Louisiana's Culter in the Sky Ait Gumbo
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Air Gumbo 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 said.

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."

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