PeoplExpress, a fast growing no-frills carrier of the 1980s, is returning in name only. A new company, wet-leasing planes from another airline, uses the old name and the most of the old business plan to start service soon from Newport News (VA).
But in an erroneous set of conclusions, some are calling the business plan a radical departure from today’s airlines. In fact, the bare-bones, no-frills service offered by the new PeoplExpress was used by its forerunner and is truly the model for today’s Ultra Low Cost Carrier (ULCC), long before Ireland’s Ryanair and the USA’s Spirit Air adopted the model.
You pay for everything: soft drinks, checked baggage, and so on. There have been refinements since then, expanding the fee-based formula of the original PE, but fundamentally the ULCCs of today are based on the PE of yesterday. The new PE simply follows the ULCC approach.
The new PE will wet-lease Boeing 737-400s from a Las Vegas airline, Vision. Jeff Erickson, former CEO of Midway Airlines, Reno Air, Atlas Air and TWA, is the CEO of PE. We’ve known Erickson for more than 20 years. If PE is well-funded (and we don’t know the finances), we believe Erickson can indeed find a niche for the carrier as legacy airlines continue to give short shrift to smaller markets. Newport News doesn’t strike us as an obvious place to headquarter or hub an airline, but this decision was made before Erickson came on board.