>by Nicolle Morales Kern
JetAmerica Airlines is a new company that plans on providing affordable travel to and from mid-sized cities that larger airlines may have neglected.
Starting July 13, the Clearwater, Fla.-based company will be offering flights to and from Newark, NJ; Toledo, Ohio; South Bend, Ind.; Melbourne, Fla.; Newark, N.J.; Minneapolis and Lansing, Mich. With prices starting at $9 for select seats and ranging to $199. Passengers will also have to pay for checking a bag ($15-$20 per bag) as well as in flight snacks or entertainment. To fly with bicycles, pets, sports equipment or surf board costs an additional $50 for each item.
A flight booked from their website from Orlando Melbourne to Newark between July 14 and July 16 came out to a total of $169.20.
Small and midsize airports have seen a decline in flights due to spikes in jet fuel prices that have also hurt major airlines as well. Skybus Inc., an Ohio-based airline known for its $10 airfares went bankrupt largely due to fuel prices and had to lay off 450 employees.
Jet America’s vision of affordable travel is largely possible because of grants to airports from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program that have been given out since 2002 in order to restore service and lower airfares.
The Lansing, South Bend, Melbourne and Toledo airports are subsidizing JetAmerica with $1.4 million in grants in its first year, along with about $867,000 in waived airport fees and $1.1 million in marketing and advertising assistance. Newark and Minneapolis, which serve at least 20 million passengers a year, are not offering assistance to Jet America.
“These subsidies will help insulate the new carrier from spikes in jet fuel prices,” said John Weikle, chief executive of JetAmerica.
The company is leasing one Boeing 737-800, which can fly to four cities in one day. After a month, Weikle plans on adding an additional Boeing and having four all together by next July.