Little air carrier quits BWI after one week Jet Express 'shocked' by lack of interest in S.C., Ga. flights

June 04, 1996|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Just one week after beginning daily service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, another discount airline is calling it quits.

Jet Express started flying from Baltimore to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., hoping to capitalize on the popularity of golf and beach resorts in those areas. But company officials said yesterday that a surprising lack of interest is prompting them to scrap the short-lived, public charter air service after today.

"It just shocked us about BWI," said Hank Ernest, a spokesman for World Technology Systems, the Atlanta-based tour operator that owns Jet Express. "We had reports that BWI would be TC great market, particularly for Myrtle."

The airline, which began service at Baltimore May 24, offered one-way fares as low as $69, compared with more than double that on regularly scheduled airlines.

Ernest discounted the possibility that skepticism, stemming from ValuJet Airlines' May 11 fatal crash in the Florida Everglades, had doomed bookings for Jet Express here. Service to Savannah and Myrtle Beach from the seven other cities served by Jet Express has not been adversely affected, he said.

"ValuJet may not have helped, but we absolutely would not attribute this to ValuJet," he said.

Since the debut of low-fare Southwest Airlines here three years ago, several discount carriers, including Air South and Mark Air, have come and gone at BWI. Airport officials yesterday speculated that the new service by Jet Express wasn't marketed well enough.

"It's a charter, instead of a scheduled airline, and therefore not on the computer airline system, which is very instrumental in generating reservations," said Karen Black, an airport spokeswoman.

In addition, Jet Express' schedule -- initially a mid-day departure that was changed to late evening -- was not seen as conducive to some travelers, particularly golfers. Ernest said the airline is changing its departure times in other cities "to be more golfer friendly."

He said the company has arranged for tickets, issued for June 5 to June 9, to be honored by USAir, which flies to Myrtle Beach and Savannah, and by ValuJet, which flies from Washington-Dulles International Airport to Savannah. For those holding tickets after June 9, ValuJet is refunding ticket money. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires public charter services to maintain escrow accounts.

Established in February 1995, Jet Express operates daily flights from Newark, N.J.; Chicago; New York; Boston; Detroit; Cleveland; and Philadelphia to Myrtle Beach and Savannah. Jet Express books and schedules flights, then contracts with Prestige Airways, a charter carrier, to operate the service on Boeing 727-200s.

Jet Express has has applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation to become a regularly scheduled airline.

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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