It's all about connections for Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA). Operating as a Delta Connection regional carrier, ASA flies to smaller markets on behalf of Delta Air Lines, primarily from Delta's hubs in Atlanta and Cincinnati. The carrier serves about 110 destinations, mainly east of the Mississippi in the US, but also in western states and in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. ASA maintains a fleet of about 160 aircraft, all of which are Canadair regional jets (CRJs), made by Bombardier. Founded in 1979, ASA is a subsidiary of SkyWest, which bought the company from Delta in 2005. In late 2010 SkyWest boosted its capacity by acquiring rival ExpressJet via ASA, establishing ExpressJet as a subsidiary of ASA.
Major airlines may tolerate the plunge in demand caused by the economic downturn, but regional carriers like ASA find it far more difficult avoid the fallout. SkyWest's move to buy regional carrier ExpressJet in a $133 million deal promises to deepen the regional carriers' presence in serving United Continental's United Airline and Continental hubs. It also looks to diversify its customer base with ExpressJet's Corporate Aviation division, which provides charters for corporate and government clients.
Although Delta's capacity cuts forced ASA to furlough a number of its pilots in early 2009, ASA remains operationally sound. It retired a dozen ATR-72 turboprops from its fleet in 2008, and now flies only CRJs. ASA received 10 CRJ-900 jets from Delta (following the airline giant's move to terminate an agreement with Mesa Air Group's Freedom Airlines subsidiary). The CRJ-900s seat 76 passengers and offer a first-class section. SkyWest has ordered another CRJ-900 for ASA, as well as 18 new CRJ-700s. – less