JetAmerica…Why Bother?

By | July 12, 2009
Miami Air - Boeing 737-8dc
Image by Eric Bégin via Flickr

We haven’t said anything about the JetAmerica situation, and we think the title says it all.

JetAmerica began taking bookings in May. At the time, the Cranky Flier commented,  “Something tells me that the chance of this working is very, very slim. And that’s being kind.” We can’t say we disagree. Skybus didn’t work, partly because of fuel, but mostly because of scale issues.

On July 13th, JetAmerica was supposed to take to the skies, with nine seats on every flight sold at $9, with a $5 per flight convenience fee or $10 call center fee for booking flights added on top of taxes and fees. Rick Seaney of wondered if the whole thing is just too good to be true. And it is, because by the time you’ve added in all the fees, the price has increased five-fold.

The Airline Blog posted an interview with a JetAmerica spokesperson from their PR firm, Bryan Glazer last month. He insisted the climate is good for a startup carrier as other carriers, and that the airline’s decision to base its hub at Toledo was not a mistake. By going to smaller airports, they can get those airports to pay for marketing, waive takeoff and landing fees…essentially subsidize the service.

Glazer may be right in some regards. Allegiant did do well with the model of service from smaller markets, with service less than daily. Larger carriers don’t usually offer a single flight less than daily. Their model was to serve leisure destinations such as Orlando and Las Vegas. JetAmerica is serving Melbourne FL, Toledo OH, South Bend IN, and Lansing MI from Newark, and Minneapolis from Toledo. At low prices, they will attract business, but will it be enough to sustain them?

Especially when all flights are operated by Miami Air as public charters? Public Charter flights are not subject to the same regulations as scheduled service. For one, they are liable for nothing. You agree to:

release, relieve and hold harmless Sun America, Inc. dba JetAmerica from any claim, action, cause of action, injury, losses or damages arising from: the actions or omissions of third-party contractors supplying services; missed connections; missed ground transportation or car rental expenses; lost or stolen items or baggage, damage, delay of baggage or other property; costs or expenses arising out of injury, accident or death; quarantine; disturbances; governmental restrictions or regulations; inconveniences; loss of enjoyments; loss of pay; disappointment; mechanical breakdown; airport closure; air traffic control restrictions; government action; strike or lockouts; war, terrorism; weather, acts of God, force major, or other factors or causes beyond our control.

Now, you can go after Miami Air if they damage your baggage, of course…or injure you. As a charter passenger, your money is held until after travel is completed. But we noticed some additional fun in their Charter Participation Agreement. There is a notation in their contract of carriage that implies they could retroactively increase the price, and denies them of all liability for cancellation, which they have already exercised when they postponed their launch.

They postponed their launch till August 14th, telling people on July 2nd, 11 days in advance, that they would not be going and would refund the money. Their incentive to their passengers to try again? They would waive the $10 call center convenience fee, the $20 fee for the first checked bag, and the $10 advance seating fee. They blame this on an inability to get slots at Newark in time. They could have found an interim solution. They could have flown people to Trenton, or Stewart Airport in Newburgh, or Islip on Long Island….anywhere in the New York area for the time being if they wanted to try.

jaunted reported on a variety of people who wrote them telling of how JetAmerica had ruined their plans. So, we must ask again…why bother? They are not an airline. They exist only on paper, and rent plane and crew from someone else. They, like Ryanair abroad, feel no responsibility for the customers they’ve inconvenienced and have no intention of creating goodwill with anything but cheap fares.

That is what distinguishes some carriers from others. Responsibility. We may call the bigger airlines on some of what they do, and point out the government doesn’t call them out enough on it, but airlines like this bring that to a new low, and that is not where we want to see the industry.

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Author: Guru

Guru is the Editor of Flight Wisdom and a long time aviation enthusiast.