What do you do as a city when you cannot convince commercial carriers to offer more air service? In the case of Branson, Missouri the answer is somewhat surprising. They’re building their own airline.
The new carrier is named Branson AirExpress and is operating as scheduled charter service to five different cities from Branson: Austin, TX; Shreveport, LA; Des Moines, IA; Terre Haute, IN and Houston, TX.
Map from Great Circle Mapper
The flights will be operated by ExpressJet on 50-seat Embrear ERJ-145 aircraft. ExpressJet is mostly known for operating the vast majority of Continental Express flights and also for their failed efforts to operate as an independent carrier a couple years back.
The routes are all short – 284 to 507 miles – and there is no guarantee that the services will run daily. Actually it is likely that not all the cities will be served daily. I say likely because the news isn’t actually official yet, except for the part where the new website is online and is showing the destinations though not flight schedules yet.
I’m not a huge fan of scheduled charter service. The consumer protections aren’t quite the same as for regular commercial service. There are the usual things like baggage fees ($15 for the first bag, $25 for the second bag) and telephone booking fees ($13.25/person). There is also a $25/flight lap child charge, something that is rather uncommon for domestic US flights. And then there is the fact that, because it is a charter, the “airline” can actually raise the price of the flight as long as it is more than 10 days prior to the flight. Sure, if the fare goes up more than 10% the passenger can cancel, but that’s still a somewhat strange way to structure a plane ticket deal. Other things that the airline can do without recourse? Change the flight time. As long as the new time is within 48 hours of the original scheduled departure the passenger has no recourse. Lots more fun fine print here.
Assuming they can get any customers I’m sure this will be a good thing for Branson. The destinations are in the 6-12 hour driving range and they are all good connections for middle-America folks who want to stay domestic for their travels. It will be interesting to watch this play out.
Hat tip to Dan for the news of the new routes.
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