|By Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 21, 2011--A new charter air carrier that will distinctly link itself by name to Las Vegas and increase the number of seats coming in from the New York market by nearly 50 percent plans to begin operations by summer.
LV Air will fly four nonstop flights a day between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and McCarran International, increasing the number of seats coming into the market from there to 2,495 a day -- nearly the twice the number that come in daily from Reno.
Sean Smith, who formerly worked in the hotel industry and is LV Air's top executive, said the company would fly four leased wide-bodied Boeing 767 jets a day to and from Las Vegas with a mission of moving customers from the populous Northeast to the city's casinos.
"The goal is to fill Las Vegas hotel rooms with players, conventioneers and vacationers from the Northeast by drawing a straight line between the customer at his home to the casino floor and back again," Smith said.
To do that, Smith plans to contract with casino companies to buy seats on the planes and give them to their best customers. The airline would reciprocate by feeding casinos its database of new customers reached in the New York area.
Smith said he has run the business model past several airline executives who have applauded the plan.
Some of his plans have a distinct "only-in-Vegas" feel:
--The airline promises "straight to the room" baggage service. When passengers check a suitcase in New York, they won't have to lug it from the baggage carousel to the hotel. It will be waiting for them in their hotel rooms.
--At flight check-in, passengers will get hotel front desk service, including room keys and have access to a 24-hour concierge line.
--Packages will be available consolidating buffets and show and seating preferences in hotel restaurants. Packages also can include nightclub access, booth preference, entry and bottle pricing.
--Limousine service will be available between the airport and the hotel and between hotel properties and clubs.
--Smart-phone recognition software will be programmed so that front desk, limousine staff and club hosts will know immediately when a guest is within 100 feet of the front desk or entrance.
--In-flight meal packs prepared by Las Vegas chefs will be available on LV Air flights.
--The 18-seat first-class cabin will have fully reclining flatbed seats. Smith said the first-class cabins would be sponsored by casino companies that would design the cabin decor, carpet, uniforms, meals, blankets, pillows and seating upholstery.
--The 182-seat main cabin will have wireless iPads, inter-seat texting and video, Wi-Fi access, club music and mood lighting.
--Onboard safety briefings will given by recorded holographic images of Las Vegas celebrities. Smith said iconic celebrities, living or dead, could present messages with that technology.
Smith, a former executive at Boyd Gaming and a manager for Best Western, said the company's national marketing and brand design is being developed by the New York-based Gotham Group.
He said he has been working to develop partnership agreements with Las Vegas casino companies, hoping to have them completed by the end of May so that the company can begin flying by August.
Because LV Air is a charter carrier and is leasing the aircraft, it doesn't need a Federal Aviation Administration operating certificate. Flights would arrive at McCarran's charter facility at Terminal 2 with early morning, late morning, afternoon and evening arrivals and departures.
He anticipates hiring 50 employees for the airline, but there would be 200 contracted jobs resulting though auxiliary services.
"The way I look at it, there is a window of opportunity after the city lost around 18,000 seats coming into the market when airlines cut flights," Smith said. "Our flights may not be the lowest priced, but definitely the most exciting to Las Vegas."
Ticket pricing will depend on demand, said Smith, who wants to offer seat inventory with casino partners before opening them to the public.
"The goal will be to fill every plane and sell every seat," he said. "The city needs that."
While Smith said he's starting with the New York-Las Vegas route, he hopes that someday LV Air would be able to offer service with the same business plan from international destinations.
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