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Niche Airlines Profit As Security Tightens

August 21, 2006 By: Dan Butcher Travel Agent

Fledgling business-class-only airlines Eos Airlines and MAXjet Airways are benefiting from chaos at the U.K.'s major airports, winning customers that they intend to keep, The Wall Street Journal reports. Because the pair carry fewer passengers per flight and can make better use of the fast-track security system than major airlines, Eos and MAXjet have been able to avoid many of the problems other carriers have faced in recent weeks. Both airlines say they have had a strong increase in bookings since Aug. 10, when the U.K. government announced unprecedented security at the country's airports in the wake of a foiled terror plot to blow up planes flying between the U.K. and U.S. Tightened security measures—including a ban on all liquids and an initial complete ban on hand luggage that was relaxed Monday to allow laptop-size hand luggage—caused confusion at London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, resulting in hundreds of cancellations and major delays at the U.K.'s busiest airports. Unlike traditional carriers such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines, MAXjet and Eos offer such services as curb-side pickup and personal escorts through check-in and security. Eos and MAXjet use the check-in system, known as fast track, that is used by all carriers to speed through business-class and first-class passengers. Fast-track passengers check in at specially designated desks, avoiding the economy-class crowd. Fast-track passengers also use a separate security gate, although all carry-on restrictions are applied equally regardless of flight class. On traditional airlines, however, passengers using fast track still have to wait for economy-class passengers to board before the plane can take off. Since Eos and MAXjet don't carry economy class, their passengers get the full benefit of the fast-track system. MAXjet, based in Dulles Virginia, runs flights between Stansted and Dulles and between Stansted and New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. Eos, based in Purchase, New York, has one route: Stansted-JFK.

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