Air Transport World

Pinnacle of success: Pinnacle Airlines has achieved remarkable things over the past few years, but the future brings new challenges.(Regionals)(Company Profile)

The history of Pinnacle Airlines is a tale of success in the US Regional airline industry as it has evolved over the past two decades. A moderately sized codeshare partner of Northwest Airlines for many years, the Memphis-based carrier was purchased by NWA outright in 1997 and new leadership was installed with a mandate to fix what had become an unreliable operation.

The new team, headed by CEO Phil Trenary, righted the ship and then oversaw the transformation of the fleet from all-turboprop to all-regional jet and a concurrent rapid expansion of the airline. Last year, after a couple of hiccups not uncommon in the equity environment, NWA successfully spun off the subsidiary into a standalone company while retaining an 11% stake. Pinnacle currently operates 100 44- and 50-seat CRJs on more than 500 daily departures to 83 cities in 30 states and one Canadian province. All service is under the NW code as part of the Air-link program. By 2005 the fleet is expected to top out at 129 CRJs.

That in a nutshell describes the past several years at the carrier, but it doesn't come close to covering the strategic planning and positioning that made it all possible. "It's been challenging," Trenary tells ATW. "The interesting part of the company is that we built it for growth." By that he means that long before the CRJs started arriving in 2000, sometimes at the rate of 2-3 a month, infrastructure was in place to support them: A new $36 million flight training center, an in-house program for recruiting and training maintenance technicians and development of a Corporate Education Center. …

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