JetAmerica, new Ohio-based budget airline launched today

When Skybus folded last year, there were rumblings that it might resurrect but in another form. JetAmerica, a new budget airlines has just launched in Toledo. Is Skybus rising like a phoenix from the ashes? Like Skybus, JetAmerica is borrowing some of Ryanair’s strategies but unlike Columbus’s defunct airline that left behind a hole in airline service and oodles of bills is hoping to avoid Skybus’s folly.

From the description in this article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there is a similarity that is close to what we’ve heard before except one number has been switched for another. Instead of ten $10 one-way seats on each flight, a hallmark of Skybus’s glory days, JetAmerica flights will have nine seats for $9. I hope 9 is a luckier number.

Instead of looking to Columbus for its start, Toledo was picked as a hub because the airport is no longer served by a major carrier ever since Continental pulled the plug on Toledo service last fall.

The addition of JetAmerica to the Toledo skies is welcome news. First off, people won’t have to go to Cleveland to catch a plane and the hope is that the airlines will attract more business which will help perk up Toledo’s economy.

People who live in Lansing, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana and Melbourne, Florida will also benefit from JetAmerica’s venture since they are part of the initial route set-up, as is Newark, New Jersey.

The only way I see JetAmerica working is if there is a real person on the phone for customer service questions, the flights aren’t canceled due to aircraft troubles, thus leaving people stranded because the airline doesn’t have a relationship with any others, and if the other seats’ costs are not as low or as high as Skybus’s were.

As a person who rode on Skybus once, but had plans for future flights, particularly to Newburgh, New York until the airline dissed me, buying tickets felt like some sort of strange game show. Like if I wait, will I get those $10 seats?

On a note that makes me feel hopeful that this time a budget airline launched in Ohio will succeed, JetAmerica’s first two airplanes, 737-800s are to be leased from Miami Air International until it’s clear that the airline will be a success. The flight crew will also be provided. Also, non-stop service from smaller cities is something I do think people will pay for. Tom Barlow, my good friend over at Wallet Pop has his own opinions about JetAmerica and offers more details about the business end of how this airline will work. I have my fingers crossed since Columbus is on the list for future possibilities. I’m hoping for that inexpensive non-stop to Newburgh.

Flights don’t begin until July 13, but you can book now.

Second-tier airports still getting action

Smaller airports may have trouble supporting the needs of large airlines, but smaller carriers are filling in the gaps. Direct Air, for example, moved into Toledo to connect those Ohioans with Myrtle Beach, SC and Punta Gorda, FL – at dirt cheap prices. And, everyone knows that Toledo is a hotbed of trendsetters …

While these smaller airlines do provide service from local airports, saving a long drive and a lot of headache, you do have to make some sacrifices. You know the many flights from Detroit to New York every day? You miss one, there are plenty of others. Toledo, Worcester, MA and other smaller airports don’t offer that luxury. You may only get a few routes a week. This can add a bit of risk to the day of travel, not to mention constrain your plans from the start.

If the convenience of a local airport trumps all, remember to pay for your tickets with a credit card. Not only is it a hell of a lot easier than cash, you’ll be able to get your money back if the airline collapses. With the little guys, this happens from time to time.

10 more ideas for traveling cheaper in 2009

Even though the economic forecast seems to drone on and on as being gloomy, here are more tips for how to travel cheaply. With the beginning of a new year, start using some of these tips and you might find out that travel in 2009 can be less expensive than you thought it might be.

One of my mantras is “Don’t assume.” That means, don’t assume something is expensive until you check out all possible angles. I’ve been surprised over and over in my life how travel is doable and affordable.

1. Plan ahead AND wait until the last minute– I do both. Planning ahead, helps me save for a trip and have enough time to do research. Waiting until the last minute has landed me deals I didn’t expect like cheap tickets to a traveling company Broadway play and to see David Sedaris. I sat in great seats for a fraction of what the people around me had paid. Some theaters offer discounts on the day of a performance. That’s how I bought $25 dollar tickets to Avenue Q. Sometimes, certain days at certain times will be cheaper. Call a theater box office and ask.

2. Buy an Entertainment Book– If you’re going to be traveling to a particular city in the United States, consider buying that city’s Entertainment Book. An Entertainment Book, typically sold by clubs as fundraisers, can be purchased directly from the Entertainment Book website. If you buy one for the city nearest to where you live, there will be a deep discount for the second city purchase–or for both. The book contains coupons for restaurants, movie tickets, museum admissions, art events and other local attractions. After one purchase, the book often pays for itself. It’s also a great way to find out places to visit that you may not have thought of before browsing its pages.

3. Pack snacks – When you travel, pack snacks. Think about buying them ahead on sale and storing them so when you’re heading out the door, you have snacks on hand. That will help you stay fed while seeing sites without spending more money than you planned on. Plus, this will save you time since you won’t have to figure out what or where to eat. When my daughter and I were in Denmark the first part of December, my Danish friend had snacks on hand everywhere we went.

4. Ask for water– Whenever we travel, if we’re stopping at a fast food place, I always ask for a cup of water. Water is free. If you’re traveling on Amtrak, ask for ice. The ice is free and when it melts, you’ll have water. I received that tip from a woman who was traveling with her family from California to New York. She said buying water on the train is expensive, but the snack bar hands out ice for free.

5. When ordering at a restaurant, share– If you are traveling with another person, or as a family, figure out which items you can order to share that will give everyone something he or she wants to eat but will cost you less money. Yesterday, my son and I were eating at the Barn Restaurant at Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio. I noticed that the sandwich plate was $4.99. For $3.99, you could add on one trip through the soup and salad bar. Instead of ordering him the soup, I ordered everything for myself, gave him the soup that came with meal and we shared items from the salad bar and the sandwich. The restaurant was amenable to this arrangement.

6. Ask for the best hotel deal at the front desk before you check in–In November, we stayed at the Millennium Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. When we were checking in, I was lamenting that we had an Expedia reservation since I found out that there were better deals if we had gone through the hotel directly. My dad, who was with us, asked the hotel clerk what he might throw in to sweeten our stay. We were given four continental breakfast vouchers. The breakfast was great. If we had paid, it would have cost us $10 a piece.

7. Don’t assume how expensive travel might be without checking first–This summer I was pleasantly surprised how inexpensive it was to take the train the New York City on Amtrak. I thought the train would have been more expensive than it was. Two weeks ago my mother snagged an airline ticket to LaGuardia for $166. This summer, the same ticket would have cost her almost $400.

8. Don’t assume you won’t be able to use frequent flyer miles for a flight–My daughter and I went to Denmark from Columbus for 50,000 miles each using Northwest frequent flyer miles. I thought we wouldn’t be able to get those tickets until I checked.

9. If you have a discount card, don’t forget to use itAAA is one of those cards I keep forgetting to use for other things besides our car and hotel deals. Two days ago, I was at the Libbey Glass Factory Outlet Store in Toledo, Ohio and saw that they give 10% off for AAA card holders. I saved $1. Hey, it’s something.

10. Go to places on days when there is a discount or a free day– Just today, when we were in Findlay, Ohio at Wilson’s, a family-owned hamburger joint that has been around since 1936, I found out that if you go in on a Saturday with your Wilson’s mug between 7–11 a.m., you can get a free cup of coffee. If we had gone to the Barn Restaurant on Monday night, my son would have eaten for free.

Speaking of coffee. When you travel, bring your travel coffee mug with you. Truck stop type places often will charge you less money if you bring in your own cup.

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Joe the Plumber’s Lucas County Ohio: There are decent things to do there. How about a corn maze and Toledo?

When I heard Joe the Plumber, the guy McCain made his personal friend in Wednesday night’s presidential debate, was from Holland, Ohio, my first thought was maybe there’s something to do in Holland–a weekend getaway perhaps?

Not exactly. Not Holland, per se, but, it’s close to Sarah Palin’s corn maze for some fall fun. Whitehouse is also in Lucas County.

Corn, Palin and Joe Plumber aside, this is a part of Ohio has been on my list of places to go for sometime–Toledo, specifically.

Just this month, Toledo won first place in the America in Bloom Awards for cities of 100,001 or more people. The award is given to a city for its beautification efforts. Toledo must be lush with flower gardens. The Toledo Botanical Gardens would be a place to start to see the floral bounty.

For art lovers, the Toledo Museum of Art recently expanded its weekend hours because visitors had requested more access to this gem of a museum.

Two aspects of this art museum I’ve always been drawn to are the extensive events and art classes offered each month. Some are one day experiences.

A weekend trip to Toledo could include one of these. Make sure you arrive in time for It’s Friday. Each Friday the museum is open until 10 PM. Tours, music and glass blowing demonstrations are part of the fare.

Also, not to be missed is the museum’s Glass Pavilion where the museum’s collection of more than 5,000 pieces of glass art pieces are housed. The pavilion won an award in 2007 for being the best designed museum.

Another Toledo high point that achieved fame with the television series M*A*S*H is the eatery Tony Packo’s Café. Jamie Farr who played Corporal Max Klinger is from Toledo.

His first mention of Tony Packo’s during an episode came with the line “If you’re ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo’s got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs. Thirty-five cents…”

Known for its chili dogs and Sweet Hot Pickles, Tony Packo’s has been serving up Hungarian style food since 1932.

So, one of these days I’ll head to Toledo, but probably not before Palin’s maze is browner than brown. Maybe next year when the spring flowers have bloomed. First stop, Tony Packo’s. I’ve wanted one of those chili dogs for years.

American Eagle pilot tries to amuse his passengers and fails

Passengers on American Eagle flight 4891 from New York’s La Guardia airport en route to Cleveland were already running 2 hours late when the pilot asked the flight attendant to advise the passengers that the aircraft would be diverted to Toledo. The reason given was “an emergency has shutdown Cleveland Hopkins Airport”.

Once the plane landed, passengers whipped out their mobile phones, expecting the need to make plans to get to their final destination, only to discover that the pilot had played a prank on them. There was no “emergency” and the plane has actually landed exactly where it was supposed to be.

Needless to say that some of the passengers didn’t share his sense of humor. American Eagle has confirmed the incident, and claims the matter is now “a personnel issue”. Fingers crossed for the pilot that someone at HQ understands the need for a joke every now and then.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of cockpit pranks before, but I can’t say I’ve ever run into a pilot who tricked his entire plane into thinking they were going to land somewhere else.

What are your thoughts on this? Would you laugh it off, or immediately write a letter demanding one million miles?

(Image source: Flickr/Geir. W)

10 tips for smarter flying