Feb 13, 2007
By Benet Wilson/Airports
Four airports were the top winners in the service sweepstakes run by Houston-based ExpressJet.
Los Angeles/Ontario International Airport is getting direct service to 14 cities, while Austin-Bergstrom and San Diego International airports will get service to nine cities. "ExpressJet performed three years of research when determining the cities we selected for our initial launch. We selected cities that allowed us to offer nonstop service where it wasn't currently available," said spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas. "We also did our best to avoid competing with any other airlines in their hubs and find markets that were the right size for our 50-seat jet."
ExpressJet is investing almost $9 million on facilities and infrastructure at the 24 airports receiving new flights using 44 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets leaving the Continental fleet. It also plans to hire 850 employees under the new service launch, said Nicholas.
The new service represents a 25% increase in daily departures and a 63% increase in the number of nonstop destinations available from ONT, said spokeswoman Maria Tesoro-Fermin. ExpressJet will become the 14th airline to serve Ontario, she added.
Ontario, in partnership with the city, worked diligently to educate ExpressJet about the benefits of the airport and area, said Tesoro-Fermin. "Ontario has the infrastructure for growth, is located centrally in one of the fastest-growing regions in Southern California, is supported by local communities and is positioned to be the focus of the region's air transportation system," she said.
ExpressJet will offer direct service to Albuquerque, Austin, Boise, Colorado Springs, El Paso, Fresno, Kansas City, Monterey, Omaha, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Spokane, Tucson and Tulsa.
The carrier will use four ticket counters and three gates initially, said Tesoro-Fermin. "The ExpressJet operation is expected to create more than 600 direct jobs for the Southern California economy, including pilots, flight attendants, aircraft mechanics, ramp workers and passenger service personnel based at Ontario," she added.
Austin-Bergstrom executives are constantly looking for carriers wanting to offer new or expanded service, even though the airport doesn't offer incentives for domestic service, said spokesman Jim Halbrook. The airport will have direct service to Ontario, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Tucson, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.; Corpus Christi; New Orleans; and Jacksonville, Fla.
ExpressJet will use four ticket counters and start with one gate for its initial service, said Holbrook. ExpressJet will hire 60 employees and invest $500,000 in facilities and equipment, he added.
The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority has a very aggressive air service development program, said spokeswoman Diana Lucero. "San Diego is a very attractive market in that there are many destinations within the 50-seat thresholds that lacked nonstop service," she said. "ExpressJet smartly recognized this market of air travelers that don't want to connect or drive by Los Angeles to get to these markets."
Airlines operating out of San Diego receive marketing and advertising support for new routes, said Lucero. "The airport authority works with the airline to meet the business and travel and tourism industries. We offered an initial launch and ongoing promotional program."
San Diego will get direct service to Bakersfield, Fresno and Monterey, Calif.; Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Omaha, Neb.; Spokane, Wash.; and Tulsa, Okla. The airline will use four ticket counters, three aircraft parking stands and hire 40 employees, said Lucero.
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OUR VIEW: ExpressJet opens realm of possibilities for travel, and for luring other airlines
San Bernardino Sun
An airline's decision to center its operations at LA/Ontario International Airport is another welcome sign of the Inland Empire's maturing economy.
ExpressJet announced recently that it would offer 29 new nonstop flights out of ONT to 14 destinations across the nation, phasing in the flights from April 2 to May 14. The new flights represent a 25 percent increase in daily departures and a 63 percent increase in destinations served by nonstop flights from ONT. And they amount to the largest expansion of service in the airport's 84-year history.
That's a huge commitment by ExpressJet to Ontario's airport, based on the Inland Empire's growing population and commerce. We welcome this young airline to the region and wish it great success.
Brian McGowan, director of the San Bernardino County Economic Development Agency, said the county worked hard to make ONT as attractive as possible to ExpressJet. His agency will provide the company with access to office space and computers to help it recruit and train about 200 employees. McGowan, formerly Ontario's economic development director, said his agency would help ExpressJet find a permanent home near the airport.
And Los Angeles World Airports, which runs ONT and LAX, worked right alongside San Bernardino County to bring ExpressJet to Ontario.
In a news conference at ONT, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa emphasized the importance of "regionalizing air travel" in Southern California. LAWA is trying to make room for more international flights at LAX by pushing some domestic flights to ONT; the agency decided in December to raise terminal rental fees for airlines at LAX, but not at ONT.
ExpressJet's move comes at a good time for ONT, whose growth has stalled. Last year, the airport handled 7.05 million passengers, down 2.3 percent from the 7.21 million in 2005. Air cargo traffic dropped 5.6 percent from 2005 to 2006.
ONT's growth has been hurt by the fact that flights to most cities generally cost more from ONT than from LAX, which serves more cities with nonstop flights. ExpressJet's nonstop flights will save travelers hours, often more important than price differentials.
ExpressJet will fly 50-seat jets to such cities as Fresno; Monterey; Albuquerque, N.M.; Boise, Idaho; Kansas City, Mo.; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; and Tulsa, Okla. The latter two are not served by nonstop flights from anywhere else in Southern California, including LAX.
Will 50 people a day want to fly from ONT to Omaha? We don't know. Anticipating demand is a tricky business for airlines. In past years, flights have been introduced with much ballyhoo from ONT to Canada, Mexico and Hawaii, only to have them fizzle.
But the region is maturing: International traffic, mostly to Mexico, was up 31 percent at ONT last year. And direct service to Hawaii was canceled in the 1990s and again in 2004, but started again last year and is still in operation.
As Villaraigosa said: "If you live in San Dimas, Pomona or West Covina or Riverside or San Bernardino, why (slog) through traffic on the west side (of L.A.), when you have convenient regional air service right here in Ontario?"