Independence Air to Trim Flights

Independence Air, the low-fare airline that arrived in Charlotte a year ago to great fanfare, is sharply cutting back the number of flights to its Washington hub.

Beginning Oct. 31, the airline will offer just three daily flights from Charlotte, down from the eight it offered this summer. In addition, the airline is ending its flights between the West Coast and its Washington hub, as it attempts to survive amid high fuel prices.

Although many airlines alter schedules throughout the year to respond to seasonal shifts in passenger travel, Independence Air is making the cuts "to continue to economize on fuel and reduce our overall costs," said spokesman Rick DeLisi.

Industry analysts have warned for months that Independence Air risks a bankruptcy filing or liquidation because of high fuel costs and the airline's reliance on expensive 50-seat regional jets.

In part, the cutbacks are designed to increase the share of flights on larger Airbus A319 aircraft, which tend to be more economical than 50-seat jets. On the Charlotte flights, one will be on the 132-seat Airbus and the other two on small jets.

From Washington's Dulles International Airport, the carrier will fly to nearly 40 cities, mostly in the East and Midwest, after ending the West Coast service this fall.

Independence Air's arrival in Charlotte last October -- celebrated at the airport with Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme and city dignitaries -- forced competitors to lower fares on flights to Washington and other East Coast cities.

For flights this November, the airline's lowest fare to Washington is listed on the company's Web site at $156.90, including taxes and fees. US Airways' lowest fare is exactly the same.