Super-Regional Airline In The Making
ExpressJet Airlines: Redefining The Meaning Of A Regional Carrier
As part of its goal to become the world’s first “super-regional” airline, ExpressJet has implemented advanced technology to conquer one of its biggest challenges — more abnormal operational days than not. The new technology will address the carrier’s many operational needs, such as disruption management, crew management and tracking, and flight situational awareness.
From its humble beginnings as a small turboprop airline serving regional markets in close proximity to/from Atlanta, Georgia, ExpressJet Airlines has grown to become the world’s largest regional carrier.
While on paper it’s defined as a regional carrier, ExpressJet operates a fleet in excess of 400 jet aircraft, supporting more than 2,200 daily flights and providing scheduled service to 190 destinations across 42 states, the District of Columbia, Mexico, Canada and countries in the northern portions of the Caribbean.
Originally operating as Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), the airline today known as ExpressJet is headquartered in Atlanta and represents a merger of Atlantic Southeast Airlines and the former ExpressJet, which operated as a subsidiary of Houston, Texas-based Continental Airlines.
During part of its colorful history, the airline was acquired by Delta Air Lines and operated as a subsidiary for several years. Throughout most of its existence, ExpressJet has focused its operations around Atlanta and other hub cities of its former parent company, Delta Air Lines. Days prior to Delta’s 2005 bankruptcy filing, ExpressJet gained its independence of sorts (from a major carrier) and was acquired by another regional carrier group — SkyWest Inc. based in St. George, Utah. As a sister company to SkyWest Airlines, ExpressJet operates completely independently of SkyWest Airlines, beyond back-office integration at the corporate level.
Like most U.S.-based regional carriers, ExpressJet’s primary business model is to offer a capacity purchase agreement, flying for major U.S. domestic carriers. A capacity purchase agreement between a regional carrier and network carrier usually involves a fixed fee for departure or cost-plus contract, where the network carrier assumes all the market risk and is responsible for commercial planning; revenue management; and marketing, sales and distribution of the airline product. It usually covers high-risk items such as aircraft ownership, insurance and fuel costs. The regional carrier is responsible for operating the flights and ensuring the availability of capacity for the network airlines.
Today, the airline provides capacity purchase agreement scheduled service for Delta Air Lines and United Airlines (including absorbed former Continental Airlines), and it began operating for American Airlines in February. Based on its current CPA agreements, ExpressJet provides regional airline flying from several major hub airports including:
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport,
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport,
- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport,
- Denver International Airport,
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport,
- Dulles International Airport,
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport,
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport,
- Memphis International Airport,
- Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport,
- Newark Liberty International Airport.
As the second-largest airline operator at the world’s busiest hub airport (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) behind Delta Air Lines, ExpressJet is susceptible to the unpredictable weather patterns that often plague the airport, such as severe summer thunderstorm activities, heavy icing during winter and occasional snowstorms. In addition, ExpressJet is a major operator in the northeast corridor of the United States and is subject to numerous U.S. Federal Aviation Administration air-traffic-control programs, ranging from ground stops and ground delay programs to airspace flow programs. As a result, ExpressJet almost rarely faces an easy operational day.
As part of its efforts to meet this tremendous operational challenge head on, ExpressJet decided in 2007 to partner with Sabre Airline Solutions® as the launch customer for Sabre® AirCentre™ Recovery Manager (Ops) and Sabre® AirCentre™ Recovery Manager (Crew).
As the launch customer of both solutions, ExpressJet has worked very closely with Sabre Airline Solutions through its “design-to-launch” process, providing invaluable feedback on the original prototype designs and development plans. Through a series of regularly scheduled collaborative workshops onsite at ExpressJet in Atlanta as well as at Sabre Airline Solutions’ headquarters in Southlake, Texas, ExpressJet has been able to provide the necessary industry knowledge to help shape the final design and implementation of these game-changing solutions.
Within ExpressJet’s operations control center, Recovery Manager (Ops) will be fully deployed in conjunction with Sabre® AirCentre® Movement Control and will give the airline’s controllers the ability to generate optimization-based schedule recovery solutions for prevailing schedule disruptions. Solutions proposed by Recovery Manager (Ops) will allow the airline to consider scheduled maintenance activities, operational restrictions and prevailing weather conditions.
In addition, the decision-support tool has the facility to support proactive disaster recovery plans in preparation for major weather systems such as forecasted hurricanes, northeastern snowstorms and heavy winter precipitation in the southeast.
As a result of the multiple-year project with ExpressJet, the deployment of Recovery Manager (Crew) will enable the carrier to better manage crew reassignments in the aftermath of schedule irregularities, something that, in years past, has taken a prolonged period of time.
Based on the seamless integration with Sabre® AirCentre™ CrewTrac, ExpressJet will be able to significantly reduce its current recovery time for crewmembers, which will lead to increased crew productivity and lower additional costs from disruptions.
During the course of the project, the airline has been transformed from a carrier with one primary hub airport and crew quarters in Atlanta to an airline that now supports scheduled flight operations at multiple hub airports and relies on crewmembers from seven locations across the country.
In spite of all these significant operational changes, the airline has been able to easily adapt Recovery Manager (Crew) to support its ever-changing business needs. Once fully implemented, Recovery Manager will be used for the CRJ fleet operations, which are governed by the business rules and crewmember union contracts of the former Atlantic Southeast Airlines.
ExpressJet intends to become the world’s first super-regional carrier, providing scheduled operations to all 50 states in the U.S. domestic market. Regardless of what the future may hold for the U.S. regional airline business, it is clear that ExpressJet, as part of the larger SkyWest airline group, will be a major player for a long time to come.
As ExpressJet continues to redefine itself and help shape the future state of the U.S. domestic airline industry, it will be well positioned with its operations based on the Sabre® AirCentre™ Enterprise Operations portfolio of solutions covering disruption management, flight following and monitoring, maintenance control, crew management and tracking, flight planning, and flight situational awareness.