- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Independence Air started selling tickets yesterday for flights out of Washington Dulles International Airport as it seeks to dominate the region’s low-fare market.

By the end of the summer, it plans to be the biggest airline operating at Dulles Airport with 300 flights to 35 destinations in the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast.

“Instead of going the way of bankrupt airlines, we are going our own way,” said Kerry Skeen, Independence Air’s chief executive officer, during an opening ceremony downtown yesterday.

Independence Air is being formed from the holdings of Atlantic Coast Airlines, the former business partner of United Airlines. A contract dispute ended their relationship in April, giving birth to Independence Air as a new low-fare airline. Atlantic Coast plans to change its name to Flyi Inc. later this year.

Many of the 87 jets in Independence Air’s fleet previously flew for United Airlines as Atlantic Coast aircraft.

One-way fares on the low-fare airline range between $39 and $178, not including roughly $10 in airport fees and taxes. Independence Air will start with 39 flights on June 16 and add more throughout the summer.

The fares eliminate additional costs for last-minute “walk-up” tickets and do not require a Saturday night stay to get cheaper rates.

Some of the routes will compete with large airlines, or network carriers, such as United Airlines and US Airways. United Airlines is operating in court-supervised bankruptcy protection, while US Airways is trying to avoid another bankruptcy.

Independence Air’s routes announced yesterday include flights to New York City, Boston, Chicago and Atlanta.

United Airlines officials say they are not intimidated by competition from Independence Air.

“Regardless of what others may do, United will remain a competitive force in Dulles,” spokesman Jason Schechter said.

Independence Air’s business plan includes a move to provide frequent service to many midsize cities that airlines typically overlook because they provide too few passengers. The cities include Rochester, N.Y.; Manchester, N.H.; Dayton, Ohio; and Charleston, W.Va.

Company officials believe they can corner the market on the midsize cities by flying relatively small Bombardier regional jets.

“You only have 50 seats to fill,” said Eric Nordling, Independence Air’s vice president of marketing.

Airline officials say they can break even with 31 passengers but expect to carry an average of 35 per flight.

Later this year, they plan to start adding 27 larger Airbus A319 airplanes to their fleet for long-distance flights to the West Coast and Florida.

Dulles officials said Independence Air provides a welcome supplement to the airport’s array of long-distance and European flights by network carriers.

“We’ll have a variety of choices for our passengers,” said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Dulles Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Independence will be joining low-fare carriers JetBlue, Frontier, America West and AirTran.

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