Scheduled Air Steps In For Charter Vacations

Courtesy Michelle Baran
USA3000 will be winding down operations in early 2012

Slowly but surely, vacation packages that once relied on charter flights to shuttle travelers based in smaller markets to fun-and-sun destinations are being replaced with packages bundled around scheduled flights.

In the past, companies like Vacation Express, Apple Vacations and Worry-Free Vacations relied heavily on chartered aircraft to deliver travelers in markets underserved by regional or national carriers to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.

But slowly, scheduled carriers have picked up the slack and have gradually added more flights from second- and third-tier markets in the U.S. to these popular vacation spots.

The Edina, Minn.-based Worry-Free Vacations, for instance, was once a vibrant air-and-hotel packager for the Midwest market. Now, Worry-Free no longer offers air transportation at all, and purely sells hotels, car rentals and activities in Las Vegas, Mexico and Jamaica.

Meanwhile, its parent company, MLT Vacations, is busy operating and managing more and more airline vacation brands such as Delta Vacations and United Vacations.

Similarly, the owners of Apple Vacations are in the process of shutting down their USA3000 airline, a business started several years ago when scheduled air wasn’t adequate for the Caribbean and Mexico routes Apple Vacations serves. USA3000 actually grew to become almost entirely a scheduled carrier, but the fact that its service is coming to an end speaks to the how much the national scheduled airlines have increased service to leisure locales.

The changes are probably more dramatic behind-the-scenes than for the travelers booking these vacations. Beach-goers might simply notice that the name of the carrier is one they recognize — or one they are a frequent flyer of $mdash; rather than that of a lesser-known charter company.

Vacation packagers work around-the-clock to deliver competitive prices, regardless of what kind of aircraft or air contracts they engage. But if you live in a market that was once catered to by more charter flights and have seen a noticeable shift, let us know the changes you’ve noticed, good or bad.

Do you care how you get to where you’re going or is it all about the price of the vacation? Do you prefer working with a larger airline so that you can accumulate miles? Let us know!

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