Disappearing RJs - and Small Market Service

Posted by William Herp on Mon, Oct 29, 2012

Did you know that you used to be able to board an airliner in Youngstown, OH, and fly to Lancaster, PA? You could also get an airline seat between Bedford, MA, - where Linear Air is based – and Bluefield, WV, or between Tupelo, MS and Santa Fe, NM. It was expensive. It wasn’t necessarily fast, or convenient. But you could buy a ticket for flights between those smallish markets if you wanted – or, more likely – when you needed to.

In fact you could buy tickets for flights between many such “tertiary,” or “third-level” towns and the nation’s big cities, and even between them and most mid-size “secondary” cities, via a more-or-less reasonable change of planes at a big hub. But since oil prices climbed near – and sometimes beyond - $100 a barrel in 2008, more than 100 small U.S. cities that had at least some commercial air service have lost it. (SourceDepartment of Transportation's 2012 assessment of the airline industry)

When oil cost $30 a barrel, the 35- to 50-seat planes airlines operated on such routes – called regional jets, or RJs - could be flown at, or just above the break-even mark. Fares on such routes typically were priced well above the average fare nationwide on a cents-paid-per-mile basis, but there were enough business travelers willing to pay those above-average fares because they had a strong need to check on operations in such places, or to access big markets from smaller towns.

Even after oil went to $50 a barrel and airlines began losing a little money on such routes, they kept flying them. They were hoping that the added revenue of passengers connecting to long-haul flights would offset the direct operating losses the airlines incurred serving those small markets.

But at today’s painfully high oil prices, even that questionable business plan is being abandoned. All four of the big conventional airlines - United, Delta, American and US Airways – that offer RJ service in partnership with regional airlines have been parking their 50-seat and smaller jets. And they’re switching to a smaller number of 70-, 90- and 100-seat jets that would be horribly uneconomic to fly in small markets. So they don’t.

Still, business people need to go to small towns to check on factories, sales offices or clients there. Business people from those small towns still need to go to the big city sometimes to meet with customers, or suppliers, or financiers. And neither group can afford to drive two hours to a mid-size airport, clear security, fly to a hub, change planes, fly to another mid-size town, and then drive a couple of hours to their final destination. Even some non-business travelers have an occasional need to get someplace faster than would be the case if they drive.

Well, Linear Air is tailor made for all such travelers. Okay, not entirely. Our on-demand air taxi service will pick up or deliver customers at almost any of 5,000 airports in the nation – including the really, really big ones if that’s what the customer wants. But Linear Air’s business model – think “Taxi with wings” - is the absolute perfect way for people in a hurry to fly to, from or between small markets.

Service on our fast and safe, four-passenger Eclipse Jets and three-passenger Cirrus props is priced competitively with airline service. That makes Linear Air service less expensive than pure charter service - and waaay cheaper than owning or leasing a corporate jet.  We can save business travelers up to two whole days off a small market trip. And in many cases we can pick up business travelers near their home or office after breakfast and have them home for dinner that night.

So, while losing commercial air service has been a blow to many smaller cities these past few years, they continue to have reliable, affordable air service thanks to Linear Air. And Linear Air flies on your schedule, not ours. I hope you’ll give us a try.

See you onboard. 


Tags: airlines, air taxi, regional jets, regional flight service, regional travel, short-hop flights

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