A Look At Mesa Airlines – Serving Regional Flights For US Major Players For 40 years

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Mesa Airlines traces its roots back to Mesa Air Shuttle, which commenced operations on October 12th, 1980. Mesa continues to serve regional flights in the United States and has been a trusted partner for some of the country’s major carriers over the decades.

Mesa Airlines
A Mesa Airlines Beech 1300 in 1990. Photo: Richard Silagi via Wikimedia Commons

Four decades in the making

At the turn of the 1980s, JB Aviation, an operator based at Farmington, New Mexico, set up a charter flight department and Mesa Air Shuttle with scheduled commuter operations from Farmington to Albuquerque. The outfit used a five-seat single-engine Piper Saratoga and soon added a nine-seat Piper Navajo.

1982 was a significant moment in the early history of the businesses. Larry Risley, an A&P mechanic with JB Aviation, and his wife Janie purchased the airline using $140,000 in capital.

Mesa Airlines, Canadair CRJ-900
Mesa Airlines presently holds 64 CRJ900 planes. Photo: Eric Salard via Wikimedia Commons

Sharp rise

USA Today highlights how Risley helped the firm grow significantly over the next few years. In 1987, the company went public, and by the end of the decade, it was flying to 63 cities with 38 aircraft.

During this rise, Risley also made a series of acquisitions, including the purchase of Air Midwest and Aspen Airways. Meanwhile, the firm formed codeshare agreements with larger airlines.

There have been some financial troubles along the way amid economic recessions and the aftermath of 9/11. As a result, Mesa filed for Chapter 11 in January 2010. However, just over a year later, it emerged from bankruptcy. Altogether, Mesa Air Group holds a reputation for being a reliable regional operator.

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Some of its previous key partnerships have been its operations with the likes of Delta Connection and US Airways Express. It helped Delta Connection fly from Cincinnati to various airports in the Midwest and worked with US Airways Express out of Arizona and North Carolina. Today, Mesa’s core services are with American Express’ American Eagle division and United Airlines’ United Express branch.

In 2014, the carrier began flying American Eagle routes from Dallas/Fort Worth and Phoenix using Bombardier CRJ900s. It has also been using United Express liveried fleet of CRJ700s and Embraer 175s under a revenue-guarantee code-sharing agreement. The United operations are based at Houston George Bush Intercontinental and Washington Dulles.

United Express Mesa
Mesa Airlines currently holds 20 CRJ700 aircraft. Photo: Ibagli via Wikimedia Commons

Still flying high

Mesa isn’t afraid to venture out. The airline’s former divisions include Air Midwest, CalPac (California Pacific), Desert Sun Airlines, FloridaGulf Airlines, Go!, Liberty Express Airlines, Mountain West Airlines, Skyway Airlines, and Superior Airlines.

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The global health crisis is taking its toll on the aviation industry, and like most airlines, Mesa could be severely impacted by the consequences. However, the carrier is managing to adapt to the situation. Last week, it operated its first revenue-generating cargo service for DHL Express. It is flying Boeing 737-400 converted freighters to handle its new shipping operations.

Additionally, the Arizona-based airline this month announced that it won’t furlough any of its 3,400 employees this year. Therefore, it has some time to prepare for 2021 as it continues its progress.

What are your thoughts about Mesa Airlines’ story over the years? Have you flown with the carrier? Let us know what you think of the operator in the comment section.

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