MIAMI — Virginia-based start-up PEOPLExpress will not be back in the air by its original announced date of October 16, according to a statement posted today on Facebook by CEO Jeff Erickson.
The carrier on Sept. 26 said it was temporarily suspending service until October 16 due to a lack of aircraft. The carrier had operated three Boeing 737-400s, but a series of mishaps knocked out two, leaving the airline unable to fly its routes. The airline was supposed to start Charleston-Orlando and Orlando-Newport News flights on October 16.
Erickson said the carrier has signed a tentative agreement with an aircraft provider that will bring its fleet back up to three aircraft, including a spare. But it still has more steps to take before it can resume service, he added.
“Among them [are] some regulatory approvals. In order to ensure that we always have enough planes and crews, we are obtaining approval to operate as an Indirect Aircraft Carrier (known as Part 380),” Erickson continued. “This will allow us to obtain planes from a number of providers if necessary for service stability. We met with the U.S. Department of Transportation this week and we are in the process of providing them with information they requested.”
Thomas Becher, a spokesman for the airline, said the new aircraft might not be 737s. “Our future aircraft will be determined depending on the provider,” he said. “PEOPLExpress will sign with a company that can operate the aircraft and handle the cabin crew under a wet lease.”
As a result, the airline can’t open reservations until receiving DOT approvals, said Erickson. “We therefore cannot commit to our previously announced date to resume service,” said Erickson. PEOPLExpress currently has 70 employees still on the payroll.
Customers with reservations are getting refunds from the airline, said Becher. “At the time, we didn’t provide a number, but we have refunded fares and fees to all affected passengers,” he said. “The bulk of them have received their refunds, even in unused segments.”
“Once we have established a date to resume service, customers with travel dates beginning with the resumption date and beyond will be contacted to offer them the option to rebook their flights for the same dates of travel at the same fare, if they choose,” said Erickson.
When the formation of PEOPLExpress was announced, said Becher, it was touted as a carrier that was filling a niche in the marketplace created by industry consolidation. “Look at the Newport News-Boston route. That was an AirTran market that went away. We see more niches like that available,” he said.