PEOPLExpress to Launch Service on June 30, 2014

Image courtesy of PEOPLExpress. Click on the photograph to access the official Internet web site of PEOPLExpress.

“What would motivate you to try a ‘new’ airline?” asked FlyerTalk member RoadWarriorChi after reading in the news about PEOPLExpress launching a new airline service on the east coast of the United States, using Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport as its hub and Norfolk as its base of operations. “I started thinking about how many airlines have come and gone in my 40 years and was wondering what would motivate me to try a new airline and whether or not it is possible in this day and age for a new air carrier to come to market and strike a cord with frequent flyers.”

You can reserve flights as early as tomorrow, June 4, 2014, according to the official Internet web site of PEOPLExpress. Flight services using Boeing 737-400 aircraft will be offered from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport to three cities: Boston, Pittsburgh and — with an homage to the hub airport of the original PEOPLExpress — Newark; with service to eventually be expanded to West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Saint Petersburg and New Orleans with airfares as low as $76.00 each way.

Launching PEOPLExpress a second time has not been without its problems, as the airline reportedly agreed without admitting fault to pay a $10,000.00 fine imposed by the United States Department of Transportation as a result of a promotional effort two years ago where you could sign up as a lifetime member of its Club Travelati frequent flier loyalty program for only $19.00 and receive such benefits as a souvenir pin, access to significantly discounted sales, and deals from the carrier once it actually launched its first flight. All content related to Club Travelati was eventually removed from its official Internet web site; and I have not seen any sign at this time that it will be resurrected — although I believe that that will happen once PEOPLExpress is officially operating flights with its aircraft.

I remember the original PEOPLExpress airline back in the 1980s. I was actually a passenger on a flight round-trip between Newark and Chicago; although I remember wanting to try the service from Newark to London which — for a limited time, if I recall correctly — offered one-way service on a Boeing 747 aircraft for $99.00.

I never did get the opportunity to travel to London — and I have not seen the airfare that low since. My memories of the service between Newark and Chicago was unremarkable. I remember that PEOPLExpress flights operated out of the old — and since demolished — North Terminal at Newark International Airport, which if I recall correctly was a real schlep from the main passenger terminal.

“Do you think it is possible for a start-up airline to make a dent in the legacy airline monopolies?” asked RoadWarriorChi. “What would motivate you to try a new airline and forgo some of your status?”

Well, for me it would be a combination of convenience, service, price, duration of flight, and the overall travel experience. I have no reason to travel to Newport News in the great commonwealth of Virginia — one of only four states referred in the United States as a commonwealth. While I have no idea of the initial frequency of flights to be operated by PEOPLExpress between Atlanta and Newport News at a possible minimum of $152.00 round-trip, Delta Air Lines already operates five daily flights between those two airports at a minimum of $312.00 round-trip — roughly twice the cost for a flight whose duration is approximately one hour and 40 minutes — but only regional jet aircraft are used to operate those flights. This is in comparison to the Boeing 737-400 aircraft — each with 138 with economy class seating and 12 “Living Large” seats featuring more personal space for a fee — to be operated by PEOPLExpress.

For me, the choice is simple: if convenience is the main factor, Delta Air Lines wins with its schedule. If comfort is a factor, PEOPLExpress wins with the economy class cabin; although the “wild card” is if I was upgraded to a premium class seat aboard an airplane on a flight operated by Delta Air Lines, which would then score a win in that scenario — although for a flight of that duration, all that amounts to is a slightly more comfortable seat and more complimentary snacks and drinks. If price is a factor, PEOPLExpress wins hands down. If the frequent flier loyalty program is a factor, then Delta Air Lines wins, as its SkyMiles may be used for international flights…

…but then again — depending on how often you would fly as a passenger to Newport News — the potential savings alone could eventually pay for an international flight outright on your choice of airline; so I would not place too much importance on the frequent flier loyalty program in significantly influencing your decision. I always say that there are limited uses for frequent flier loyalty program miles; while cash can be used anywhere for virtually anything…

…well….almost anywhere. Using cash to pay for bridge and highway tolls is slowly becoming more scarce — but then again, I do not know of a way to pay for highway and bridge tolls with frequent flier loyalty program miles.

As far as whether or not I believe it is possible for a start-up airline to “make a dent in the legacy airline monopolies”, I would say of course — but there needs to be a vacuum of service to an airport; and either significantly better service or significantly lower cost. That “dent” would take years to accomplish, of course — and the airline would need to ensure that it can weather a bad economy, which can always happen.

These are simply my opinions. What about you? What are your thoughts?

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