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United Airlines to drop ExpressJet as affiliate, threatening regional airline's survival

July 31, 2020
4 min read
United Airlines to drop ExpressJet as affiliate, threatening regional airline's survival
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United Airlines will end its relationship with ExpressJet Airlines, dealing what could be a fatal blow to the 50-seat regional jet operator.

Chicago-based United will consolidate all of its United Express Embraer ERJ-145 flying with affiliate CommutAir and drop ExpressJet as a partner, United spokesperson Charles Hobart confirmed to TPG. The transition will take "a number of months."

United's latest fleet disclosure shows that CommutAir flies 37 ERJ-145s and ExpressJet 97 ERJ-145s for United, though some of those planes are parked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Travelers are unlikely to see an impact from United's decision to consolidate ERJ-145 flying with CommutAir. The planes will continue to fly the same flights with the same service and exterior livery — only the operator, and the crews working them, will be different.

However, the move could prove a death knell for ExpressJet. The Atlanta-based airline only flies ERJ-145s for the mainline carrier, having transitioned its E175s to SkyWest Airlines earlier this year.

If ExpressJet shut its doors, it would be the largest airline closure yet in the U.S. during the crisis. The Atlanta-based regional carrier employed more than 3,000 staff and fed United at its hubs at Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH).

Related: Could Trans States Airlines closure buy time for other US regionals?

To date, three U.S. carriers have shut down as a result of the pandemic: Trans States Holdings-owned Compass Airlines and Trans States Airlines, as well as RavnAir in Alaska. Both Compass and Trans States closed when their major airline partners ended contracts early as the number of people traveling slumped due to COVID-19.

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United said that until there's a vaccine, it expects the recovery in air travel to plateau at around half of its 2019 passenger numbers. As a result, it has pulled back August schedules and notified 36,000 staff of possible furloughs.

And on Thursday, the airline told pilots that it may have to furlough 1,650 more pilots than previously planned, or as much as a third of its cockpit crewmembers, due to the stalled recovery.

Related: United Airlines worries travel recovery will stall until there’s a COVID vaccine

On July 27, Reuters first reported that United planned to select a single operator for its future ERJ-145 flying.

United owns stakes in both CommutAir and ExpressJet. While it describes its ownership in the former as a "minority stake," it has a 49.9% stake in ExpressJet parent ManaAir.

United will have six regional affiliates once it ends its relationship ExpressJet: Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, GoJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airline and SkyWest Airlines.

ExpressJet was formed as the operator of Continental Express in the late 1980s. It was acquired by SkyWest-subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines in 2010 which than adopted its name, before being sold to ManaAir in 2019.

Related: Global air travel unlikely to recover until 2024 as COVID remains ‘issue’ in US, elsewhere

Featured image by Getty Images

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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Cons

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees