United Airlines will end its contract with ExpressJet, having chosen CommutAir over the larger regional carrier as it seeks to consolidate regional jet flying.
United Airlines Chooses CommutAir, Drops ExpressJet
Earlier this week I wrote about the stakes of United’s decision. With 2019 demand levels now not expected to return until 2024, United will be a smaller carrier for years to come. To appropriately pair supply and demand, United is not only cutting back on mainline flying, but on its United Express flights to smaller cities. For United, it became clear that continuing partnerships between both ExpressJet and CommutAir was unnecessary. Although smaller, CommutAir has a lower cost structure (primary due to less senior pilots) and was favored by analysts to edge out ExpressJet.
Confirming the news, a United spokesperson said:
“We have been communicating for several months that we expect to be a smaller airline in response to the unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our business. In February, we took our first step to simplify our partner landscape and consolidate our E145 flying.
“Today we are taking additional steps to further simplify our operation and right size our capacity for the future. Beginning later this year we will consolidate all of our E145 operations into CommutAir, which will then become United’s sole operator of this aircraft type. This transition will take a number of months.”
The Future Of ExpressJet
ExpressJet will continue normal operations through the end of the year while it evaluates its future. With the industry struggling, ExpressJet faces a narrow road to survival. A spokesperson expressed disappointment for the lost contract:
“We are very disappointed that United Airlines did not select ExpressJet Airlines to be its future ERJ145 United Express operator.”
ExpressJet told employees:
“As you may be aware, United made a strategic decision to retain only one ERJ145 United Express operator for 2021. Unfortunately, we have just been told that United intends to go forward with CommutAir as its sole operator of the ERJ145 in 2021.
“In the coming days, we will work with united to develop a workplan for the phased wind-down of operations. The transition will take a number of months, and we’ll be sure to provide updates along the way.”
United owns a minority stake in both carriers (it also owns a 49.9% minority stake in ExpressJet’s parent company). Thus, it will lose as well, even if it ends up writing down the loss for ExpressJet. But it is truly a sad day for the pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and ground staff of ExpressJet. Not only will these pilots now struggle to find new positions, but even if they want to wait it out, maintaining training and certification will be an expensive burden.
United will continue to operate with six regional carriers including Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, GoJet, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airlines, and SkyWest Airlines.
image: United Airlines