Small Birds in a Big Sky

Upstart airlines, no-frills or all-frills, fill the gaps left by the majors

Dallas' Muse Air promotes itself as the only nonsmoking airline and turns away passengers who want to light up. At no-frills Sunworld International, based in Las Vegas, pilots make sales calls, work in the back office and can sometimes be seen carrying out the garbage after a flight. On all-frills Regent Air, passengers are stuffed with French wines, Beluga caviar and Maine lobster.

New carriers like these are changing the face of U.S. air travel. A few years ago, most airlines offered...

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