United Express

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United Express
Founded1985; 39 years ago (1985)
Frequent-flyer programMileagePlus
AllianceStar Alliance (affiliate)
Fleet size503
Parent companyUnited Airlines Holdings
HeadquartersChicago, Illinois
Key peopleScott Kirby (CEO)

United Express is the brand name for the regional branch of United Airlines, under which five individually owned regional airlines operate short- and medium-haul feeder flights.

On October 1, 2010, UAL Corporation and Continental Airlines merged to form United Continental Holdings, the holding company for the newly merged United Airlines. On June 27, 2019, United Express changed its parent company name from United Continental Holdings to United Airlines Holdings.[1] As of 2023, 519 aircraft fly under the United Express brand.


Major airlines in the United States had long maintained relationships with regional carriers which fed passengers from small markets to larger cities. 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, Horizon Air, and WestAir as United Express, feeding its hubs at Chicago–O'Hare, Seattle International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport. Aspen Airways soon joined the United Express system in 1986 feeding United's hub at Denver–Stapleton. Aspen was dismantled in 1990 being sold to Air Wisconsin and Mesa Airlines. Horizon Air was bought out by Alaska Airlines in 1987 at which time Horizon's contract as United Express was cancelled and a new carrier, North Pacific Airlines (NPA), was established by WestAir to service the Seattle hub as well as hubs at Portland, Spokane, and Boise. NPA was merged into its parent, WestAir, in 1991. San Juan Airlines of Seattle and SouthCentral Air of Anchorage, Alaska, also operated as United Express from 1987 through 1989.

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.[2] 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 1990, Mesa Airlines took over all of the United Express routes from Denver formerly operated by Aspen Airways except the Denver to Aspen route which went to Air Wisconsin. Mesa also added a number of new routes from Denver as well. In 1992 Mesa created a new division called California Pacific Airlines to begin new United Express service from the Los Angeles hub. In 1995 Mesa took over all United Express routes at the Seattle and Portland hubs formerly operated by WestAir. Mesa Airlines contract operating as United Express was cancelled in 1998 at which time Air Wisconsin and Great Lakes Airlines took over the Denver routes while SkyWest took over the Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland routes.

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 early 2002, although it continued to do codeshare flights until they ceased operations in 2018.

In 1993, Trans States Airlines started United Feeder Service (UFS), 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.

United Express' logo used in the 2000s

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, though 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. Mesa Airlines was also reinstated into the United Express system.

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 170s and 66-seat Bombardier CRJ700s.[3] 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 announced a new Express focus city at San Antonio International Airport in 2006, but the experiment was short-lived. Trans States was the carrier operating the San Antonio operation.

United decided to cancel Dash 8 and CRJ200 service with Mesa Airlines in November 2009.[4] On November 16, 2009 it was announced that ExpressJet would begin operating Embraer ERJ145 beginning in the spring of 2010.[5] Mesa Airlines continued service using CRJ700 regional jets and added the Embraer 175 in 2015.

All Continental Express and Continental Connection service officially merged into United Express in late 2010 including that of Cape Air which was operating as Continental Connection on behalf of Continental Micronesia in Guam. Silver Airways was also a Continental Connection carrier that converted to United Express using turbo prop aircraft. Silver operated throughout Florida as well as routes from Washington Dulles Airport however their affiliation as United Express ended in 2013.

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 Airways to fly the Q400 in Colgan's place. The eight-year capacity purchase agreement included all 28 aircraft previously operated by Colgan as well as four currently flown by Republic for Frontier Airlines.

In August 2015, United announced the start of a new subsidiary, United Ground Express, to provide ground operation service in select airports within its domestic network.[6]

By September 2016, Republic Airways Q400s were phased out of service, replacing them with 50 more Embraer 175s.[7]

On February 27, 2017, United Airlines announced the return of their partnership with Air Wisconsin as a United Express carrier. They would be flying a fleet of 65 Bombardier CRJ200 beginning second-half 2017.

In September 2017, the Q300 was phased out[8] and in January 2018, the Q200 was phased out.[9] These were the final prop aircraft in the United Express system within the United States.

On April 16, 2018, United Airlines announced the end of its partnership with Cape Air. Services ended on May 31, 2018, which marked the end of United Express operations in Guam, along with the retirement of the last turboprop aircraft in the United Express fleet.[10]

In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trans States Airlines announced that it would be ceasing operations on April 1, 2020, ending its operations as United Express.[11]

On July 30, 2020, it was announced that United Airlines had decided to end its contract with ExpressJet and transferred these operations to CommuteAir. ExpressJet continued its operations until September 30, 2020 and CommuteAir became the sole operator of the United Express Embraer ERJ145 fleet.[12][13]

In August 2022, Air Wisconsin announced that it would be again leaving the United Express brand and transferring exclusively to American Eagle. The transition started in March 2023.[14]

As of 2023, five airlines remain as United Express feeder carriers: CommuteAir, GoJet, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airways, and SkyWest Airlines. Most of these carriers now have routes spanning the entire United States with regional jets. SkyWest serves a number of small cities that are subsidized by the federally funded Essential Air Service program as well as other local and state governments.[15]


Bus service[edit]

United Express bus service connects Beaumont/Port Arthur to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). This service began after Colgan Air-operated Saab 340 turboprop flights ended on July 1, 2012,[16] and this bus service continues at present with several trips a day.[17]

United Express also has a bus service from Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) near Allentown, Pennsylvania to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).[18] Continental Airlines, which later merged into United in 2010, previously operated flights from Allentown to Newark but switched to a bus service in 1995 due to constant delays from air traffic control.[19] It is 79 miles (127 km) long. As of 1997 the service was eight times daily.[20] By 2010 the bus was the only form of service offered by Continental after it cancelled its Allentown to Cleveland Hopkins Airport flights.[19]


The combined United Express branded fleet consists of the following regional aircraft as of June 2023:[21]

United Express (CommutAir) Embraer ERJ-145XR N14168 approaching Newark Airport
United Express Embraer ERJ 145
United Express fleet
Operating airline Aircraft In service Orders Passengers
F Y+ Y Total
CommuteAir Embraer ERJ 145 63 6 44 50
GoJet Airlines Bombardier CRJ550 67 7[22] 10 20 20 50
Mesa Airlines Embraer 175 25 12 32 26 70
55 12 16 48 76
Bombardier CRJ900 14 9 39 28 76
7 12 36 28 76
4 1 9 13 54 76
Heart Aerospace ES30 200[23][24] TBD 30
Republic Airways Embraer 170 33 6 16 48 70
Embraer 175 19 12 16 48 76
18 12 16 42 70
SkyWest Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 89 50 50
Bombardier CRJ700 19 6 16 48 70
Embraer 175SC 25 19[25] 12 32 26 70
Embraer 175 65 12 16 48 76
Total 503 227

Former fleet[edit]

  • Historical regional jet fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Replacement Notes
BAe 146 28 1985 2006 Bombardier CRJ200 Operated by Air Wisconsin
Bombardier CRJ100 7 2005 2019 Bombardier CRJ200 Operated by Mesa Airlines and SkyWest Airlines
Dornier 328JET 23 1998 2003 Bombardier CRJ200 Operated by Air Wisconsin
Embraer ERJ-135 9 2012 2018 Embraer ERJ-145 Operated by ExpressJet

Historical turboprop fleet

The United Express brand, through its various regional and commuter airline partners, operated a variety of twin turboprop aircraft over the years including the following types.

Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Replacement Notes
ATR 42 4 2010 2018 Boeing 737-800(Mainline Fleet) Former Continental Connection fleet. Operated by Cape Air, and designated in Guam only.
BAe ATP 10 1993 2000 None Operated by United Feeder Service
BAe Jetstream 41 41 1993 2004 Bombardier CRJ100 Operated by Atlantic Coast Airlines
Beechcraft 1900 24 1995 2012 Bombardier CRJ200 Operated by Great Lakes Airlines
de Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 5 1993 1995 Bombardier CRJ100 Operated by Atlantic Coast Airlines
Bombardier Q200 28 1996 2018 Bombardier CRJ700,Embraer ERJ 145, Embraer 175 Operated by Mesa Airlines until 2010, former Continental Connection fleet acquired the same year, operated by CommuteAir
Bombardier Q300 14 1989 2017 Bombardier CRJ700,Embraer ERJ 145, Embraer 175 Operated by Mesa Airlines until 1996, former Continental Connection fleet acquired in 2011, operated by CommuteAir
Bombardier Q400 30 2010 2016 Embraer 170,Embraer 175 Former Continental Connection, operated by Republic Airways, and Colgan Air
Dornier 328 21 1998 2003 Bombardier CRJ200 Operated by Air Wisconsin
Embraer EMB-120 103 1990 2015 Bombardier CRJ200, Bombardier CRJ700, Embraer 175 Operated by SkyWest Airlines, WestAir Commuter Airlines, Great Lakes Airlines
Saab 340 32 2004 2012 Embraer 170,Embraer 175 Operated by Shuttle America, Colgan Air
A former United Express Fokker F27 Friendship operated By Air Wisconsin

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On February 2, 1988, United Express Flight 3749 from Denver to Durango, CO, operated by Aspen Airways using a Convair 580 aircraft, drifted off a snow-packed runway at night while landing at Durango-La Plata County Airport and crashed into a snowbank. No injuries were reported among the 38 passengers and three crew members on board.[26]
  • On December 26, 1989, United Express Flight 2415 operated by North Pacific Airlines, a BAe Jetstream 31 crashed on approach to Tri-Cities Airport near Pasco, Washington. The four passengers and two crew members on board were killed. The crew executed an excessively steep and unstabilized instrument landing system (ILS) approach. That approach, along with improper air traffic control commands and aircraft icing, caused the aircraft to stall and crash short of the runway.[27]
  • On January 7, 1994, United Express Flight 6291 operated by Atlantic Coast Airlines, a BAe Jetstream 41 crashed on approach to Port Columbus International Airport. Two passengers and three crew members were killed, while three passengers (a Taiwanese family) survived the accident. The NTSB report concluded the aircraft was never properly stabilized for the approach to runway 28L. The aircraft slowed to a stall, which was not recognized by the flight crew in a timely manner. The subsequent stall recovery was performed contrary to the Airplane Flight Manual procedure, which resulted in the aircraft impacting the ground less than 2 miles from the runway. Furthermore, after investigating the backgrounds of the cockpit crew, the NTSB concluded that Atlantic Coast shouldn't have paired an inexperienced first officer with a captain who had a history of failed check rides.
  • On November 19, 1996, United Express Flight 5925 operated by Great Lakes Airlines, a Beechcraft 1900C collided with a King Air during landing at Quincy Regional Airport. The ten passengers and two crew members on board were killed. The pilots of the King Air were blamed for failing to effectively monitor both the common frequency and to scan for traffic.[28]
  • On April 9, 2017, passenger Dr. David Dao was dragged off of United Express Flight 3411 by law enforcement. He had been selected to be deplaned to make room for deadheading crew, but had refused to give up his seat, stating that he needed to see patients the following day.[29] He suffered a concussion, lost teeth, and a broken nose.[30] The airline later faced criticism and backlash for how the incident was handled.
  • On March 4, 2019, United Express Flight 4933 operated by CommutAir, a Embraer EMB-145XR, landed in a snow-covered grassy area to the right of the runway at Presque Isle International Airport and was severely damaged; two passengers and the first officer suffered minor injuries. The accident was attributed to an inadequately reported ILS misalignment combined with "confirmation bias" and fatigue that led the first officer to continue the approach despite being unable to see the runway due to blowing snow.[31]


  1. ^ "United Airlines Strips 'Continental' from parent company's name". Bloomberg News. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Ridgelines: iHistory – The Story of an Airline (1989–2004)". ridgelines.org. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008.
  3. ^ "United Express features". Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  4. ^ "Mesa Air Group, Inc. Announces Update on CRJ-200s Operating at United Airlines". November 6, 2009.
  5. ^ "United Airlines Announces New Partnership With ExpressJet". November 16, 2009. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  6. ^ Sokolow, Jesse (August 10, 2015). "United Airlines Launches United Ground Express". Frequent Business Traveler. Archived from the original on July 19, 2017.
  7. ^ Bhaskara, Vinay (September 17, 2014). "ANALYSIS: United Express to Eliminate Q400 fleet; Add More E175s". Archived from the original on October 9, 2016.
  8. ^ "CommutAir ends Q300 operations". October 30, 2017. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  9. ^ "CommutAir becomes all-jet, phases out its last DHC-8-200 Dash 8". January 10, 2018. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  10. ^ Sablan, Jerick (April 16, 2018). "United to change flights between Guam and Saipan June 1". Archived from the original on June 9, 2019.
  11. ^ Jacob Barker (17 March 2020). "Regional carrier Trans States Airlines to stop flying April 1 as airlines reel from coronavirus". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  12. ^ "United to drop contract with ExpressJet, dealing fatal blow". Reuters. 2020-07-30. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  13. ^ "ExpressJet to cease operations on 30 September".
  14. ^ Burns, Jelissa (August 23, 2022). "Greenville-based Air Wisconsin leaves United Airlines for new agreement with American Airlines". Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  15. ^ United Airlines timetables and multiple issues of the Official Airline Guide
  16. ^ Collier, Kiah (September 22, 2012). "Small airports struggle as major carriers pull back". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  17. ^ ACS. "Charter to Jack Brooks Rgnl Airport". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  18. ^ "United Archived 2016-10-27 at the Wayback Machine." Lehigh Valley International Airport. Retrieved on October 27, 2016. "Non Stop to:[...]Newark"
  19. ^ a b Karp, Gregory (May 4, 2010). "Airlines merger could halt bus flight". The Morning Call. Archived from the original on December 28, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  20. ^ Wade, Betsy (December 14, 1997). "PRACTICAL TRAVELER; When the Plane Is Really a Bus". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  21. ^ United Airlines - Seat maps and aircraft information – United Airlines. United.com. Retrieved on 2014-10-21.
  22. ^ Russell, Edward. "United expands premium push with new dual-class CRJ550". FlightGlobal.com. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  23. ^ Bachman, Justin (2021-07-13). "United Air, Mesa Agree to Buy Up to 200 Small Electric Planes". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2021-10-26.
  24. ^ "Heart Aerospace unveils new airplane design, confirms Air Canada and Saab as new shareholders". Heart Aerospace. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  25. ^ "SkyWest orders 19 E175 for United Express operation".
  26. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Convair CV-580 N5808 Durango-La Plata Airport, CO (DRO)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 2023-01-23.
  27. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  28. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  29. ^ Aulbach, Lucas. "Video shows man forcibly removed from United flight from Chicago to Louisville". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  30. ^ Bucher, Chris (11 April 2017). "David Dao: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  31. ^ National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Final Report (Report). National Transportation Safety Board. 12 July 2022. DCA19FA089. Retrieved 20 July 2022.

External links[edit]