ExpressJet Takes Off with Increased Pressure

Alaska Airlines, American, ExpressJet

07_04_02 xjet competitionToday is the day that ExpressJet launches its first flights, and now the guessing game begins. Will they be able to pull this off? Initially, their flights didn’t get much of a competitive response from the other airlines, but a couple of challenges have trickled in to make this interesting.

First was American’s announcement that they would protect the Raleigh/Durham hub they abandoned years ago. American decided to put some 50 seat RJs of their own in Raleigh/Durham to Kansas City, Louisville, and Jacksonville (Florida). That goes head to head with ExpressJet. Unfortunately, I think we can all guess how this will turn out. Those are small markets in the first place and ExpressJet’s success was questionable without direct competition. Now that AA has decided to step in, I think it’s a safe bet that those routes aren’t to be long-lived. ExpressJet will probably not waste their time bleeding in the market for long and will pull their flights. Then AA will pull out soon after and Raleigh/Durham will not have the benefit of nonstop flights to those markets at all.

Meanwhile, up in the Eskimo cave, Alaska Airlines put together a response of their own using subsidary Horizon Air’s 70 seat RJs. It just came out last week that the airline will beef up its Spokane and Boise service in response to ExpressJet’s entry into those markets. Spokane will get a new daily nonstop to San Diego and a new second flight to Sacramento. Boise will also get a new nonstop to San Diego. Apparently, the airline is concerned that ExpressJet flights from Spokane to Ontario will be able to steal traffic from Alaska’s sole daily nonstop between Spokane and LA. Because of that, they’re pulling out the Alaska flight and replacing it with two Horizon 70 seaters. (Needless to say, frequent fliers aren’t happy about losing first class.)

I actually see this response a bit different than American’s. These are likely routes that have been on Alaska’s radar screen for some time. The ExpressJet competition may have moved the markets up the list, but they’re certainly markets that fit into the Alaska network well and that should help them survive. If Alaska does drive ExpressJet out, I would say there’s a much better chance of these routes sticking around in the Alaska system than the routes American is running out of Raleigh/Durham.  It’s probably safe to say that they never would have started these routes on their own.

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3 comments on “ExpressJet Takes Off with Increased Pressure

  1. Pingback: Loren Steffy
  2. Several Comments about ExpressJet: I live in Kansas City and I’m an ex-travel agent, tour operator and I am, proudly, an ex-TWA’er (from both marketing & sales) and a close observer and student of the airline industry.

    ExpressJet has run a few really really poor newspaper ads over the past several weeks that basically tell you nothing. No destinations, no prices…nada. An airplane seat is a commodity for sale….no different than any other product. If you are new in a market, your ads must be very retail oriented. ExpressJet’s ads MUST tell the reader at least where the airline is flying, when it starts service, maybe even how often if flies and how much it how to book, etc. These ads say basically nothing! They are institutional in nature……..”You’ll know us when you see us!…. and…”Everyone gets a window seat!”…that sort of junk….and a waste of time and money. They don’t sell a thing and seats need to be sold. NOW!

    From a sales & Marketing perspective, this is a rookie error. I don’t know who is paying for this but they are basically wasting their money, especially just as the airline is starting service from Kansas City to three destinations today: Austin, Ontario and Tucson. Those are long trips from here. They are semi-transcons! Those flights will be 2 to 3 hours long. The service starts today but I didn’t see an ad announcing it in today’s paper. And today has lots of competition for local news. It is opening day for the Kansas City Royals for example. (….and my wife’s birthday!)

    Second comment: I tried the ExpressJet website and punched in an itinerary roundtrip to Austin. The site was very confusing. It confirms different dates than I asked for and those dates are very lightly shaded while my requested dates are bold red. It would be very easy to book the wrong dates. I asked for the 2nd…it confirmed the 7th…that sort of thing. I tried it three times. It always did the same thing. It should tell me the 2nd is sold out…not that the 7th is available. I can get that informaiton later on in the booking cycle. What the hell happened to my request for the 2nd. It didn’t even acknowledge that it would fly on the 2nd. Again, this is rookie error stuff that should have been long ago purged from the reservation system. It sure looks like these guys are new to airline operations. Of course, we all know they aren’t but who is running the marketing, reservations and sales departments?

    Ah…Marketing. So few understand its real importance and this looks like a textbook example of marketing taking a back seat to just flying. Sadly I predict: This airline is in for a tough ride.

    Steve Forsyth in KCMO

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