New Air Service?

I got an e-mail yesterday about a new non-profit air transport service for people with disabilities. They aren?t open for business yet, but it sounds like an interesting concept. It?s kind of like a corporate jet service. They do have a hub and spoke system, but they strongly suggest you fly out of one of their regional airports for the best service.

They use small turbo-prop jets and at the regional airports you can drive on the tarmac and get out of your car right next to the aircraft. I assume this would be in the general aviation area. In any case, if you cannot walk, they use a forklift to lift you and your wheelchair up to the back door. They say you can stay in your wheelchair for the flight, but they had a picture and that looks pretty cramped. They also say that your wheelchair will be transported inside the cabin to prevent damage. It?s pretty much a private plane as it looks like there are only six seats and room in back for a wheelchair. And from what I understand they will only operate within the US.

As far as fares go, they say they will be the same as a traditional airline, but in practice they are actually a bit more expensive. They calculate their fares based on a two-day advance purchase fare which is more expensive than a one-month advance purchase fare. Usually you get higher fares just a few days out, as it?s more expensive to travel last minute.

By way of an example, I just purchased a ticket to travel from Sacramento to Little Rock in May. I paid $262 for the ticket. According to their formula I would pay $862, plus another $100 for traveling from a regional airport instead of one of their hubs. So the total fare would be $962, or roughly three times the price I paid.

OK, not exactly first class rates, but not for the budget traveler either. I see it as an alternative for business travelers or those folks who have more of a budget ? the higher end travelers. In any case, it?s an interesting concept, and I look forward to hearing more about it.

But I can?t help thinking that if the big airlines can?t make a profit these days, how are these guys going to be able to sustain their business? Time will tell I guess. Anyway, it?s an innovative idea.