DALLAS — Two businessmen say they plan to launch a commuter airline service for smokers the same day the federal government begins a smoking ban on flights of less than two hours.
The men plan to form the Great American Smoker's Club on April 22 and avoid the government's smoking ban by charging a membership fee.
For $25 annually or $40 for a family, smokers may join the club and pay the same fares that Southwest Airlines charges to fly from Dallas' Love Field to Austin, Tex., Houston, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Tulsa, Okla.
The club will lease several planes from Las Vegas-based Royal West Airlines, said club President Glenn Herndon, who estimated the start-up cost at $2 million.
'Right to Smoke'
"We want to offer cigarette smokers a choice to continue their right to smoke," Herndon said. "To fly on a plane nowadays, smokers are treated like second-class citizens and must sit on the back rows. When the smoking ban begins, we want to offer smokers an alternative--and, hopefully, make some money."
Herndon said the club's goal is to serve 63 cities from five hubs with 60 planes within two years.
Danny Cuozzo, club vice president, predicts problems for commercial airlines after the ban takes effect.
"When the smoking law goes into effect, there are going to be a lot of people going into the johns to smoke," even though it is dangerous and illegal, Cuozzo said. "More people will probably die from heart attacks because they can't have a cigarette than they will from smoking."
Cuozzo said nonsmokers will be allowed on board, but they will have to be tolerant.