ExpressJet has announced that it will end its operations for United Airlines at the end of September. When it was beaten out by CommutAir for a contract to operate Embraer ERJ145s for United Airlines, ExpressJet had hoped to continue operating with the legacy carrier through the end of the year. This was revealed via a message sent to employees on Monday.
“On July 30, United Airlines selected CommutAir as its sole ERJ145 operator and asked ExpressJet Airlines to wind-down flying as a United Express regional carrier. Due to the uncertainty of airline passenger travel as a result of the continuing pandemic, all ExpressJet flying for United Airlines will end on September 30, 2020.
“The consensus was that given the continuing uncertainty in the COVID-19 impacted schedule beyond October, and the real possibility of a further reduction in flying, it would be extremely difficult to maintain any semblance of schedule integrity during this period,” ExpressJet CEO Subodh Karnik told employees.
In addition to ending its partnership with United that day, ExpressJet will furlough or lay off a majority of its workforce since CARES Act funding, which provides payroll support for airlines, is set to run out that day.
“With the termination of the CARES Act payroll support funding at that time, ExpressJet also will terminate or furlough most of its workforce on September 30, 2020, other than limited staff needed in connection with the wind-down of operations and the review of future business opportunities,” ExpressJet said in its statement.
ExpressJet received $110 million in CARES Act funding earlier this spring, and it was forbidden from making any involuntary staff cuts through Sept. 30 as a part of that deal. Its current plans will allow it to phase out its schedule through the end of September.
Karnik says that dwindling staffing and reliability challenges “materially hinder our ability to complete flying efficiently and effectively.”
ExpressJet is the largest casualty of the coronavirus crisis in the United States thus far. The airline employs roughly 2,500 people. Its all-ERJ145 fleet includes 101 aircraft with 33 on order. 73 of the airline’s aircraft are parked at the moment. It is also the first U.S. airline to close due to the crisis that wasn’t already planning to do so at the start of this crisis.
ExpressJet is ceasing operations as CommutAir will become United’s sole ERJ145 operator. United had been considering consolidating its regional operations for a while, and its decision to end its contract with ExpressJet was announced in late July.
“As you may be aware, United made a strategic decision to retain only one [Embraer] ERJ145 United Express operator for 2021. Unfortunately, we have just been told that United intends to go forward with CommutAir as its sole operator of the ERJ145 in 2021,” ExpressJet said when United’s announcement was first made.
CommutAir was likely chosen both because of its cheaper costs to United and its smaller fleet, which will allow United to consolidate operations to ride out the coronavirus pandemic without needing to pay, indirectly, for largely-empty flights or parked aircraft. CommutAir currently operates 33 Embraer ERJ145s.
“We have been communicating for several months that we expect to be a smaller airline in response to the unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our business,” United said in a statement in July. “In February, we took our first step to simplify our partner landscape and consolidate our E145 flying. Today we are taking additional steps to further simplify our operation and right-size our capacity for the future.”