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A Quick Word about JetAmerica

Cranky Flier covered this nicely yesterday, but since I keep reading stories about JetAmerica I wanted to make a quick note here as well.

JetAmerica is a public charter (flights are operated by Miami Air) that will fly a couple of times a week from Newark to Toledo, South Bend and Melbourne (FL).  In August, they’ll launch highly anticipated (?) flights from Toledo to Minneapolis.  The headlines are that one of the founders of SkyBus is the CEO, and that fares start at $9.  Fares can start at -$9 and it still won’t stimulate the demand necessary for Newark-South Bend.

You’ll read the usual blah blah blah comparing this to Ryanair or Allegiant, but we should remember this:  Ryanair and Allegiant aren’t successful because they have low fares or fly infrequently.  They work because they chose the RIGHT cities, with the right frequencies with a cost and revenue structure that can support it.  Allegiant flew primarily to and from Vegas to small cities a couple of times a week until they started branching out to other sun destinations.  Why does this work?  Because if you’re in Green Bay, you may just want to go somewhere warm for vacation and Allegiant offers nonstop flights.  You can be flexible with a vacation.

Ryanair works for lots of reasons, not least of which are a huge focus on ancillary revenues, and the fact that Europeans are willing to put up with less frills than Americans.  And they’ve chosen sizable cities for their bases.  Plus a million other little reasons.

Yes, JetAmerica got some marketing help from a couple of airports.  They’ll blow through that quickly.  Relying on someone else to do your flying to cities where there’s no demand, then charging nothing for it is a recipe for these guys shutting down by September.  Ignore the articles that I’m seeing suggesting this thing has a prayer.

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  1. Avi Greengart

    I have family in South Bend, and I live 20 minutes from Newark. I’d better look into this quickly before they go under, because it might make for a nice affordable family vacation.

  2. Yes, you will enjoy spending your family vacation on the phone arguing with American Express about getting a credit when the airline disappears. :)

  3. Avi Greengart

    On second thought, maybe not. The flight times are incredibly inconvenient, and actual ticket prices (not the $9 promo) including tax end up around $110 round trip and don’t include luggage or reserved seats or anything else. I’d guess we’d end up closer to $150 per ticket all said and done x 6 people. I suppose that’s still cheaper than other airfare options if we had to go to South Bend, but not even close to cheap enough to entice me to plan a trip just to take advantage of it.

  4. I agree with Jared — the odds of this business plan being successful are slim and none, and slim has left the building.

    That said, if I had reason to fly one of their city-pairs and I could get the $9 flights (which I understand are really $14, because there’s a mandatory $5 ticketing fee), I would do it. But I’d do it quickly! I was actually holding $10 future-date tickets on Skybus when they folded. Worse, I had a non-refundable GSO hotel and car rental booked on priceline (I was leaving in a week, and the airline folded the day after I made these rezzies!). Not only did AMEX cheerfully (?) return my ticket money, but even priceline gave me my money back! So, overall, I would say that the risk that a consumer runs by booking with these likely-fly-by-night airlines is small, at least if you use a credit card. FWIW, though, I would not by an “expensive” ticket on such a carrier.

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