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An ExpressJet E145. The regional carrier’s contract with United Airlines is being terminated. (Photo: Timothy Powaleny via Creative Commons)

ExpressJet Plans Independent Renaissance

Much like Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways, another name might take to the skies in 2021 as the United States commercial aviation industry continues to rebound from 2020. For this airline, the name will return to the skies, unlike the aforementioned brands. While still in the early stages, the return of ExpressJet Airlines has been a yearlong process in the making as the carrier transitions from a regional airline to an independent carrier.

The last time ExpressJet was seen in the industry was September 30, 2020, when the airline’s final flight under the United Express brand was flown to Houston-Intercontinental after United opted to terminate the ERJ-145 operator’s contract with the brand. This had come not long after Trans States, another ERJ-145 operator for United, also concluded service following the reduction of regional partners by United.

According to ExpressJet, the airline has spent the last few months of 2020 working through aircraft transitions as the fleet of Embraer ERJ-145s was disposed to United and Commutair. Now clear of United’s contract, parent Manaair LLC has created a new vision for the airline and filed paperwork to the Department of Transportation to relaunch the airline independently. The ExpressJet Airlines LLC brand has been operated recently under the Georgia-based parent company since 2019. The airline’s senior management includes President and Chief Executive Officer Subodh Karnik and Chief Financial Officer John Greenlee.

According to ExpressJet, the goal is to start operations using a fleet of Embraer ERJ-145s to operate on underserved communities across the United States. The airline says that the 12-month outlook sees the company expand to over 300 employees. Under the paperwork filed to the Department of Transportation, ExpressJet noted that it already has ownership of its first aircraft, a 16-year-old ex-Trans States ERJ-145LR with registration N844HK.

While a route map has not yet been announced, the restart of the brand is expected to consume $60.4 million in operating costs and will start in June 2021. ExpressJet’s market data for the rest of the year sees them flying 120-124 departures a month till October when the value increases to 186 for the winter and spring seasons. The airline also remains flexible to changes, with alternative scenarios considering 60 departures a day and delays into July and as late as February 2022 showing the potential change in market data for ExpressJet.

Americans and ExpressJet are familiar with regional airlines pushing to make moves for independence, with the brand itself attempting regional flights back in the mid-2000s. Under that version of ExpressJet, flights were utilized to attempt to fill holes in the market like San Diego, Oklahoma City, Sacramento and San Antonio. The airline walked away from this concept to work more with the then branded Continental Connection service before the Continental-United merger in 2010. Furthermore, former United Express brand Atlantic Coast Airlines attempted a stand-alone move in 2004 when it rebranded to a low-cost alternative at Washington-Dulles called Independence Air. The airline failed to last in the post-September 11th environment and ceased operations in early 2006.

Ian McMurtry
Ian McMurtry
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