United Express

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United Express
United Express logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
various various See Operators
Founded1985; 36 years ago (1985)
Hubs
Frequent-flyer programMileagePlus
AllianceStar Alliance (affiliate)
Fleet size599
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 six 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 Continental and United merged, Continental Connection and Continental Express 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 of 2019 was an Embraer E175 operated by ExpressJet.

As of November 30, 2011, after United received its Single Operating Certificate following the merger with Continental Airlines, over 575 aircraft fly under the United Express brand.

History[edit]

United Express' 1985–1993 logo
United Express' 1993–1997 logo
United Express' 1997–2011 logo
A United Express BAe 146-300 in the 1985-1993 livery at Washington Dulles International Airport in 1990, behind a mainline McDonnell Douglas DC-8 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10.
A United Express Jetstream 31 painted in the 1993–2004 livery photographed at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport
A United Express Bombardier CRJ700 painted in the 2004–2011 livery at one of United Express' hubs, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport
Two United Express Bombardier CRJ200s painted in the 2011–2019 livery at Denver International Airport
A United Express Embraer E175 painted in the current livery at Toronto Pearson International Airport

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 CalPac 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.

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 CRJ-200 service with Mesa Airlines in November 2009.[4] On November 16, 2009 it was announced that ExpressJet would begin operating Embraer ERJ-145 beginning in the spring of 2010.[5] Mesa Airlines continued service using CRJ-700 regional jets and added the Embraer 175 in 2015.

All Continental Express and Continental Connection service officially merged into United Express in late 2011 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 E175s.[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 CRJ-200 beginning second-half 2017.

In September 2017, the Dash-8-Q300 was phased out and in January 2018, the Dash-8-Q200 was phased out. 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.[8]

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.[9]

On July 30, 2020, it was announced that United Airlines had decided to end its contract with ExpressJet and transferred these operations to CommutAir. ExpressJet continued its operations until September 30, 2020 and CommutAir became the sole operator of the United Express Embraer ERJ-145 fleet.[10][11]

At the beginning of 2021, six airlines remain as United Express feeder carriers: Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, 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.[12]

Destinations[edit]

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,[13] and this bus service continues at present with several trips a day.[14]

United Express also has a bus service from Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) near Allentown, Pennsylvania to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).[15] Continental Airlines, which later merged into United, previously operated flights from Allentown to Newark but switched to a bus service in 1995 due to constant delays from air traffic control.[16] It is 79 miles (127 km) long. As of 1997 the service was eight times daily.[17] By February 2010 the bus was the only form of service offered by Continental after it cancelled its Allentown to Cleveland Hopkins Airport flights.[16]

Operators and fleet[edit]

The combined United Express branded fleet currently consists of the following regional aircraft:[18][19]

United Express fleet
Operating airline IATA service ICAO code Callsign Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Parent
F E+ E Total
Air Wisconsin ZW AWI Wisconsin Bombardier CRJ-200 65 4 46 50 Harbor Diversified Inc.
CommutAir C5 UCA CommutAir Embraer ERJ-145 130 2 6 44 50 Champlain Enterprises, Inc.
GoJet Airlines G7 GJS Lindbergh Bombardier CRJ-550 31 44[20] 10 20 20 50 Trans States Holdings
Bombardier CRJ-700 6 6 16 48 70
Mesa Airlines YV ASH Air Shuttle Bombardier CRJ-700 20 (20) 6 16 48 70 Mesa Air Group
Embraer E175 16 4 12 32 26 70
60 12 16 48 76
Republic Airways YX RPA Brickyard Embraer E170 38 6 16 48 70 Republic Airways Holdings
Embraer E175 28 12 16 48 76
SkyWest Airlines OO SKW SkyWest Bombardier CRJ-200 96 4 46 50 SkyWest, Inc.
Bombardier CRJ-700 19 (15) 6 16 48 70
Embraer E175 25 12 32 26 70
65 12 16 48 76
Total 599 15
A United Express Bombardier CRJ-700 operated by GoJet at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport
A United Express Embraer ERJ-145 operated by ExpressJet taking off from Billings Logan International Airport

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.[21]
  • 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 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.[22]
  • On January 7, 1994, United Express Flight 6291 operated by Atlantic Coast Airlines, a British Aerospace Jetstream 41 crashed on approach to Port Columbus International Airport. Five passengers and three crew members were killed and three passengers survived the accident. The NTSB report concluded the aircraft was never properly stabilized for the approach to 28L. The aircraft slowed to a stall, which was not recognised by the flight crew on time. 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.
  • On November 19, 1996, United Express Flight 5925 operated by Great Lakes Airlines, a Beechcraft 1900 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.[23]
  • On April 9, 2017, a passenger named David Dao was taken off a United Express Flight 3411 operated by Republic Airways, by the Chicago Department of Aviation after he was involuntarily denied boarding, so a flight crew could be in position to operate another flight. He ran onto the aircraft and was removed by an officer of the Chicago Airport police department. A video posted on social media showing him being injured and dragged off the plane led to a public outcry against United Airlines.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "United Airlines Strips 'Continental' from parent company's name". 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. ^ Sablan, Jerick (April 16, 2018). "United to change flights between Guam and Saipan June 1". Archived from the original on June 9, 2019.
  9. ^ Jacob Barker. "Regional carrier Trans States Airlines to stop flying April 1 as airlines reel from coronavirus". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  10. ^ "United to drop contract with ExpressJet, dealing fatal blow". Reuters. 2020-07-30. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  11. ^ https://www.flightglobal.com/strategy/expressjet-to-cease-operations-on-30-september/139879.article
  12. ^ United Airlines timetables and multiple issues of the Official Airline Guide
  13. ^ Collier, Kiah (September 22, 2012). "Small airports struggle as major carriers pull back". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  14. ^ ACS. "Charter to Jack Brooks Rgnl Airport". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  15. ^ "United." Lehigh Valley International Airport. Retrieved on October 27, 2016. "Non Stop to:[...]Newark"
  16. ^ a b Karp, Gregory (May 4, 2010). "Airlines merger could halt bus flight". The Morning Call. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  17. ^ Wade, Betsy (December 14, 1997). "PRACTICAL TRAVELER; When the Plane Is Really a Bus". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  18. ^ United Airlines - Seat maps and aircraft information – United Airlines. United.com. Retrieved on 2014-10-21.
  19. ^ "United Airlines Fleet Plan April 2015". united.com. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  20. ^ Russell, Edward. "United expands premium push with new dual-class CRJ550". FlightGlobal.com. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  21. ^ ASN Aircraft accident Convair CV-580 N5808 Durango-La Plata County Airport
  22. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  23. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network

External links[edit]