Most of what I've been saying about AirTran's expansion plans has just been confirmed by Joe Leonard in an article from today's AJC. Adding capacity to the current routes this year with a vast expansion to new cities in 2005 utilizing the new 737-7. Always nice when my credibility gets reafirmed by the CEO's own words
The discount carrier, which has its flight hub and employee base in Atlanta, said its fleet of nearly new, more fuel-efficient aircraft helped reduce fuel costs even as prices soared. |
Fuel prices in January and February were almost 11 percent higher than in the same period last year, according to the Air Transport Association.
Adding to the challenges in the first quarter, usually one of the weakest travel periods of the year, were raging fare wars in many domestic markets.
But falling fares tend to hurt big carriers more than discounters such as AirTran, which have simpler operations and lower unit costs.
"Having one of the youngest Boeing fleets in the world has paid huge dividends in a period of high energy prices," said AirTran Chairman Joe Leonard.
AirTran phased out its last gas-guzzling DC-9 in January and now operates a fleet of 75 newer Boeing 717s that burn 24 percent less fuel. The airline hopes to realize similar cost savings in fuel and maintenance costs when it begins taking delivery of larger, longer-range Boeing 737s in June.
AirTran, which last year ordered up to 110 new jets, plans to take delivery of eight 737s and four 717s this year.
Leonard said AirTran has no plans to add new cities to its network this year. The carrier will instead add more flights on existing routes and "connect the dots" within its network, he said.
"We've really just been focused on tightening up the network, sort of hunkering down trying to get more efficient," he said in a conference call with securities analysts.
"If we do that this year, we think we'll really be set up ... for some massive expansion next year with the 737s," he added.
The airline said it expects to boost capacity 21 percent this year.
Now I have no insider info to offer, of course. But count on new routes to Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, Hawaii (via LAX), Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Mexico, and the Caribbean to be added to their existing longer range routes of Denver, Las Vegas, San Fransisco, and Los Angeles.
He did say "massive" didn't he? You can pretty much count on those routes I mentioned, but I'm anxious to find out just how "massive" an expansion Leonard is speaking of. And whether that entails South America and/or even Europe as they've mentioned before. You'd think expansion on that scale would necessitate the purchase of an even larger, longer range aircraft a few years down the road. And with AirTran's demonstrated penchant for highly efficient new models from Boeing, could that spell a handful of 7E7s in AirTran's future for those South American and European routes? I wouldn't be suprised at all