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ExpressJet to resume operations despite losing major United contract

written by Hannah Dowling | April 19, 2021

ExpressJet E-145 in United Express livery (Wikimedia)

US regional carrier ExpressJet is gearing up to take back to the skies nearly a year after it was forced to cease operations, after losing its sole major contract with United Airlines.

According to a filing with the Department of Transportation, ExpressJet is looking to resume short-haul regional operations as soon as May this year, with its one remaining ERJ-145.

In July 2020, United announced that it had decided to terminate its contract with ExpressJet, which had been operating under the United Express brand for the previous 15 years, as the major airline looked to consolidate its regional E-145 operations amid the pandemic.

By 30 September, the regional carrier was forced to wind down all flight operations, and let go of the majority of its 2,500-strong workforce.

The carrier, which had a fleet of 101 E-145s, retained only one aircraft following its wind down.

However, ExpressJet now intends to resume operations on its one aircraft, and lease an additional 9 aircraft within the next year.

It hopes to have three aircraft in operation by June 2021.


According to the DOT filing, the newly re-launching ExpressJet hopes to provide “high-quality, reliable, efficient point-to-point flying to small and medium sized cities that have lost service in recent years as a result of US airline industry consolidation and COVID-19 driven route reductions”.

The airline also said in a statement: “A successful outcome for our DOT application will allow our company to develop and execute its business plans. Achieving success as a start-up/re-start airline will require the support of all of ExpressJet’s current and future stakeholders.”

The airline said further information on its initial operational resumption plans will be made available in the coming weeks.

The airline remains 49.9 per cent owned by United.

ExpressJet’s announcement to cease operations in September 2020 meant the carrier was largely considered to be among the first major US aviation casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ExpressJet was beaten out by rival 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 2020 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 at the time.

“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 would 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,” Karnik said.

“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.

At the time, the airline employed around 2,500 people, and had a fleet of 101 E-145s, with 33 additional aircraft on order.


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