If you are looking for a possible alternative to traditional commercial air travel, ImagineAir — an air taxi company which operates in the southern and eastern United States — is offering FlyerTalk members the opportunity to purchase flights for a single dollar if those flights happen to be “standby” or “empty legs.”
According to the official Internet web site of ImagineAir, an empty leg is defined as a flight used for relocation purposes to facilitate scheduling and maintenance, and that flight initially does not carry passengers — thereby creating an opportunity “to provide a deeply discounted standby program.” ImagineAir claims to have “thousands of empty legs every year.”
A standby is defined as a request to fly as a passenger on flights in seats which would otherwise remain empty. If your flight request matches an empty leg on a flight operated by ImagineAir, the flight can be offered to you as standby at a “dramatically discounted rate.” If your request does not match, you can still pay a modified airfare or full fare to fly on your route.
Interestingly, this statement appears in the frequently asked questions area of the official Internet web site of ImagineAir:
“During our limited trial program, standby flights will be free of charge. When the system goes public, flight legs will cost between $49 and $249 depending on the length of the flight. ImagineAir will also have promotional deals that discount the flights to as little as $1! The cost includes all three passenger seats aboard the aircraft.”
I am not certain at this time as to whether or not the limited trial program is still in effect or if the system has “gone public” as of yet.
There are some potential advantages for this service. For example, being able to drive to a regional airport to catch a flight could possibly mean the following:
No parking hassles at the airport — and perhaps no cost for parking, either
No airport security checkpoint screening, depending on the airport at which you depart
Less time traveling to an airport more convenient for you rather than a major airport
Greater selection of airports within regions — ImagineAir boasts greater than 900 airports to which it serves, with approximately 600 airports within the southeast region of the United States alone
Few to no services and amenities at certain airports
Flights may not always be convenient
What does or does not happen during disruptions caused by inclement weather or mechanical issues
No possibility of earning frequent travel loyalty program miles or points, nor achieving elite status — at least, for now anyway
The Gate reported on an airline known as SeaPort Airlines which offered a somewhat similar service — although it is more of a scheduled commuter airline service rather than an air taxi service. However, some airports served by SeaPort Airlines do require screening at an airport security checkpoint — and the same purportedly applies to ImagineAir.
The only type of aircraft in the fleet operated by ImagineAir is the Cirrus SR22-GTS equipped with interiors appointed in leather, ergonomic seating, air conditioning, XM Radio, Bose noise-cancelling headsets, and a view from every seat — which also features outlets to charge and use your electronic devices during flight.
Hmm…perhaps elite status may not be necessary after all.
However, these aircraft supposedly cruise at 200 miles per hour — less than half of the typical speed of commercial aircraft. On short flights, that really would not matter — but the slower speed could be of some significance on a flight from Greenville, South Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Another potential issue is that the Cirrus SR22-GTS aircraft is quite small — meaning that it may not be able to tackle weather issues which can be handled by larger aircraft, such as strong winds.
I spoke to a fellow FlyerTalk member who has undergone training for flight certification as a pilot. He says that the Cirrus SR22 is a “very, very cool” aircraft and very safe. It cannot fly at altitudes above 17,500 feet, meaning that it cannot fly above storms but rather must fly around them. It can carry a payload of up to 1,200 pounds — which is probably the reason why it can only accommodate up to three passengers. He is excited about the prospect of possibly using the service provided by ImagineAir — although he does not believe that standby and empty leg flights will be all that plentiful.
If that is the case and you want to use this service, these are supposedly the approximate costs equivalent to hourly rates for flying as a passenger with ImagineAir — which are purportedly unaffected by the time of year, extra luggage or empty legs flown:
Approximate Cost Per Hour
Approximate Total Cost
There also may be the scenario where you might get your one dollar flight one-way to your destination but may not get it on your return flight at that price or at the time that you want. In that case, you may need to pay the full fare to return to your originating airport — or you might need to plan an alternative way to return. Also, watch out for any potential penalties or voluntary fees — quoted up front — which may significantly add to the cost of your trip.
ImagineAir expects that the reliability of non-revenue standby flights will be at a dispatch rate of 75 percent to 85 percent. It is unknown at this time as to the exact duration of the offer of flights for one dollar for FlyerTalk members.
Regardless of the potential shortcomings, it appears that ImagineAir has the potential to offer an alternative to commercial aviation which can save time and may even save money, depending on the route, time of day and time of year. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, would you consider using an air taxi service such as the one offered by ImagineAir?