United And American Swap Regional Carriers, Mesa No Longer Able to Maintain American Airlines Flying

Two months ago regional airline Mesa was rumored to be on the verge of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and planning to stop its Bombardier CR-9 flying for American Airlines. That will leave it flying only for United, where it has operated 70- and 76-seat Embraer ERJ-175 regional jets focused on Houston and Washington Dulles.

Mesa simply didn’t have the pilots to operate all of its commitments, and it was losing money. Its deal with American ran through the end of 2025, but the two carriers have terminated their deal early.


— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) December 17, 2022

The regional carrier says that American should have paid it more than was required under its late 2020 deal, because pilots had become more expensive, and without this they weren’t able to attract and retain employees needed to fulfill its obligations.

New: @MesaAirlines plans to transition @AmericanAir CRJ900 flights to @united pic.twitter.com/xgY70urBTb

— davidshepardson (@davidshepardson) December 18, 2022

Mesa previously operated as US Airways Express and America West Express and under a number of other brands, including its own intra-island Hawaiian airline (go!) and Kunpeng Airlines in a joint venture with China’s Shenzhen Airlines. It’s the bottom-feeder of the regional industry, derisively known as ‘Messy’ for the poor condition in which some of their cabin interiors are kept. And compared to Mesa it’s not wrong for American to describe their wholly-owned regional carriers as top-notch. We’ll see how much of the Mesa backfill gets filled by other carriers, though hopefully not much by Air Wisconsin.

The problems American was having with Mesa, and that it would lead to an unraveling, were first publicly discussed by aviation watchdog JonNYC and the end of Mesa’s flying for American was first spotted by Cranky Flier Brett Snyder who noted that the “[l]ast day [of Mesa’s flying for American] is Apr 3 except for a couple random stragglers on DFW-ELP after that.”

United dropped Air Wisconsin and gained more Mesa. Neither is a great experience, but the trade seems to align with United’s network strategy and American’s cost strategy. The Mesa bankruptcy stalking horse that had been much-discussed likely played a role in the ability for Mesa and American to terminate, since if they didn’t Mesa wouldn’t be able to continue ‘losing $5 million per month’ and therefore American’s ability to insist on either specific performance or penalties wasn’t sustainable indefinitely.

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