Will These New Airlines Take Off?

A roundup of four potential highfliers.

Oh, for the early days of deregulation, when upstart carriers lured passengers with low fares and new services. These days, in far too many cities, travelers have far too few options. But a new generation of startup airlines is taxiing down the runway, hoping to change the flight patterns of vacationers and business travelers alike. Here’s a roundup of four potential highfliers.

Airline Flight Plan Business Plan Flying High
National Airlines
Las Vegas-based National Airlines flies to and from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, with service planned for Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Orlando. True to its name, National plans to offer daily nonstops from its home base to most U.S. metropolitan areas. National’s Web site conveniently lets you make both hotel and flight reservations for Las Vegas. Las Vegas plans to add another 10,000 hotel rooms to the 144,000 rooms already available. Any new airline that offers another option for traveling to that city deserves a strong tailwind.
JetBlue Airways
Based at New York City’s JFK Airport, JetBlue flies to Buffalo and Fort Lauderdale. Within three years, the airline hopes to serve 30 cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC. JetBlue hopes to become the Target of the airline industry: It treats every passenger like a first-class customer — and offers fares that are up to 65% less than those of competing airlines. JetBlue reports that its fleet of new single-class, Airbus A-320 aircraft have more legroom, more overhead storage — and 24 TV channels for in-flight viewing. Maybe coach isn’t so bad after all.
Vanguard Airlines
This carrier, headquartered in Kansas City, has 21 flights daily to 10 different cities, including Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis. With five years under its belt, Vanguard is among the oldest of the startup airlines. Although it no longer offers its $1 introductory fare, it is still giving other airlines that serve the Midwest a run for their money. Vanguard understands the special needs of business travelers. It offers executive fares that are fully refundable — and about half as much as the fares of comparable airlines.
Legend Airlines
Although Legend’s startup date is still up in the air, the airline plans to offer direct service from its home base at Dallas’s Love Field to Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Legend’s customers are business travelers who want first-class service at a good price. Its four planes all have 56 corporate-style seats, and each of its gates will soon have carrels where you can plug in a laptop. Legend is facing a lawsuit that would bar it from flying outside of Texas. But not to worry: Legend says that a loophole permits planes with no more than 56 seats to fly out of Love Field to any destination.