great Lakes. The airline wasn’t named for ‘ THE’ Great Lakes… it was named for Iowa’s Great Lakes in the northwest corner of that state where they originated.

      As an ex-employee, I can comfortably say this sort of drama isn’t news. They’ve always been a bit dysfunctional…

      1. Bruce Drum Post author

        Thank you. I did not know Iowa had any “Great Lakes” but I do now – thanks. However I would suspect 99% of any potential passengers would believe they flew in the Great Lakes area (the real Great Lakes). When you fly from Minnesota to California and you are based in Wyoming, than the Great Lakes Airlines name is a bit misleading to passengers, that was my point. If they survive (as many of the comments suggest they won’t), they really do need a new name and identity. Thanks again.


      2. junnyquest

        GLA once served dozens of communities in the Great Lakes region as both a United Express partner with UAL and as an independent, so the name used to make more sense. They served hubs in DTW, ORD, MDW & MSP up through the beginning of the last decade. The operation began to move west in 2001 when GLA traded routes with Air Wisconsin, another partner with UAL. At one point, ZK’s headquarters at SPW moved to CYS.

      3. Bruce Drum Post author

        Thank you – Yes I know the history as a former United Express carrier in that GL region. However they moved west and the name no longer makes any sense. A name change should have happened in 2001 but that is behind us now. Thanks again for your support and readership.


  14. Chris

    In Canada 13 years ago I made 55,000/yr as a Captain on the 1900D. US regional pay scales are disgraceful

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