This was in the Charlotte Observer newspaper today...
"For the first time in three years, a low-cost, low-fare airline is set to begin service to Charlotte.
Aviation sources say Southeast Airlines, a 2-year-old Largo, Fla.-based charter carrier, will fly
from Charlotte to Atlanta and St. Petersburg, Fla., starting Oct. 26.
The airline will use DC-9 jets seating about 110 passengers and will offer a single round trip to
each city six days a week, the sources said. Atlanta is the most popular destination for Charlotte
passengers, while little-used St. Petersburg-Clearwater International offers an alternative to
busy Tampa International.
Southeast will operate as a "public charter," rather than a scheduled airline, a transportation
department classification requiring that its ticket revenues are placed in an escrow account until
the flight is completed.
"Charters are canceled every so often, and this protects passengers until the flight has taken
place," said Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley.
Airline spokesmen and Charlotte/Douglas International Airport declined to comment
Wednesday. The airline's schedule and fares were not available. US Airways' Charlotte-Atlanta
fares in late October range from $214 round trip to $778, while Charlotte-Tampa fares ranges
from $182 to $960.
Southeast's owner and president is Thomas Kolfenbach, according to Transportation
Department records. Kolfenbach is an industry veteran who previously ran Largo-based Sun
Jet. Started in 1993, it offered $69 flights between Newark, N.J., and Florida destinations.
It expanded until 1996, when Kolfenbach sold it. When Sun Jet faltered and filed for
bankruptcy court protection in 1998, Kolfenbach repurchased it and reorganized it as Southeast
Southeast has been operating as a charter carrier, offering flights for Biloxi, Miss., vacationers
as well as for the White House press corps and college sports teams.
Charlotte/Douglas is a hub airport for US Airways, which carries more than 90 percent of the
airport's passengers and generally sets fares. The airline declined to comment Wednesday.
Last year, anger over high US Airways fares prompted the creation of a mayor's task force to
explore ways to increase competition in Charlotte. Airport officials plan to visit several low-fare
carriers, but little-known Southeast was not among them.
The last time a low-fare airline operated in Charlotte was 1997, when ValuJet flew a
Charlotte-Atlanta route for three months.
Passengers stayed away, deterred by memories of the airline's May 1996 crash near Miami and
by tough competition, including fare reductions and more convenient scheduling, by Delta Air
Lines and US Airways.
Often, small carriers try to serve major markets but pull out when major carriers, which already
offer more frequent service, cut selected fares.
Passengers tend to stick with the major airlines, where they are generally members of
However, there are exceptions when carriers are so small and offer such limited service that
majors don't consider it worthwhile to compete aggressively.
"Maybe these guys can slip under the radar screen," said veteran airline industry analyst Morton
Beyer. "That's quite possible in Atlanta, and St. Pete is a thin market, an alternative to Tampa,
where nobody has really made a success of it so far.
"But usually, the guys who have a chance in this business have millions of dollars to spend,"
Beyer said. "A guy with a few old airplanes and no marketing budget faces an uphill fight."