Aha based in Reno! Airlines ceased operations immediately after parent company ExpressJet filed for bankruptcy.
Atlanta-based ExpressJet announced on Tuesday that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware. ExpressJet launched Aha! Airlines companies at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in fall 2021.
It is the second time since the pandemic that ExpressJet – which operated as a regional carrier for United Airlines – has ceased flight operations. ExpressJet went on hiatus at the end of 2020 after United terminated its contract with the company in July of that year. ExpressJet also laid off most of its 3,000 workersaccording to the Virginia Department of Aviation.
The carrier resurfaced last year when it launched Reno-based aha! Airlines in September. Ah! began with flights to three cities in October and adding five more cities in November.
Ah! The number of airline destinations has increased to 11 cities after announcing the addition of Boise in July. Flights from Boise were scheduled to begin at the end of this month. The airline also added an additional flight in anticipation of increased travel demand to Reno due to Burning Man.
Tim Sieber, manager of aha! The business unit, expressed optimism about the airline’s operations as recently as last month with plans to get an additional aircraft to add more routes.
“We’re having a really good summer in terms of passenger traffic and operationally,” Sieber said during a Zoom call with the Reno Gazette Journal. “We haven’t canceled any flights…and the market is reacting very well.”
Sieber, however, mentioned some technical challenges in implementing his hotel package service, which he described as a key cog in the Aha! business model. Aha!, which stands for “air, hotel, adventure,” was supposed to offer travelers hotel and resort deals as part of its travel package.
“It was not an easy task as we hoped,” Sieber said. “But we will be rolling out our hotels (feature) and operating full packages in the Reno area.”
The “impossibility of setting up hotel bundles” for Aha! was cited as one of the reasons cited by ExpressJet on Tuesday for the decision to file for bankruptcy.
Other factors mentioned by ExpressJet include the impact of COVID-19 variants, rising fuel prices and costs, the lack of available aircraft and the inability to “quickly establish passenger service infrastructure in small airports”.
The main haha! website now asks passengers to contact or file a claim with their credit card company to refund all tickets purchased for travel after August 22.
Subodh Karnik, chairman and chief executive of ExpressJet, also issued a statement on the bankruptcy.
“A combination of conditions led us to this decision,” Karnik said. “Despite the valiant efforts of our employees to overcome the challenges, and despite the great support of our cities and airports – especially Reno-Tahoe and the community there – we have reached a point where the shutdown of operations was in the best interests of our stakeholders.
The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority directed all questions to Aha! Airlines to company.
Jason Hidalgo covers business and technology for the Reno Gazette Journal, and also reviews the latest video games. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Do you like this content ? Support local journalism with a RGJ digital subscription.