JetAmerica Launching Low-Fare Service this July

Tim Charters, May 28, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Get on the plane. We've got to go!

    A possible slogan for JetAmerica, the newest airline to enter the low-cost carrier market. After several delayed launches over the past few months, JetAmerica will start flight operations this July. Originally, JetAmerica was slated to be called "Air Azul" but that name was too similar to "Azul", the new Brazilian low-cost carrier started by JetBlue founder, David Neeleman. Besides just settling on a name, the airline kept delaying its launch for various operational reasons and went on to provide refunds to those passengers who had purchased tickets.

    Could JetAmerica become the new Skybus 2.0? John Weikle, JetAmerica's founder and CEO, was the previous founder of Skybus. Weikle left the company shortly before the airline launched in 2007. Not able to overcome high fuel prices, Skybus ceased operations in April 2008, less than a year after it started. To combat high fuel costs, JetAmerica has received subsidies, waived airports fees, and marketing/advertising assistance from four of the airports they will initially service.

    Airports, Routes & Start Dates:

    JetAmerica is hoping to avoid major competition with the larger airlines by focusing on smaller, underutilized airports such as Lansing, MI; Melbourne, FL; South Bend, IN; and Toldeo, OH.

    On their website, JetAmerica refers to the Melbourne International Airport (MLB) as "Orlando Melbourne". We're assuming that this is just a marketing ploy, hoping Melbourne can ride the coattails of Orlando and its famous amusement parks. Melbourne is roughly 55 miles southeast of Orlando.

    Starting Monday, July 13th, JetAmerica will start 28 non-stop flights a week and, within a month, fly 34 flights per week across all six airports. Here are the routes and their associated start dates:

    Flying From: Flying To:

    • Lansing, MI (LAN) Newark (starts July 13th)
    • Lansing, MI (LAN) Orlando Melbourne (starts July 18th)
    • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) Toledo (starts Aug. 14th)
    • Newark (EWR) Lansing (starts July 15th)
    • Newark (EWR) Orlando Melbourne (starts July 14th)
    • Newark (EWR) South Bend (starts July 16th)
    • Newark (EWR) Toldeo (starts July 13th)
    • Orlando Melbourne (MLB) Lansing (starts July 18th)
    • Orlando Melbourne (MLB) Newark (starts July 14th)
    • Orlando Melbourne (MLB) Toledo (starts July 7th) *
    • South Bend, IN (SBN) Newark (starts July 16th)
    • Toledo, OH (TOL) Minneapolis/St.Paul (starts Aug. 14th)
    • Toledo, OH (TOL) Newark (starts July 13th)
    • Toledo, OH (TOL) Orlando Melbourne (starts July 14th)

    *JetAmerica's website has a July 7th flight from Orlando Melbourne to Toledo, six days before the official launch. Our guess? They have to get the jet plane from Florida to Ohio in order to launch the airline.

    Taxes & Fees:

    JetAmerica's website breaks out every tax and fee associated with the flight. Look within the flight summary and click on the link called "Taxes and Fees". Yet, we found two different sets of posted taxes and fees. Comparing the two, one set of taxes and fees provides the maximums for each fee you can be charged while the other states what you will be charged. Confused already? Don't worry. We'll skip to the end regarding fees.

    We've looked into booking a few tickets and here are the fees associated with a flight on JetAmerica. The taxes and fees listed below are per person each way. Double everything for a roundtrip.

    $5.00 - Online Booking Convenience Fee
    $10.00 - Advance Reserved Seat Selection

    $3.60 - Federal Excise Segment Tax
    $2.50 - September 11th Security Fee
    $4.50 - Passenger Facility Charges
    $?.?? - Federal Excise Tax (tax varies per selected fare)

    Reserve your ticket by telephone and JetAmerica will charge an additional $10 per reservation.

    Special Services Fees:

    Special Services Fees may or may not apply to your flight on JetAmerica. If you need one of the special services listed below, please note that you have two dropdown columns to complete for your round trip. You do not want to only book your bicycle one-way and run into a problem at the airport upon your return.

    Weird Note: JetAmerica's website allows one passenger to have up to two Lap Children per flight. Would they actually allow a mother or father to sit with two small children on their lap?

    $9 Fare Promotion:

    JetAmerica has begun $9 seats on all their flights. Is it truly $9 or the typical airline gimmick to get your attention? It's true, but it comes with a catch. The first nine customers for JetAmerica flights will be offered the $9 fare. We've checked a few flights over the next several months and that fare is offered. If you miss out on the $9 fare, the other fares range from $39-$79 each way.

    Even though my father was a math teacher, it must be my inability to count correctly. After finding a $9 fare in both directions, the cost of the fare alone was $16.74 when it should have been $18. I'm not sure why this happens, but it'll save you $1.26. Enough for a pack of gum at the airport. They'll probably fix it soon enough.

    The Future of JetAmerica?

    JetAmerica is starting with one aircraft - a leased Boeing 737-800 that will seat roughly 190 passengers. One plane will be used to fly all these routes with each day's flight schedule starting and ending in Toledo. The airline expects to add a second plane within the first month of operations and possibly three more planes in the first year.

    What's the worst that could happen? You could end up waiting for hours in the airport. One delayed plane could cause a ripple affect with that day's flight schedule if the plane breaks down or weather conditions prevent JetAmerica from flying to the next city on time.

    Furthermore, this new low-cost carrier is organized as a "Public Charter Operator (PCO)". A PCO does not have any interline agreements with other airlines. If your flight is canceled, you do not have any options to jump on another airline with your purchased ticket. If you get stranded and are bound to a tight travel schedule, you'll basically have to buy a ticket from another airline to get to your destination. A risk passengers must be willing to take when buying cheap airfare.

    Starting any business is a tough challenge in and of itself, let alone starting an airline from scratch. JetAmerica officials talked with the Toledo Blade newspaper this week about possibly expanding to include airports such as Baltimore, Chicago Midway, Cincinnati, Clearwater (FL), Columbus (OH), Dayton, Greensboro, Hartford, Pittsburgh, and Rockford (IL). A tad ambitious at this point to talk about expanding into other markets since they experienced several delays in getting the airline even launched.

    Another article from The Columbus Dispatch addressed JetAmerica's troubled past and details concerning one of the airline's investors from their parent company, Sun America Inc. It also mentioned the past failure of John Weikle to get Air Azul up and running.

    With a past filled with delays and questions about financing. JetAmerica might have even a harder time breaking into the airline business and attracting customers. Let's hope they get up and running with their first six markets so we don't have to go through another Skybus fiasco.