New low-cost BWI carrier flies to South Jet Express targets Ga., S.C. destinations

March 29, 1996|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Low-cost carriers come and go at BWI. This time, another one's coming, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head, S.C.

Starting May 16, Jet Express, a regularly scheduled charter service, will begin offering nonstop flights from Baltimore to Savannah every day except Tuesday, for as low as $69 one way. The fares are unrestricted, with no Saturday stay-over or advance ticket purchase requirements. Tickets are nonrefundable, but can be changed for a $25 fee.

Not every seat is $69, however. Depending on availability, Jet Express fares to Savannah could climb as high as $129 one way, or $258 round trip.

But that's comparable to the lowest advance-booking fares currently offered by major carriers in the Baltimore-Savannah market.

Jet Express is a public charter air service that books and schedules flights. It contracts with Prestige Airways to operate the service on Boeing 727-200s. Jet Express has applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation to become a regularly scheduled airline.

As a charter service, it is not listed on the computer systems used by travel agents.

Since February 1995, Jet Express, a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based tour operator World Technology Systems, has been providing low fares and nonstop flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., from Newark, N.J., Chicago, New York, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Savannah, an hour's drive from Hilton Head Island, will become the company's second destination. It plans to begin flying nonstop to Savannah from Newark and Chicago-Midway as well.

Jet Express officials say they target tourist destination cities where air service has been cut, fares are too high or there's no nonstop service. They also conduct extensive market surveys to assess demand for the flights.

"Baltimore is one of the top markets for people wanting to go to Savannah and Hilton Head," said Hank Ernest, a spokesman for Jet Express.

The company says its low-cost flights boosted the number of passengers flying into the Myrtle Beach airport by 80 percent in 1995 and forced other airlines to reduce their fares.

Tony Stork, a BWI spokesman, said Jet Express could push fares down slightly, particularly because there is no other nonstop service to Savannah from Baltimore and Washington airports.

Mr. Ernest said Jet Express is studying possible direct flights from Baltimore to Myrtle Beach.

World Technology Systems, Jet Express' parent, was founded in 1993, with eight employees. It has since grown to a $120 million-a-year business with more than 600 employees, Mr. Ernest said.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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