Start-up airline promising the earth to get to the skies

No baggage fees, free Wi-Fi and low fares across the US – is this the start of the next phase in plane travel or just another flight of fancy?

Dobrolet Airlines goes out of business. Image by fsse8info / CC BY-SA 2.0

Avatar Airlines aims to offer low fares, free baggage and no Wi-Fi fees to get support. Image by David Becker / CC BY-SA 2.0

The above claims come from a new start-up airline company that has tried for over two decades to get off the ground – and largely failed to do so.

In a previous existence, it was known as Family Airlines but found itself barred three times by US flying authorities, who subsequently initiated a fraud suit against its CEO.

This time it reappears under a new name – Avatar Airlines - which is looking to raise $5 million through crowdfunding in its bid to take off.

It is pinning its hopes of success this time by pledging low fares on major US routes and hope that the other twin attractions of no baggage or Wi-Fi fees will attract new customers.

As part of its crowdfunding enticement, the airline claims it will accept donations of between $5 and $9750 on its website.

There is the added prospect for those who donate $5000 - they are guaranteed to get an interview for the post of captain if they are interested. If someone stumps up $3500, it will ensure they get an interview for a first officer’s role, though Avatar stresses that getting to the interview stage don’t necessarily assure you of a job. The company says that there will be minimum requirements for prospective pilots.

The MailOnline.com reports that Avatar envisages undercutting competitors  by seriously reducing ticket prices. For instance, they claim it will only cost $79 to fly between Los Angeles and New York while a trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles will only set a passenger back $19. It will cost just over double that figure for a flight journey from New York to Miami.

By undercutting its competitors, Avatar says it will enable people to fly who previously have never been on a plane.

At present, it is waiting to get approval from the US Department of Transport and the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to commence operating as a commercial air carrier. A sticking point with the authorities however, could be its past record.

Twenty two years ago the FAA refused to give the then Family Airlines approval, and then the Department of Transport forced chief executive Barry Michaels to step down from the proposed airline.

Seasoned observers believe that the legacy of these and other incidents will make it difficult on Avatar to get to lift off this time around.

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