Mesa Airlines Eyes New European Based CRJ-900 Airline

US regional carrier Mesa Airlines has announced its plans to start a new carrier across the Atlantic in Europe. The Phoenix-based airline plans to utilize Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft, of which it is already an extensive operator in the US, for this joint venture. Mesa hopes to get its new project off the ground by the end of the year.

Mesa Airlines US Airways Express CRJ900
Mesa Airlines has operated its existing CRJs for various regional subsidiaries, such as US Airways Express. Photo: redlegsfan21 via Flickr

European expansion plans

As announced this morning, Mesa Airlines has entered into a conditional agreement to develop a European joint venture. The other party involved is Gramercy Associates Limited, whose Managing Director is former Tiger Airways and bmibaby CEO Tony Davis.

The joint venture plans to apply for an EU Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), under which it hopes to fly Bombardier CRJ900s in Europe. The agreement stipulates that, once the AOC is obtained, Mesa’s ownership share will be 49%. Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa’s Chairman and CEO, stated,

“We are very excited at the potential to expand our regional business overseas. As Mesa continues to diversify, we are looking forward to working with Gramercy on this new European venture.”

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Mesa CRJ Getty
Mesa Airlines has an operational history dating back more than 40 years. Photo: Getty Images

Gramercy’s MD, Tony Davis, added that his company is “looking forward to teaming up with Mesa to help bring the CPA and ACMI models that have been so successful in the US to Europe.”

An established regional carrier

Mesa Airlines has a significant, but somewhat inconspicuous, presence within the US regional market. This is because it predominantly operates flights on behalf of legacy carriers under the branding of their respective regional subsidiaries. This means that many of its aircraft sport American Eagle or United Express liveries, rather than its own paint scheme, as seen above.

The airline commenced operations as Mesa Air Shuttle more than four decades ago, in October 1980. It has since come to play a crucial role in keeping the US moving, by operating a wide range of regional feeder flights. These vital services allow passengers from smaller destinations to connect onto longer-haul flights at US carriers’ hubs.

A strong 2020 despite industry-wide struggles

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic made 2020 an immensely challenging year for airlines worldwide. The sharp drop in passenger demand that it caused led to many carriers making heavy losses, or even ceasing operations altogether.

American CRJ
Mesa operates some of its flights on behalf of American Eagle. Photo: Getty Images

However, Mesa Airlines managed to have a comparatively positive year, despite these difficulties. Indeed, Simple Flying reported in December that it had actually turned a fourth-quarter and full-year profit for the 2020 fiscal year. This represented some of the year’s best results as far as US airlines were concerned.

In 2021, Mesa has picked up where it left off, and January saw it add five aircraft to its contract with legacy carrier American Airlines. This will allow it to continue flying some of its CRJ900s on American’s behalf. Simple Flying also reported earlier this month that it had turned a profit in the new fiscal year’s first quarter. Overall, this reflects a bright start to what, with the proposed European expansion, could be a very good year for Mesa indeed.

What do you make of Mesa Airlines’ European expansion plans? Have you ever flown on one of its regional flights in the US? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!