Thursday, January 8, 2009

Airline Proposes Selling Flights By The Minute

A start-up South African airline is hoping to cash in on the struggling economy by selling flights by the minute.Airtime Airlines is borrowing its model from the the cellphone industry and instead of charging customers a flat fee for a flight, it is proposing to charge customers by the length of the flight.Travelers purchase minutes much like they would for a prepaid cell phone and redeem them for a ticket, according to Business Day. 

Passengers can also bank minutes and "top off" their accounts, allowing them to possibly purchase flight minutes at a lower rate and use them at a later time when the minutes are more expensive. Of course, there's also the chance that the minutes could be cheaper later on and end up costing the passeneger more.Vino Eargambram, the airline's chief executive officer, told Business Day that Airtime is "a low-key operation targeting a very distinct market -- young professionals and self-employed business people." 

But the airline -- which is slated to launch later this month -- has yet to get off the ground and still needs to clear several regulatory hurdles and find some aircraft to fly after a deal for three Boeing 737s fell through.Other discount airlines are doing whatever they can to retain business. Cebu Pacific of the Philippines said it will remove fuel and insurance surcharges for all domestic flights, and in December JetBlue offered passengers bonus points for their rewards program when traveling with their small dog or cat.

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