Although a little later than originally planned, the long-awaited return of the famous PEOPLExpress brand to the US domestic market is just under a month away after it was revealed by the start-up’s management that an agreement has now been reached to contract aircraft from US carrier Vision Airlines to launch flights in less than four weeks.
The carrier will operate from Newport News Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia serving many of the markets previously flown by the carrier of the same name back in the 1980s prior to it becoming absorbed into Continental Airlines. With a mission to serve markets currently underserved by major carriers, PEOPLExpress plans to offer deeply discounted fares to select cities in the eastern US initially from the airport, but potentially from other locations across the US in the future.
Flights will commence from June 30, 2014 with a double daily link to Newark Liberty International and daily flights to Boston Logan and Pittsburgh International. Two weeks later a daily flight to West Palm Beach International will commence from July 15, 2014 followed by a six times weekly link to Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International from August 1, 2014. The initial schedule will be completed in August 28, 2014 when three times weekly services to New Orleans and St Petersburg/Clearwater begin.
All these routes will be served with three Vision Airlines 150-seat Boeing 737-400s with a 12-seat premium section and 138 economy seats which will have been contracted on a one-year wet-lease and will operate from two gates on Concourse A at Newport News. As such Vision Airlines has requested that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) register the trade name 'PEOPLExpress' for "use in certain of its air transportation operations". Reservations are due to officially open from June 4, 2014.
“From the very beginning, PEOPLExpress was designed to provide a fun, creative and innovative approach to air travel to dispel the myth that low air fares have to mean low service or an impersonal experience,” said long-time airline executive Jeff Erickson, who has brought in as chief executive officer in October 2013 to help boost the start-up's profile.
“PEOPLExpress has been looking at market opportunities to replace service Newport News lost to places like Boston and New York and other underserved markets that have seen service declines with consolidation of the airline industry,” he added.
The road to this month’s launch has been a long and arduous one. The initial plan was to operate as a virtual airline on the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) of an established venture with a goal to “make flying fun again,” but due to unknown circumstances this project failed to get off the ground and the backers were forced to defer the launch of the business by almost a year as business targets changed.
A revised plan included the takeover of XTRA Airways and the immediate ability to operate aircraft under the AOC of Boise, Idaho-based carrier. However, again the business ran into difficulties resulting in the complete turnaround of the strategy and today’s agreement with Vision Airlines to become flying partner of PEOPLExpress.
The legacy namesake of the new PEOPLExpress operated in the United States from 1981 to 1987, and was at one time the fifth largest domestic airline with flights to most major US cities, as well as select European destinations. The original PEOPLExpress changed the face of the airline industry in the 1980s, and the revived brand vows to re-ignite the brand’s unique spirit of innovation to address today’s market needs.
Newport News / Williamsburg International Airport is currently served by Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines and US Airways. AirTran Airways also previously served the airport up until last year but the closure of its routes in spring 2012 has resulted in a significant decline in passenger numbers at the facility with traffic down over a third on the previous year.
In our analysis, below, we look at how the loss of air services has resulted in a marked fall in passenger traffic at Newport News / Williamsburg International Airport.