Take a good look at the airplane in the picture below, after September 2nd, you won't see it anymore. Houston-based regional carrier ExpressJet is pulling the plug on its self-branded service.Until 2002, ExpressJet was a Continental Airlines subsidiary known as Continental Express. Even after becoming an independent company, it continued to operate regional services for Continental Airlines under the Continental Express brand. Its stand-alone service was an idea borne out of neccessity after Continental reduced ExpressJet's role as a Continental Express operator in 2005; faced with the prospect of idling a quarter of its fleet and laying off hundreds of crew, ExpressJet decided to enter the airline market under its own name.
It made intuitive sense: using smaller-capacity Embraer regional jets, ExpressJet would operate nonstop service between city pairs that were not economical to be served by mainlane carriers with larger aircraft; for example: Austin - Tucson, Kansas City - Jacksonville, Albequerque - Oklahoma City, Sacramento - San Antonio, or LA/Ontario - Omaha. ExpressJet's branded service allowed travelers flying between these two cities a one-seat ride, without the hassles of transferring through a larger carrier's hub-and-spoke network. Service began in 2007.
Operating in a nache market, however, had is perils. On some city pairs, there were barely enough passengers to make the service worthwhile. Some cities, such as Corpus Christi, proved to be unprofitable to serve even with the smaller ERJs. On other city pairs, however, the opposite problem occured: ExpressJet's service between New Orleans and Birmingham was very successful and caught the attention of Southwest Airlines. Southwest then began operating its own New Orleans - Birmingham service, forcing ExpressJet to drop that route. Ultimately, however, the same rising fuel costs that have hammered the airline industry as a whole forced ExpressJet to cancel its year-and-a-half-long stint as its own airline.
Several cities will feel the effect of ExpressJet's shutdown. New Orleans, San Diego, Sacramento and LA/Ontario were airports with a significant ExpressJet presence, offering nonstop service to several destinations that no other carrier could match. "ExpressJet offered twice as many nonstop routes than any other airline operating from Ontario," the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports. "Once the airline departs for good, travelers through Ontario Airport should expect more of what they used to experience -- a stop or two."
In addition to its stand-alone service, ExpressJet is also ending its contract as a regional carrier for Delta. ExpressJet will continue to operate as a regional carrier for Continental Airlines and will continue to operate a charter service.
An acquaintance of mine works for ExpressJet as a dispatcher. I hope his job isn't affected by this service cut.