Mesa Airlines expects to firm up orders for more Embraer ERJ-145s to bolster its presence in the eastern USA, after ordering 40 Bombardier CRJ700/900s to expand its America West Express operation in Las Vegas and Phoenix.

According to chief executive Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa expects to convert some of the 64 options currently held with Embraer "within the year". The carrier operates 14 of 36 ERJ-145s ordered last year and plans to increase this to 51 aircraft.

Mesa says it needs 19 more 50-seat jets to serve the planned DC Air start up, which is awaiting approval of the United Airlines-US Airways merger. It has secured an agreement to place 32 ERJ-145s with US Airways Express, with an option to add four more, while United will "backfill" any spaces created by the transfer of jets to DC Air, says Ornstein.

A top-up Mesa ERJ order will serve as a consolation for the Brazilian manufacturer which lost out to Bombardier on an order for 20 CRJ700s and 20 stretch CRJ900s. Deliveries are due to start in early 2002 and early 2003 respectively. In addition, Mesa has taken options on 40 more of the 70 and 86-seat jets, exercisable from 2004, and rolling options for a similar number of jets again.

The long-awaited order, revealed by Flight International last year (18 - 24 April 2000), will be the basis of a threefold expansion of its America West regional feed, now totalling 22 CRJ200s. The new contract extends to at least 2012. "It will be valid for eight years after the last CRJ delivery and could go to 2015," says Ornstein.

This forms part of a wider restructuring of America West's Express codeshare network. Mesa, in return for accelerated growth at Las Vegas and Phoenix, was forced to relinquish its Columbus, Ohio, regional operation, which America West has transferred to newcomer Chautauqua Airlines.

Source: Flight International