Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group has officially sold its interest in Chinese joint venture Kunpeng Airlines to majority owner Shenzhen Airlines for $4.5 million.

The transaction, detailed in a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, was largely driven by Mesa's need to generate cash.

Mesa had controlled 49% of Kunpeng via two companies registered in China while Shenzhen had held 51% in a partnership formed in 2006.

The divestment comes after the regional airline group deployed a team to China to recoup from Kunpeng five leased Bombardier CRJ200s as load factors on the 50-seat jets were never above the mid-50s, Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein said in a March employee update, adding such figures were not adequate to operate the aircraft profitably.

The lease on the CRJ200s has officially terminated and Mesa tells the SEC it expects the five aircraft to be returned to Mesa during the third quarter this year.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news