Who the F*&@ is Florida Express Jet?

Remember the good old days when all kinds of crazy people with money to burn started up airlines for just for the fun of it? Most of them failed miserably, but over the last few years, we’ve seen very few even try. Maybe it’s the sky-high cost of fuel. Or maybe it’s the impossibly slow certification process. Heck, maybe it’s just that people realized that while it may be sexy to own an airline, it’s also more often than not an unprofitable venture. But fear not, there are still some hearty souls out there willing to give it a shot. Please welcome Florida Express Jet. It’s time for another installment in our long-running series of… who the f*&@ is that?

Who the F*&@ is FloridaExpressJet

The name says it all. This airline has been designed to shuttle people around the state of Florida. Wouldn’t it be better to just get some of those air-powered boats to skim over the swamps you Floridians all live in? Sure, but people forget about the other part of Florida, that long skinny panhandle that’s not actually underwater. And that is a focus of this operation when flights start on March 20.

How is this happening so quickly? These guys didn’t need to worry about certification issues because they aren’t flying their own airplanes. Instead, they’ve hired Swift Air, a charter airline, to do the flying for them. Initial flights involve three cities. The airplane leaves Ft Lauderdale at 7 each morning, goes to Orlando, then Tallahassee and comes back at 1220p. Then there’s round two going at 2p and returning back to Ft Lauderdale at 725p. On Saturday, the afternoon rotation doesn’t operate and on Sunday, the morning one doesn’t go. By the end of this year, the plan is to have Jacksonville, Key West, Miami, and Tampa join the network. That will obviously require more airplanes.

You can probably already tell how this initial schedule is a problem. The morning flights up to Tallahassee and the evening returns are good for business travelers. But the rest of the flights are going to be tougher. Then again, this airline doesn’t seem to really be targeting business travelers but anyone who is price-sensitive. It has a fixed price scheme where you can have one of the 138 coach seats for a flat $69 nonstop. If you fly from Ft Lauderdale to Tallahassee via Orlando, it’s $99 for any coach seat. Don’t like coach? For $20 more you can get “A Better Coach.” They’re selling that on the website, but I can’t find anything suggesting what’s better about it. Not “better” enough? There is a 12 seat Business Class cabin that will cost you a mere $30 more per leg.

Those are some extremely low fares so they have to be making this up on fees, right? Eh, not so much. It will cost you $25 to check a bag, but according to this article, you’ll apparently get wifi, snacks, and drinks for free onboard. Oh and there won’t be change fees. You can also assign any seat in your cabin without charge. Oh boy.

I will say, I get where this idea comes from. It’s always struck me as somewhat remarkable that the capital of the state of Florida is so disconnected from the rest of the state. It’s more than 200 miles from Orlando and about 400 miles from South Florida, yet there is very little air service. I get that Tallahassee is small, but anytime you have state politics involved, there is going to be more travel than you would expect from a city of that size, especially when the big population centers in the state are hundreds of miles away.

Silver Airways has already looked at this opportunity and put some Saab 340 turboprops on these routes. They run two a day to Tampa and one to Orlando from Tallahassee. All of those continue on to Ft Lauderdale. So what’s so bad about that? Though I’m not in Florida, I’m sure the usual issues are a) “ewwww, propellers? lame-o” and b) “you guys charge so much, you suck.” A one way from Tallahassee to Orlando is at $139 right now. That’s not all that much but it is a lot more than Florida Express Jet will charge, and of course it’s revenue-managed so Silver can charge even higher than that.

That’s just Tallahassee. What about the Orlando to Ft Lauderdale route? That’s one that Southwest dropped a few years ago because it didn’t work. Guess who flies it today? Silver, yes, but Spirit has 2 a day in there as well. I just do not see how Florida Express Jet will compete with that.

I’ll be amazed if this works. Don’t get me wrong, I hope it does, but I simply don’t see how this model is going to make any money. Let’s just watch and see. If anyone has a chance to fly them when they start, please do chime in below.

29 Responses to Who the F*&@ is Florida Express Jet?

  1. David says:

    Fixed price fares you say ? Those alarm bells in my head are now even more red and loud…

  2. Agree with David. Fixed price jumps out at me also. Hasn’t it been clearly established that fixed price can not compete with a dynamic pricing rival?

    (On periods of high demand, you’ll fill your plane at nowhere near the real potential revenue, and your revenue managed competitor will take all the excess passengers and charge them more. On periods of low demand your competitor will cut the price and take all of your passengers. Over simplistic maybe, but that’s how I understand it.)

    Maybe the fixed price is a stop gap solution until they get revenue management in place?

  3. Nick says:

    I looked at buying a ticket the other day and taxes weren’t included in the advertised fare….I think that might be a violation of the law…

  4. BNZ says:

    Ouch… Fixed prices? Just +30$ for business class? Free snacks? Just 200 miles for a B734?
    Game Over in 3… 2…

  5. johosofat says:

    There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the legality of this operation and whether, being an intrastate operation, it falls under DOT Part 380 Public Charter regulations. If it does, they don’t have the required disclosures on their website, don’t state how funds will be held in escrow, and apparently haven’t filed a charter prospectus with the DOT.

  6. It does get boring to only hear about the same (few) carriers in the news, so it’s nice to hear about some new kid on the block. For airline geeks, the more carriers the better and small ones are always fun to track and see how they are doing.

    Wasn’t there a Florida Express before based in MCO that partnered with the final Braniff and later became part of BN and then both were gone?

  7. Joe says:

    After reading the name I thought this was an ExpressJet operation. Surprised they haven’t complained about this.

  8. Eric says:

    Ummmm…..yeaaaaaaaa. A full snack and beverage on the FLL-MCO with wifi is really important on the 53 minute block (30 min or less at altitude) to business travelers. The FEJ incorporation is somewhat convoluted too: Florida ExpressJet Travel, Inc. offering intrastate public charter services for Florida residents operated by a FAA certified carrier (SwiftAir based out of AZ). The money is coming from the Broward county based travel agency….supposedly.

    I hope it works but we will see if this makes it to Memorial Day weekend. If it does, maybe my dream of operating an all Illyushin IL-62 full-service LCC hubbed out of Cedar Rapids, IA connecting LAS, PHX and PSP to Riga, Latvia and Dar es Salaam may see the light of day!!

    • Randy says:

      “Florida ExpressJet Travel, Inc. offering intrastate public charter services for Florida residents operated by a FAA certified carrier”. This is what caught my eye. Only Florida residents are allowed to travel on them. Was thinking they might be good for going to or from Port Everglades if you fly into or out of Orlando before or after a cruise, but this probably would negate that for most people.

  9. Austin says:

    Check out some of Swift Air’s other attempts at operations:

    http://www.saipantribune.com/newsstory.aspx?cat=1&newsID=138593

    Sounds like something that will never get off the ground.

  10. DRG says:

    I was just pleasantly surprised these folks didn’t have the “brilliant” idea of resurrecting the brand name of a failed airline, which I’ve come to believe is the quickest and easiest predictor of the quick demise of a start-up plan.

  11. D Lewis says:

    FWIW: Tallahassee wasn’t so disconnected from the rest of the state when Florida was admitted to the union. Back then no one (except the Seminoles) lived on the peninsula – all the European settlers were concentrated in Jacksonville and Pensacola.

  12. Chicago Chris says:

    Am I mistaken or does this sound a lot like Vision Airlines’ original plan that quickly failed? I think Vision it’s still flying around somewhere, but no where near its intrastate Florida plan originally proposed.

  13. RCA says:

    It’s funny, but trying to book online it only offers one flight FLL-TLH but 2 back….

  14. Jom Bailey says:

    There was indeed an earlier Florida Express that briefly flew BAC 1-11 srs 200 aircraft. They were caught by Braniff, who curiously enough flew BAC 1-11s earlier in their life.

  15. LauderdaleBud says:

    Remember the Piedmont Florida Shuttle years ago? Piedmont operated a fleet of F-28s around the state – and this was back when fuel was cheap – and they abandoned it after a few years.

    Delta connection has been in/out of the FLL-TLH market several times over the past few years on CRJ. Obviously if the route were profitable they would still operate it.

    I think Silver has got it right – SAAB will carry the traffic from FLL to TLH. There simply is not that much demand other than lawmakers, state government and students.

  16. ANCJason says:

    Hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Swift Air on their first flight of this venture that happened to them in Rockford.

  17. Zack Rules says:

    Delta Connection resumes once daily FLL-Tallahassee flight, operated by the actual Expressjet, on March 2. I would be surprised if they lasted until June if the regulators even let them take off.

    • Wes says:

      True, though those DL Connection flights end in early May, and generally go for around twice the price advertised above. DL only does it to appease the FL legislature, which is why the flight only runs when the legislature is in session. I still see this new venture failing in little time, but the DL flight will have little to do with it, in my humble opinion. Utter lack of demand from the TLH end, coupled with intense competition from Spirit on the FLL end will be the death knell.

  18. stony says:

    Cranky, kind of reminds me of when Vision Air came here to northwest Florida (VPS) with great fanfare and cheap fares. They left in the middle of the night, owing big $ to VPS and a bad customer experience towards the end. TLH may have more traffic but I don’t see it either.

  19. jgodin says:

    Eastern Airlines is trying to come back, and then there’s another “Who the F*&@ is Orange Air?” http://www.flyorangeair.com/

  20. No Fly Zone says:

    I hope it works for them, in their market. We’ve see this before… When the original market does not pay enough dividends or they cannot maintain the 85% load from their spreadsheets, the risk the little remaining capital to stretch beyond their reach – medium distance or medium international and quickly go bust. Why? The probably planned well for the intrastate flying hand have their own or contracted infrastructure in place, including a handful of diversion ports. When they make the grab for greater reach, those needs are not as well prepared for. They take the risk, get caught up in a few very expensive diversions for which they were not prepared, spend their cash and soon go bust. Smarter folks would establish the brand, build a record of performance and expand slowly – and without risking the farm. Maybe these folks are different, but nearly all become too greedy before they have the right. We shall see. I would not buy their stock unless I saw a lot more detail and a serious plan to stick to the basics while they establish their brand and reliability. We shall see…

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  22. Why are they using such large planes I would of been like lets go have Swift Air go buy some CRJs then use them There are plenty of CRJ’s sitting around out at the Bone Yards of ROW or GYR or IGM

  23. mikeg says:

    I’ve got my ticket booked: FLL-MCO-TLH-MCO-FLL on 22MAR. Business class flying north, economy south. Same day return.

    As this date should be their 3rd full day in service, It’ll be interesting to evaluate their pax experience… IF the flights operate. Their web presence as well as their online booking engine is wrought with errors and omissions. We shall see…

  24. Despite growing up in TLH, I will never figure out their airline market.

    In the not too distant past…

    - CO used to have flights to TPA and IAH (the latter obviously a nod to skyteam partner).

    - There used to be competition on several of the intrastate runs between US and DL to MCO and between DL and CO to TPA, possibly among others.

    - For years, DL used to do several times daily nonstops all on CRJs to MIA, PBI, FLL and MCO. This doesn’t even recall the short-lived “what do we do with all these @*$%@#&* CRJs” flights to JFK, DFW and CVG, although I think CVG may have lasted a few years during the DL / Comair hub era of 500 flights per day.

    - US used to have flights stopping in PNS (continuing to MSY I believe) and JAX (those always seemed rather silly to me).

    - FL was brought in by state and local guarantees to combat high prices and flew to ATL as well as TPA through to MIA. That only lasted two years as DL predictably slashed prices, offered ridiculous medallion bonuses then went back to business as usual after FL bolted.

    Now TLH has DL to ATL (not even counting the seasonal daily to FLL), US to CLT (DCA disappearing shortly thanks to justice dept US/AA settlement), Silver (whatever that is) to MCO and TPA and AA to MIA and DFW. 4 airlines to 6 destinations. Not that long ago, TLH was closer to 16 destinations, nearly all on jets, than 6 with only 4 on jets.

    Why is this? Seems counter to the continued growth of the area but I think the real problem is that the catchment areas of surrounding airports also keep growing and now overlap TLH significantly. Most of the TLH population lives NE of the city along I-10 and, from this area, you can be in the JAX airport parking lot in 2.5 hours. If that gets you a nonstop to your destination, you’re not even adding any time to your overall trip, not to mention possibly getting a better price and avoiding connection snafus. I’ve done that several times to get to TLH. ECP is now an option now due to WN presence which was not a factor previously (otherwise it has the same type of hub service and, therefore, similar pricing).

    • Flyboy6969@aol.com says:

      TLH is a city comprised of state workers and college students. Neither of which is able and/or willing to pay the high fares. Everyone I know generally drives to JAX or even MCO for cheap fares and direct flights.

  25. David SF eastbay says:

    So this airline is down before it started from news I’ve seen. Something about not getting gate space at FLL and needing more money. I believe they said they refunded money for tickets they sold already. That’s not a good way to start a business.

  26. Shane says:

    Who the F*&@ WAS Florida Express Jet?

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