Airlines scramble to grab market share following Independence Air’s bankruptcy |

Airlines scramble to grab market share following Independence Air’s bankruptcy

Derril Holly

WASHINGTON – Several airlines are stepping up efforts to fill the void created by the bankruptcy of Independence Air.Less than 12 hours after pilots parked the last of the now closed company’s jets at Washington Dulles International Airport, at least four carriers were promoting sales or expanded service.Some were offering flights from the National-Capital region’s three major commercial airports as low-cost options for passengers searching for cheap fares.”We’re starting up to six flights daily from Dulles to Boston on January 17,” said Jenny Dervin, a spokeswoman for JetBlue Airways Group Inc. While the service expansion was announced in November, Dervin said the company has decided to reintroduce a $25 one-way fare on the new route.The tickets must be purchased by Jan. 10 for travel by Feb. 15.”A lot of people in this market book at the last minute,” Dervin said.At Southwest Airlines Co., which serves the Washington, D.C. area from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, officials were hoping a $49 one-way fare sale launched Friday would tempt leisure travelers. The sale prices are part of a systemwide promotion by the Texas based carrier.Independence Air’s fleet of 42 planes – 12 132-seat Airbus A-319 jetliners and 30 smaller 50-seat Bombardier CRJ jets – are now parked in hangers or on storage tarmacs at Dulles. The aircraft, which accounted for 23 percent of the daily departures at Dulles, are awaiting liquidation with other company assets subject to the approval of a federal bankruptcy judge.Under federal law, airlines are allowed to charge a $50 standby fee for honoring the failed airline’s tickets.The company filed papers this week seeking permission to refund fares to customers for outstanding tickets.”Some carriers were charging for that standby, we did not,” said Angela Vargo, a Southwest spokeswoman.”We’re lowering costs in our East Coast shuttle markets,” said Phil Gee, a spokesman for US Airways Group Inc., formed by Tempe, Ariz.-based America West Airlines’ acquisition of the old US Airways last year. Fares from Washington to Boston and New York LaGuardia have been cut by 40 percent.US Airways, which serves Dulles, BWI, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, have adopted the America West ticket pricing policies to position the US Airways brand as a low-cost carrier. The Saturday night stay required for discounts on many so-called legacy carriers has been eliminated.Fares to about 20 destinations from Charlotte, N.C., Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were reduced on Thursday by 40 percent to 60 percent. The reductions are designed to provide lower cost fares to cities like Syracuse, N.Y and Buffalo, N.Y., both former Independence Air markets.Spirit Airlines, which serves National Airport outside of Washington, is investigating the possibility off adding discount service to some markets formerly served by Independence Air.”We have reached out to let customers know the great deals we have so they can give us a try,” said Lynne Koreman, a Spirit spokeswoman.Vail, Colorado

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