Timing is everything, says People Express Airlines CEO Jeffrey Erickson.
Sitting in his spare office at the company’s headquarters on Bland Avenue in Newport News, Virginia, Erickson said the company has lined up morning and evening slots at Newark International Airport, which serves the New York region, for nonstop flights. But all depends on “the timing of funding” he said more than once. If funds were finalized this week, the airline could be flying by June.
“When we receive a sufficient amount of money, it’s probably a six- to eight-week cycle to be up and running,” he said. “Sometime early in the cycle we will be opening reservations.”
The fledgling airline announced on its Facebook Page on Feb. 14 that it is accepting applications for pilots and first officers, and on Monday added a post adding mechanics to the potential jobs. But Erickson said the company is not yet ready to start interviewing people. “We’re building a pool,” he said.
Erickson said he is talking to people daily to line up funds the airline needs to obtain planes, hire personnel and launch daily flights.
“Planes are not a problem,” he said. Nor will staffing be a problem, he added, calling the application pool thus far “strong.” But lining up planes and hiring people takes time, so the company is beginning the application process.
Erickson is familiar with the process of launching new airlines and with managing established carriers. He joined People Express in October 2013 as CEO, with prior experience that included guiding Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings through bankruptcy, managing Trans World Airlines in the mid-1990s and helping launch Reno Air in the early 1990s.
In December 2013, he also became president of People Express, after founder Michael Morisi resigned the position.
Erickson said the airline would begin service with one or two planes to Newark, and likely add nonstop service to Boston. Other potential destinations include Pittsburgh, Atlantic City and at least two cities in Florida.
Newport News lost its direct flights to New York and Boston when AirTran pulled out in 2012.
Erickson said the company is not considering operating as a charter airline. “We intend to be a scheduled passenger operation with at least two flights daily.”
Erickson said AirTran’s history shows the region will support nonstop flights to New York and Boston out of Newport News. He said the company will offer low fares similar to those of AirTran, and will serve a range of passengers, from business to leisure to military. He noted Concourse A at the Newport News airport can handle five planes at a time.
“I can see us filling that concourse,” he said.
In addition to securing money to begin flights, Erickson said he has addressed what he called “legacy issues,” including delinquent state and federal taxes. Erickson said the company is current with the state and working with the federal government to pay those back taxes.
Asked about the company’s efforts to buy Idaho-based Xtra Airways, a charter airline, Erickson said the project is “on the back burner.” His focus is nailing down funds to start flights.
“I was brought in to get us over the goal line, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
Cathy Grimes can be reached at 757-247-4758. ___