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Posted 13 Sep 2001   For week ended September 14, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Sep01

By Kent Larsen

LDS-Run Airline Plans to Double in Two Years

ST GEORGE, UTAH -- While the hip, high-profile nascent airline Jet Blue, run by LDS Church member David Neeleman, is growing amid cut-throat competition with giant airlines like Delta and United, another LDS-ran airline is growing by cooperating with those same carriers. SkyWest airlines, founded by LDS Church member Ralph Atkin in 1972 and still run by his family, has just added service between San Francisco and Fresno, and recently between Salt Lake City and Santa Barbara, Kansas City, Memphis and El Paso. All this expansion will help SkyWest's partners, Delta and United, fill out their networks, while also helping SkyWest double in size in the next two years.

SkyWest has benefited as regional airlines have become more important to the industry. As air service has expanded and competition increased, the major airlines have become less able to serve small cities, and have relied on smaller, regional airlines to serve those cities. SkyWest's David Clark, manager of corporate communications, says, "[The major airlines'] expertise is flying large jets. They can't reach smaller communities as effectively as we can. We contract with them and everybody wins."

Basically, this means that SkyWest flies smaller plans, on more flights. As a result, SkyWest has more flights than other airlines at some airport. In Salt Lake City, SkyWest is number one, sending out more planes than any other airline at the airport. Even in Los Angeles, at LA International, its number two. But, the airline doesn't enjoy the same position in terms of number of passengers at each airport.

Meanwhile, changes in SkyWest's equipment and facilities are helping fuel the growth. SkyWest has started phasing out the propeller-driven Brasilia in favor of the new Canadair Regional Jet. The new planes seat more people (50 v. 30) have a longer range, opening up new cities to SkyWest, and are faster (485 mph v. 395 mph). "(Some cities) were just out of reach with the Brasilia," Clark said. "[Canadair Regional Jets] are the future of regional airlines." SkyWest plans to eventually purchase 100 of the new jets.

In addition, the city of St. George has announced that it will build a new airport -- one that will support the larger jets that SkyWest needs. If the project goes as the city plans, the new airport will open in 2008, allowing SkyWest to grow for an even longer term.


St. George-based SkyWest Airlines growing
St George UT Spectrum 10Sep01 B2
By Amie Rose


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