When UAL Corp. announced earlier this year the creation of United BizJet Holdings, and that the new stand-alone enterprise would include a fractional-ownership program, some in the industry considered this a plain and simple “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy.
European regional airlines strengthened their ties with their major airline counterparts from across the Atlantic last month, when Italy’s Air Dolomiti signed a code-share contract with United Airlines, and the UK’s Flybe entered a similar agreement with Continental Airlines.
Dateline September 1927: Lindbergh is just back from Paris, and being “air-minded” is the thing. Out in the Wild West, World War I Army flier, entrepreneur and promoter J. Parker Van Zandt creates a runway across a northern Arizona meadow at a place called Red Butte, begins building a hangar and prepares to launch the first commercial air tours over the Grand Canyon.
It didn’t take long for Mesa Air Group’s seemingly innocuous new code-share deal with United Airlines to raise far wider implications, as Mesa chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein last month launched a bid to spread his company’s influence beyond its already substantial breadth with an overture to buy Atlantic Coast Airlines.
A new 11-year code-share contract between Air Wisconsin and United Airlines went into full effect last month, after a U.S. bankruptcy court approved the terms of an MOU giving the Appleton, Wis.-based regional airline the authority to fly up to 17 more fifty-seat Bombardier CRJs as United Express. The deal also allows Air Wisconsin to continue United Express operations with its 17 BAe 146s through 2005.
As unclear as Flight Options’ future is, the situation at Flexjet is even less defined at this time. According to industry sources, a “significant” deal is pending that would involve the assets of Flexjet and charter operator Delta AirElite Business Jets. An announcement could come as early as this month.
Atlantic Coast Airlines last month petitioned a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to force United Airlines to reveal its plans for the continuation of the ACA’s United Express contract by February 28. Operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy since December 9, United could reject or maintain the terms of the current agreement.
Last month’s rush to speculation over the effects of United Airlines’ decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection had just spread to include conjecture about its regional affiliates when Atlantic Coast Airlines released an illuminating statement on the status of its code-share relationship with the world’s second-largest carrier.
The U.S. airline industry last month felt the opening tremors of what could become the biggest shakeup in the business since the introduction of the regional jet. On August 15, US Airways announced a plan to fly 50- to 69-seat RJs within its mainline system, using mainline flight crews as part of a far-reaching reorganization effort.
The first four years of the 2000s have been a trial for aviation. While the decade got off to a heady start in 2000 with the high times of the late-1990s boom still going strong, by the spring of 2001 the industry’s fortunes were taking a southerly course.