JetAmerica Airlines (Skybus II) Offers $9 Flights

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JetAmerica Airlines, a new low-cost carrier, is offering limited $9 fares between select East Coast and Midwest cities starting July 13. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

The tiny carrier will connect only small and mid-sized cities to the New York metro area and Minneapolis. This venture follows the no-frills, pay-as-you-go model of Irish powerhouse Ryanair and U.S. discounters Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air. Fares will start at $9 each way for the first nine to 19 seats and top out at $199 one way.

Jet America will charge an additional $20 for a round-trip with an assigned seat, $20 to buy a ticket by phone and $10 to book on the Web site (www.jetamerica.com). The airline will begin with one leased jet and grow to four planes in a year, said chief executive John Weikle, former boss at now-defunct Skybus.

The four initial cities β€” Toledo, Ohio, South Bend, Ind., Lansing, Mich., and Melbourne on Florida’s east coast β€” are subsidizing JetAmerica by waiving airport fees and helping with marketing and advertising.

Weikle is tenacious. Skybus, which failed last year, also had a similar business model to Ryanair’s. Skybus, like JetAmerica, served small- to medium-sized cities. Skybus sold ten seats on each flight for $10–just like, you guessed it, JetAmerica. And Skybus’ Columbus, OH hub subsidized the airline to the tune of $57 million.

Remember that Einstein quote, β€œthe definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?” JetAmerica has an almost identical business model to Skybus. Skybus folded after 10 months, stricken to rising fuel costs and a slow economy. What will stop Jet America from failing, too?

I found one possible difference mentioned in a USA Today article. Skybus owned its fleet, while JetAmerica will rent:

Weikle said in the statement that despite a deep recession and a double-digit drop in passenger traffic, now “is actually a good time for a start-up because airlines are cutting flights.”

“JetAmerica’s plan is to fill the gap left by big, high-cost legacy airlines that have trimmed or eliminated services in many markets,” he said.

Technically, however, JetAmerica is not an airline. It will sell tickets via the website www.jetamerica.com, do the marketing and determine the flight schedule and cities it serves.

The company has contracted with Miami-based charter carrier Miami Air International to provide and operate the aircraft. Though flights will be scheduled, the JetAmerica operation will be classified as a public charter, not as a scheduled airline.

I question whether the new plan will work.

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