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Sent on Mormon-News: 28Jun01

By Rosemary Pollock

Regional Airline Run by LDS Family Growing Rapidly

ST. GEORGE, UTAH -- SkyWest, the country's largest independently owned regional airline, says, "the skys the limit," as it embarks on one of the most ambitious expansion plans in the industry. While Comair, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta, is in the throes of a month-long pilot strike, SkyWest is buying up five jets dropped by Comair and planning new routes from Salt Lake City to Texas, Iowa and Arizona.

"There's clearly going to be some opportunity not just for SkyWest but I suspect for others," said Jerry Atkin, SkyWest's Chief Executive Officer and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Getting ready to move into Comair territory is a big change for a company that had one plane when it was established in 1972. It was a six-seat Piper Seneca that shuttled between St. George and Salt Lake City for $28 round trip and flew 256 passengers that first year.

Today, SkyWest flies an average of 226 daily flights for Delta out of its Salt Lake City hub and it runs another 768 flights a day for United. Why the big change? In 1974, company founder, Ralph Atkin, brought in his brother Jerry and he crunched the numbers and discovered that the company had lost $150,000 that year and was only worth $50,000 to start with.

"It's been a lot of years since then," Atkin said in his SkyWest St. George office. "But there are a couple of things that were important then and still are: You have to have a good quality product that people can depend on and it's got to be well-managed and it's got to be at a cost that's extremely competitive."

Another key ingredient in today's market is allowing the big carriers to shoulder the weight. Three years ago, SkyWest was completely independent, but today about 75 percent of its current flights are under contract for Delta Connection and United Ex-press.

"It would be absolute foolishness and poor economics to even think of doing anything different," Atkin said. "We can just sell so many more seats so much easier through a major carrier than we could do trying to get the world to understand what SkyWest is or what our phone number is," he added.

Airline analyst, Jim Parker, with Raymond James &Associates said, "There is plenty of room for growth." "All of these regional jets are under contract so SkyWest doesn't have to find markets for them." Parker also predicts that Delta will probably expand its regional base, giving SkyWest the opportunity to fly further east and west.

"There's a veritable land grab taking place," Parker said. "Airlines are falling over one another to get to regional jets." The topic of Comair is touchy in todays market, but Atkin participates in an open forum with employees and investors. "There's a good level of trust. I'm not trying to say it's perfect but the level of trust between our work group and management is probably higher than most."


SkyWest Spreads Its Wings
Salt Lake Tribune (AP) 26Jun01 B4
By Hannah Wolfson: Associated Press


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