- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

The discount carrier Southwest Airlines will dominate the domestic market within five years, according to one George Washington University professor.
As United Airlines tried to cope with rising delays amid media and customer pressure, Darryl Jenkins yesterday quietly released a study predicting that Southwest will carry the highest number of passengers in the United States by 2005.
Mr. Jenkins, director of the Aviation Institute at the university, said Southwest has not received much media coverage as a big player in the airline industry, even though it is well-liked and well-run.
"Southwest is either No. 1 or a close No. 2 right now in terms of domestic passenger volume. But for some reason, most observers and analysts do not realize how big Southwest really is," Mr. Jenkins wrote in the study.
Using Department of Transportation figures, he reported Delta Air Lines was the leading domestic carrier in 1999 with 58 million passengers, followed by Southwest with 57 million and United with 48 million.
By 2005, he predicted Southwest will carry 71 million passengers annually, Delta 69 million and United 56 million.
Mr. Jenkins said the Dallas-based airline has been doing smart business since its inception just prior to deregulation in 1978.
The company recently ordered up to 290 new planes, which would nearly double its fleet. Southwest has had solid leadership for the life of the company, Mr. Jenkins said. And the firm has the highest market capitalization of its peers, he added.
Southwest's costs are lower because its only planes are 737s so the company only has to inventory spare parts for one type of plane. That allows the airline to charge customers low prices for seats, in addition to its famous lack of food service on planes.
Another analyst said that if every airline were as efficient as Southwest and other discount or upstart carriers, the traffic problem at airports would be alleviated.
Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis airline analyst and writer with www.OneTravel.com, said Southwest planes' turnaround at an airport is about 40 minutes. It takes other carriers' planes 90 minutes between flying into an airport and flying out again.
"I have been saying for years that the low-fare carriers will become the major domestic force, while the other airlines are going to become more global-oriented," he said.
Mr. Trippler referred to Monday's meeting of Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater with representatives of major airlines, where they discussed the need to improve air-traffic congestion.
"We may not need bigger airports. We may need more efficient airlines," he said.
He added that some of the fault lies with the Transportation Department for not improving air-traffic-control infrastructure. But he said airlines must also bear some responsibility for having more flights on smaller aircraft.
Rather than fly three small planes out of a given city on a certain day, carriers should fly one larger plane, Mr. Trippler said.
But yet another airline analyst said the air-traffic system needs to be dramatically revamped.
"The [Federal Aviation Administration] is doing nothing about it," said Mike Boyd, president of the Boyd Group, an Evergreen, Colo., consulting and research firm.
Mr. Boyd also said he does not think Southwest will dominate in the coming years, because it does not focus its energies on creating hubs, as United does serving instead smaller-market airports.

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