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Air Gumbo to Spice-up the Rebuilding of New Orleans
01/31/06

LAFAYETTE, LA – Even after Hurricane Katrina, potential employees continue to post résumés to Air Gumbo’s website like never before. “Since the year started, we have had more than a hundred and fifty percent increase in applicants posting resumes. That’s a pretty amazing show of confidence in Air Gumbo, considering that the year has just begun,” states Ralston Champagnie, CEO of New Orleans’s–based upstart airline, Air Gumbo.

Air Gumbo formally motioned to support Virgin America’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) earlier this month. According to Champagnie, although Virgin America announced that it would offer service from San Francisco to New Orleans, Virgin America would not have any significant competitive effect on Air Gumbo. Like Virgin America, Air Gumbo’s intention is to establish a strong design-centric brand in the U.S. airline industry. “Our experiential brand is unique in that it mirrors the uniqueness of New Orleans and its culture. When Virgin America enters the market, they will certainly shake-up the troubled legacy carriers and further fragment the market,” states Champagnie. All legacy carriers supported Continental Airline’s motion to DOT seeking to halt Virgin America’s application process.

“ Our biggest disappointment in 2005 was with the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LED),” said Champagnie. Air Gumbo provided LED with a comprehensive business plan, which included a DOT application and a family assistance plan. Also included in the plan were actual aircraft performance analysis and economic data, provided by Bombardier Aerospace's airline marketing department, of Air Gumbo’s intended route structure and frequency, etc., as well as Air Gumbo's strategic marketing plan containing detailed cost and revenue assumptions, as required by the DOT’s economic fitness standards.

In spite of that, and in spite of the fact that Air Gumbo has an excellent working relationship with Bombardier, LED’s secretary, Mike Olivier, said the agency did not have the capacity to evaluate Air Gumbo’s business plan. Mr. Champagnie blasted the secretary’s statement as anti-entrepreneurial, unprofessional and anti-economic development, since LED had the plan for close to four months. “That statement reflects the leadership of LED. The LED staff that evaluated Air Gumbo’s business plan claimed it’s a actionable model,” states Champagnie.

Air Gumbo’s business model, which focuses on using newer generation regional jets, is unlike the failed Independence Air’s model. “We would serve the entire state of Louisiana with point-to-point air travel, rather than offering point-to-point from a major metropolitan city,” states Champagnie. Many airline industry experts would agree that the 70– to 100–seat regional jets would reshape the U.S. market place. This is because the cost per trip (for a one- to one-and-a-half-hour flight) to operate a CRJ900 is approximately a little over one-third the cost to operate the larger B737. “Most tourists that visit Louisiana are originating from cities that are within an hour and a half away, and that’s Air Gumbo’s primary target market. That’s the kind of business plan we presented to LED”, according to Champagnie. Latest trends indicate that regional airlines are very profitable.

One thing that differentiates Air Gumbo’s “one-frill” business model from those of the common “no-frill” regional airlines is its food. Air Gumbo plans to offer distinctive Louisiana cuisine, such as gumbo and jambalaya, onboard. In recent years, many airlines eliminated food from their regional flights. Now many are bringing it back after recognizing its utility as a competitive advantage.

Air Gumbo is proud to have proactively included a scenario analysis addressing a situation like the aftermath of Katrina in Air Gumbo’s business plan. “It not only reflects the serious thinking behind our plan, but also shows why we had to launch our secondary operation at Baton Rouge and Shreveport concurrently with our main operation at New Orleans.” Both Baton Rouge and Shreveport have seen significant population growth in the aftermath of Katrina.

Even before Hurricane Katrina, Air Gumbo’s website spoke of the company as being an economic engine moving the state towards greater self-reliance. However regrettable, it seems sometimes it takes an event such as Katrina for these benefits to become evident. In the rebuilding of both New Orleans and Louisiana’s economy, which heavily depends on tourism, no one can deny the economic benefit that Air Gumbo would contribute to the process. Air Gumbo would extend tourists’ Louisiana experience, thus maximizing the utility of their travel dollars.

With a sound business model, Air Gumbo appears to be well positioned for success. Based on the following post from its January 16th Hot Flash on AviationPlanning.com, The Boyd Group, a consultant and forecaster for the aviation industry, apparently agrees. “As for service standards, Air Gumbo is reaching back, way back. Again quoting their website: ‘...Air Gumbo is a gumbo-like mix of airline models: a cup of Braniff, a dash of People Express ...’ … That oughta get investors banging on Air Gumbo's front door.”

Air Gumbo is a worthy idea that deserves attention, patience, investment and nurturing to establishing it as a profitable business and benefit to Louisiana communities. It appears Air Gumbo is at the forefront of a new creative economy.

About Air Gumbo - Air Gumbo, Inc., d/b/a Air Gumbo, is a low-cost, low-fare, one-frill airline. With a design-centric culture and experiential branding, the carrier would serve Louisiana directly to destinations within the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America. Its motto is “Louisiana’s culture in the sky” and Air Gumbo’s invited guests would be treated to a Louisiana party.
Please visit www.airgumbo.com for more information or call Air Gumbo’s Information Center at (337) 781-0034. Email inquiries can be sent to media.relations@AirGumbo.com.

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