Mesa Air Group, Inc.
Founded on a windy mesa by Larry Risley and his wife Janie, Mesa Air Shuttle began scheduled service in 1982 between Farmington, New Mexico and Albuquerque, New Mexico using a nine passenger Piper Chieftan aircraft. Mr. Risley, an aircraft mechanic by trade, mortgaged his house and Fixed Base Operation business to start the airline. It was the beginning of what would become one of the world's largest independent regional airlines.
In its first ten years of business, Mesa grew from a company with one aircraft serving two cities to an organization operating 38 aircraft serving 63 cities. During this same period, the Company transformed itself from a small closely held corporation to a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol "MESA". In 1989, the company expanded its operation through a codeshare agreement with Midwest Express serving an extensive network of cities out of Milwaukee. This pattern of growth continued with the acquisition of Aspen Airways in 1990. With the Aspen acquisition, Mesa gained a codeshare agreement with United Airlines, operating as United Express out of Denver.
Acquisitions continued with the purchase of Air Midwest in 1991 adding US Airways as a codeshare partner, and West Air in 1992 adding additional United Express flying in California and the Pacific Northwest. In addition, Mesa expanded further with the creation of the Florida Gulf division operating under a codesharing agreement with US Airways out of Tampa, FL in 1991, and added an America West codesharing agreement in 1992. Two years later, Pittsburgh-based Crown Airways was acquired, further strengthening Mesa's ties to US Airways. By 1995, approximately 95 percent of Mesa's flying was derived from operations associated with codesharing agreements with United Airlines, USAir and America West Airlines. The early 1990s were years of tremendous growth and change for Mesa.
In 1997, Mesa suffered a setback as its code share agreement with United was not renewed and independent jet flying in Texas was proving to be unprofitable. In early 1998, Mesa recruited Jonathan Ornstein to return to the company as President and CEO. Jonathan had held various positions at Mesa during 1987 to 1994. From 1994 to 1998, Mr. Ornstein was CEO of Continental Express and President and CEO of Virgin Express, a low fare airline based in Brussels.
In 1998, the new management team moved quickly to restore and expand Mesa's codeshare relationships as its foundation for renewed growth and profitability. Mesa renegotiated a new codeshare agreement with America West, relocated its corporate headquarters from Farmington to Phoenix and expanded the outside representation on the company's board of directors. By the end of 1998, the company was operating 24 CRJ 200 aircraft, 12 Dash 8 aircraft and 79 Beech1900 D aircraft.
Having returned to profitability, Mesa focused on continued growth opportunities. In 1999 Mesa announced the acquisition of Charlotte-based CCAir, adding additional US Airways routes. In addition, Mesa secured more regional jet flying with US Airways expanding the fleet from 12 to 28 regional jets. 1999 also saw the growth of Mesa's CRJ fleet with the addition of 13 CRJ 200s bringing the fleet total to 32. The company also concluded negotiations with Embraer to add 36 ERJ 145 aircraft to the company's fleet.
By 2000, Mesa was moving forward on virtually every front and it was evident to everyone that great things were happening. The America West codeshare agreement was expanded from 17 to 22 regional jets and by now, 75 percent of Mesa's flying was being conducted under revenue guarantee contracts. Mesa also reduced unprofitable operations, including the removal of 17 19-seat turboprop aircraft from its fleet. In 2001, Mesa announced an agreement with America West to add up to 40 larger CRJ 700 and 900 aircraft and became the launch customer for the new 86-seat Bombardier CRJ 900.
In 2010 Mesa undertook a tremendous restructuring in which the company returned over 100 excess aircraft and drastically reorganized its operations to focus almost exclusively on the operation of large regional jets. This restructuring was recognized by Mesa's partners in February 2014 when US Airways extended the term covering its original 38 CRJ-900 aircraft and for the addition of four CRJ-900 aircraft to its fleet.
In May 2014, in the company further expanded its relationship with the new American Airlines by finalizing an agreement for the addition of 6 more CRJ 900 aircraft to its fleet.
In June 2014, the company launched service of the first of 30 new Embraer 175 E-Jets in its United Express operation from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
As of September 2014, Mesa operates a fleet of 20 CRJ700s and 8 175s for United (with 22 E-Jets scheduled for delivery through July 2015) and 54 CRJ900 aircraft for American Eagle/US Airways Express.
The company recently announced, that beginning in late 2014, it will consolidate its flying for American from bases in DFW and Phoenix and for United from bases in Washington Dulles and Houston.
Mesa’s continued success is rooted in the company’s foundation as a high-quality, high service, low-cost regional airline. The founding principles established by Larry Risley remain today, and with its focus on strategic growth and long-term success, Mesa Airlines is poised to continue its longstanding role as a leader in the regional aviation industry.