|Headquarters||Cocoa Beach, Florida|
|Key people||William Walts
George "Mickey" Richardson
Smokers Express (or Smokers Express Airlines) was a Cocoa Beach, Florida-based company that would have provided smoking flights to destinations within the United States. Founded in 1993 by William Walts and George "Mickey" Richardson, the company never received enough funding to begin operations.
Upset not only by the non-smoking policy of most major airlines but also by the quality of other amenities such as food and in-flight entertainment, Walts conceived the idea of a "smokers airline". His company would not only allow smoking on flights, but encourage it by handing out free cigarettes and "full-size" ashtrays during flight. The airline also advertised free headsets (for listening to in-flight entertainment) and "real food for real people", which consisted of hamburgers, pizza, and steaks.
Because Federal Aviation Administration restrictions prohibit smoking on flights within the United States, Smokers Express was a membership-based airline. Customers were required to join and pay a $25 yearly fee, and only persons age 21 or older were allowed to join. A side effect to this policy was a promise that the flights would be free of "screaming babies."
The company began by purchasing three McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft, with the intention of leasing 27 additional DC-9s. The aircraft would have been renovated with a high-volume air recirculation system, as well as improved flame-retardant carpet.
The airline originally intended to fly to 11 different destinations, adding more as additional funding enabled. The planned initial destinations were:
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas
- Houston, Texas
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Newark, New Jersey
- Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Orlando, Florida
- Titusville, Florida
- Miami, Florida
The first flight would have taken place on August 16, 1993.
Smokers Express was designed to be an employee-owned company. It relied mostly on membership dues and ticket sales, however, no tickets were ever sold. The company did not advertise directly, but relied on word-of-mouth, various articles and TV news references. Despite what the company perceived as a positive response to their concept, it failed to raise enough funds to begin operations.