United Airlines sent notice on Thursday to its ExpressJet regional unit that it will not renew its flying contract and will consolidate all Embraer ERJ145 flying with its CommutAir regional affiliate starting “later this year.”
“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,” United said in a statement sent to AIN. “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. We continue to evaluate further opportunities to improve the United Express product. 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.”
In fact, in February United said it would add 36 ERJ145s at ExpressJet over the next 12 months, raising the number of 50-seat Embraer jets at that United Express carrier to 125. At the time, the sides planned to extend their multi-year capacity purchase agreement to allow for the growth at ExpressJet, which had planned to add crew bases and expand facilities at United hubs such as Denver. The move effectively removed Trans States Airlines from the United Express system and resulted in a decision to close that St. Louis-based airline on April 1.
Now, it appears United has changed its plans and instead give CommutAir all ERJ145 flying.
For its part, ExpressJet expressed “disappointment” in United’s decision and an intention to “explore options” for next year.
“We are very disappointed that United Airlines did not select ExpressJet Airlines to be its future ERJ145 United Express operator,” said ExpressJet in a statement. “Over the years, our employees have demonstrated the ability to run a high-performance, efficient, and nimble airline—one that has, on multiple occasions, quickly adjusted to the needs of its major airline customer. We will now explore all options for the future of our company in 2021, while we expect to continue normal operations through the rest of this year.”