VLJs "Irrelevant" To Airlines, Says Crandall

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One of the airline industry's most colorful and successful players this week said what many expect will be a coming onslaught of very light jets (VLJs) won't have an impact on scheduled carriers. Former American Airlines Chairman and CEO Robert Crandall yesterday said during a conference call with investors that the "per-seat, on-demand" transportation made economically possible with VLJs will be "irrelevant" to the major airlines. Although many observers have been saying the same thing for months, and Crandall's credentials make him one to whom it's worth listening, his position as chairman and chief executive of Pogo, one of the start-up companies hoping to make it big with VLJs, may blunt the impact. Stratford, Conn.-based Pogo -- like DayJet -- hopes to soon begin service using VLJs to "offer the convenience and personalized service of traditional private jet travel at affordable rates and with a consistent customer experience." The company hopes to begin service in 2008, using Adam Aircraft A700 AdamJets, to locations throughout the northeast U.S.

The extent to which, if any, VLJs will impact the airlines and the U.S. air traffic control system is as the root of the airline industry's call for user fees, especially on non-scheduled flights. But Crandall -- who once famously told Time magazine, referring to the scheduled airlines, "This industry is always in the grip of its dumbest competitors" -- is now wearing another hat. "The impact of companies like Pogo on the airlines is irrelevant. Even if we succeed five times as well as we hope to succeed, we won't move enough passengers for the airlines to notice," Crandall told investors on the conference call, according to Air Transport World. Crandall's legacy in the airline industry includes creating the first frequent-flyer program, pioneering computerized reservation systems and yield management, and giving good quotes.