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Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ExpressJet Airlines to be sold to United Airlines joint venture

Atlanta-based ExpressJet Airlines, once a major Delta Connection carrier, is being sold to a United Airlines joint venture.

The move further cements the end of the carrier’s time as a significant player in Atlanta aviation as a partner of Delta Air Lines.

Atlanta-based Delta announced last year that it would end its contract with ExpressJet in late 2018. ExpressJet operated its last Delta Connection flight Nov. 26. Today, ExpressJet operates flights for United Airlines as United Express and for American Airlines as American Eagle.

Delta is shifting more business to Endeavor Air, a Delta Connection carrier based in Minneapolis that is also a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta.

United joint venture ManaAir LLC is paying $70 million in cash to ExpressJet parent company SkyWest for most of ExpressJet’s assets, and is assuming the liabilities of ExpressJet. The deal is expected to close in early 2019, pending closing conditions. The assets that ManaAir doesn’t buy will be used or liquidated by SkyWest.

SkyWest CEO Chip Childs said in a written statement that the deal “provides further clarity and focus for the future,” adding that SkyWest looks forward to “continuing to strengthen our partnership with United.”

It’s yet to be seen when and where ExpressJet’s headquarters will move.

ExpressJet is the former Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a longtime Delta Connection carrier with headquarters in Atlanta. ASA was founded as an independent airline in 1979 and operated its first flight from Columbus, Ga., to Atlanta.

It became the first Delta Connection carrier in 1984, and was acquired by Delta in 1999. Delta then sold ASA to SkyWest in 2005, and in 2010 ASA acquired ExpressJet and merged under the name ExpressJet.

Chicago-based United Airlines is the primary partner for ExpressJet, which operates the majority of its flights for United Express.

ExpressJet currently operates a small number of flights for American Airlines as American Eagle, but American is set to end that contract with ExpressJet in 2019.

The shifts come as United, American and Delta shift toward closer relationships with select regional carriers that they control through ownership.

As part of the ManaAir transaction, SkyWest will still own aircraft used by ExpressJet, and has agreed to lease 20 more CRJ200s to ExpressJet for up to five years.

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