Aha! Airlines, which launched service from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport to small markets such as the Tri-Cities last fall, shut down abruptly Aug. 22 as its Atlanta-based parent filed for protection from creditors in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.
The startup airline provided a weekly flight between the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco and Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Its inaugural flight to Pasco on Oct. 24, 2021, was greeted with much fanfare and a water cannon salute when it arrived.
It was the smallest of the six airlines serving the Tri-Cities, carrying 1,296 passengers in the first six months of the year, according to statistics maintained by the Port of Pasco, which owns and operates the regional airport.
By comparison, Delta Airlines carried more than 75,500 passengers, Alaska Airlines carried 56,550, United Airlines carried 22,850, Allegiant Air carried 18,950 and Avelo Airlines carried 9,600.
In documents filed in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, ExpressJet Airlines listed between $10 million and $50 million in both debts and assets.
Its largest debts included a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration and a $4 million CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act loan from the U.S. Treasury. Both programs offer loan forgiveness. The bankruptcy petition did not address the potential for its loans to be forgiven.
ExpressJet filed under Chapter 11, which typically suggests a bankrupt company intends to reorganize and continue to operate. However, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the company said it intended to liquidate.
In a statement to customers, Aha! advised passengers to contact their credit card companies to obtain refunds for tickets for travel after Aug. 22. It offered no assistance with booking new travel arrangements.
Aha! catered to leisure travelers in small markets with a model that included hotel packages.
In addition to Pasco, it served Bakersfield, California; Medford-Ashland, Oregon; Eugene-Springfield, Oregon; Ontario, California; Redmond-Bend, Oregon; Eureka-Arcata, California; and Fresno-Yosemite, California. It announced the addition of Idaho Falls, Idaho, on Aug. 11.
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