NEW YORK -- Maxjet Airways ceased operations today, leaving jets on tarmacs and stranding passengers on Christmas Eve, and said it would file for bankruptcy protection.
The airline, launched in 2005 and based in Dulles, Va., offered all-business-class flights between London's Stansted airport and Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York.
Continental Airlines and Silverjet Aviation, another business-class carrier, said they would honor limited numbers of Maxjet tickets. On its website, Maxjet said it had contracted with another carrier, Eos Airlines, to accommodate passengers who had booked New York-London trips. It advised customers to seek refunds from their travel agency or credit-card company.
Maxjet also said it had reserved hotel rooms for stranded travelers in all four cities it served. For details, visit www.maxjet.com.
The airline cited soaring fuel prices and the deteriorating credit market for what it called a "drastic measure." But some analysts said Maxjet couldn't compete with the business class of deeper-pocketed American Airlines.
"High fuel prices were a contributing factor, but American's inauguration in October of [service between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Stansted] . . . . was the coup de grace," said Robert Mann, an airline consultant in Port Washington, N.Y.
Maxjet's failure also raised questions, experts said, about the business model followed by Maxjet, Eos and Silverjet.
"The business-class challenge is that there's strong brand loyalty [frequent-flier programs], plus there's likely some corporate deals that major carriers offer," said Mike Boyd, an airline consultant and president of the Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo. "These off-brand all-premium carriers will struggle."
Eos and Silverjet issued statements today that touted their own success in the competitive market for business travelers.
"We are confident our business model works and this sets us apart from other early stage companies," said Jack Williams, Eos' president and chief executive.
Maxjet operated five Boeing 767s configured to seat 102 passengers, and flew 74,760 passengers this year through the end of November.
The airline did not return calls seeking comment. But in a message posted on its website, President and Chief Executive William Stockbridge apologized.
"With today's fuel prices and the resulting impact on the credit climate for airlines, we are forced to take this drastic measure," Stockbridge said. "We are extremely saddened to discontinue a service that we so passionately believe in, and we thank our loyal fliers."