Regions Hampton Roads

Discount airline expects to add flights, workers

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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PeoplExpress is based in Newport News.
Photo by Ted Kitchens courtesy PeoplExpress

Air travelers in the Newport News area looking for low-cost, nonstop flights are in luck now that PeoplExpress is in town.

The original PeoplExpress airline operated from 1981 until 1987 when it was taken over by Continental. “This is a totally separate incorporation of PeoplExpress,” says the airline’s CEO Jeff Erickson, a 40-year veteran of the airline industry.

“We are using Las Vegas-based Vision Airlines to operate flights for up to a year until we get our FAA certification.”

Many smaller cities like Newport News have lost low-cost air service because of consolidation in the airline industry. AirTran, for example, pulled out of Newport News after being purchased by Southwest. Erickson wants to bring service back to markets that are underserved.

“The Peninsula area is very interesting,” he says. “It has business travelers that come here, and it has business travelers that originate from here and fly to other cities. You also have visitors that want to come to Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.” Military families also could be potential travelers, he says.

The carrier currently is flying to Boston, Pittsburgh, Newark, N.J., and West Palm Beach, Fla. It plans to start service to Atlanta, New Orleans and St. Petersburg, Fla., in August. It will fly Boeing 737-400 aircraft operated by Vision Airlines.

The launch of the new PeoplExpress is expected to create more than 100 local jobs initially, growing to 200 by the end of the summer.

Each of the airline’s three 737-400 aircraft have 150 seats – 138 with coach seating and 12 large seats featuring more personal space for a fee. Fares start as low as $76 each way. Customers can choose to fly at a low price with minimal frills or they can opt to purchase extras such as priority boarding, preassigned seating or an upgrade to a large seat.

Erickson’s goal is to offer daily service in all of the markets the carrier serves and to also expand to other cities that have lost service. “People look for a year-round schedule and nonstop flights,” he says, adding that he hopes to re-create the high level of customer service “that the original PeoplExpress was known for.”

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