Almost all recent action in startup airlines has come from outside the U.S. We already see WOW and Norwegian, with a handful of other European lines gearing up and even one line from Asia (Malaysia’s AirAsia X). Prospects for home-based startup lines are pretty dim, but they’re not quite zero. Two are worth watching; a third new airline is pretty ephemeral so far.
New Airline: Baltia
Yes, I know, this proposal has been around so long it’s ripe, its original business plan was unrealistic, and it attracted some unwanted legal and financial attention. But the line has regrouped as USGlobal Airways and is now talking about copying those new European-based carriers: Fly from a hub at Stewart Field in Newburgh, New York, to various points in Western Europe with low-cost narrow-body B737 MAX or A320neo planes.
Given its history, I’d normally be skeptical of this latest iteration, too, except that the newly appointed vice president for communications, John Lampl, is an experienced veteran of the business I’ve known and respected for a long time. So far, the project hasn’t passed the initial planning phase, but this new airline might actually get going.
New Airline: Midwest Express
An even longer shot surfaced in August, when a website, FlyMidwestExpress.com, announced an intention to revive the once-iconic Midwest Express brand. I say “iconic” because the original Midwest Express was the only domestic startup airline offering a really superior coach product to survive more than a year. Those of you with long memories might remember the two-by-two seating in MD-80s and the baked-onboard chocolate chip cookies that placed this line’s hard product well above that of any competitor, then or now.
We hear a lot of pundits say, “The flying public wants low fares and will put up with the lousy product they get at those low fares”—which would seem to doom a quality airline startup. And that might be true of the majority of the public, but it doesn’t necessarily hold for all of the public. Is there a viable market for better-than-the-big-guys coach service—even better than today’s leader, JetBlue? Who knows? But maybe someone is going to give it another try.
New Airline: Azura
In what could well be a false start, David Neeleman and some associates filed for the corporate name of “Azura Airways Corp.” Neeleman, as you might remember, has already started four successful airlines—Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue, and Azul Brazilian Airlines—and he recently resigned as Azul’s CEO. So far, an Azul spokesperson has denied that Neeleman was starting a fifth new airline, but speculation remains: Neeleman loves to launch new carriers, especially with some variant of “blue” in the name.