Today 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.Â It’s probably safe to say that they never would have started these routes on their own.