People Express acquires charter operator Xtra Airways

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Newport News, Virginia-based start-up People Express Airlines has acquired charter airline Xtra Airways, a step that will allow it to start up Boeing 737 operations, the carrier says.

People Express will conduct operations under Xtra Airways' operating certificate, which covers 737 operations. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Boise, Idaho-based Xtra Airways operates a fleet of five 737-400 aircraft built between 1990 and 1993, Flightglobal's Ascend Online database shows. The aircraft are configured with 12 first-class seats and 138 economy seats, the airline's website says.

"The purchase of Xtra Airways fits well into the People Express long term business model," says People Express president Mike Morisi in a statement.

People Express plans to offer scheduled services to Newport News, Orlando, Pittsburgh, West Palm Beach and Providence, the carrier says on its Facebook page. But it appears that it will also offer charter services as well. In the statement, Morisi says it will keep the Xtra Airways brand for its charter services.

"This purchase will help Xtra Airways expand our charter business model, and will benefit our staff in numerous ways," says Lisa Dunn, president of Xtra Airways in a statement. "We look forward to another 25 years of success with People Express."

In March, local reports emerged that People Express had signed a purchase agreement to acquire a charter carrier and returned a 30-day $500,000 loan to economic development authorities in the Newport News region. A month later, People Express' president Mike Morisi confirmed it would firm a purchase agreement for a certificated carrier within weeks, but did not disclose Xtra Airways as the airline.

People Express was a Newark-based low-cost airline that operated between 1981 and 1987, when Continental Airlines acquired the carrier. The new start-up carrier with a shared name was originally scheduled to begin operating in August 2012, but delays in the certification process delayed the process.

People Express and Xtra Airways could not be reached for further comment.