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Is There (Finally) a New Low-Cost U.S. Airline?

SmarterTravel

Airline trade sources are reporting that the founder of JetBlue, David Neeleman, is getting ready to launch a new low-cost domestic airline. Neeleman is by far the world’s most proficient and successful airline-starter. The proposed airline, originally named Moxy (which is likely to change), will reportedly fly 60 Bombardier C300 jets on routes connecting secondary airports near major U.S. cities. The service could begin as early as 2020.

Although the trade reports say that Moxy will be a low-cost line, it will likely not be a bare-bones line a la Allegiant, Frontier, or Spirit. One of the most attractive features of the C300 aircraft is that economy seats in its standard five-across configuration are an inch wider than the usual six-across seats in Airbus 320s, and two inches wider than seats in Boeing 737s. Thus, as with JetBlue, the new line is more likely to feature a superior base hard product at competitive fares, rather than a minimal hard product at ultra-low fares as well as one or more premium cabins.

Another interesting feature of the Bombardier C300 is that, although it’s good on short runways, it can also fly the Atlantic from the East Coast. The idea is to fly point-to-point routes using secondary airports such as Burbank, Chicago Gary, Cleveland Lakefront, Fort Worth Meacham, New York Stewart or Islip, Oakland, Ontario, Orlando Sanford, Phoenix Mesa, Providence, Saint Louis MidAmerica, and Saint Petersburg (Florida).

This would be the first robust, large-scale domestic startup airline since JetBlue in 2000. Subsequent startups have either flopped almost instantly—think of the new People Express and Eastern attempts—or concentrated on marginal regional routes using business jets.

Neeleman certainly has the cred to start another airline. He headed Morris Air up to its acquisition by Southwest, helped launch WestJet in Canada, founded JetBlue, founded Azul in Brazil, and now owns part of TAP Portugal. If he says he’s serious, we can reasonably expect some serious results.

And given the lack of innovation in the domestic airline market, consumers should wish him luck.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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