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"Taking It Back"

Repo Man Visits Independence Air

Indpendence Air is missing one of its airplanes. A lender repossessed one of the struggling low-fare carrier's aircraft last week after it missed a lease payment that was due last month.

The Dulles-based carrier has been trying to avoid a bankruptcy filing. It's not known whether Flyi, Independence Air's parent company, was able to pay or renegotiate any of the $83 million in lease payments that were due in January.

Earlier, Flyi said it had agreed to return as many as 20 regional jets to GE Capital Aviation Services as part of an agreement to restructure its leasing deal with GE.

The repossession of the regional jet reduced the airline's fleet to 72 aircraft, including 50-seat regional jets and a few 132-seat Airbus A319s.

Independence Air has staked its survival on Airbus service to five West Coast cities this spring. It plans to begin flying from Dulles to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego and San Jose, featuring $84 one-way fares.

Those cities are already served by numerous airlines from Dulles and other East Coast airlines and Indpendence is likely to touch off a fare war on those routes that will make it even tougher for it to attract the passengers and revenue it needs to survive.

Independence formerly flew feeder routes for United. Since declaring its independence, it has launched service to about 39 cities but has encountered fuel costs that have been higher than expected and passenger levels that have been lower than projected.

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