Trans States Airlines to shut down April 1, first US carrier to close amid coronavirus crisis

Mar 17, 2020

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Regional carrier Trans States Airlines appears set to become the first U.S. airline to shutter its doors in the wake of the coronavirus crisis that has grounded flights around the world.

The United Airlines affiliate will shut down on April 1 due to the “unforeseen impact of the coronavirus,” Trans States CEO Richard Leach told employees in an internal memo Tuesday viewed by TPG. The carrier was already planning to shut down by year-end, but the demand-related fallout surrounding COVID-19 has hastened its demise.

The move does not impact other carriers owned by its parent company St. Louis-based Trans States Holdings, including Compass Airlines and GoJet Airlines.

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Trans States was not immediately available for comment on the memo.

The regional carrier’s shut down comes as airlines around the world cull schedules to keep up with plummeting demand. American Airlines plans to cut domestic capacity by up 30%, Delta Air Lines system capacity by 40%, and United is halving its operation.

Industry organization Airlines for America (A4A), which represents large airlines like American, Delta and United, has asked for more than $50 billion in aid from the U.S. government to get carriers through the crisis.

Related: US airlines seek at least $50 billion in aid to combat coronavirus crisis

That aid, if granted, will come too late for the likes of Trans States.

“It’s difficult to articulate or even comprehend the speed at which the coronavirus has changed our industry,” said Leach in the memo. “As of last week, we knew that the wind down would be accelerated, but we were confident that we would continue flying for United for some months.”

Leach explained that capacity cuts by United to Trans States’ schedule were “far deeper than we feared” and that the drawdown in its United Express operations was “faster than we could ever have imagined.”

Related: United Airlines affiliate Trans States Airlines to cease flying

United Express routes operated by Trans States Airlines in March 2020. (Image by Cirium)

 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alexandre de Juniac warned Tuesday that the coronavirus-driven cash crunch that airlines face will lead to both consolidation and “unfortunately some airlines will be disappearing.”

The UK’s largest regional airline, Flybe, has already ceased operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trans States operated 43 Embraer ERJ-145s for United at the end of December, the mainline carrier’s latest fleet plan shows.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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