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
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
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