United drops Air Wisconsin

Air Wisconsin BAe 146-200 N608AW

Air Wisconsin BAe 146-200 N608AW taking off from Los Angeles on a United Express flight (Matt Taylor)

United Airlines has announced that Air Wisconsin will stop flying for United Express in 2006. Last fall, United issued a request for proposals to replace the 70 regional jets that Air Wisconsin has been flying in the United Express network. The move was part of a series of efforts by bankrupt United to reduce its costs. Air Wisconsin was also invited to bid for the contract. The airline balked, however, at the low rates that United was offering. As a result, United will contract SkyWest and GoJet to take over the services. The bulk of Air Wisconsin’s fleet is expected to transition to flying for US Airways Express; Air Wisconsin’s parent recently invested US$125 million in US Airways. A major question mark hangs over the airline’s BAe 146 fleet, however. US Airways (then known as USAir), once operated the BAe 146 in its mainline fleet, after taking over PSA in 1988. Under the terms of its contract with its pilots, no type operated by the mainline can ever be used on the Express network. The departure of the BAe 146s will also open a major hole in United’s network, as the BAe 146 is the only jet allowed to operate the lucrative route to the Aspen ski resort.

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