Compass Airlines (North America)

Compass Airlines (North America)
Compass Airlines
Founded 2006
Frequent-flyer program SkyMiles
Airport lounge Delta Sky Club
Alliance SkyTeam
Fleet size 39
Destinations 49
Parent company Trans States Holdings
Headquarters Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Key people Rick Leach (President and CEO)

Compass Airlines is a regional airline headquartered at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Fort Snelling, Hennepin County, Minnesota; prior to December 16, 2009, it was headquartered in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, United States, east of the Chantilly CDP.[1][2][3] The airline launched inaugural service with a single Bombardier CRJ200LR aircraft under the Northwest Airlink (now Delta Connection) brand between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Washington, D.C. on May 2, 2007. On August 21, 2007, it began flying two Embraer 175 76-passenger aircraft, and expanded to 36 aircraft by December, 2008. In July, 2010, the airline was purchased from Delta Airlines and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Trans States Holdings.

On March 1, 2011 Delta Air Lines, along with Trans States Holdings announced plans to add an additional six E-170 aircraft to the Compass Airlines operation. The six aircraft deliveries began in May 2011, to continue through the 2nd fiscal quarter of 2012.



Compass Airlines was formed as a result of a contract dispute between Northwest Airlines and its pilots union, the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA). The Northwest Airlines pilot group was asked to give relief on a section of their collective bargaining agreement governing "scope" which protects pilot jobs by ensuring that an airline's customers are flown by the employees of that airline. The pilots eventually agreed to a concession on the scope of their contract allowing a limited number of 76 seat aircraft to be flown by outsourced pilots working for a subcontractor regional airline. In exchange for their concession the Northwest Airlines pilots demanded in return that the pilots of these new aircraft would eventually "flow-up" into mainline pilot jobs at Northwest Airlines, and that Northwest Airlines pilots would retain the ability to "flow-down" into the newly subcontracted pilot jobs in the event that Northwest Airlines were to furlough the mainline pilots.

A Compass Northwest Airlink Embraer ERJ-170-200LR shortly after takeoff from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport on February 28, 2009. The Embraer-175 aircraft in Compass airlines two-class configuration has 12 first-class and 64 economy-class seats.

In order to adapt to the agreement, and fulfill a need to serve the regional markets with smaller, more efficient aircraft and a dramatically reduced wage labor force, Northwest bought the operating certificate of bankrupt Independence Air on March 10, 2006, for $2 million. As a result, Compass' operations are limited to 76-seat aircraft or less, due to the language in the pilot contract at the mainline carrier. (During the concept phase, the subsidiary was known as "NewCo".)

On September 28, 2006, Compass Airlines officially received approval from the United States Department of Transportation to begin operations. On April 5, 2007, Compass Airlines received FAA certification to begin commercial passenger operations with a CRJ-200[4]

Compass' aircraft were not a direct replacement for the aging Douglas DC-9 aircraft flown by Northwest. However, they have a lower cost per available seat mile, making them more efficient to operate.

On May 2, 2007, the company announced their first successful revenue flight with the Canadair 50-seat CRJ, from Washington Dulles airport to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.,[5] which maintained the operating certificate. Compass implemented Embraer operations on August 21, 2007.

On July 1, 2010, Delta Air Lines announced that it sold Compass Airlines to Trans States Holdings for US$20.5 million.[6]

Compass Airlines has bases (Flight Crews and Maintenance) in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Detroit, MI, Louisville, KY.



Compass Airlines E175 taking off from runway 31 at Regina International Airport.

The Compass Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft (as of October 2011)[7]:

Aircraft Total Orders Passengers (F/Y) Notes
Embraer 175LR 36 0 12/64
Embraer 170 4 2 0/70 Ex-Virgin Australia

All Compass Airlines aircraft are operated as Delta Connection. Flight numbers range between 5600 - 5889.

Maintenance Operations

In September, 2007, Compass announced that construction of a new hangar at Louisville International Airport in Louisville, KY, to be completed by the fall of 2008. The new hangar has three aircraft bays to service its fleet of 76-seat Embraer E-175 and E-170 regional jet aircraft.

The project is planned to be about 136,000 square feet (12,600 m2), and will be built on 4.8 acres (19,000 m2).

The $9.9 million project created about 70 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of $3.1 million. The jobs include skilled mechanics, management and technical-services employees.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority in Frankfort, KY granted the airline preliminary approval for $2 million in state tax incentives for up to 10 years just for using their city as their hangar location.[8]

Labor Relations

Both the Pilot and Flight Attendant groups are unionized, with the Pilots being represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, and the Flight Attendants represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA). The pilots are covered by a collective bargaining agreement negotiated at the time the airline was created in 2007; the flight attendants elected AFA on November 18, 2009 by a two-to-one margin.

The flight attendants are in negotiations for their first contract. Issues included substandard wages, benefits and working conditions, and specifically unfair labor practices, such as terminations and unequal treatment within the labor group.

On August 25, 2010, Compass Airlines fired a flight attendant after she appeared on a local television program admitting publicly that she qualified for food stamps, even though she was a full-time employee of the airline.[9]


  • On May 8, 2008 Compass Airlines Flight 2040 bound for Regina, Saskatchewan from Minneapolis with 74 passengers and 4 crew on board was forced to land in Fargo, North Dakota after a fire broke out in the restroom. The plane landed at 11:00 pm; no injuries to passengers were reported. A week after the incident, a 19-year-old flight attendant was charged with starting the fire.[10]. He pleaded not guilty, but before trial, he fled to Mexico. He was arrested in Mexico April 5, 2011 and will be extradited to the US to stand trial. [11].
  • On November 15, 2010 Compass Airlines Flight 5887 bound for Missoula, Montana from Minneapolis with 76 passengers and 4 crew on board was forced to return to Minneapolis after the aircraft received substantial damage when it collided with a flock of birds. The plane landed 22 minutes after departure; no injuries to passengers were reported.[12]


  1. ^ "About Us." Compass Airlines. Retrieved on September 26, 2009 and on December 18, 2009..
  2. ^ "Chantilly CDP, Virginia." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on September 26, 2009.
  3. ^ "Fort Snelling UT, Hennepin county, Minnesota." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on December 19, 2009.
  4. ^ Compass Airlines Receives DOT & FAA Approval To Begin Operations (USA Today: April 6, 2007)
  5. ^ Northwest Airlines' Subsidiary Compass Takes Off (New York Times: May 2, 2007)
  6. ^ "Delta to sell Mesaba and Compass for $82.5 million". 1 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  7. ^ Compass Airlines fleet list at Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  8. ^ Compass Airlines To Build Hangar In Louisville (Business First: September 14, 2007)
  9. ^ Flight Attendant Gets Fired For Saying She Qualifies For Food Stamps (Aviation Online Magazine, August 28, 2010. Accessed September 6, 2010.)
  10. ^ Angry flight attendant charged with setting fire on plane (CNN: May 15, 2008)
  11. ^ [1](WDAY: April 5, 2011)
  12. ^ [2] (The Aviation Herald: January 19, 2011)

External links

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