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SkyWest Inc. will sew up its merger with ExpressJet Holdings on Friday after ExpressJet's shareholders voted in favor of the deal earlier this week.
"Day One, we will continue with existing operations. We will go to work on our post-integration plan. Operationally, there will be no change," Mike Kraupp, SkyWest vice president of finance, said Thursday.
On Aug. 4, SkyWest and ExpressJet announced the St. George-based carrier would buy ExpressJet for $133 million in cash and merge ExpressJet into Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA).
The deal reinforces SkyWest's rank as the country's biggest regional carrier, at a time when consolidations and downsizing are sweeping across the regional industry.
Delta Air Lines used to own ASA. SkyWest bought the regional airline in 1995, a week before Delta filed for bankruptcy, for $425 million. ASA still flies as Delta Connection, feeding passengers to Delta at its hometown hub in Atlanta.
ExpressJet used to be Continental Express, until Continental Airlines spun it off in 2002. Both carriers are based in Houston. Continental is 86 percent of ExpressJet's business. The smaller carrier also operates United Express flights for United Airlines.
Before ASA and ExpressJet can completely merge their operations, ASA must get a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. That should happen in early 2012, Kraupp said.
Until then, the two carriers will operate under separate corporate identities, while SkyWest works to eliminate redundant jobs and contracts expected to save $60 million to $70 million a year, Kraupp said.
ASA will continue to be based in Atlanta after the merger. The airline won't fly to Salt Lake City International Airport, where sister carrier SkyWest Airlines operates flights for Delta.
Measured by price, ASA was a bigger purchase for SkyWest. But the ExpressJet deal brings more aircraft, Kraupp said: 244 versus 150.
Right now, the SkyWest fleet totals 454. Post-merger, the combined SkyWest-ASA-ExpressJet fleet will total almost 700 jets and turboprop planes the biggest in the U.S.
SkyWest will have more than 20,000 employees after the merger.
SkyWest tried to buy ExpressJet before. In 2008, ExpressJet turned down an offer of $3.50 per share. This deal is worth $6.75 a share.