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JetAmerica is focus of government inquiry over fare disclosures

JetAmerica has found plenty of trouble before flying its first passengers.

Last week the startup charter airline headquartered in Clearwater aborted a July 13 launch and angered ticket holders by scrapping a month of flights. The company refunded $650,000 to nearly 6,500 customers.

On Wednesday, a spokesman confirmed that JetAmerica was responding to a "pending enforcement matter" by the Department of Transportation over fare and fee disclosures on its Web site.

JetAmerica's eye-grabbing trademark is the $9 one-way fare. Its home page is dominated by a huge red $9 with an asterisk and the phrase "9 seats for $9 Every Flight. No Exceptions & Not A Gimmick."

Tucked at the bottom in tiny black letters are the extra charges for each flight segment: a $5 "convenience fee" for Web booking, $10 each way for a reserved seat and up to $10.60 in government taxes and fees. Booking a ticket by phone costs a flat $10.

"I am told that the (government) is requiring JetAmerica to better define what that $9 can add up to with all the fees and taxes," wrote spokesman Bryan Glazer in an e-mail.

Last month, JetAmerica was warned that the department might have concerns over the same problem that forced the airline to postpone flights until Aug 14: failure to secure federal approval to fly into a key airport.

JetAmerica created a national stir in May by announcing flights as low as $9 one-way between Newark Liberty International Airport and three cities in the Midwest and Melbourne in Florida. But airlines need reservations, called slots, to fly in and out of Newark, among the nation's most-congested airports.

Days after JetAmerica started selling tickets, the Federal Aviation Administration told company officials they needed to obtain slots at Newark from other carriers. The same message went to Miami Air International, a jet charter firm hired by Jet­America to fly jets under the company's brand.

Miami International warned JetAmerica in writing last month not to offer Newark flights for sale before obtaining slots from carriers operating at the airport.

"The DOT may view such advertising to be 'false or misleading' … without assurance that they can be conducted at those advertised times," wrote James W. Tello, a Washington, D.C., attorney for Miami Air.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

JetAmerica is focus of government inquiry over fare disclosures 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 10:13pm]
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