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|Airport lounge||United Club|
|Alliance||Star Alliance (affiliate)|
|Parent company||United Continental Holdings|
|Key people||Jeff Smisek (President and CEO)|
United Express is the brand name for the regional branch of United Airlines, under which eleven individually owned regional airlines operate short and medium haul feeder flights. Mainline carriers often use regional airlines to operate services in order to increase frequency, serve routes that would not sustain larger aircraft, or for other competitive reasons. They primarily connect smaller cities with United's domestic hub airports and focus cities, although they offer some point-to-point service such as Sacramento to Eureka.
On October 1, 2010, UAL Corporation and Continental Airlines merged to form United Continental Holdings, the holding company for the newly merged United Airlines. As Continental and United merged, Continental Connection and Continental Express has gradually adopted the United Express brand name, bringing the number of operators to twelve and the number of aircraft to over 550. The first aircraft painted into the new United Express livery was an Embraer ERJ-145 operated by ExpressJet.
As of November 30, 2011, after United had received its Single Operating Certificate following its merger with Continental Airlines, nearly 550 aircraft fly under the United Express brand.
On July 1, 2010, Pinnacle Airlines Corp. announced that Colgan Air would be merged into Mesaba Airlines. In September 2010, SkyWest, Inc., announced the merger of Atlantic Southeast Airlines and ExpressJet which will make ExpressJet the largest United Express carrier post merger.
History of United Express
Major airlines in the United States had long maintained relationships with regional carriers which fed passengers from small markets to larger towns. The Airline Deregulation Act spurred industry consolidation both vertically and horizontally, and as the hub system became more pronounced, airlines formalized these relationships through code sharing, shared branding, and listing regional partners in computer reservations systems. On May 1, 1985, United formally partnered with Air Wisconsin, Aspen Airways, and WestAir as United Express, feeding its hubs at Chicago-O'Hare, Denver-Stapleton, and San Francisco International Airports. Air Wisconsin and Aspen would merge in 1991.
In 1988, Presidential Airways became a United Express carrier for United’s new hub at Washington Dulles International Airport, but soon floundered. In response, WestAir formed an eastern division to serve Dulles. WestAir itself experienced turmoil; in 1991 it spun off the new division into an independent company, Atlantic Coast Airlines (ACA), which years later would go on to become Independence Air.
In 1992, Great Lakes Airlines became a United Express partner, followed by Trans States Airlines the following year. In 1997, as United officially designated Los Angeles International Airport one of its hubs, SkyWest Airlines became a United Express partner as well. Great Lakes left the United Express system in 2001, although it continues to codeshare some routes with United.
In 1993, Trans States Airlines started United Feeder Service, to operate British Aerospace BAe ATP aircraft for United Airlines. The aircraft, originally owned by Air Wisconsin, were transferred and subsequently owned by United. UFS operated routes to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) from close markets in the U.S. Upper Midwest. UFS was eliminated from the United Express carrier network in 1999, and disappeared.
When United declared for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2002, it pressured its regional partners for reduced fees. In 2004, ACA canceled its contract and reinvented itself as low-cost carrier Independence Air. The next year, Air Wisconsin unsuccessfully bid to retain its flying contract, thought it did retain some ground-handling United Express operations. To compensate, United initiated new service agreements with Colgan Air, Trans States subsidiary GoJet Airlines, and Republic Airways Holdings subsidiaries Chautauqua Airlines and Shuttle America.
In 2005, United announced that service levels on major United Express routes would be upgraded to a new product called explus. Routes with explus service offer first class seats and meal service on larger, 70-seat Embraer 170 and 66-seat Bombardier CRJ-700 aircraft. Expanding the traditional regional partner role, United started to use the airplanes configured with explus amenities instead of, or alongside with, mainline jets on routes linking large cities, such as Chicago to Houston.
United decided to cancel Dash 8 and CRJ200 service with Mesa Airlines in November 2009. On November 16, 2009 it was announced that ExpressJet would begin operating Embraer ERJ 145 beginning in the spring of 2010. Dash 8 and Mesa Airlines CRJ200 service stopped.
All Continental Express and Continental Connection service officially merged into United Express in late 2011.
On April 1, 2012, Pinnacle Airlines Corp. filed for bankruptcy and announced it would draw down its Colgan Air operation. In May, United reached a deal with Republic Airways Holdings for its subsidiary Republic Airlines to fly the Q400 in Colgan’s place. The eight year capacity purchase agreement includes all 28 aircraft previously operated by Colgan as well as four currently flown by Republic for Frontier Airlines.
Further information: United Express destinations
- "Ridgelines: iHistory – The Story of an Airline (1989–2004)".
- "United Express features".
- "Mesa Air Group, Inc. Announces Update on CRJ-200s Operating at United Airlines". Nov 6, 2009.
- "United Airlines Announces New Partnership With ExpressJet". November 16, 2009.
- United Airlines - Seat maps and aircraft information – United Airlines. United.com. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
- United's official United Express page