After some fits and starts, it appears that Jet America (or JetAmerica, they write it differently in different places) is actually going to get up and running. You can stop checking the calendar. It’s not April Fool’s Day. This airline is actually planning a Toledo base.
I honestly couldn’t make this sound any worse if I tried. The CEO is John Weikle, one of the original founders of Skybus. He has slightly tweaked the plans laid out when the airline was going to be named Air Azul. Now, the flights from Rockford are gone, as are the BWI connectors. And instead of infringing upon JetBlue’s trademark, they’ll now infringe upon Alaska’s trademark. Alaska still owns the trademark for Jet America to provide charter airline services. And yes, this is a charter operation for now.
Assuming that doesn’t cause them problems, flights begin on July 13 between Newark and Lansing, Melbourne (Florida), South Bend, and the mighty Toledo. It looks like the Toledo hub starts growing on August 14 when flights to Minneapolis begin with the arrival of the second aircraft.
How the heck is this going to work? Four of the six airports involved will pour in more than $3m in the first year to kickstart the service. Can you guess which two won’t be paying? Yeah, exactly. Minneapolis and Newark hardly need to pay for this, but the others are desperate to build service.
My understanding was that Rockford was willing to waive some fees to get them in there as well, so why did they drop it? One article has Weikle saying, “Lansing and South Bend stayed on the roster because they were close to Toledo, so it would be easier to shuttle planes between them.” Oh yeah, always a good idea to fly to cities because they’re close to each other. Yikes.
The idea is to offer more Allegiant-style flying where you only fly a couple days a week to most cities. The plane spends every night in Toledo and then flies out to different places each day. The most frequent is to Newark which happens every morning but Saturday. South Bend, on the other hand, only sees two flights a week from Newark.
The schedule is really funky. There were a lot of typos in the schedule, but most I could figure out. Assuming that the flight from Melbourne to Toledo should take the same 2 and a half hours that the southbound flight takes (and not the 1 and a half hours in the schedule and on the reservation system), they’ll only be utilizing their aircraft for 9.75 hours a day.
Even that doesn’t show the true utilization during the day, because the schedule has a lot of wasted ground time. No turn is shorter than an hour and some, including Lansing in the middle of the day, are over two hours long. Could this be to accommodate the guaranteed delays they’ll face out of Newark? No, they’ve already built that in to a schedule For example, the afternoon flight from Newark to Toledo is blocked at 45 minutes longer than a late night flight on the same route.
This strategy may work for Allegiant where their fixed costs are low, but you generally don’t want to see brand-spanking new airplanes sitting on the ground for that long. It’s hard to pay for them that way. This may not matter for now under their lease agreement, but if they truly plan to be operating their own airline within two years, this is hardly the right precedent to set.
Maybe they’ll do better with their second plane. After all, CEO John Weikle admits that they’re only running the first plane like this because of all the incentives they’re getting. But the second airplane that comes in August will have a morning flight from Toledo to Minneapolis and then a late night return. It seems to me that they’re setting up Minneapolis to look a lot like Newark once the second plane comes around. The press release (which could be one of the worst press release ever assembled) says that future focus cities could include Rockford, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Greensboro, Pittsburgh, St Petersburg (Florida), and yes, Charleston (West Virginia).
Tickets are supposed to be on sale now at jetamerica.com, though at last check, the site was down due to a database error. This could be one of the most disorganized efforts I’ve seen in a long time.