Tag Archives: Jonathan Ornstein


Mesa Airlines CEO helps company grow after a rough ride

One of the longest serving CEOs in the airline industry, Jonathan Ornstein returned for his second tour with Phoenix-based Mesa Airlines in 1998 as president and CEO and was named chairman of the board in 1999.

In March 2011, Ornstein helped Mesa emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in one of the shortest time periods in aviation history. With hubs in Phoenix, Dallas, Washington Dulles and Houston, Mesa operates more than 400 daily system departures to 92 cities.

How’s business?

I am nothing, if not stunned, at how well things are going after a very difficult period. We were in bankruptcy and things have changed dramatically. Two years ago, I would never have believed we’d be in the position we are today. I always felt that we’d make it through because our core business was always good. We just had too many of these small 50-seat aircraft. Now, the way the stars are aligning, we’re literally the only carrier who has no 50-seaters and has the ability to attract the labor pool required  because of our growth plan.

Why are you so effective at attracting talent?

The pilot pay structure is such that when you’re a captain, you literally make twice as much money. The ability to upgrade is very critical to them. You could be a really high-paid first office and still make half what a low-paid captain makes. We have a growth plan that is real and pilots see that coming to Mesa gives them a path forward. The growth plan also helps attract flight attendants and mechanics because everyone wants to be in an environment where there are growth opportunities.

What did you do to turn Mesa around?

In the bankruptcy, we were very direct with our creditors, lenders and with our people. We said, “Our problem is we have all these 50-seat aircraft that no one wants and we’ve got to get ride of them.” In this situation, the manufacturers made guarantees to the finance parties that if Mesa defaults, we will pay you a minimum amount of money. So when we went to the creditors, they told us they’d rather have us default so they could get their money and the only way we could default was by declaring bankruptcy.

What did that mean to the company?

Our bankruptcy was what I call a “technical bankruptcy.” All we were doing was getting rid of aircraft. If they had just said, “Give us back our planes,” nothing would have happened. We are the only airline in history that didn’t file an 1113, which would have allowed us to tear up all our union contracts. We didn’t. We honored all our agreements with our people. That played a big part because it didn’t leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. Everyone said, “Let’s work together and make this happen.”

How have you put the company on track for such rapid growth?

Nobody in this business in massively profitable. We are happy when we make a five percent margin in the airline business. We downsized the company and got our costs structure to fit that sized company and growing became easy. Growing is easy in this business. Shrinking is hard.


Mesa Airlines celebrates company’s 100th regional jet

Employees of Phoenix-based Mesa Airlines celebrated the arrival of the company’s 100th regional jet at its Phoenix hangar. The 76-seat E175, new from the Embraer factory in Brazil, was greeted by hundreds of Mesa employees, who enjoyed lunch and tours of the new aircraft.

“Taking delivery of our 100th jet is truly a great moment for our company,” said Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein. “I would like to thank all of our dedicated employees, our longtime partners at American and United, and my friends and co-workers, including President Mike Lotz, COO Paul Foley, and EVP and Captain Mike Ferverda, among many others. We have a lot to be thankful for, and I truly believe there has never been a better time for Mesa Airlines.”

Mesa Airlines is currently the fastest growing airline in the country, with long-term partnership agreements with American Airlines and United Airlines. Mesa operates under the American Eagle and US Airways Express brands from hubs in Phoenix and Dallas/Fort Worth and as United Express from Washington Dulles and Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Mesa’s previously announced aircraft deliveries will bring the fleet total to 115 by the end of 2015. The company is hiring all positions, including pilots, flight attendants and mechanics in locations across the country including Phoenix, Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington Dulles, Houston and El Paso.

“Our continued success goes back to the principles established by our founders Janie and Larry Risley back in 1982 in Farmington, New Mexico,” said Ornstein. “We do our best each day to provide outstanding customer service to our passengers, opportunities and job security for our employees, and industry-leading performance and efficiency for our airline partners.”

Mesa currently operates 78 Bombardier regional jets and recently announced the purchase of seven factory-new Bombardier CRJ900 NextGEN aircraft it will operate for American. In addition, Mesa currently operates 22 Embraer E175s for United, with eight more entering service this year.


Mesa Airlines strikes deal with Bombardier

Mesa Airlines, Inc. announced that it has reached an agreement in principle, subject to definitive documentation, with Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. for the purchase of seven new CRJ900 NextGen aircraft to operate under a long-term capacity purchase agreement with a major U.S. airline. The aircraft will be purchased new from Bombardier and will bring the total number of CRJ900 aircraft operated by the Company to 64. The Company expects delivery of the seven additional aircraft in 2015. The agreement also includes an undisclosed number of options to purchase additional CRJ-900 aircraft.

Mesa was the launch customer for the CRJ900 aircraft in 2001 and is one of the largest operators of CRJ900 aircraft in the world.

“The CRJ NextGen aircraft is the quietest, most fuel efficient regional jet available today. We are delighted to have the opportunity to order brand new aircraft from Bombardier and place them into service under a long-term capacity purchase agreement,” said Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein. “Building on our core business with American and United, Mesa is now the fastest growing regional airline in the country, creating thousands of new jobs and new opportunities for our people.”

Mike Lotz, President and CFO, added, “We would also like to thank our business partners at Bombardier who have supported us for over 20 years. Ordering these new aircraft will further strengthen the strong bond that exists between our two companies.”

The addition of these seven aircraft and 11 new E-175s scheduled for delivery later this year will bring Mesa’s fleet total to 115 aircraft by October of 2015.

Mesa Airline number 1 on-time regional airline

Mesa Airlines Ranked No. 1 On-Time Regional Airline

Mesa Air Group, Inc., the No. 1 On-time Regional Airline in 2010 and 2011, announces its No. 1 rank among US regional airlines for on-time arrivals in March 2012, as reported by US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics in the Air Travel Consumer Report, the industry recognized measure of performance. Mesa’s operational performance has ranked it as the number one On-time Regional Airline every month since April 2010, and the latest award reinforces Mesa’s continued commitment to serve our Code Share Partners and passengers with safe, reliable on-time air transportation. In addition to continuing its status as the number one on-time regional airline, Mesa was ranked first among regional carriers with the fewest mishandled bags and was ranked first among all airlines for having the fewest complaints per 100,000 passengers carried.

The airline’s accomplishment is especially impressive given the airline’s footprint of service in 34 states nationwide, including significant service at four of the nation’s five busiest airports. Mesa Airlines operates as US Airways Express and United Express under contractual agreements with US Airways and United Airlines, respectively, and independently as go!, a Low Fare airline which is about to enter its 6th year of offering low fares to visitors and residents of Hawai’i as the second largest inter-island airline based on passengers carried.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Ornstein said: “We are proud to see the hard work of our people reflected in the high operational service levels reported by the DOT over the past three years. Not only have we been the number one regional airline each year, we have been the number one regional airline each month for 24 consecutive months – a terrific accomplishment by any standard. We look forward to continuing this focus on sound performance for the benefit of our partners and passengers and we thank both for their continued support.”

Mesa Airlines currently operates 385 daily system departures to 88 cities, 34 states, Mexico, Canada, and the District of Columbia. The airline, founded by Larry and Janie Risley in New Mexico in 1982, has approximately 2,800 employees.

For more information on Mesa Air Group regional airline, visit Mesa Air Group’s website at mesa-air.com.

Mesa Airlines

Mesa Airlines Begins 3rd Consecutive Year As No. 1 On-Time Regional Airline

Mesa Airlines (Mesa Air Group, Inc.), the No. 1 On-Time Regional Airline in 2010 and 2011, is pleased to announce its No. 1 rank among U.S. regional airlines for on-time arrivals in January 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report, the industry recognized measure of performance. In addition to being ranked first among regional airlines for on-time arrivals, Mesa was ranked first among regional airlines for fewest mishandled bags and first among all air carriers for fewest complaints per 100,000 passengers – the “Triple Crown” of operational performance. This recognition and the Company’s strong operational performance reflect Mesa’s continued commitment to its Code Share Partners and Passengers.

Mesa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Ornstein noted, “Our on-time performance for January continues the high on-time standard we have maintained throughout 2010 and 2011, and we are proud of DOT’s recognition. I would like to thank our people for their unified effort to provide the best regional airline experience, and I thank our customers for their continued patronage.”

Mesa Airlines currently operates 77 aircraft with over 395 daily system departures to 87 cities, 33 states, Mexico and the District of Columbia. Mesa operates as US Airways Express and United Express under contractual agreements with US Airways and United Airlines, respectively, and independently as go!. In June 2006, Mesa launched inter-island Hawai’i service as go! and in October 2009 formed a joint-venture with Mokulele Airlines. The go! Mokulele operation links Honolulu to the neighbor island airports of Hilo, Kona, Kahului, Ho’olehua, Lana’i and Lihu’e. Mesa Airlines, founded by Larry and Janie Risley in New Mexico in 1982, has approximately 1,850 employees.