Still on Ground
Published in The Daily Advertiser
(Lafayette, LA) , 02/07/07
For the past nine years, Lafayette businessman Ralston
Champagnie has been trying to get his fledgling airline,
Air Gumbo, off the ground. But when the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks made many Americans fearful of air travel,
Champagnie saw his dream come to a halt.
"It's just been the wrong timing," Champagnie
said Tuesday. "No new airline has been launched
since Sept. 11. It's been really tough for everybody.
But this year is the best year so far to launch it,
because the industry has fully recovered. This year,
the potential is really there."
Under Champagnie's plan, Air Gumbo would include
several Bombardier regional jets and an Airbus for
international service. Flights would take place within
a 2,100 nautical-mile radius from New Orleans, with
in-state flights between Louisiana cites, Champagnie
But Champagnie said what makes Air Gumbo unique
is the Louisiana experience he plans to offer aboard
all flights - namely, serving gumbo and other delicacies
in place of traditional airline food, such as peanuts
and crackers. The company's planes would also sport
paintings of gumbo ingredients.
"This is something that sells Louisiana," Champagnie
said. "We will be the first airline anywhere
where the name and the outside of the plane reflect
exactly what we offer on board."
Champagnie hopes to convince state officials that
his plan could provide an economic boost for Louisiana
and is asking for $50 million from the state to help
get the airline running.
"The economic impact would be tremendous," he
said. "I mean, every time someone sees one of
these planes, they will see Louisiana."