Onboard ExpressJet’s Corporate Aviation Aircraft

You all know I was a big fan of the idea behind ExpressJet’s branded service, but the combination of high fuel prices, the wrong type of plane, and the lack of connectivity into a larger network/frequent flier ExpressJet Corporate Aviationprogram conspired to bring it down. So how is it that I found myself walking on to one of these jets (at left) long after the branded flying had been killed?

Once the branded stuff shut down, those planes had to go somewhere. Many were returned, but others were used to grow the Corporate Aviation group. They had one of their corporate birds in Long Beach recently, and that’s what I was able to get onboard. Sadly, we didn’t go anywhere, but it was an interesting visit.

If you’re expecting lavish couches and beds with champagne, that’s not quite what they’re doing here. Picture one of their 50 seat Embraer regional jets. Ok, now remove all the scheduled passengers and put charter customers onboard. That’s it. Well, at least that’s the case for 22 of the planes in the fleet. The other 8 actually have only 41 seats onboard and seat pitch ExpressJet Corporate Aviation Legroomgrows from 31″ to a comfy 38″ (at right), but it’s still just a regular seat. I had the chance to hop on one of the 41 seat aircraft, and it definitely had plenty of legroom.

Is there a lot of demand for this? Apparently ExpressJet thinks so, considering how the group has grown. The group started with only 4 airplanes at the same time as the branded flying, but it had grown to 12 by the time the branded flying was shut down. Then it grew to its current level of 30 airplanes. According to John Yeng, the Sr Manager of Marketing who showed me around, business is good, and January and February were actually booked very well.

Who is flying on these planes? They’ve flown sports teams, bands, and employees from some Fortune 500 companies to name a few. The range is 1,600 nautical miles, and they’ll take you anywhere in the Americas. John mentioned a recent Mexico charter so international boundaries clearly aren’t an issue, and the brochure even talks about South America, though that’ll probably require some stops.

Is it really just the same as any other plane you might fly? That’s entirely up to the people paying for the charter. They keep upgraded pillows and blankets on hand for those who really want to pay more for it. They also can cater the plane with anything, though one big drawback is that they don’t have any ovens onboard right now. (They’re looking into it.) They did keep XM radio in each seat from the old branded service, and they’re looking into wireless internet onboard the aircraft as well. But for the most part, it’s just a regular plane.

How much for one of these charters? He gave me a rough estimate of $25,000 for a charter, and the brochure says $27,600. Of course, that can change depending upon how much time you need, but you get the idea. Cheap at twice the price, right? Not so much, but if you can pack every seat and you’re going somewhere that doesn’t have convenient (or any) commercial service, it actually can make good sense.

This is an interesting idea in that I don’t think anyone else is doing it. Sure, you can charter bigger airplanes from any number of sources, but who is offering a regional jet in a normal passenger configuration? I’m sure you can get one from all the usual suspects, the regional airlines, but they don’t have any aircraft dedicated to this as far as I can tell. Let me know if you know of others who are offering this.

Glad to see the ExpressJet livery live on, though I’m still bummed that the branded flying is done for. I’ll be watching closely to see if this group is able to succeed for the airline or whether they’ll eventually just have to go back to being a regional feeder and nothing else.


9 Responses to Onboard ExpressJet’s Corporate Aviation Aircraft

  1. axelsarki says:

    CF, how do you get on the aircraft? i am willing to go to Long Beach to get on planes…

  2. CF says:

    axelsarki – They invited me to come visit when the aircraft was in town for a convention. I don’t believe they offer public tours.

  3. A lot of airlines provide this service. My employer did CMH-DSM for Nationwide for a while

  4. CF says:

    Baha – Does your employer have dedicated 50 seat jets for charter? Who is that? (Feel free to link to them.)

  5. CODWX says:

    I know that Delta has a certain number of aircraft set aside each and every day for charter/extra section operations. We Delta Ops Control managers liked it when there weren’t many charters on the books, because then we had an extra spare or two to work with. On the other hand, during March Madness and College Bowl season, spare aircraft are few and far between. What I don’t know is if the Delta Connection carriers work the same way or not with their CRJs/ERJs. I am pretty sure that Delta still has a separate aircraft leasing arm that leases Boeing BBJs.

  6. Hey CF, Could an charter/scheduled route system work on high business traffic routes for Express or is model not shown to work?

  7. CF says:

    CODWX – Interesting stuff. I know Delta has AirElite for corporate jet charters, but after you wrote this, I went in and looked. It appears that they do have commercial aircraft charters as well, and CRJs are listed. I just don’t know if those are dedicated aircraft or if they just come out of the scheduled fleet. Also, they don’t operate BBJs.

    Johnny Plane – You mean like a hybrid model where they just run scheduled charters? I doubt there’s enough demand for any one specific route. If they operated a corporate shuttle for a company, then that might work.

  8. Yeah that answers the question

  9. CODWX says:

    CF,

    Yep, don’t know where I got that BBJ notion from. But I do know that anyone with enough bucks can charter any Delta mainline aircraft pretty much anytime (that will tell you how much margin there is on scheduled segments), and the folks who do this kind of stuff routinely (college and professional sports teams, corporations putting on awards-related outings) deal directly with the Charter Marketing folks at Delta, as oppoed to the AirElite folks.

    CODWX

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