However, there's no ZA fares or schedules in Sabre yet. Just what
they say at http://www.accessair.com/
And I can't confirm the ad since the toll-free number's only open
7a-8p. But that's OK. I'd like to see them have a chance to
succeed... 1-877-GO ACCESS (462-2237)
Oh yeah -- high service, not low: extra legroom, real meals. Question
is, what does Midwest Express make of them?
Friday, February 5, 1999
Start-Up Airlines Aim for the Sky
Several Niche Carriers Seek to Make It in an Industry Made Up of Giants
By JAMES F. PELTZ, SEEMA MEHTA, Times Staff Writers
As a red-and-white Boeing 737 from the Midwest emerged from cloudy
skies and landed at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, it
marked an event that's notable these days: the birth of a new airline.
AccessAir, a tiny start-up that began service from its base in Des
Moines to Los Angeles and New York, took to the skies at a time when
many consumer advocates, state officials and federal regulators are
complaining that there's a dearth of new entrants in the airline
But AccessAir, analysts say, heads a line of several new airlines
that could be launching service in the coming months.
One is National Airlines, a Las Vegas-based discount carrier that's
being started by two casinos and plans to start flying this year. And
there are applications for 11 more airlines that are either pending
or being prepared, up from just one last year, according to Darryl
Jenkins, who heads the Aviation Institute at George Washington
University() in Washington.
"The suggestion that there are no new entrants is incorrect," said
Jenkins, who issued a report last year that cited mismanagement as
the main reason new airlines fail.
Many others blame the major U.S. carriers for the shortfall in new
airlines, contending that the big airlines' domination of many
metropolitan airports and their operating tactics amount to unfair
competition that dissuades others from starting new airlines.
The U.S. Department of Transportation last year proposed a new policy
aimed at deterring big airlines from slashing fares or taking other
actions aimed solely at driving start-ups out of business. That
policy is still being reviewed by Congress.
The existing carriers deny claims that they're stifling competition.
And Jenkins and other analysts assert that the lack of successful new
airlines mainly reflects the carriers' poor management and the crash
of a ValuJet() Airlines DC-9 in the Florida Everglades on May 11,
That crash, which killed all 110 people aboard, put a chill on new
entrants during the next two years because ValuJet was a relatively
young, low-cost carrier. (ValuJet now operates as AirTran Holdings
Still, there's evidence that a niche airline, if operated correctly,
can survive and prosper among the industry's giants. One example is
Midwest Express Airlines, which serves Los Angeles and two dozen
other cities from its base in Milwaukee. The carrier, the main unit
of Midwest Express Holdings() Inc., began as the company fleet for
paper-products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. before becoming a
commercial airline in 1984.
AccessAir believes it can profitably serve a niche market by
providing low-cost, daily direct travel from Des Moines, Peoria,
Ill., and other Midwest cities to Los Angeles and New York--even
though it's starting with just two airplanes.
"We're starting to provide service to communities that don't have
service to major East Coast and West Coast cities," Frank Rosenberg,
AccessAir's interim chief operating officer, said as AccessAir
celebrated with ribbon cuttings and champagne at LAX Terminal 6. "The
community needs [direct service] for the community to grow and Iowa
Travelers currently can fly from Los Angeles to Des Moines on several
carriers, but nearly all require at least one stop.
Indeed, some of the $29 million that's funding AccessAir's start was
provided by corporations such as Peoria-based Caterpillar() Inc.,
because they're frustrated that employees can't get direct flights
from their headquarters to the two coasts.
"Des Moines is known for having some of the highest fares in the
country," said Shane Percival, AccessAir's district sales manager.
"We've selected these particular markets that are underserved--Des
Moines, Moline and Peoria."
Rosenberg said AccessAir would succeed because it's not competing
with the large carriers head-on. "Our intention is to stay away from
the big guys," he said. "We're not going to operate out of their
AccessAir hopes to have up to six planes by the end of the year. It
plans to expand service to Colorado Springs, Colo., later this year,
and hopefully to Reagan National Airport in Washington and San
Francisco next year. Possible future markets include Portland, Ore.;
Seattle; Miami; and Sioux City, Iowa.
The average cost of a round-trip AccessAir fare between Los Angeles
and one of its Midwestern destinations is about $300.
Some of AccessAir's inaugural customers were certainly pleased. Allen
M. Richards, of Montour, Iowa, said trips to Los Angeles normally
meant driving 200 miles to Omaha and flying to one of the major
carriers' Midwestern hubs before reaching LAX.
But on Thursday, AccessAir's direct flight got him to Los Angeles in
three hours. "It saves half a day," said the lawyer, on his way to an
American Bar Assn. conference.
Whether AccessAir can prosper will depend in large part on "whether
Des Moines is large enough to support it, whether it has enough
people flying those routes to make it profitable," said Jenkins of
the Aviation Institute. "That's the great unknown," he added, "and
there are people willing to risk money to find out the answer."