It’s the last day of my vacation, and I’m going to bet that after a week in an RV, I’m ready to be home. So today, I’ll finish up my look at regional alliances over the past 15 years. American came first, then Delta, and now we finish up with United Express and Continental Express.
Of the three airlines I looked at, United is by far the messiest. It had the most relationships and has been trying hard to find the right mix as of late.
Thanks to Cirium, I took a look into all of them. Here is the chart.
Just as was the case with Delta, you can see that the big red blog dominates. So, let’s start there once again.
SkyWest and ExpressJet
Best I can tell, SkyWest actually started flying for Continental in 1995, two years before it started flying for United. But it became a really big player for United when its subsidiary ASA purchased ExpressJet.
ExpressJet, of course, began life as Continental Express and was the sole regional provider. But Continental spun it off and once it made its way into the SkyWest fold, SkyWest carriers had more than half of all United Express service. That was quickly eroded as United began working with other partners to spread the love around.
SkyWest lost a lot of business when it sold ExpressJet off to become partially-owned by United. But that worked out well for SkyWest in the end as the airline continued to amass new flying. In August, SkyWest has about 45 percent of United Express flights. ExpressJet, now gone from SkyWest’s fold, still has 8 percent, but it will wind down operations in the next few months.
As with Delta, Republic operated for United Express with Chautauqua and Shuttle America but eventually consolidated around the Republic certificate. Republic has been a fairly stable player over the last few years in the United network.
This August, it will fly a bit more than 15 percent of United Express flights.
If there’s an airline with nine lives, it’s Mesa. Mesa had flown for United for many years, on and off. Its last round before the merger with Continental saw the airline flying CRJ-200s and CRJ-700s but United wasn’t happy, and it cut back significantly.
With the relationship hanging by a thread, new United President Scott Kirby’s long-time relationship with Mesa’s CEO paid off. It lost all of its CRJs, but it has slowly been given more and more Embraer 175s. It will end up having 100 in the United Express fleet soon enough.
This August, Mesa will have just shy of 15 percent of United Express flights.
Speaking of nine lives… Air Wisconsin has used quite a few. It used to be a big United Express operator, but it lost that business in 2006. It then went to US Airways and on to American until United snatched the airline and its pilot corps back. It no longer flies the old BAe-146s, but it has a big fleet of CRJ-200s which fly exclusively for United Express.
It August, it will have 7 percent of United Express departures.
Trans States Holdings has had a rough go of it lately. It shut down both Trans States and Compass, leaving it only with GoJet. But GoJet lost its Delta contract and is now solely flying for United. That sounds like a scary proposition for a once more diverse company. But GoJet has an angle to survive.
GoJet is currently the only operator of the CRJ-550. That’s the CRJ-700 with room for only 50 people and a very heavy emphasis on premium seating. The problem with premium-heavy configurations, however, is that when, oh, say, massive pandemics hit… they become a lot less appealing.
In March before things turned ugly, GoJet had more than 13 percent of United Express departures. But by August, it will be down to under 6 percent.
Wait, there’s more? Yes, there is. CommutAir takes up the rear here. It used to fly little props and then United gave it and its low cost structure access to Embraer 145s. United bought a chunk of the airline, and then put it in competition with ExpressJet to be the sole surviving operator of the Embraer 145 in the United Express fleet. CommutAir emerged victorious.
In August, CommutAir is scheduled to have just shy of 4 percent of departures, but you can expect it will see some real growth when it starts to take over ExpressJet flying, assuming that’s the plan.
The Dearly Departed
Considering how many airlines still fly for United, you’d think the list of carriers which no longer fly for the airline would be short. You’d think wrong.
- Cape Air used to feed Continental Micronesia in Guam with ATR turboprops, and it lasted through the merger. But by the end of 2018, this flying was gone.
- Colgan Air incredibly began flying as New York Air Connection in 1986. It joined Continental in the New York Air merger and then sold to Presidential which collapsed. The Colgans restarted the airline under a different name in 1991 and eventually took back the Colgan name. It left Continental in 1999 but returned in 2005. That’s when Colgan also started flying for United. Colgan sold to Pinnacle and by 2012 the relationship ended.
- RegionsAir actually flew as a Continental Connection carrier in Cleveland from 2006 to 2007. I don’t remember that all, but that’s no surprise since it didn’t last long.
- Silver somehow kept flying as a United Express carrier into 2014. At that point, it decided to be fully independent and have more traditional codeshare partnerships instead.