Aha!, ExpressJet’s New Reno-Tahoe Based Airline

Aha!, ExpressJet’s New Reno-Tahoe Based Airline

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Update: aha! has ceased operations as of August 2022, as ExpressJet has liquidated.

In 2020, regional airline ExpressJet ceased operations. Several weeks ago we learned how the airline is making a comeback, as a Reno-based airline named “aha!” The airline has already launched operations as of late October, and has now announced two additional routes. Let’s summarize everything you need to know about the airline as of now.

The history of ExpressJet

For context, ExpressJet is a regional airline in the United States that launched operations around 35 years ago, in the mid-1980s. Back in the day the airline was owned by Continental Airlines, though that changed over time. Most recently, ExpressJet operated exclusively for United Express, which is United Airlines’ regional carrier.

However, in mid-2020 United Airlines made the decision to cut ties with ExpressJet, The airline instead decided to consolidate all 50-seat regional operations with CommutAir, a competitor to ExpressJet. This was largely prompted by the pandemic, which caused United to downsize its regional operations.

With United Airlines being ExpressJet’s only customer, the airline was in trouble, and had to wind down operations. Fortunately that wasn’t the end of ExpressJet.

ExpressJet returns as independent airline, “aha!”

ExpressJet is making a comeback as an independent airline named “aha!” The name “aha!” stands for “air, hotel, adventure.”

The “aha!” logo

Here’s how the concept behind “aha!” is described:

aha! is a leisure brand of ExpressJet Airlines. aha! seeks to provide travelers in smaller communities, many who have seen air service reduced over the past decade through airline mergers, with convenient, short, nonstop flights to high-quality destinations like the Reno-Lake Tahoe region. In addition to offering value-priced, nonstop flights, aha! will soon partner with resorts, casinos and attractions to “bundle” value-priced vacation packages.

The airline is based at Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), and it’s “designed for travelers to enjoy Reno-Tahoe’s regional bounty,” including “exciting casino resorts and live entertainment, a diverse art and dining scene, and the world-class ski-golf-outdoor activities around Lake Tahoe.”

As was the case at ExpressJet, “aha!” flies 50-seat Embraer E145 aircraft.

“aha!” livery and seatmap for Embraer E145

Where does “aha!” fly from Reno-Tahoe?

ExpressJet’s new “aha!” leisure airline is initially flying from Reno-Tahoe (RNO) to 10 destinations, as follows:

  • Pasco/Tri-Cities, WA (PSC), as of October 24, 2021
  • Bakersfield, CA (BFL), as of October 25, 2021
  • Medford/Ashland, OR (MFR), as of October 31, 2021
  • Eugene/Springfield, CA (EUG), as of November 1, 2021
  • Ontario, CA (ONT), as of November 4, 2021
  • Redmond/Bend, OR (RDM), as of November 5, 2021
  • Eureka/Arcata, CA (ACV), as of November 9, 2021
  • Fresno, CA (FAT), as of November 10, 2021
  • Spokane, WA (GEG), as of December 15, 2021
  • Palm Springs, CA (PSP), as of January 3, 2021

All of these routes are scheduled to initially be operated 3x weekly.

“aha!” routemap from Reno

My take on the new airline “aha!”

I’m not exactly sure what to make of this, though a few thoughts:

  • Kudos to ExpressJet for not just giving up after losing its contract with United Airlines, but rather trying something unique as an independent airline
  • Earlier this year we saw the launch of Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways, and all three of these airlines are dedicated to operating flights in previously underserved markets, so that’s awesome for consumers
  • Startup “aha!” has the benefit of operating lower capacity planes than Avelo and Breeze, so they’re easier to fill, but the challenge is that the Embraer E145 has much higher per-seat operating costs than the planes operated by the other two carriers, so that will pose a challenge
  • I’m curious to see how the “aha!” business model evolves over time — the airline seems pretty committed to Reno-Tahoe, so how many underserved markets can the airline find?
  • The “aha!” name is just really strange — I can’t imagine an announcement for “aha! flight 237 to Reno,” and I also hate the awkward grammar when writing it out
“aha!” flies Embraer regional jets

Bottom line

A new airline named “aha!” has launched operations at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, with plans to initially fly to 10 destinations. The airline is part of ExpressJet, which is a regional airline that used to operate for United Express. However, United Airlines ended its contract with “aha!” in 2020, leaving the airline without business.

It’s cool to see that ExpressJet has reinvented itself, but this is no doubt an odd one.

What do you make of the “aha!” business model?

(Tip of the hat to @IshrionA)

Conversations (53)
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  1. KlimaBXsst Guest

    Kind of makes one wonder, why they just did not stick with the more widely known EXPRESSJET brand than the weird Aha!

    Will we get there? Maybe, Aha. At least EXPRESSJET had some kind of track history even if it wasn’t the most original branding name.

    Guess we won’t be seeing these two

    Re-Braniffed,
    Re-Easterned,
    Re-Frontiered,
    Re-Nationeled,
    Re-PAN AM-ed, or
    Re-Worlded!

  2. It’s really frustrating when people write such ignorant comments. Reno is one of the fastest growing cities in the world for good reasons. Guest

    Whoever wrote that Reno is a dump probably can’t afford to live here anyway.
    It’s really frustrating when people write such ignorant comments. Reno is one of the fastest growing cities in the world for good reasons.
    I salute ha ha Airlines for trying to provide competition for some of the more established carriers. Shame on you for being so negative
    Signed, Stanford professor married to a Harvard grad What are your credentials?

  3. Susan Buhagiar Guest

    Downtown Reno is going through a change and not the best part of Reno.
    However, I live in South Reno it is newer, nice and clean. I moved from South San Francisco to Reno 13 years ago, and would never move back to Ca.
    I feel the negative comments are from people you only went downtown and have no clue of how nice the community real is. The people are real friendly here as well.
    So they are ignorant people commenting on something the don't know.

  4. P Rilea, certified Aircraft mechanic and former Resident of Reno. Guest

    Eugene/Springfield (EUG) is OR, as in Oregon, NOT CA. Having been an employee of an operator of the EMB-145 for both United AND American, you have it very wrong. The EMB is one of the least expensive 50 seat regional jets to operate at 80% capacity. Those little girls, pound for pound have performance aspects of small private jets. I was a flying mechanic for the charter operations of our airline and the main reason...

    Eugene/Springfield (EUG) is OR, as in Oregon, NOT CA. Having been an employee of an operator of the EMB-145 for both United AND American, you have it very wrong. The EMB is one of the least expensive 50 seat regional jets to operate at 80% capacity. Those little girls, pound for pound have performance aspects of small private jets. I was a flying mechanic for the charter operations of our airline and the main reason Express Jet went under, was the same reason we eventually did, United pulled routes at first, and then all the flying when Covid hit in 2020. A lot of airlines struggled or just went another direction when passengers quit flying altogether due to the scare.

  5. dave Guest

    WHAT is this guy's problem(s) and why do you give him a venue in which to spread his nonsense??? I doubt that he's even been to half of the cities he maligns (not even sure what qualifies as a "backwater opioid/meth zone") and I bet his Mom doesn't know he's posting nonsense on the internet again. Come on folks-a little screening of postings wouldn't hurt!!

    Never In Doubt Guest
    September 30, 2021, 11:11 am

    WHAT is this guy's problem(s) and why do you give him a venue in which to spread his nonsense??? I doubt that he's even been to half of the cities he maligns (not even sure what qualifies as a "backwater opioid/meth zone") and I bet his Mom doesn't know he's posting nonsense on the internet again. Come on folks-a little screening of postings wouldn't hurt!!

    Never In Doubt Guest
    September 30, 2021, 11:11 am
    Reno is a low rent dump. The cities that aha! flies to are backwater opioid/meth zones. Checks out!

  6. Sally Guest

    I would have to have a "direct flight" to Boise because of my age.

    1. Janet Guest

      Crazy airports that no one flies to but then they are underserved. Express Jet closed down due to high overhead and it’s a way to get rid of higher wages. Many won’t go back to .

    2. Julene Guest

      I agree. Boise and Idaho Falls. Both great cities, as are Medford, Eugene, and Spokane.

  7. Sally Guest

    I have family in Boise. Too bad this airline will not be going there!!

  8. Jim B Guest

    Many years ago there was round trip airline service from Stockton CA to Reno. Planes were always full. Would be nice to see flights return.

  9. Jo Guest

    RNO-STS would be awesome, I think they would pack them in. More trans Sierra flights please.

    1. Home Means Nevada Guest

      I agree. STS is a natural fit as lots of people would use it for skiing in the winter. Traffic is awful coming from Santa Rosa to Reno, especially on Friday's. Plus STS is natural for those of us who live in Reno to go down to wine country, again without the horrible traffic going through Sacramento, Fairfield and Vacaville.

  10. Bob Guest

    Only way this base and those routes makes sense is if they've got a guarantee from some of the hotels/casinos.

    Also: Eugene/Springfield, CA (EUG)? You mean OR?

  11. SQ51 Guest

    United has not consolidated all 50 seat operations to CommutAir, as they have scores of CRJ-200s with skywest

  12. Another Lump Guest

    I doubt they will get a chance to take on me.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Well played.

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      This comment is seriously underated!

      That said, I do wonder if they'll get the rights to play it as their boarding music or something. If not, they should!

  13. Wilhelm Guest

    Naming themselves after an eighties band? Will we also see Depeche Mode, Bananarama and Dire Straits next?

  14. flyI! Guest

    " Atlantic Coast Airlines lost its contract with United around 2003, then relaunched as Independence Air with a base at IAD."

    I still have a "flyI" bag tag on my old backpack, probably with my DC area address circa 2004.

  15. Doug Guest

    I think AHA is going to become an Ah O! in a few months.

  16. Chris Gold

    This also isn't the first time ExpressJet has tried to go it alone in a self-branded operation...

  17. Willmo Guest

    Knowing me Reno, Nevada.
    Knowing you West Coast cities.
    Aha

  18. Jeff Guest

    Didn't ExpressJet try operating out of Ontario 10 to 15 years ago and ceased those operations within a year? They continued their UAL Express flying out of Houston though.

  19. polarbear Guest

    I was expecting to see SJC route - which was dropped by Alaska.

  20. jcil Guest

    Hope they didn't pay their consultant more the one dollar for that lame name for their new airline.

  21. Endre Guest

    The tail logo of Aha! looks similar to what AF’s Hop! used to have on their tails.

  22. JC Guest

    Reno is a well kept secret, free from the arrogance of Vegas as well as most of the bogus fees. Atlantis, Peppermill, Grand Sierra, Eldorado, and Silver Legacy are all first class properties with excellent restaurants and easily accessible (5 minutes) from the airport. Lake Tahoe's many world class ski areas are 30 to 45 minutes away. Aha! is flying from cities that are likely to have many people who avoid Vegas like the plague...

    Reno is a well kept secret, free from the arrogance of Vegas as well as most of the bogus fees. Atlantis, Peppermill, Grand Sierra, Eldorado, and Silver Legacy are all first class properties with excellent restaurants and easily accessible (5 minutes) from the airport. Lake Tahoe's many world class ski areas are 30 to 45 minutes away. Aha! is flying from cities that are likely to have many people who avoid Vegas like the plague but want to enjoy a fun getaway with sun and affordable quality eateries. If they explore the River Walk or the newly renovated South Virginia St. Midtown area they are in for a real treat.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Reno is a low rent dump.

      The cities that aha! flies to are backwater opioid/meth zones.

      Checks out!

    2. Home Means Nevada Guest

      Can't say anything about the "backwater opiod/meth zones" you speak of, however, Reno is definitely not a "low rent dump". First of all, there are no low rents here anymore. :-) Second, the influx of high paying jobs for Tesla, Panasonic, the major shipping companies like FedEx, etc. has continued a trend of new neighborhoods with brand new homes as well as revitalization of older areas into chic places to live, eat and shop (such...

      Can't say anything about the "backwater opiod/meth zones" you speak of, however, Reno is definitely not a "low rent dump". First of all, there are no low rents here anymore. :-) Second, the influx of high paying jobs for Tesla, Panasonic, the major shipping companies like FedEx, etc. has continued a trend of new neighborhoods with brand new homes as well as revitalization of older areas into chic places to live, eat and shop (such as Midtown). If all you do is go downtown, admittedly like all cities of any size there are some areas we don't want to take visitors. Those areas are smaller than they used to be. Back in the 80's and 90's I wouldn't have wanted to live here. But now everyone who comes to visit us is impressed by what they see. Feel free to delude yourself into thinking it's a dump though. Go to Vegas instead. Then we get the benefit of the tax influx for Nevada without all the crowds here in Reno. :)

    3. Stanley Lawton Mead Guest

      Thank you. Very well said.Reno has been a place for some very special events. The best in entertainment, if you don't need the Vegas glitz.

    4. Dad Guest

      Does your Mom know you are posting on the internet again??? I thought she sent you to your room???

  23. CHRIS Guest

    Any word on their codeshare flights with Baltia and Family Airlines?

  24. uldguy Diamond

    The last carrier to hub at Reno was Reno Air. They flew under the radar for awhile until they started flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Northwest, an airline that had the word "BULLY" tattooed on its wings and who was headquartered in the Twin Cities, wasn't about to take that sitting down and quickly established a hub of their own in Reno.

    Reno Air didn't last long after that and eventually became part of American. As...

    The last carrier to hub at Reno was Reno Air. They flew under the radar for awhile until they started flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Northwest, an airline that had the word "BULLY" tattooed on its wings and who was headquartered in the Twin Cities, wasn't about to take that sitting down and quickly established a hub of their own in Reno.

    Reno Air didn't last long after that and eventually became part of American. As for the Northwest hub at Reno, that didn't last too long either. With Reno Air out of the way, NWA packed its bags and went home.

    Unless there's a whole lot of people in Medford, Pasco, and the rest just dying to repeatedly go to Reno, this little adventure won't last long either.

    1. Al Guest

      It was a shame that Reno Air didn't last long. It was a great little airline. Besides RNO, SJC became a base for them as well. Flew them a lot up and down the California coast.

  25. Al Guest

    Back in the early 90's a small airline started up in Reno called Reno Air. It was an airline that I miss very much and was a good alternative to Southwest. Hope Aha! does well and is as good or better than Reno Air.

  26. Diane Johnson Guest

    They should come to Idaho

  27. flyinryan Guest

    I live in Reno, and Incline Village Tahoe is about a 40 minute drive from RNO. As you pointed out, there are no more commercial flights to South Lake Tahoe, and the only other airport in the vicinity with commercial service is SMF, which is a 2+ hour drive from RNO or anywhere in Lake Tahoe. Hence, RNO is known as Reno-Tahoe Airport.

    I'm happy to see any airline add service to RNO, it's a growing area and RNO will need more service in the future.

    1. polarbear Guest

      how many skies can fit in ERJ-140 cargo hold?

  28. Brian-EWA New Member

    As someone based at PSC, I'm happy to see another option. Not because I'm itching to go to RNO anytime soon, but because I hope more leisure competition here (we are also one of Avelo's routes, too) will prod AS and DL to add a route or two.

  29. GBOAC Diamond

    I'm amused by the name Reno Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is about 50 miles from RNO so it's not in the immediate area.
    There is a commercial airport (TVL) at South Lake Tahoe which used to be served by several mainline airlines.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      More like 30 miles, but distance is irrelevant when your MARKETING!

    2. Eskimo Guest

      I guess you've never flown Ryanair before. Under their naming concept PHL can be New York City.

      Go figure.

    3. TM Gold

      TVL hasn't had commercial service in nearly 20 years. It no longer has an ATC tower and the passenger facilities were converted into South Lake Tahoe city hall. Incline Village, NV 30 miles from RNO. If Tahoe is your destination, RNO is the most logical airport to fly into so it makes perfect sense for the airport to market this. SMF if 2 hours away and in the winter, subject to chain-control and/or road closures on Hwy 50 and I-80.

    4. Stanley Lawton Mead Guest

      Local zoning laws prohibit large aircraft operations at TVL

  30. Goforride Guest

    Keep in mind that United Airlines owns 49.9% of Expressjet and owns or leases its entire fleet, so this probably isn't the end of the story.

  31. Fred frank Guest

    So a company out of Atlanta GA is gonna run an E145 op out of RNO? Sounds like a waste of money, but hey, good luck!

  32. EthaninSF Member

    RNO is definitely an interesting choice. Granted, I know quite a few people who have decamped from San Francisco to Tahoe during the pandemic - so maybe slight increase in demand. However, the choice of SoCal airports served from RNO is puzzling. Pretty much every major carrier already serves LAX. Southwest also flies to BUR, which is only 90 mins from BFL. I can't imagine that there are huge numbers of people who want to...

    RNO is definitely an interesting choice. Granted, I know quite a few people who have decamped from San Francisco to Tahoe during the pandemic - so maybe slight increase in demand. However, the choice of SoCal airports served from RNO is puzzling. Pretty much every major carrier already serves LAX. Southwest also flies to BUR, which is only 90 mins from BFL. I can't imagine that there are huge numbers of people who want to fly to BFL and ONT from RNO. Looking at fares on Southwest, they are super cheap connecting from ONT to RNO. I imagine if this route was viable, Southwest would be all over it. I thought maybe they were trying to connect passengers from North to South over RNO (like RenoAir of the past), but their website does not seem to sell connections. Good luck, Aha!

  33. Brad Guest

    Did they decide on hub + destinations based on the highest meth and opiate-addicted populations on the West Coast?

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      No kidding.

      Maybe their research revealed that meth-heads prefer Reno!

  34. russ cruickshank Guest

    Interesting that googling the name leads me only to the American Hotel Association. Further searching takes me to various airlines. One needs to know they are looking for aha! to actually make a booking apparently.

  35. Eskimo Guest

    AHA!!!!
    The expression you say when you thought you avoided CRJ-200 for the last decade just to find out they are flying ERJ145.

  36. Evan Guest

    This is not the first time United has caused the birth of a low-cost airline operated by a former regional partner. Atlantic Coast Airlines lost its contract with United around 2003, then relaunched as Independence Air with a base at IAD. I'll never forget flying one of their RJs from JFK to IAD because the safety announcement was prerecorded by a comedian who slipped in a weird joke about crashing. That airline didn't make it for long.

    1. GBOAC Diamond

      @Evan. Independence Air was also the first thing I thought of reading this post. Regional airlines don't seem to be able survive for very long on their own. Not I bet this one

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Another Lump Guest

I doubt they will get a chance to take on me.

2
Never In Doubt Guest

Reno is a low rent dump. The cities that aha! flies to are backwater opioid/meth zones. Checks out!

1
Goforride Guest

Keep in mind that United Airlines owns 49.9% of Expressjet and owns or leases its entire fleet, so this probably isn't the end of the story.

1
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