An upstart airline is apparently set to challenge Southwest's hegemony in the Southeast and West.
Officials from the city of Albuquerque and Houston-based air carrier ExpressJet are expected to detail plans Monday for new nonstop passenger service to Albuquerque and 23 other small and medium-size cities.
Albuquerque International Sunport spokesman Daniel Jiron confirmed that Express-Jet plans to expand service to the city but said details would not be released until Monday.
"Albuquerque is certainly in their plans," he said.
ExpressJet did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that ExpressJet Holdings Inc., a spinoff of Continental Airlines, would begin rolling out the service in April or May with a fleet of 44 jets, each seating 50.
According to published reports, ExpressJet will serve cities such as Austin; San Diego, Sacramento and Monterey, Calif.; Omaha, Neb.; Tucson; New Orleans; Boise, Idaho; and Jacksonville, Fla. Routes will be mapped between those cities where there is no nonstop service, the Wall Street Journal said.
Ontario, Calif., near Los Angeles, will be ExpressJet's busiest airport.
Initial fares are expected to be from $150 to $300 one-way, with the airline trying to be a bit more upscale for business travelers, the Wall Street Journal said.
The airline aims to connect cities that other airlines, such as Southwest, do not serve directly, reducing travel time and hassle, according to published reports.
ExpressJet already operates connection flights for Continental under the name Continental Express, with hubs in Newark, N.J., Cleveland, Ohio and Houston.
Continental Express serves the Albuquerque International Sunport.
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"In most of these markets you certainly wouldn't want a plane bigger than a 50-seater, and you certainly wouldn't want to fly it more than twice a day," Ream acknowledges.
Two new destinations seem likely for Eppley are San Diego and Ontario.
Virgin America listed Denver among about 40 cities it is considering.
Inaugral flights light on passengers, heavy on expectations