In the first major US aviation casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, regional carrier ExpressJet has announced to its employees that it will cease operations, as well as let go the majority of its workforce, on 30 September 2020.
The regional carrier has, to date, operated under the United Airlines branding of United Express, serving regional routes across the Americas on behalf of the major carrier.
ExpressJet was recently beaten out by CommutAir, when it went head to head with the regional airline to win United’s ongoing Embraer E-145 contract business.
United announced in July that it would be consolidating its regional contracts to only include one E-145 operator, that being CommutAir, however ExpressJet had hoped to continue working with the major airline until at least the end of the year.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel both domestically and around the globe, the carrier was forced to wrap up operations sooner than planned.
“On July 30, United Airlines selected CommutAir as its sole ERJ145 operator and asked ExpressJet Airlines to wind-down flying as a United Express regional carrier,” ExpressJet said in a statement to the press.
“Due to the uncertainty of airline passenger travel as a result of the continuing pandemic, all ExpressJet flying for United Airlines will end on September 30, 2020.”
Meanwhile, in a note to current employees, CEO Subodh Karnik said the carrier will likely perform few, if any, flights beyond October.
“The consensus was that given the continuing uncertainty in the COVID-19 impacted schedule beyond October, and the real possibility of a further reduction in flying, it would be extremely difficult to maintain any semblance of schedule integrity during this period.”
The carrier is also set to hand a majority of its staff notices of redundancy or stand-down, as its US government COVID-19 wage subsidies, through the CARES Act, are also due to expire on 30 September.
Under the CARES Act, airlines were forbidden from making any involuntary staff cuts through to 30 September.
“With the termination of the CARES Act payroll support funding at that time, ExpressJet also will terminate or furlough most of its workforce on September 30, 2020, other than limited staff needed in connection with the wind-down of operations and the review of future business opportunities,” ExpressJet said.
The demise of ExpressJet is the largest aviation casualty of the COVID-19 downturn in the US to date.
The airline employs around 2,500 people, and has a fleet of 101 E-145s, with 33 currently on order.
It is also the first airline to close its doors as a direct result of COVID-19, which wasn’t intending to do so prior to the outbreak.