Industry watchers never cease to be surprised at the allure of starting a new airline. Sure, they've seen all the red ink. They've seen the history of the dozens of failed startups since deregulation in 1978. Still, there's always someone around who thinks he or she knows something others don't. And two new lines announced this month.
The more ambitious is Cal Jet Airways (www.caljetair.com), which proposes to fly to Mazatlan, Mexico, from Oakland, Los Angeles, Denver, Houston and San Antonio. Cal Jet is officially a charter operation, with flights actually performed by longtime charter operator Xtra Airways. Normally, I would expect an outfit such as this to emulate Allegiant's model, featuring air-hotel packages: At least so far, the website seems to focus on air-only bookings, but I expect that will change fairly soon.
Cal Jet clearly thinks it has found a "hole" in the system it can fill. No other lines operate nonstop from its U.S. gateways to Mazatlan, and connecting fares are high. Currently, Cal Jet features an introductory round trip of $499 from Oakland.
Flights on Xtra Airways are in 737-400s, in two-class configuration. Cal Jet calls it regular economy "comfort" class, which is a stretch; seating is actually the usual tight-pitch, narrow seating typical of economy in 737s and not "comfortable" by any rational standard. Planes also have a first-class section.
The newer announcement is from Elite Airways (www.eliteairways.net), an established charter operator looking to provide scheduled flights nonstop from several New England airports to Melbourne, Fla. Initial flights will be from Portland, Maine, but other candidate cities include Portsmouth, N.H., Worcester, Mass., and several upstate New York cities. Elite is featuring Melbourne as "alternative to busier airports in Orlando and Palm Beach." The line plans to start with 50-seat regional jets, but the company has access to bigger jets, if business warrants.
The airline posts no information on prices or schedules. But any startup using regional jets faces the problem that costs per passenger are high, and Melbourne is more than 70 miles from Orlando and 100 miles from Palm Beach.
Contact Ed Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.