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ExpressJet Takes Off

February 19, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt Travel Agent

Earlier this month, ExpressJet
signed a global distribution agreement with Worldspan LP and
announced flight services that begin operating in 24 cities across the U.S. in April
2007. The carrier, which spun off from Continental Airlines in 2002 but still
operates 205 aircrafts as Continental Express, says it is focused on more
convenient, nonstop travel to destinations less frequented by major carriers,
such as Boise, Corpus Christi and Spokane. Kristy Nicholas, a spokesperson for
ExpressJet, says that an agent incentive program is in the works but the
airline will not be offering commissions.

"Our main goal is to save people time," Nicholas
says. "Whether you're going on a vacation or to a business meeting, time
is still important. Rather than have a six-hour trip with a layover in a hub,
we're aiming to get you there more directly."

Industry watchers have compared ExpressJet's moves to that
of Independence Air, which in 2006 failed in its attempt to transition from a
regional carrier to a stand-alone airline. ExpressJet, however, is quick to
dismiss the comparison. "Fortunately we have the benefit of
hindsight," says Nicholas. "They added very high frequencies to
Dulles and tried to be a low-cost carrier. We're not operating out of any one
hub, but more of point-to-point." In addition, whereas Independence Air
relied on its web site for reservations, ExpressJet is distributing tickets
through numerous different sources in addition to its web site, such as travel
agents, GDSs and online travel agencies like Orbitz.

ExpressJet's longest flight will be three hours, and all
flights will be operated with 50-seat Embraer aircrafts that have no middle
seats. ExpressJet also will offer XM Satellite Radio with complimentary
headsets and a valet bag-check service, as well as its own frequent flier
program. It's also looking at alliances and code sharing with other airlines to
extend its network. Despite its shorter travel times, ExpressJet will offer
snacks onboard all flights and meals on longer routes. A select number of beers
will cost one dollar, wine or alcohol will be about three dollars and non-alcoholic
beverages will be free. "Our snacks will be a premium name-brand snack
that will be heartier than peanuts," Nicholas says, "and even if it's
not a meal time, on our longer-haul flights we will give you a meal. Your
flight may be from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and though that's not considered a
standard meal time, you got to the airport at 8 a.m. and you may have a meeting
to go to immediately, so we felt like it was the right thing to do to."

Nicholas says all of the destinations ExpressJet is flying
to have been very receptive. Fares will vary market to market, and Nicholas
adds that ExpressJet will not try to undercut its larger competitors, but
rather will be popularly priced. "We're not completely going head-to-head
in markets where majors are already competing," she says, adding that
ExpressJet's destinations were chosen based on three years' worth of research.
"We looked at population growth, economic growth and travel patterns to
make sure we were picking cities that didn't have good point-to-point service,"
she says.

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