ExpressJet Relaunches From Reno in Bid for Leisure Travelers
(Bloomberg) -- With pandemic living spurring pent-up demand for vacations, a new airline is focused on luring U.S. leisure travelers to the Reno-Lake Tahoe area for weekend trips.
ExpressJet Airlines, a former regional carrier that shut down last year, plans to begin service Oct. 24 under the name Aha!, shuttling passengers to Reno, Nevada, from eight western U.S. markets.
The moniker is derived from the company’s plans to sell “air, hotel, adventure” trips, bundling lodging and eventually other items such as rental cars, ski trips and excursions, said Subodh Karnik, chief executive officer of Atlanta-based ExpressJet.
Aha will become the third U.S. startup airline to begin flying this year.
ExpressJet’s initial plan was to fly from what it considers “underserved” cities, but it changed to launching from a Reno base because of the shift in the U.S. toward leisure travel. Business and long-distance international traffic remain subdued amid the continued spread of Covid-19.
“Everybody’s pivoting toward so-called comfort vacations,” Karnik said. People are seeking short, two-to-five-day trips “because I’m sick of staying at home” amid the pandemic, he said.
Aha will begin with four Embraer SA ERJ145 regional jets and plans to add two more by year-end as it increases destinations from Reno and contemplates additional service, Karnik said. Most of the cities will have flights three days a week.
United Airlines Holdings Inc. owns 49.9% of ExpressJet’s parent company, ManaAir LLC. ExpressJet shut down in September 2020 as United consolidated its regional operations. United declined to comment on Aha and didn’t weigh in during the new carrier’s application process.
After ExpressJet establishes its Reno operation, Karnik said, the carrier will evaluate service involving cities that were former airline hubs or focus cities but have seen their capacity shrink amid industry consolidation. The carrier intends to avoid markets that may attract a larger competitor.
“We will want to do something that is going to be unattractive to the majors and unattractive” to ultra low-cost carriers such as Frontier Airlines and Avelo Inc., he said. “That is a major piece for me.”
ExpressJet, which had been a regional carrier for Continental Airlines, was among the world’s top ten carriers by fleet size about a decade ago, with roughly 450 aircraft and more than 7,000 employees. It also operated as an independent and charter carrier at various points in its history.
Aha’s initial markets:
|Pasco/Tri-Cities, Washington||Oct. 24|
|Bakersfield, California||Oct. 25|
|Medford/Ashland, Oregon||Oct. 31|
|Eugene/Springfield, Oregon||Nov. 1|
|Ontario, California||Nov. 4|
|Redmond/Bend, Oregon||Nov. 5|
|Eureka/Arcata, California||Nov. 9|
|Fresno/Yosemite, California||Nov. 10|
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