Discount airline PEOPLExpress returns to Pittsburgh

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Discount airline PEOPLExpress, which folded in the late ’80s, is flying again with inaugural flights Monday between Pittsburgh and the airline's new home at the Newport News/​Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia.

The reborn airline, which also will fly daily to Boston and twice-daily to Newark, N.J., hopes to trade on the original company's identity as a no-frills, low-cost alternative for budget-minded travelers, said President and CEO Jeff Erickson.

“It's a redo of an iconic brand focused on low fares,” Mr. Erickson said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the first flight to Newport from Pittsburgh International Airport. “But beyond low fares there was also a culture that focused on customer service, so we're attempting to recreate that.”

The flights will be operated by Las Vegas-based Vision Airlines under the PEOPLExpress name while the carrier continues to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to get its own certification to fly. Introductory fares are $59 each way, with add-ons for baggage and perks.

The first checked bag will cost $20, a carry-on bag will cost $25 for each flight segment, an exit row seat will be $25 each way, and an advance seat assignment is $15 each way.

A “Living Large” seat will be an extra $59 for each flight segment.

The company is evaluating whether to add service to West Palm Beach, Fla., St. Petersburg, Fla., Atlanta and New Orleans, and will decide this fall whether to expand, Mr. Erickson has said.

Travelers such as 53-year-old Linda Waynar of Freeport said they hope the airline promotes itself enough to compete in Pittsburgh. Many people in her office at PPG Industries hadn't heard of PEOPLExpress, or its $59 fares, she said.

Those airfares, she said, made it possible to visit her 21-year-old daughter Madalyn Bergad in Chesapeake for fun, even though she and her husband had just driven their daughter to Chesapeake a month ago to start an internship. Those prices also made it possible for her daughter to fly home with her on Thursday for the Fourth of July weekend, then back to Newport and home to Chesapeake on Sunday, Ms. Waynar said.

Without the 1-hour flight to Newport on PEOPLExpress, she said, the only option previously had been an 8-hour drive that cost more than $200 in gas — more than the $192 she had spent for round-trip airfare plus baggage fees and taxes.

“I hope it lasts and I hope people hear about it and take advantage of it, and that they keep adding flights,” she said. “Pittsburgh needs this.”

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith:

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