Independence Air

Independence Air

airline=Independence Air
logo=Independence Air logo.svg
parent=FLYi, Inc.
founded=1989 (as Atlantic Coast Airlines)
headquarters=Dulles, Loudoun County, Virginia
key_people=Kerry Skeen (CEO)
hubs=Washington Dulles International Airport

Independence Air was a low-cost airline, owned by FLYi, Inc., based in Loudoun County, Virginia, United States (near Washington, D.C.) that operated from 1989 until 2006. Its route network focused on the East Coast of the United States, but it also extended to the West Coast. The route network was based at Washington Dulles International Airport.

It ceased all operations at 8:24 p.m. UTC-5 on January 5, 2006. The airline had been in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy since November 7, 2005,Cite web|url=|title=Fact Sheet re 2/98 Cessation of Ops|accessdate=2008-02-20|publisher=Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings|year=2006-02-21] and there had been discussion of a last-minute deal that could save the airline, but that did not happen.


Independence Air started life as Atlantic Coast Airlines on December 15, 1989, operating feeder services as United Express for United Airlines and Delta Connection for Delta Air Lines.Cite web|url=|title=Despite Industry woes, Independence Air Sees Strong Market in Charleston|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2004-11-15|author=Matthew French|work=Charleston Regional Business Journal] After United withdrew the contract when the regional jets would not agree to the concessions it requested, Atlantic Coast reinvented itself as low-cost carrier Independence Air.Cite web|url=|title=Independence Air Ends: No Bang, Some Whimpers|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2006-01-10|author=Joe Sharkey|work=The New York Times] It was announced on November 19, 2003, and operations as Independence Air began on June 16, 2004. At its inception, it was unique among low-cost carriers in that its fleet mainly consisted of 50-seat regional jets, although the airline later introduced larger Airbus A319 equipment. It was based at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and contributed to Dulles' substantial increase in passenger use, bringing one million new customers to the airport in its first three months of operation.Cite web|url=|title=Dulles Among Busiest Airports|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2004-09-30|author=Sara Kehaulani|work=Washington Post] . The airline was also credited with helping to reduce fares to and from the airport.


From the beginning, the airline faced criticism. Some believed that it expanded too quickly, had a poor fleet mix and did not have the resources to compete with the legacy airlines, who despite their own financial troubles, would match the fares offered by Independence. Further, industry experts believed that the reasons behind the airline's failure were not problems with the low-cost strategy, but miscues on the part of airline management.Cite web|url=|title=Independence Air to Shut Down|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2006-01-03|author=Peter J. Howe|work=The Boston Globe] Problems, including flights flying far below capacity, were identified in October 2004,Cite web|url=|title=Delta Flight Plan May Include Bankruptcy|accessdate=2008-02-20||year=2005-10-25] less than six months following the airline's launch as the parent company attempted to avoid bankruptcy. Cite web|url=|title=Flyi's Share Price Continues to Fall|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2004-11-11|work=The Washington Post]

Promotional activities

On May 20, 2004, even prior to its inaugural flight, Independence Air signed a deal [ [ Independence Air scores Redskins sponsorship - Baltimore Business Journal: ] ] with the Washington Redskins to become the official airline sponsor of the team for three years.Cite web|url=|title=Independence Air Scores Redskins Sponsorship|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2004-05-21|author=Jeff Clabaugh|work=Baltimore Business Journal] In the summer of 2005, the airline offered the GLiDE Summer Travel Pass for college students.Cite web|url=|title=Swap That Hall Pass for an Air Pass & Flit About the US from $249 All Summer|accessdate=2008-02-20|publisher=Frommer's|year=2005-04-22|author=Sascha Segan] Upon paying $250, the customer would be able to fly at no cost (after paying taxes & airport fees) from May 1-Aug 31, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Saturdays. This move was meant not to bring in revenue, but to try to fill seats that otherwise would have flown empty. This promotional tool was not enough to prevent trouble, due in part to the airline losing almost $150 million in its two years of operation.

Independence Air became quickly known for the humorous touches it added to the flying experience, such as replacing the flight attendant safety announcements with prerecorded versions of the warnings by celebrities such as James Carville and Mary Matalin.Cite web|url=|title=RDU Welcomes Independence Air|accessdate=2008-02-20|publisher=Raleigh-Durham International Airport|year=2004|work=RDU Update] They also attracted attention from their partnership with the Laugh FactoryCite web|url=|title=What Flies Coast to Coast and Isn't Very Funny?|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2005-08-16|author=Joe Sharkey|work=The New York Times] and the use of former baggage handler Dave George as "the Flyi Guy" — the airline's resident comedian.Cite web|url=|title=I Just Flew in from Cleveland...and, Boy, are My Wings Tired!|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2005-08-18|author=Jayne Clark|work=USA Today]

Independence Air also invested in a fleet of 20 promotional vehicles, dubbed "Jet Trucks". Modified pickup trucks were painted in the airline's livery and featured an aircraft tail attached to the truck's bed. Jet Trucks were featured at all promotional events and activities, where employees would handout information and branded giveaways. Rather than having these vehicles sit in the headquarters office parking lot between events, 10 trucks were allocated for employee use to increase public exposure.


After its emergence as an independent brand name, Independence Air became known for offering very low airfares: as little as $29 one-way to Florida from Washington Dulles International Airport. However, the company never overcame a series of financial problems during its transition and its decline started only six months after its launch.

In February 2005, one of its aircraft was repossessed after the company missed a lease payment,Cite web|url=|title=Repo Man Visits Independence Air|accessdate=2008-02-20||year=2005-02-13] after trying and failing to restructure the lease. Later that year, three more aircraft were sold or repossessed and in November 2005, FLYi, Inc., their parent company, declared bankruptcy. The company cited rising-costs in the airline industry as the reason its low-cost strategy did not succeed.Cite web|url=|title=Independence Air is Banktupt|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2005-11-08|work=Consumer Affairs]

In the intervening months between FLYi's declaration of bankruptcy and Independence Air's cessation of operations, a number of airlines expressed an interesting in acquiring the airline's assets including: Mesa Air Group, United Airlines and Richard Branson. Cite web|url=|title=United Seeks Piece of Independence Air|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2005-12-23|author=Bill Brubaker|work=The Washington Post]

Not finding a suitable buyer in time to keep the planes flying, Independence Air announced on January 2, 2006, that it would cease operations at 7:26 p.m. UTC-5 on January 5, 2006 following a flight from Westchester County Airport in New York. Cite web|url=|title=Final Boarding Call for Independence Air|accessdate=2008-02-20||year=2006-01-02] When the airline ceased operation it employed more than 2,500 staff,Cite web|url=|title=Last Run for Independence Air|accessdate=2008-02-20||year=2006-01-05] many of whom had been with the airline since its inception as Atlantic Coast Airlines. Over its 18 months of operation, Independence carried more than 8 million passengers.Cite web|url=|title=Foggy Morning, Misty Eyes Usher Out Independence|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2006-01-06|author=Bill Brubaker|work=The Washington Post]

On March 10, 2006, Northwest Airlines bought the operating certificate of Independence Air for $2 million to establish a new regional airline. On March 29, 2006, Northwest Airlines reported that Independence Air would be renamed Compass Airlines. The first flight route would be a twice daily service between Washington Dulles International Airport and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport beginning in early June 2006.Cite web|url=|title=NWA Plans June Start for Carrier|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2006-03-30|author=Jewel Gopwani|work=USA Today]


At the time of its shutdown on January 5, 2006, Independence operated 200 daily departures to 37 destinations throughout the United States,Cite web|url=|title=Low-fare Airline to Shut Down Thursday|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2006-01-03|work=St. Petersburg Times] up from 78 flights at its launch.Cite web|url=|title=Independence Air is Off the Ground at Last|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2004-06-17|author=Bill Brubaker|work=The Washington Post]


From the airline's beginning, its flight mix was cited as one of the causes of its financial troubles.Cite web|url=|title=Despite Persistent Criticism, Airline Chief Stayed His Course|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2006-01-03|author=Keith L. Alexander|work=The Washington Post] Independence Air's fleet ebbed and flowed in an attempt to stay in business. Cite web|url=|title=Independence Air Cuts Fleet to Stay Airborne|accessdate=2008-02-20||year=2005-02-23] In February 2005, the airline cancelled the lease on more than 20 Bombardier CRJ200 jets and British Aerospace Jetstream 4100 turbo-prop planesCite web|url=|title=Independence Air Pares Fleet|accessdate=2008-02-20|year=2005-02-22|author=Jeff Clabaugh|work=The Business Review (Albany)]


External links

*wayback||Independence Air official website

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