Jet America Officially Launches From Its Toledo Base

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 Jet America's Whimpermake 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.

51 Responses to Jet America Officially Launches From Its Toledo Base

  1. Stuart says:

    There isn’t a single part of this start-up that makes operational, macro-economic, or investor sense. You’ll get desparate regional airports to pony up, that will dry, flyers will go, huh?…and the whole thing will die.

    How does somebody like Weikle start a presentation when he gives his bio that includes SkyBus?

    I don’t get it.

  2. David SFeastbay says:

    I have a blog buddy who is from Toledo and was living in California. He moved back last year to be near family and has since moved back to California. He said to many people are out of work in Toledo and the area in a downward spin ever before the economy went sour.

    So really who is going to and from Toledo? I could understand if they were setting up a hub type system with the ‘spokes’ being the real big travel markets and just needed an unused cheap place to connect everyone somewhere in the middle so why not Toledo. But it doesn’t sound that way if only a few flights a week to each city is planned.

    So far Skybus sounded like a better plan then this. I wish then well, and you never know, but………….

  3. A says:

    According to their website the Mpls/St. Paul flights are via MPS, which is very odd because Mount Pleasant airport isn’t really too close to the twin cities.

  4. David SFeastbay says:

    I just looked at their web page, “9 seats for $9.00″ on every flight. That’s much more of a draw then Skybus was with their 10 seats for $10.00. Jet America will be in the black before you know it.

    Now how many seats on a 737-800 do they need to fill to and from Toledo to turn a profit?

  5. SmarteCart Theif says:

    Either Weikle is the smartest SOB alive for being able to convince people to back this stuff up, or he is the dumbest SOB alive for actually believing this will work. It’s kind of one of those scenarios where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    I’ve decided to to revamp Hughes Airwest and base it in Dubuque.

  6. BLR says:

    If you are an investor in this, please let me know. I have a great idea for an airline myself that is a hybrid of the Ryanair/Allegiant model. I’m going to buy a couple of old MD-80s from American and fly them from the grass strip in my backyard to my office downtown. 1000 ft is long enough for an MD80, right? There’s probably like 50 people in my neighborhood who work close to where I do, so if we charge them $10 a day (5 days a week; 7 days would be silly!), that should cover operating costs, right? We’ll really rake in the dough on take your kid to work day! And I’ll get ancillary revenue by selling parking in my driveway. I can also do a buy on board program because I know a guy at McDonald’s who can get me day old egg mcmuffins after they start selling lunch!! And I’ve come up with the best, most original name for this venture that has ever been thought of…MetroJet.

    The total investment I would need to get this thing off the ground is only $20 million or so, so I look forward to accepting your checks asap.

    “People who invest in aviation are the biggest suckers in the world.”

    — David Neeleman, quoted in ‘Business Week,’ 3 May 1999.

  7. Wow, can they go public so I can short their stock?

    Seriously how does anyone expect this to work? I love how they say “9 Seats for $9 Every Flight. No Exceptions & Not A Gimmick.” Uh sounds like a gimmick to me. Who taught these guys to capitalize?

    Interesting enough the server error only appears for me on the front page when I load the page in Internet Explorer, not Firefox. But when I search for a fare in firefox it gives me an error.. geez.

  8. You guys are looking at this all wrong. Does anyone remember the plot from the play/movie “The Producers”?

  9. David says:

    So who’s wants to start taking bets on when JetAmerica will go bust ? Can anyone give me reasonably good odds on ceasing operations by the end of September please ?

  10. Neal says:

    I have a quick question about how the airline is being operated as a public charter carrier versus a regular, scheduled passenger carrier? I thought once the airline had established a set regular schedule they were considered a scheduled passenger carrier?

    My question is trying to get at why would they be classified as this and what makes that different than a traditional legacy carrier or even Allegiant? Does this opt them out of any FAA regulations?

  11. Neal,
    A public charter is basically where one company pays an airline to fly their plane at specific dates/times and then they sell individual seats to the public.

    They have specific requirements (the customer’s ticket purchases are held in escrow until the plane flies and some more stuff.)

  12. CF says:

    David SF – If they were trying to set up TOL as a cheap place to connect, then it would fail miserably. You need to have local traffic to make a hub work, because that’s the only place you really have any pricing power. They wouldn’t be able to make money just on connections.

    Neal – What Nicholas said. But here’s a good link on the difference between scheduled and public charter.

  13. Ken says:

    My favorite part is the fares do not include a $5 convenience fee for each leg of a trip (it is more if booked by phone.) I suppose it is convenient for a customer to be able to complete the booking process, so maybe the mandatory fee is reasonable.

  14. Yo says:

    “why the monorail put North Haverbrook on the map!”

    Will this airline go out of business quicker than Roots Air?, or Jet Train? or the “New Western Airlines”

    I love how these desperate towns are so willing to bend over for an airline.

    Because, last time I checked, people flock to Lansing for the uh.. thing in Lansing that is so cool, no wait, I meant Toledo, where they have the uh…..

    They could call this airlines “New Coke/Milli Vanilli/Edsel/XFL airlines”

    I just hope no one gets hurt too bad and that the employees are going into this disaster with their eyes open….

  15. Jeb says:

    This really is a wacky operation. If they are going to operate an all new fleet of 737-800s why are they showing a 737-900ER aircraft in their color scheme on their home page? Are they going to eventually add 739s?

  16. John says:

    This is the most ghetto, shady airline I’ve seen in quite some time. The press release looks like it was created by a 6th grader (http://www.jetamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/jetamerica-news-release-final.pdf). If it weren’t for the fact that I worked at Skybus and know Weikle is completely serious about this (as well as being completely nuts), I would think this was all a joke. Very, very sad. I strongly urge those working for this “airline” to resign now and chalk this up to a bad lapse of judgment.

  17. CF says:

    Jeb – I doubt it. They’ve been using this image for well over a year, so I’m sure it has nothing to do with reality. Who knows if we’ll even see this livery on the airplane when it flies in July.

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  19. nigel says:

    Mr weikle should leave the airline business to those buffoons who run big airlines and have proven that that don’t know how to run a business.

  20. Ken says:

    All this does is hurt the existing airlines. By throwing his nutty idea into the ring…enough people will fly his nutty airline only to detract from the revenues needed at the reputable airlines. Its going to hurt the existing airlines temporarily. JetAmerica will be in the airline graveyard right next to Skybus, Hooters Air, Independance Air, Jet Express just to name a few. It didn’t work for them…wont work for him. Weikle needs to have his ego examined. His ego is writing a check his airline cant cash!

  21. Eric says:

    Hmmm…I thought airline employees are subject to DoT drug testing???

    Oh wait, that is just us front-line slobs…apparently management gets a free (toke) pass :/

    This is a pretty transparent attempt to bilk third-tier airports out of their stimulus money..not only does this have Hall of Fail written all over it, I really REALLY hope that if my theory is correct, the Solicitor General goes after these worms with the full force of the law. If you think my remarks are harsh, look at what Wiekle and Schoen did to Gulfport…..

    http://www.columbusdispatch.com/live/content/business/stories/2009/05/28/jetamerica_investor.ART_ART_05-28-09_A8_C1E0AO6.html

  22. Oliver says:

    i think if weikle had the itching bug to produce start up companies…i would tell him to put his efforts making new companies that solving problems in our country. how bout investing money into new electric vehicle and battery companies? or investing in companies that can produce high speed rail efficiently and cost effectively? small and medium sized cities need jobs that can last and our country can show that there’s infrastructure to keep building a robust and productive economy…not one that just uses and consumes resources. what happened with skybus? people got a cheap thrill to fly for cheap. whats left? wasted money and wasted resources. the same thing is probably going to happen with jetamerica and if there are would be investors out there…turn around. this weikle is a joke.

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  24. RoyBoy says:

    Brett…that picture is GREAT! How appropriate!

  25. seastu says:

    Cranky, you crack me up! This airline is a laughingstock and the pic of the 737-900ER on their ‘website’ is a hoot. I wonder how many out-of-work auto workers have bought tickets from Toledo to Lansing? Why would Alaska even waste the money filing a trademark protection lawsuit? These dumb rubes will be out of business by the time the ink is dry.

  26. Nicholas Barnard says:

    Seastu – the only reason Alaska would sue is because if you don’t defend your trademarks you’re at risk of losing them. Now I can still see Alaska not suing as the trademark may not be worth much to them and JetAmerica won’t be sucessful.

  27. Shane says:

    Nicholas,

    Independence Air was sued for trademark infringement when they coined their airplanes as iJets, which was a trademark used by iJet Intelligent Risk Systems, a non-aviation company. If that was deemed confusing and worthy of filing suit, then it would be a good bet that Alaska’s lawyers will make a call or two.

  28. Adam says:

    They were originally going to use an aircraft from Sun Country. Glad that Sun Country backed out.

    This guy must like to lose money!

  29. askmrlee says:

    The press release IS such a joke. Their so called “PR firm” couldn’t afford their own domain name, so they are using a comcast.net email address. Looks like it is run by someone out of their house.

    http://www.jetamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/jetamerica-news-release-final.pdf

  30. Jay says:

    By throwing his nutty idea into the ring…enough people will fly his nutty airline only to detract from the revenues needed at the reputable airlines.

    What is a “reputable airline” exactly? Who gets to determine this?

    i think if weikle had the itching bug to produce start up companies…i would tell him to put his efforts making new companies that solving problems in our country. how bout investing money into new electric vehicle and battery companies? or investing in companies that can produce high speed rail efficiently and cost effectively?

    Probably the same reason why every other investor deosn’t do that.

    Whether we like it or not, we don’t get to force people to do what we want with their (or their investors’) money.

  31. Ron says:

    Am I the only person who thinks this idea makes sense? You have a bunch of airports with excess capacity and little demand, and taxpayers around these airports are eager to see this capacity utilized, so they use their tax dollars to bump up demand. For a metro area the size of Toledo, approximately 700,000 people, the $600,000 subsidy comes out just shy of $1 per person per year, which is a small price to pay for the pride and joy of an almost-daily flight to Newark.

    And since this money is to be had, it just makes sense that somebody will pick it.

    So don’t blame the hard-working entrepreneurs who are trying to make things happen. The responsibility lies with the elected officials who hold the purse strings, and the taxpayers/voters who keep them in office.

  32. fliesfreq says:

    They laughed at RyanAir’s business plan with cheap seats and charges for everything other than your non-assigned seat. Who’s laughing now with RyanAir the most profitable airlines in the world and still charging for everything and no telephone number to call with complaints — certainly not RyanAir’s investors and the millions flying RyanAir.

    When you pay pilots $300,000 a year with all of the out of work pilots out there, you gotta expect someone might figure out a way to do it profitably. And, for the record, Weikle left Skybus shortly after it started flying because of his concern thet Bill Diffenderfer (the CEO picked by Morgan Stanley and the Skybus board of directors) had no clue as to how to run an airline. Diffenderfer loved being in front of the camera but really did not have any experience running an airline. His ill conceived decision making and lack of focus coupled with an incompetent CFO was a formula for disaster. It was not the model that killed Skybus, it was poor managment. The only thing high fuel prices did to Skybus was to hasten its demise. The RyanAir model works.

  33. John says:

    I agree with fliesfreq on Skybus management (which I experienced and worked with firsthand). However, while I also agree that the RyanAir model works, you must cite that it works IN EUROPE.
    The American traveling public demand a lot more that the self-sufficient airlines of RyanAir and Skybus provide. We complain about losing disgusting recycled free pillows and blankets – how can we cope with no call center at Skybus?
    I definitely think that we’re moving in that direction and breaking the travelers of certain expectations they have (look at meals), but we’re not there yet. When the majority of travelers here buy travel insurance like they do in Europe, then we’ll know that America is ready for a RyanAir model.

  34. CF says:

    Ron – The problem is that subsidies always dry up. They may go for a year but then what? The key is trying to find a way to build sustainable service, and more often than not, subsidies fail to do that. Also, Toledo is very close to Detroit, and the Detroit airport on on the south side, so it’s even closer to Toledo itself. It’s hard for any smaller city to compete with the massive number of flights and Detroit when it’s that close.

    fliesfreq – This isn’t the Skybus model. Skybus was flying at least once a day from mid-size cities to secondary airports. JetAmerica is flying from large cities to secondary airports far less frequently. Does the model work? Sure. Allegiant does it well, but there are big differences between Allegiant and JetAmeirca, and most of those differences strongly favor Allegiant. (Big network of travel partners, sun destination bases, uncrowded primary airports, etc.)

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  36. Blaggo says:

    Will this work, probably not; I’d say the over-under is 345 days in operation. But look at it on paper…

    You have Delta and Northwest now one and a massive Delta/NWA hub in Detroit. There are over 5 million people in a 75 mile radius of Toledo (this includes Detroit and northwest Ohio) and around 8 (what used to be) fortune 500 companies in Toledo alone. Most everyone flies out of Detroit because of direct flights. While Toledo is great to fly out of, JetAmerica won’t be able to offer enough direct flights to the places people need and won’t be able to shift much traffic away from Detroit. It would take too long and cost too much money for JetAmerica to offer these flights and wait for the shift of people to occur and fill these planes. While a nice attempt, chalk another loss up to the good old tax payer.

  37. Blaggo says:

    I almost forgot to mention that I read somewhere that they sold 10,000 tickets in the first 36 hours and it crashed their website with all of the traffic. While this is nice, it won’t last and I’d say within a few months it will do about as well as a Porsche dealer in Rawanda.

  38. Happy Flyer says:

    Perhaps instead of posting false information to get yourself attention…you would be interested in this from Alaska Airlines.

    Q. I saw in the news that a new airline is starting up with the name of JetAmerica. True, there’s no space between the two words, but it seems too similar to the name of the airline Alaska bought years ago, Jet America. Question: Did we sell the airline’s name? Or is this not that big of a deal for Alaska?

    A. The name Jet America has a storied place in the history of Alaska Airlines. The original Jet America airlines was founded in Southern California in the early 1980s and operated from a Long Beach base, with world class service and a dedicated team of great employees. In 1986 Jet America was purchased by Alaska Air Group, and it was ultimately merged with Alaska Airlines in fall 1987. Jet America’s culture of customer service fit well with Alaska’s focus on the customer, and its location was a great complement to the southward expansion of Alaska’s service. Many of Jet America’s employees made the transition to Alaska and went onto distinguished careers with our company.

    While forever etched in our memories, the name Jet America no longer represents a commercial “mark” that we have continued reason, or a very real opportunity, to protect. While we still own a supplemental registration on the name (we have not sold it), the ability to actually assert the right to bar others from using it would require that we have continuing use of the “mark” in a commercial setting. In actuality, we haven’t used the name commercially at any time in this century, and probably not since the mid-1990s, nor do we have any current plans to do so.

    In short, while we will continue to recognize the legacy of the original Jet America and its employees at Alaska Airlines, we will not be able to keep the name all to ourselves. — Tom O’Grady, chief compliance officer and deputy general counsel

  39. Diane says:

    Where is everyone’s enterpernural spirit -we don’t always need to bow down to the big guys – DL, UA, AA – who says they are doing it right – they are always loosing money. Congratulations for airports supporting a new business – be nice if citizens will do the same thing. You all probably think we should continue to bail out GM because you know their brand. Competition makes companies and our economy stronger, creates jobs, revenue for cities. More than any stimulus pkg I have seen lately. Give them a chance. People laughed ad Southwest when they started as well. Good Luck JetAmerica.

  40. CF says:

    Happy Flyer – If you’re suggesting that I’ve posted false information, I’d read the post again. Alaska does in fact own that trademark, and the information is linked directly from the post. If the information you’ve posted is correct (what is the source?), then it sounds like even though Alaska owns the mark, they don’t think it’s defensible. That is certainly one less thing for Weikle and friends to have to worry about. Thanks for posting.

  41. US Travel says:

    It is a charter airline using Miami Air to fly their planes. I would hardly call Miami air “experienced” or professional. If your life is worth $9, have at it!

  42. Blaggo says:

    I’d love it to make it since I live here in Toledo, I’m just trying to not get my hopes up because it has happened that an airline will pull out and go 40 miles up the road to DTW. Well, US Travel, you forgot to add all of the taxes and baggage fees so I’d say the price of my life would be $79.95.

  43. JetJournalist says:

    JETAMERICA

    I am a freelance journalist for several well-known travel publications. Get this.

    I contacted the public relations guy for JetAmerica, whose online resume shows he’s worked with Virgin Atlantic and JetBlue. Obviously a heavy hitter. I asked to interview a JetAmerica spokesperson for one of my client magazines. I got an e-mail back that says,
    “At this time JetAmerica has been flooded with media interview requests and cannot accomidate your inquiry until June 15, 2009. Please contact us then. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.”

    So, I had my editor, from a highly impressive magazine, send the PR guy an e-mail. She got the same response.

    What does this tell you? (A) No comment? (B) We don’t have any money to pay for PR? (C) We’re hiding something? (D) We are already acting stupid and small time? (F) We’re gonna do it to our passengers like we’re doing it to reporters? (G) All of the Above? WHAT’S THE ANSWER Gee. Hey, JetAmerica next time you want good press you ain’t gonna get it

  44. CF says:

    JetJournalist – Now that is fantastic. Not only would they not give you a timely response, they wouldn’t even get back to you. I can’t believe they were going to make you call back. Something tells me that strategy is not going to help their PR cause.

  45. From:
    Bryan Glazer
    JetAmerica Communications
    News@JetAmerica.com

    RE: JetJournalist’s Comments.

    To clarify, the comments above are incorrect. JetJournalist was told that JetAmerica could not be able to accomidate his request for a lengthy interview with the Chief Exectuive Officer until June 15, 2009.

    JetJournalist was offered an opportunity to speak with the Chief Operating Officer.

    Good times are over “JJ.” Dyno-mite.

    JetAmerica is committed to providing journalists with all the information they request to develop accurate, fair and balanced stories. Sometimes, we can not always afford access to our top executives, especially while JetAmerica is coordinating the various aspects of launching our first flights.

    Thank you

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  47. Btron says:

    JetJournalist wrote:

    “At this time JetAmerica has been flooded with media interview requests and cannot accomidate your inquiry until June 15, 2009. Please contact us then. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.”

    Did they seriously write “accomidate”?

  48. vicky says:

    Finally they did,but they have added more in the recent past very aggressively.

  49. kelton says:

    the website is down looks like they failed

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