Low-cost startup plans to offer $9 fares

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Former Skybus boss John Weikle is in charge of a new low-cost airline scheduled to start in July. The airline plans to connect to a half dozen U.S. cites under the name JetAmerica.

JetAmerica is starting with a single Boeing 737-800 the company has leased from charter company Miami Air, which is providing the flight crews.

Weikle expects to add a second plane in the first month, building the fleet to as many as four by July 2010, essentially adding one 189-seat jet every four months.

The real attraction for this airline, Weikle said, will be the price. The airline’s website features fares starting at $9 and going as high as $199.

The $9 price applies to the first nine to 19 seats on each plane. Passengers will pay a $15 fee for each checked bags and extra for food, drinks and in-flight TV.

JetAmerica will charge an additional $20 for a round-trip with an assigned seat, $20 to buy a ticket by phone and $10 to book on the web. It will not try to generate traffic through travel agents or online travel search providers.

The airline will launch service from four U.S. cities: Toledo, Ohio; South Bend, Ind.; Lansing, Mich.; and Melbourne, Fla. The cities waived airport fees and agreed to assist with marketing and advertising to help subsidize JetAmerica.

Weikle estimates the company will make $50 million its first year and $150 million the second.

"They are on a shoestring," said analyst Vaughn Cordle of AirlineForecasts. "There’s a glut in the supply of aircraft right now, so they can get one easily, especially with a wet lease like this one. That airplane can always be repossessed very easily."

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