The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the airline industry in the United States, but it hasn’t deterred new entrants.
Avelo Airlines launched in April, Breeze Airways followed a month later, and a third is on the way.
Aha! Airlines said on Wednesday that flights to and from Reno-Tahoe International Airport will resume in late October.
The acronym Aha, which stands for “air, hotel, adventure,” isn’t new. It is the rebirth of the previous ExpressJet. That isn’t a household name because the small airline flew under contract as United Express, flying passengers on short hops to and from United Airlines’ hubs.
The contract expired during the pandemic, and ExpressJet will basically cease operations in late September 2020.
ExpressJet CEO Subodh Karnik, a veteran of the airline sector, stated that the company assessed its choices and determined that the epidemic created opportunities, namely for nonstop service from smaller locations to vacation hotspots in the United States.
With foreign travel mostly off-limits and corporate travel still prohibited, holidaymakers and visitors visiting friends and family have kept airlines afloat during the pandemic.
“Look, nobody wants to travel to Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat.” “They want to go somewhere that is considerably more (pandemic travel) friendly, at least for a while,” he explained. “The Reno market is almost like the right place for me.”
Reno has significant local traffic, casinos, and a rising business base with new jobs such as a Tesla gigafactory, he added, and it is the gateway to Lake Tahoe, which offers year-round activity such as skiing, hiking, and boating, as well as casino gambling.
Aha will begin nonstop service from eight smaller cities/airports in California, Oregon, and Washington, utilizing 50-seat regional planes, but Karnik believes there is room to expand to 20.
There was no nonstop service to Reno from any of the cities. Travelers from those cities must currently connect to an aircraft to Reno at a major airline hub.
In the next weeks, the airline intends to introduce vacation packages to its website.
“Essentially, what we’re selling is the convenience of a fairly priced three-, two-, or a five-day trip to a holiday area that offers everything,” Karnik explained.
Aha would begin operations with four planes and hopes to grow to the East Coast, he said.