PeoplExpress, the startup carrier based in Newport News/Williamsburg Airport in southeastern Virginia, acquired Idaho-based Xtra Airways to pave the way for its launch as a low-fare carrier serving secondary markets currently underserved by major carriers.

If the name rings a bell, it should. It’s the same as the no-frills carrier that flew domestic and international routes back in the ’80s before it was acquired by Continental (now United).

The new PeoplExpress arrived on the scene in February 2012 with very preliminary announcements of service to Pittsburgh; Providence, R.I.; and Orlando and West Palm Beach, Fla., pending government approval.

It filed an application at the Transportation Department (DOT) a month later, but financing snags and regulatory delays have kept the fledgling carrier grounded since then.

However, the recent purchase agreement between PeoplExpress and TEM Enterprises, operator of Xtra Airways, not only gives the company five 737-400 Xtra aircraft but the all-important FAA certificate required to operate as an airline in the U.S.

“This is a great foundation for what we want to do,” said PeoplExpress President Mike Morisi.

PeoplExpress still needs to undergo a so-called “fitness review” at the DOT before it can implement its plan to operate scheduled service.

Morisi said he plans to maintain and develop the Xtra brand along with the PeoplExpress brand.

“At this time it makes perfect sense to continue the Xtra brand for our charter service model,” Morisi said.

PeoplExpress currently has 170 employees, including those from Xtra Airways, and will be adding “several hundred more,” according to Morisi.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.


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