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Feds' green light makes SkyWest unit biggest of the big

Published November 22, 2011 7:58 am

Airlines • ExpressJet to combine with Atlantic Southeast as one carrier.
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Two airline units of SkyWest Inc. — Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) and ExpressJet Airlines — won permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to combine as one regional carrier and become the biggest in the world with more than 400 aircraft.

ExpressJet has been a subsidiary of ASA since Utah-based SkyWest completed the acquisition of ExpressJet Holdings last year. Now, armed with a single operating certificate, the two airlines, which have been integrating their operations since the deal closed, will start flying Dec. 31 as a single carrier called ExpressJet.

Originally, ASA and ExpressJet planned to jettison their respective names in favor of a fresh moniker, SureJet. That idea was nixed last summer when employees objected.

"Thank God they gave up on SureJet, which sounds like an acne medication," airline analyst Mike Boyd said Monday.

Mike Kraupp, chief financial officer of SkyWest, said the regional airline operator doesn't plan to combine ExpressJet with sister carrier SkyWest Airlines.

"There is no compelling reason to do that now. Probably the biggest thing is geographic differences, where the headquarters are for the entities and where they operate," Kraupp said.

ExpressJet will continue to be based in Atlanta, where ASA has had its headquarters. SkyWest Airlines operates from St. George, alongside SkyWest Inc.

With the acquisition of ExpressJet, SkyWest Inc. strengthened its position as the biggest regional airline company in the world. At the end of 2010, SkyWest, ASA and ExpressJet flew 50 million passengers — one-third of all passengers flown by regional carriers, according to Regional Airline Association figures. By itself, ExpressJet will be the biggest single carrier.

ExpressJet will be SkyWest Inc.'s bigger subsidiary, with 411 aircraft. SkyWest Airlines has 313 aircraft.

ExpressJet operates as United Express for United Airlines and Continental Express for Continental Airlines, which was bought by United. Continental and United are awaiting a single carrier certificate from the FAA. ASA flies as United Express and as Delta Connection for Delta Airlines.

SkyWest Airlines flies for Delta, United and Alaska Airlines.

pbeebe@sltrib.comTwitter: @SLTribPaul —

ExpressJet, by the numbers

With 411 aircraft, ExpressJet will be the biggest regional carrier in the world when it begins operating with Atlantic Southeast Airlines in December:

Headquarters • Atlanta

Employees • 9,300

Daily flights • 2,350

Airport hubs • Nine

Passengers • 28.1 million [2010]

Parent company • SkyWest Inc., based in St. George. Fellow subsidiary SkyWest Airlines employs 11,200 workers and has 313 aircraft in its fleet. It carried 22.3 million passengers in 2010.

Sources: SkyWest Inc., Regional Airline Association




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