New Airline Targets Underserved Cities

Houston -- ExpressJet Airlines, which serves small markets for Continental Airlines under the name Continental Express, today announced service under its own name to 24, mainly second- and third-tier cities in the United States, beginning in April.

"ExpressJet is bringing … quality customer service to cities that either did not have nonstop service or had too few travel options," said Jim Ream, the airline's chief executive.

ExpressJet will fly mainly in the South and West, filling in the service gaps left by major carriers, especially Southwest Airlines.

The new airline could provide a big boost to New Orleans and its hospitality industry. The city lost and has not yet regained the full complement of air service it had prior to Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.

ExpressJet will fly nonstop to six cities from New Orleans, beginning this summer. Service to New Orleans from four of the destinations -- Kansas City, MO; Birmingham, AL; Jacksonville, FL; and Raleigh-Durham, NC -- has not been available since Katrina.

Groups that hold meetings in California and Texas may also benefit from ExpressJet's routes. Six destinations are located in California, the most in any one state; and four are in Texas.

ExpressJet's fleet of 50-seat, Embraer airplanes are configured with a single aisle and no middle seat, which many airline passengers avoid as particularly cramped. The airline will also provide leather seats and XM Satellite Radio, with 100 channels, for free.

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