United Airlines affiliate Trans States Airlines to cease flying

Feb 24, 2020

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A regional airline name familiar to many travelers in smaller communities will be gone by the end of the year when Trans States Airlines stops flying.

The demise of Trans States Airlines will have no impact on passengers, as 36 of its Embraer ERJ-145 jets will be transferred to ExpressJet Airlines by the end of 2020. Both ExpressJet and Trans States Airlines operate feeder flights for United Airlines under the United Express brand.

The shut down was communicated to Trans States Airlines employees in a letter from parent Trans States Holdings CEO Rick Leach on Monday that was viewed by TPG. The move does not impact Compass Airlines or GoJet Airlines, which are also owned by Trans States Holdings.

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St. Louis-based Trans States Airlines fell victim to a several factors that have wreaked havoc on regional airlines over the past few years. An industry-wide pilot shortage made hiring difficult, and a move by its mainline partner United to streamline its regional providers drove the decision to close the airline, Leach told employees.

“In recent years, the regional aviation landscape has changed dramatically and continues to do so,” he said. “Our industry has never been more competitive and the margins for success at the regional level are razor thin.”

“We have come to the extremely difficult decision that an organized and well-planned wind-down of the Trans States operation is the most viable course of action,” said Leach.

Trans States Airlines spokeswoman Stacey Ross confirmed the plan to shut down by year-end. A separate statement from ExpressJet confirmed that they will add the carrier’s 36 ERJ-145s to their fleet by February 2021.

Related: Delta to boot Compass, GoJet as regional affiliates

Other regional airlines have fallen victim to the pilot shortage. Republic Airways cited hiring issues in its 2016 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, and Great Lakes Aviation shut down entirely in 2018.

All of the major carriers are in the process of consolidating their regional flying. Delta Air Lines unveiled plans to end its relationships with Compass Airlines and GoJet Airlines in July amid a move to partner with just three regional carriers.

United, while not naming Trans States Airlines specifically, told employees in a separate memo viewed by TPG Monday that a “series of fleet movements” at its United Express partners would occur in 2020.

“Fleet movements between regional carriers are not uncommon, and these changes will not impact any United mainline flying or staffing,” the Chicago-based carrier said. “These transitions will improve our efficiency and set up United, and our partners, for an even better operation moving forward.”

Related: United is adding 20 more dual-class Bombardier CRJ550 jets with GoJet

United expanded its flying agreement for the Bombardier CRJ550 with GoJet this month. The regional carrier will operate 20 more of the 50-seat jets that include a first class-cabin. It expects to have a total of 74 aircraft by 2021.

When Trans States Airlines finally stops flying, it will be the end of a nearly 40-year history that included partnerships with storied names like Trans World Airlines (TWA). Founded in 1982, Trans States Airlines flew as Trans World Express (TWE) from 1985 until TWA merged with American Airlines in 2001. The carrier also had partnerships with Delta Air Lines and USAir, later US Airways, during its 38-year run.

Updated with Trans States Airlines comment.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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