Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. in Appleton is offering hiring bonuses of $33,000 as it seeks to ramp up its pilot ranks to fulfill new business as a regional carrier for United Airlines.
The airline, which already flies as a regional American Airlines carrier, expects to hire more than 400 pilots over the next two years with starting pay that has been increased to $35 an hour. The airline also raised its retention bonuses for its current first officers to $20,000, with half payable in May and half in October of this year.
Air Wisconsin, which operates short-haul flights for large carriers, has signed a new agreement to operate as a United Express carrier beginning in September. By March 2018, Air Wisconsin will be operating exclusively as a United Express carrier with hubs at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, according to Air Wisconsin’s website.
The United contract, announced Feb. 28, ensures ongoing business for Air Wisconsin as it approaches the expiration of its American Airlines contract in early 2018, according to AviationTribune.com.
Air Wisconsin announced the enhancements to its starting pay and signing and retention bonuses in February, but did not announce its new agreement with Chicago-based United Airlines at the time. United said Monday that the agreement calls for Air Wisconsin to operate 50 regional jets under the United Express brand.
"This enhanced bonus and retention program is designed to retain our current base of quality pilots and quickly build that base in order to meet our growth plans," Bob Frisch, Air Wisconsin's chief operating officer, said in February. "We expect to hire over 400 pilots in the next two years, and this program secures our ability to recruit and retain experienced pilots capable of quickly progressing from first officer to captain."
Air Wisconsin has a long history as a United Express carrier but has not flown for United for about a decade. That previous partnership had stretched back to the 1980s.
Air Wisconsin, founded in 1965, now operates nearly 350 departures per day systemwide to 26 states and three Canadian provinces in partnership with American Airlines.