Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Life, Old Home for Low-Cost Airline

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Life, Old Home for Low-Cost Airline

Article excerpt

PEOPLExpress is back, if only in name.

The upstart Virginia-based airline, a stylized adaptation of the short-lived, no-frills People Express brand from the 1980s, completed its first flights Monday to Boston Logan, Pittsburgh International and Newark Liberty International airports.

Jeff Erickson, chief executive officer of the new PEOPLExpress, was one of about 100 passengers who arrived at Newark at 9 a.m. on a Boeing 737-400 with a green tail.

"Newark is the home of the original People Express, so we had to come back to Newark," Erickson said in an interview. "It was the first choice."

PEOPLExpress on Monday began running two round trips daily from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport to Newark Liberty. The carrier is flying once daily to Boston and five times a week to Pittsburgh.

Advance bookings are "very strong," said Erickson, who did not share specific numbers. "We only opened reservations 25 days ago. Normally you like to be 90 days in advance. We are really pleased with the level of interest," he said.

The original People Express took to the skies from Newark in 1981, offering cut-rate, no-frills airfares and turning every employee into a manager and stockholder of the company. Catering to backpacking college students and bargain-hunting vacationers, the airline's formula worked for a time, and within five years, it grew from a three-plane operation into the nation's fifth-largest carrier, with flights to most major U.S. cities and some European destinations as well. But by 1986, financial losses had mounted, and the company was swallowed up by Continental Airlines.

The new version, operated by Nevada-based Vision Airlines, also is a discount carrier, offering one-way base fares as low as $56 each way while charging extra for everything from carry-on bags to beverages to seat upgrades. Erickson, a former chief executive at TWA who founded Reno Air in 1990, said he expects to sell a lot of tickets to military personnel headed home on leave.

"The Virginia peninsula is an interesting place," he said. "You have the largest naval base in the world [Naval Station Norfolk], so not only do we have business people and discretionary travelers, but we have the Army, Navy and Coast Guard," Erickson said. …

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