JetAmerica Delays Launch One Month, Screws Travelers

I don’t know how many of you brave souls actually booked a ticket on JetAmerica, but if you were planning on flying before August 14, it looks like you’re out of luck. I received an email from someone yesterday who JetAmerica Delaywas looking to book a flight at the end of the month on JetAmerica.com, but the flights weren’t for sale. After further review, it appears that all flights between the original launch of July 13 and August 14 are out of the system.

Could this actually be a glitch? I tried to call the reservations line, but I gave up after about 10 minutes or so. I have this picture in my mind of a phone ringing repeatedly at someone’s house, but they had fallen asleep so it just kept ringing. Anyway, Jaunted picked up the story last night, and they did get through. They were told by reservations that it was a server error. Yeah, right.

Anyone know what kind of server error just magically deletes a month of flights but otherwise functions perfectly? That’s what I thought. If the reservations system is to be believed (which I tend to think is more trustworthy than what we’ll get over the phone), August 14 will see the first flights from Newark to Toledo and Lansing as well as from Minneapolis to Toledo. (I wouldn’t bet on that Minneapolis date.) On the 15th, they’ll have their first flights from Melbourne to Lansing and Toledo. On the 16th, we’ll see their first flights from Newark to Melbourne and South Bend. I now have to wonder if anyone will be onboard.

Let’s all recall that this was originally Air Azul. That airline announced plans and then quickly imploded on itself. After John Weikle got involved, the airline became JetAmerica and the routes changed. People were probably already wary about booking after that happened, but they may have figured that with the brains behind Skybus working on this, it would at least get off the ground.

Now with service delayed again, would you even consider booking beyond that date? I know that I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t think about spending a penny until I see an airplane in the air on an actual flight with passengers. Something tells me that the chances of that actually happening has just dropped dramatically.

If you were booked on JetAmerica before August 14, I would call their reservations line right now and demand a refund. Of course, if they keep insisting that it’s a server error, well, you may have to wait. The good news about public charters is that the money is held in an account until you actually fly, so you should be able to get your money back.

[Original photo from penner42 via Flickr]

Update 7/2 @ 138p – “Server error” my ass. JetAmerica has now sent emails out to booked customers explaining that they can’t get slots in time (they sound very whiny) so everyone booked before Aug 14 will get a refund. I will post the full letter in the comments section soon.


39 Responses to JetAmerica Delays Launch One Month, Screws Travelers

  1. Nimitz says:

    I’m shocked – SHOCKED – I tell you. This thing had such promise. Is there a Cranky Jackass Lifetime Achievement Award?

    Cue Price is Right horn section, aaaaand roll tape.

  2. dpb says:

    When covering this in May I had a bad feeling about this airline. I still can’t find a real photo of this plane. The folks over at JetAmerica don’t seem too confident. I am willing to bet the airline won’t ever fly.

    And did it always say, “*Sun America, Inc. dba JetAmerica” on its website?

    David
    http://www.theairlineblog.com

  3. Anon says:

    Do you know if Alaska has sued them over their name? I would assume Alaska Air Group still retains the right to that name.

  4. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Anybody out there caught up in the United ground stop today? I see that as a far larger issue than a half-baked one-off that can’t seem to get off the ground.

    Anybody see the articles covering the EASA calling for Airbus to ground the A330/A340 fleet until the speed indicator issue is resolved? Probably way too soon for that kind of action but, again, a MASSIVE potential issue for USAirways and DL/NW, much less the other operators around the world.

    JetAmerica? A pebble in the pond where some much larger boulders have dropped recently.

  5. Optimist-

    You can find those other stories on almost any other media outlet. I, for one, like to blog more about stuff off the beaten path or a different spin to a well covered story.

    I think people who are interested in the airline business get a little excited with the prospect of a new airline and it becomes interesting with the concept it might not fly and the crazy politics that has gone into JetAmerica.

    David
    http://www.theairlineblog.com

  6. Eric says:

    I guess they are outsourcing their I.T. to the same outfit in Bangalore UAL uses.

    At this point, I dont know if I would feel comfortable buying a walk up ticket 90 min before skd departure…oh wait, I dont hit the heavily traveled Toledo-Newark corridor that much :/

  7. enplaned says:

    Worth noting that Direct Air, another “indirect air carrier” (ironic given its name) has also recently pulled down a lot of flying. For instance, Allentown to Myrtle Beach was abruptly pulled down as of 7/15.

    There doesn’t appear to be a lot of substance to these types of carriers.

  8. Hey Cranky-

    I did a test booking on their website and this popped up

    ” About our fares, taxes and fees
    All fares are NON-REFUNDABLE. Fares may be limited; the lowest available fares are displayed based on your flight date selections. Flights may be changed for $50 fee per flight segment. A fare is not confirmed until purchased and a confirmation number is issued.”

    So no refunds available.

  9. The Traveling Optimist says:

    DPB –

    You’re absolutely correct. I agree with your second phrase entirely….a different spin on a well covered story. Cranky has the opportunity with this blog, as he has done many times in the past, to clarify misconceptions, untruths and naive conjecture regarding significant events in the industry. While not an expert on all subjects or even an authorized spokesman I have for the most part found his experienced commentary in that vein to be enlightened and encouraging.

    I encourage him to continue in such blog reporting on such matters.

  10. The Traveling Optimist says:

    In short, Cranky, you’re a far more reliable and trusted voice than any talking head on the news channels. Help get the word out to allay fears and counter media speculation and hysteria.

    What IS your opinion on the EASA action against Airbus?
    What IS your opinion regarding United’s issues in a larger sense?
    What are your thoughts on the 2nd Airbus accident in June? Different model but Airbus has famously recycled that airframe ever since the A300 came on to the market.

    Thank you for doing what you do. This is your blog and you’re entitled to write as you see fit. You have no duty, obligation or responsibility to cater to any one’s taste, mine included. I merely ask your thoughts on larger subjects than LGB and fledgling airlines in the face of nearly 400 fatalities in the last 30 days.

  11. CF says:

    Nimitz – You would have to actually have a lifetime before receiving a lifetime achievement award. I think they’re still an embryo right now, and I don’t hear a heartbeat.

    dpb – Yes, it always said that.

    Anon – We talked about this in the last thread I wrote on this. A commenter copied an internal memo from Alaska stating that they didn’t they they could defend the name any longer so they would let it go. See here:
    http://crankyflier.com/2009/05/27/jet-america-officially-launches-from-its-toledo-base/#comment-74358

    Optimist – Just because a story is big does not mean that I write about it. I write about things where I think I can add some insight. This isn’t a news blog. There are a million outlets where people can go for news. If there’s a big story and I have insight into it, then I’ll talk about it. If not, then I won’t.

    What the heck am I going to add about United’s problems? If you’re flying, there will be delays. Good luck. Think about those people who are booked on JetAmerica. They need to know what’s going on and they aren’t getting that in many other places right now. Those on United can get info anywhere.

    And regarding accidents, I’ve made it quite clear that I hate posting speculation. That Yemenia A310 went down. That aircraft has nothing in common with the A330. The blackboxes have been recovered so we’ll know what happened soon enough. If it’s interesting, then I may comment on it. If not, then I won’t.

    Johnny Plane – If they won’t fly you, then they have to give you a refund.

  12. David says:

    Haha, you know CF I think I would actually like to see you do an airline news blog.

    * United: If you’re flying, there will be delays. Good luck.
    * Yemenia: A310 went down. That aircraft has nothing in common with the A330.

    You get family and friends calling, emailing you whenever a big airline-related story happens?

  13. CF says:

    David – Yes, absolutely. People call and email me all the time when anything happens that becomes big news.

  14. David SFeastbay says:

    Did you see the June 29 interview with John Weikle in Travel Weekly?

    TW: Given what happen with Skybus, why do you think you’ll be able to succeed now?

    John Weikle: Skybus actually was a successful start. We had 80% of our seats sold. But the airline never ran on time. The planes were late 49% of the time. They canceled flights daily. We’re trying to avoid that this time by hiring Miami Air. That’s what we’re doing differently, We’re hiring experienced flight crews.

    TW: By the same token, this is the second time that your backers have attempted to start a service. Earlier this year, they were scheduled to start a similar service to what you’re planning now. What happened with that?

    JW: That was Air Azul, and it was with the same group of owners, Sun America. They were doing it with Sun Country. But they didn’t really sell any tickets.
    —-
    TW: JetAmerica’s been offering tickets for a couple of weeks now. How have sales been?

    JW: We’ve sold 25,000 tickets so far. It’s beyond our expectations. We’ve had 600,000 unique visitors to our website so far.

    TW: How are you able to price so low, even in this low-fare environment?

    JW: We’re chasing small community air service development grants. The four airports together that we’re starting with got well over $2 million in marketing dollars from those grants, and the airports are doing the marketing for us. Our average fare is $77. We can best everyone. It’s just a matter of marketing.
    —–

    There were some other questions asked, and the interview did mention the start of service as July 13.

    I thought these four questions were interesting, Skybus was late 49% of the time. Well the planes were on the ground for 20 minutes sometimes before flying off somewhere else. You can’t do that and really think it will work at every airport, every day, in all types of weather.

    How many of those 25,000 tickets sold so far were at $9.00?

    If the airports are getting grants to develope service, what happens if JetAmerica can’t meet their end of the deal and provide that service the airports have been marketing?

  15. CF says:

    And here’s our proof. This email has just gone out to all customers booked before Aug 14:

    Dear JetAmerica Customer,

    First, we thank you for your support in purchasing a ticket on Sun
    America d/b/a JetAmerica (“JetAmerica”). Unfortunately, however, you
    are receiving this notice to inform you that due to landing slot
    issues in Newark, that we are going to have to delay our first
    flights 30 days until August 14th. When we started planning your
    flight months ago, we were not required as an Indirect Air Carrier to
    have landing and takeoff slots at Newark’s Liberty International
    Airport; however, due to recent policy clarifications, even Indirect
    Air Carriers now have to have slots into and out of Newark. We just
    found out about this on May 30th and have been working hard to acquire
    the slots from the FAA and other airlines; but, as of today, not all
    the paperwork has been prepared for our signature guaranteeing our
    arrival and departure slots in July and early August. It’s
    unfortunate and perhaps unfair that the rules were changed on us, but
    you are, of course, entitled to a full refund and your credit card
    will be credited with a 100% refund within 7-14 days depending on what
    credit card you used. Also, recognizing that this is an
    inconvenience; as a courtesy aimed at preventing erosion of consumer
    confidence, JetAmerica will offer passengers who were originally
    booked on flights from July 13 through August 13 special incentives to
    rebook on future flights when they call our reservations center after
    August 1st, 2009. These incentives include waiving the standard
    $20 reservations convenience fee. We will also waive the $20 fee for
    the first-checked piece of baggage and the seat assignment fees.

    We sincerely regret having to make this decision to delay our
    flights by 30 days. We know what a terrible inconvenience this may be
    for you and we sincerely apologize.

    Sincerely,

    JetAmerica

  16. HAHA! Can’t blame server issues anymore, so now it is slot issues.

  17. Jay says:

    Why would they rush into business like that without getting all their ducks in a row? Why did they have to sell tickets RIGHT NOW? What’s the bug hurry? Get everything set up. Confirm. Sell tickets.

    Who ARE these people?

  18. Jay-

    Ever see The Producers? I can’ t help but think of it when I think of JetAmerica. :)

  19. Dan says:

    CF,

    Care to add some insight on the “Indirect Air Carrier” issue? I’ve been around the industry for several years and have never heard that one.

  20. CF says:

    Dan – I don’t know the history here, but it’s quite clear now that you need to have slots, even as an “indirect carrier” – also known as a public charter. You can read the slot rules here in 14 CFR Part 93 Subpart N § 93.171 (d).

    In short, no unscheduled operation can operate without a “reservation” between 6a and 1059p unless you’re a helicopter. Most reservations for unscheduled operations (that’s what they consider a public charter) can be made within 72 hours. But there can be one slot issued per hour for a public charter in advance of those 72 hours as long as not more than 25% of all those slots are used for public charters.

    Now, this seems pretty clear that you would need a slot, so did it change? I looked through all the updates since May 1 (they announced service on May 27) and didn’t see anything referencing Part 93. So either I’m looking in the wrong place, or these guys just screwed up royally.

  21. Allen says:

    While I agree there is reason to be skeptical, I see no concrete reason to actually believe this is anything except a technical issue. While it probably isn’t, there are a wide variety of technical issues and events that could have caused this. How it gets translated into English by customer support could very well be “server error”.

  22. SmartCarte Thief says:

    To my knowledge, an “indirect air carrier” refers to freight forwarders, secondary handlers, etc. Jet America, even operating as a FAR Part 380 through Miami Air, is still a direct air carrier. I could be wrong, but that was always my understanding.

    I read an article a few weeks ago that the decision to not serve Rockford had nothing to do with the airport authority not offering subsidies. But apparently the decision to serve TOL, LAN, and SBN does. This is getting shadier than a Nigerian Amway salesman.

  23. Wonko Beeblebrox says:

    The JetAmerica letter is wacky.

  24. eponymous coward says:

    http://theairlineblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/jetamerica-delays-launch-blames-newark.html

    “[Jet America VP of Operations Brian] Burling says that the airline has “no immediate plans to change our flight schedules,” saying that “initially, JetAmerica planned to fly 34 weekly flight segments starting on July 13, 2009. On August 14, 2009 the number of flights is still slated to expand to 40 per week.” And, as if to try to head off any ensuing negative press coverage, he said: “People should not be quick to jump to negative conclusions about JetAmerica. I am particularly referring to internet bloggers and naysayers who are predicting the worst.”

    Oh, SNAP, Cranky. I guess that will teach you, huh?

  25. CF says:

    eponymous – Yes, well, after the Long Beach City Council decided to attack me, I think my skin became thick enough to withstand these yahoos. Of course, the fact that they are delayed says it all . . .

  26. Dan says:

    SCT,

    I never heard of 14 CFR Part 380. But I googled it and looked at some of the definitions. It’s pretty clear that a direct air carrier is an operator who holds its own operating certificate and operates aircraft accordingly. An indirect air carrier is one who operates through another carrier, using that carrier’s certificate. What confuses the heck out of me is that carriers ala Miami Air (they do a lot of professional sports charters) usually operate under a Part 121 Supplemental certificate.

    Cranky, do you have any insight into JW comments about experienced flight crews as quoted in David SF Eastbay’s post? JW says “that’s what we’re doing different this time. We’re using experienced flight crews.” Well, by what definition? And what were they using before? I’m not up on all the rules (ie I could be wrong here) but captains pretty much have to have an ATP certificate (requiring 1500 hours of total flight time) and first officers must have at minimum a commercial pilot certificate (requiring at a minimum, 250 hours of total flight time.) Granted, those are the green-as-hell minimums that regional airlines are using for their pilots these days, but 250 hours just ain’t enough. Were JW’s comments meant to imply that they were hiring pilots at less than ATP minimums for captain?

  27. I really hope JetAmerica is successful. Why wouldn’t anyone be? Another airline to blog about. It isn’t like JetAmerica hasn’t done their fairshare to worry bloggers about not only what their intentions are, but how this will all work out.

  28. David SFeastbay says:

    “”””We just found out about this on May 30th……”””””””

    Well if they found out on May 30th, it’s to bad JW couldn’t have mentioned in the Travel Weekly June 29th issue interview that there may be a problem starting service.

    It’s funny but the interview had a picture of John Weikle and I looked at it and thought would I trust this man, and I thought no.

    Well hopefully it’s just a rough start and things will improve later on.

  29. Nate says:

    Holy @*@#$#$*T%*$

    One of the first things I do before launching a schedule is:

    1. Get an Airfield Operating Agreement from the Airport
    2. Line up gate space/counter space
    3. Research operations @ the airport, hell, even spend a few days sitting there and doing nothing but watching (its scary to see all the plane spotters who cream over seeing Shamu – Southwest land, while I’m barely awake and don’t even perk an eyebrow).
    4. Review our schedule with all the airports involved.

    These steps above are all Airline Planning 101: The Basics.

    It’s funny that when my airline bid on EAS that involved Atlanta, we had gate/counter space lined up BEFORE the bid closed, but the carrier that won spent over a year trying to line it up…. so I’m not saying JetAmerica are morons, there are others out there too :P

  30. CF says:

    Dan – I wouldn’t put any stock into that comment. All pilots are required to be qualifed. It is certainly true that you’ll find pilots with more experience at the legacy carriers, but blaming the Skybus delays on the flight crews seems rather absurd. As they say, “it takes a village.”

    DavidSF – I’m sure they thought they would be able to get a hold of slots between May 30 and now, but just think of all the travelers who now have had their summer plans ruined. They probably could have gotten a better deal had they known about this earlier. I feel bad for them.

  31. I wonder how many of them were $9 tickets. I wouldn’t feel soooo bad if someone lost $9 (well maybe like $15 after taxes/fees) in this deal…

  32. Tom says:

    Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority CEO Michael J. Stolarczyk, had this to say about the delay:

    “We are disappointed to hear about this situation, and our first priority is with our customers here in Toledo. We need to embrace and support JetAmerica and we sincerely appreciate the support of our community. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is also trying to mitigate their inconvenience as much as possible. We will see JetAmerica fly in August and beyond.”

  33. Pingback: JetAmerica Postpones Launch, Cancels Tickets @ Coach Class

  34. Hmm.. United II strikes again.

  35. Another Tom says:

    Remember, an airline needs an operating certificate from the DOT (economic authority, management competence) and another from the FAA (safety). An indirect carrier has no DOT certificate, but operates under the provisions of Part 380, which is basically for the purpose consumer protection. The airline actually operating the airplane requires the appropriate FAR 121 authority.

    EWR didn’t have arrival/departure slots until this year. Is it possible that Jet America’s management thought they didn’t apply to scheduled charters? For the years that LGA and ORD had slots, one couldn’t show up there unannounced.

    Some old timers remember that when New York Air started its LGA-DCA service, it could not get two sets of “scheduled carrier” slots to run an hourly service, so it chartered Emerald Air to run these flights, and had to hope that it could secure “unscheduled” slots to operate the service.

  36. fliesfreq says:

    Please name for me one entrepreneuer who didn’t fail several times before a success? Skybus was a success until Bill Diffenderfer and Ken Gile ran it into the ground.

    I wonder if some of the big boys at Continental Airlines is pulling on the FAA now requiring Jet America to have slots whereas they were not required to have the slots until late May or early June.

    DOT CFR 380 rules do not require indirect air carriers likke Jet America to have slots. Why is the FAA changing the rules for JetAmerica? Could Continental or Northwest be out to get the little guy and protect their outrageous one-way fares from Detroit/Cleveland to Newark???

    Maybe you did not know that Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was rejected by 57 publishers but she kept trying to find one that would print her book.

    Does anyone remember that David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, lost his first airline, Hawaii Express? His first airline failed and he had to file bankruptcy.

    Does anyone know that Allegiant Air, by far the most profitable airline in the US, filed for bankruptcy protection in its early years and emerged with new investors and new management?

    And just how many times has Continental Airlines been in and out of bankruptcy?

  37. CF says:

    fliesfreq – It sounds like you’re trying to defend Weikle and not necessarily his idea. I don’t disagree with that. He has certainly done a good job of building up airlines, though none of his ideas have worked so far. If he comes up with a good one, then maybe he’ll be successful, but that will become tougher the more failures he has. Let me look at each individual point.

    You say: Skybus was a success until Bill Diffenderfer and Ken Gile ran it into the ground.

    Not true. It was never a success. Is it possible that with better route and cost containment decisions it would have been successful? Maybe, but it was never a success.

    You say: DOT CFR 380 rules do not require indirect air carriers likke Jet America to have slots. Why is the FAA changing the rules for JetAmerica?

    Not true. It is clearly stated that they do need reservations in 14 CFR 93:
    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=773521cc9c6b20a8feed1107260c8e90;rgn=div6;view=text;node=14%3A2.0.1.3.11.13;idno=14;cc=ecfr

    It is possible that has changed over time, but it’s certainly in force now. I can’t imagine that Continental and Northwest could care less about JetAmerica.

    So what if David Neeleman’s first venture failed? He had good ideas after that one. Same with Allegiant. Their first model was not going to work, but the modified model post-bankruptcy was a good one. Weikle has yet to try to put forward a good model. If he does, then great, maybe we’ll see him be a success. But so far, I don’t see anything that’s going to work.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I don’t buy it.

    1) It should be very clear to any potential Part 380 operator that you need slots to fly into a slot-restricted airport. If the airlines need slots for recurring operations at the same times, why wouldn’t they?

    2) It should be even clearer that getting slots after 12pm at EWR was going to be tough. When do most of the delays happen? You guessed it…after 12pm.

    3) They are ruining things with regards to Part 380 operators receiving grants. It is already difficult enough because most of these airports do not want to deal with anyone but majors and regionals.

  39. David SFeastbay says:

    So jetamerica is suspending service. Not sure how you can suspend something you haven’t started, but we get the idea. Sounds like they may come back with a new plan and new cities, but who is going to trust them. Guess that will mean a new name to fool the public. I feel bad for people who thought they had jobs and now are out of work, and for those that thought they would see some airline service their city needed.

    Here’s part of the write up Ben Mutzabaugh wrote for USA Today in the Sky:

    The airline said in today’s press release that those problems also were the driving force behind today’s decision to ground the carrier. “We are reluctantly suspending our public charter operations effective today,” CEO John Weikle says in the release. Weikle also was one of the founders of now-defunct Skybus, an ultra-low-cost carrier that folded just several months after launching.

    “Finalizing the slots required to support our charter program at Newark has taken longer than expected and we have decided to suspend our flights in order to refocus on different markets. We still strongly believe that there is an unmet need for affordable air service to secondary markets and we look forward to offering this option again in the near future,” Weikle says in the release.

    Bryan Glazer, a spokesman for JetAmerica, says: “This was unavoidable. I worked closely with the executives of JetAmerica for several months and know they did their very best to overcome the challenges that the slot situation posed. But in the end, the business plan never called for paying for more than a half million dollars for slots.”

    Still, Glazer suggested the JetAmerica team could make another attempt at launching a low-cost carrier. “Don’t be surprised if JetAmerica comes back with new routes and new destinations,” he says. Stay tuned …

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