Jonathan Ornstein serves as Chairman and Chief Executive officer of Mesa Air Group. One of the longest serving CEOs in the industry, Ornstein returned for his second tour with the Company in 1998 as President and CEO and was named Chairman of the Board in 1999. During his first tenure with Mesa, from 1988 to 1994, Ornstein worked closely with company founders Larry and Janie Risley, serving the Company as EVP and President of wholly-owned subsidiary, WestAir Holding, Inc. Prior to Mesa acquiring the company, WestAir had pretax losses of $12 million. Under Ornstein’s leadership, operating results improved to a pretax profit of $16 million the following year.
Leaving Mesa in 1994, Ornstein accepted the position of CEO of Continental Express and was later named Senior Vice President of Airport Services for Continental Airlines. At Express, Ornstein orchestrated the Company’s operational and financial turnaround resulting in an $80 million dollar improvement in operating income. In his role at Continental he was Co-Chairman of the Operational Performance Committee which designed and implemented the company’s improvements in on time performance, reliability, baggage delivery and customer service. He was also instrumental in Continental’s fleet restructuring, leading negotiations with lessors worldwide.
He was recruited from Continental by Richard Branson and co-founded Virgin Express S.A/N.V., a low fare European carrier based in Brussels, Belgium, where he served as CEO and Chairman from 1995 until 1999. His aviation career began in 1986 with Air LA, a small commuter airline in Los Angeles where he served most notably as a ramp agent. Ornstein attended University of Pennsylvania.