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It’s been a two-year slog for PEOPLExpress as it struggled with funding, but now the iconic brand gets a chance through a partnership with Vision Airlines. With a handful of flights, PEOPLExpress has little in common with the aforementioned People Express.
Hampton Roads will have a new low-cost airline offering daily flights starting at $76 from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport to Newark, N.J., Boston and Pittsburgh beginning June 30, officials announced.
The airline will be doing business as PEOPLExpress but will be operated by Vision Airlines, a Las Vegas-based carrier that began in 1994. PEOPLExpress CEO Jeff Erickson said service will expand throughout the summer, with flights to West Palm Beach, Fla., starting July 15, to Atlanta starting Aug. 1 and to New Orleans and St. Petersburg, Fla., starting Aug. 28.
A crowd of supporters and politicians, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, gathered at the Newport News/Williamsburg airport to celebrate the announcement.
“We’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said Sharyn Fox, a Newport News resident. “When AirTran deserted us they left a hole here.”
Tickets will go on sale by the middle of next week, Erickson said. He said travelers can visit flypex.com for more information, or call 1-844-4FLY-PEX.
The launch of service follows more than two years of efforts by PEOPLExpress to start a low-fare service from the Peninsula.
Officials encountered delays in raising the necessary capital and obtaining a federal certificate to operate as a carrier. Erickson, who joined the staff last October, said he put the focus on securing a partnership with an existing certified carrier when he came on board, so they could start services sooner.
He said PEOPLExpress will continue to pursue its own certification but that working with Vision will allow them to establish themselves and prove the demand is there. The initial $76 one-way fare is a special price for the opening month.
After that it will revert to the company’s “established fares,” which Erickson said haven’t been published yet. He declined to say what they would be.
“They’ll be cheap,” he said. The service will rely on three Boeing 737s from Vision that seat 150 passengers, he said.
Baggage fees will be $20 for the first bag and $25 for the second.
The unveiling today was supposed to include one of those planes remade in the PEOPLExpress logo, but it was delayed on its trip from Mexico, where it was held up at customs, according to a spokesman for the company.
It was scheduled to arrive early this afternoon. ___ For an update, return to PilotOnline.com and read tomorrow’s Virginian-Pilot. ___