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JetAmerica: Pie-in-the-Sky

July 21, 2009

Like many Northwest Ohioans, I was excited when I heard JetAmerica would offer non-stop service to Newark from Toledo Express: “Broadway, here I come!”   Of course, the cheap seats were a show-stopper: airfare for as low as $9?  Who’s ever heard of such a bargain?  In my opinion, a city the size of Toledo deserves direct air service to the New York market, and to get that service at such affordable ticket prices deserved applause!  I wasn’t alone in my exuberance.  In its first week, JetAmerica booked 20 thousand reservations.  20 thousand people looking forward to  trips, some of whom were only able to afford it because of the $9 seats.  Turns out those bargain basement prices really just got you into the basement.  After months of hype and more than a half million dollars in free advertising from area media outlets, JetAmerica crashed without ever sending a plane up.  Cancelled.  Kaput.   As our friend Dick Epstein with the Better Business Bureau says: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”  It was, and it’s just another disappointing chapter in the story of Toledo Express.

When I moved here in 1994, I flew out of Toledo Express once or twice a month.  US Air, American, Delta, Northwest and  Continental all flew out of Toledo Express.  I bragged to my “big city” friends about parking in the front row, arriving at the airport sometimes just 20 minutes before a flight and still having time to stand in line for a cup of coffee before the plane took off.   I knew all the employees by their first names.  It didn’t bother me that I had to make a connection somewhere…the easy in-and-out was worth it.  The prices were competitive; in many cases cheaper than Detroit to encourage people to fly out of  Toledo.  I could never understand why people would go to all the trouble to drive an hour up to Detroit, pay outrageous prices for parking, fight the crowds and the long lines when I could breeze in and out of  Toledo and get home in 20 minutes.  I was Toledo Express Airport’s biggest fan.   But one by one, airlines have flown the coop, pulling up stakes altogether, or making ticket prices so expensive it just doesn’t make sense.   I still fly once a month, but now I fly almost exclusively out of Detroit Metro. 

JetAmerica’s not the first airline to disappoint Toledo and it probably won’t be the last.  But shame on them.   When JetAmerica charged into Toledo with such fanfare and pie-in-the-sky deals, Toledoans supported them by buying their tickets, and making vacation plans only to be left in the lurch.    Worse: they’ve ruined it for the next airline that wants to offer service.  Burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me, right?   Come on, Port Authority: Toledoans deserve an airport that can offer convenient service at competitive prices.   JetAmerica promised that but it turned out to be pie-in-the-sky.

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9 comments

  1. You’re 100% right. How many vacations did JetAmerica ruin? NY hotel rooms are close to $200 a night even for budget accommodations. I’m sure that for many people, the $9 fare was key to their ability to afford the trip. Where does the shutdown leave them now? What if they booked non-refundable rooms to save money? The Port’s offer of travel agent services doesn’t do them much good, considering that most other fares are $150 each way. And the Port Authority says, “sorry, chalk it up to experience?” That’s a pretty lame response. Shame on JetAmerica, and shame on the Port for not standing up for Toledo passengers!


  2. I wish I could claim surprise when I heard this announced on Channel 11 recently, but I wasn’t. I just wish I could see where the hidden payoff was for them. I mean, come on… $9 fares? The other airlines are going bankrupt and they’re charging $150 or more. I’m no accountant, and I freely admit it, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this whole plan, pardon the pun, would never fly. The conspiracy theorist in me smells a rat.

    I feel for everyone who booked early and were disappointed. I feel for those who planned to use the airline in the future. I especially feel for Toledo in general. We NEED a cheap and reliable air terminal here, with options and good old fashioned competition.


  3. Is it or is it not a Newark issue?


  4. They originally said they were pushing back the start date by a few weeks because they were having issues getting space at Newark. I believe in the end they weren’t able to afford the slots, so they shut down completely.
    Here is The Blade article: http://bit.ly/108bsI


  5. I agree with what you have to say. They have a few issues out there right now and one major one is they don’t have an airports director. Would help if a full time AD was hired.

    One question – how much more would you be willing to pay out of Toledo versus Detroit?


  6. Thanks for the comment. When I fly it’s usually with my daughter so for the two of us we usually save at least $300 to fly out of Detroit. Of course, then it costs me to have a car take me up, or to park at the airport, so that’s not net savings. Factor in also that I usually get direct flights so it saves me time too. I’d be willing to pay $100 more per ticket to fly out of Toledo…but I wonder why we have to? Shouldn’t they be working to make it competitive? What does anyone else think?


  7. I usually say $150-$200 more per ticket is when I am unable to justify it, especially on business. The drive up and parking usually drive up the costs to fly out of Detroit. Plus, I hate the long drive back after a long day of traveling.

    They should try to make the fares competitive, however, that has put Toledo in the position they currently are in. Because Toledo doesn’t have the volume Detroit has, Toledo gets smaller planes. The cost of a Regional Jet versus say an Airbus are actually fairly similar. So, on a per seat basis, the Regional Jet can be twice the cost of the Airbus. In order to make money, the regularly scheduled airlines have to charge a slightly higher amount to fly out of Toledo and has to really limit the amount of lower fares to say 5 or 10 seats. This is why you see airlines like Allegiant or Direct Air only flying a couple times a week. They can fill the bigger planes but limiting the amount of flights they fly. This is a major problem the Port Authority is fighting right now is lower the fares, bring more passengers, but not necessarily bring more profitability. This is why the Port is trying to make parking and other things cheaper, but unfortunately, most people don’t get that.


  8. Maybe the Port Authority should not have kicked AirTran out of here in 2002. It was the Port who gave AirTran the boot. AirTran wanted to stay but were told they had to leave. They had a ton of passengers back then. When AirTran was kicked out the airport seemed to go downhill fast.Maybe they should think twice before telling airlines to leave. It is not just the airlines who are at fault here. The Port is a HUGE part of it. I worked there for several years and saw the nonsense. They Port flies for free with their entire family for free on whatever airline they want whenever they want…must be nice.


  9. Bugs – word! If I remember right it was one specific board member who really ticked them off, same guy who was squawking immediately when Jet America started with issues – Chabler. I heard he gave AirTran an ultimatum to sign some sort of contract and they decided to take a hike. I’m not sure if that’s the way it went down but it wouldn’t surprise me with some of the egos on the Port Board / Airport Committee.



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