- ExpressJet Airlines is getting a reboot as leisure airline “Aha!,” which stands for air-hotel-adventure.
- Aha! is launching in October with eight routes from Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
- The startup will operate 50-seater Embraer 145 jets to small and midsize markets.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Regional carrier ExpressJet Airlines collapsed during the pandemic, but it is rising from the ashes as a new startup serving the western US with $49 introductory fares.
Reno-based Aha!, which stands for “air-hotel-adventure,” is a leisure startup launching on October 24. According to the carrier, Aha! is powered by ExpressJet, which was crippled after losing its contract with United Airlines in summer 2020.
-Aha! (@ahaairlines) September 29, 2021
The airline will operate routes using 50-seater Embraer 145 regional jets, which, according to Aha!, can serve small and midsize communities. The plane will be configured in a 2×1 configuration, meaning there will be no middle seats.
Initially, Aha! will operate eight routes from its Reno hub to cities on the West Coast but plans to expand to 20+ cities in the coming months. The schedule includes:
- Pasco/Tri-Cities, Washington beginning October 24
- Bakersfield, California beginning October 25
- Medford/Ashland, Oregon beginning October 31
- Eugene/Springfield, Oregon beginning November 1
- Ontario, California beginning November 4
- Redmond/Bend, Oregon beginning November 5
- Eureka/Arcata, California beginning November 9
- Fresno/Yosemite, California beginning November 10
Aha! is one of a handful of COVID-era startups to launch in the US this year, following Avelo Airlines in April and Breeze Airways in May. According to The Wall Street Journal, entrepreneurs see the pandemic as the perfect time to start an airline, with many seizing the opportunity to snag discounted aircraft, acquire open airport slots at once congested airports, and hire laid-off flight crews.
Avelo CEO Andrew Levy, whose airline operates flights on the West Coast from its base in Burbank, said the pandemic helped him secure discounted seats for two aircraft after another airline canceled the order, which Levy suspects was due to COVID-19, reported The Journal. Avelo is scheduled to begin its East Coast operations in November, with five nonstop routes from New Haven, Connecticut to cities in Florida.
Meanwhile, Breeze Airways, established by airline mogul and JetBlue founder David Neeleman, serves midsize airports in the eastern US that do not currently have nonstop service between them. “COVID’s been really tough on our industry, but we’ve been able to take advantage of low aircraft prices,” Neeleman told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in May.