Yesterday the newest airline in the United States was unveiled, sort of, at Virginia’s Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport … the airline sports a familiar name, a familiar logo and a familiar launch route the airline is PeoplExpress.
Back on the 30th of April 1981, only a few years after airlines were deregulated in the United States, the original People Express Airlines began service as a low cost, no frills, airline based at Newark International Airport’s North Terminal. People Express Airlines, generally written as PeoplExpress, launched with three routes, from Newark, Columbus, Buffalo and Norfolk, before expanding into international routes and being sold to the Texas Air Corporation, then absorbed into Continental Airlines in 1987.
Now with the announcement of PeoplExpress’ return to the skies, 25 years after it disappeared from existence, the airline is returning to familiar territory, Southeastern Virginia, and Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport. The new PeoplExpress’ home base is a mere 23 miles from its original route to Norfolk, yet its first route is essentially the same, between Newport News and Newark, New Jersey, along with Pittsburgh and West Palm Beach.
The new PeoplExpress’ executive staff comes from an extensive industry background, including roots in the original PeoplExpress, as well as United, Continental, JetBlue and other carriers, yet the airline’s initial routes and its choice of a home airport are puzzling. The airline’s plans are to bring service to airports that other airlines have left and serve these cities with limited flights with Boeing 737 aircraft. In order to attract passengers, PeoplExpress plans to create a simplified booking process, where all fees are included in a passengers ticket cost, although they do not state if ancillary purchase options will be made available in flight.
PeoplExpress intends to initiate its service this summer and is negotiating with airlines and lessors to acquire Boeing 737-400 aircraft. Presently the airline does not possess any aircraft, employ a chief pilot or have a maintenance chief. These basic airline necessities will prevent the airline from being an FAA CFR Part 121 airline, instead placing the airline in the role of being a “shell carrier” operating other carriers’ aircraft, with pilots from the airlines they lease their aircraft from.
Can a new airline with PeoplExpress’ business model of serving non-major cities, hubbed in a minor out of the way airport, and all-in pricing survive? Only time will tell … but for many industry experts on the outside looking in, the answer is no.
The Vegas odds on the new PeoplExpress ever taking to the skies falls somewhere between Unlikely and Not-Gonna-Happen.