To clarify, I have not been issued any LOI's. However, they do exist and the Feds can issue one to you. You are absolutely correct that having union backing to defend you is huge in this and other regards, which is why having one in this business is so important.
I was with Southern when they relocated from Connecticut/Greater NYC area to CVG. For the record - the people that came along from the northeast liked living in the area.
Northern Kentucky is a bit of a snoozy place unless you live in Newport/Covington. I loved Cincinnati. Great town - a lot of revitalization and new investment. Lots to do and revisit. My wife and I occasionally mention how we miss it there. That may have something to do with the fact we live in ATL now, but nonetheless we found it enjoyable.
I mean a fleet of 100 aircraft and a multi-billion dollar company isn't exactly a regional. Plus it's cargo where the profit margins are larger than passenger. The size of the planes, the difficulty of the routes, the job itself is as difficult as anywhere. It's a combination of everything that makes this contract extension possible.