Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Southwest Sees Many Imitators

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Southwest Sees Many Imitators

Article excerpt

Southwest Airlines, rare among the big carriers because it is the only one that has made money each of the last three years, has attracted a slew of imitators among start-up airlines intent on duplicating Southwest's emphasis on lean operations and a minimum of passenger amenities.

But analysts see little threat from the copycats.

"If the start-up airlines succeed in direct competition with Southwest, they would have some impact," said Paul P. Karos, the airline analyst for First Boston. "But that doesn't seem to be a likely possibility." First Boston recently raised its earnings estimate for Southwest's second quarter, which ends this week, as well as for the company's full-year 1993 and 1994 results.

Southwest, the only big carrier to turn a profit last year, is the only one of the big airlines that does not operate a hub-and-spoke system, will not transfer passengers' baggage to a connecting flight, does not serve meals, offers only economy class on all flights, and has only Boeing 737s in its fleet. Its policy of not reserving seats often sets off a mad scramble at boarding time.

While adopting some of these techniques, newcomers seem eager to avoid head-to-head combat with Southwest _ probably for the same reason its giant competitors are reluctant to take on the no-frills carrier. When Southwest recently started flying to San Jose, Calif., for example, American Airlines beat a hasty retreat from that market.

According to a recent U.S. Transportation Department study, while Southwest is only fifth in total passengers and eighth in revenues _ $1.7 billion, compared with $14.4 billion for American, the industry leader _ it carries more traffic in the top 100 markets in the continental United States than American, United, Delta or any other United States airline.

Dallas-based Southwest has the highest market share among the airlines serving Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. In May, Southwest had 43,895 enplanements in Oklahoma City representing 31.6 percent of the 138,789 enplanements at Will Rogers. American was second in market share in Oklahoma City for May with 33,905 enplanements, or 24. …

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