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Southwest Q400's - Could It Work?  
User currently offlineCloudy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 4543 times:

There has been a lot of speculation regarding Southwest getting another aircraft type, most centered around a larger regional jet. And Parker said they were actually considering the idea of a smaller aircraft(but probably not seriously yet).

However, there is one kind of smaller aircraft that could open new, smaller markets for Southwest. It is especially well suited for high-frequency shorthaul flights, and is more efficient than its competition on these routes. Its breakeven load factors tend to be comparatively low. Routes that it competes on are often high fare and have far less traffic than they could if properly exploited. For just about every airline in the US, these planes are slaves to the hub spoke system and are not used to nearly their full potential. It is available at very low prices, for it is not very popular at the moment in the US.

This aircraft is the turboprop. The modern, 70 seat turboprop could be a good way for Southwest to expand to new markets. The business market would not need to change all that much, it would just be extended to smaller cities with the new aircraft. Southwest would pick out cities like Wichita and fly the Q400 to say, Denver, Kansas City, and maybe one other city. Just like with the 737's, the trick is to go into a city, fly point to point to its neighbors, and get people out of their cars with low fares.

On the REVENUE side.....People will fly turboprops rather than drive if the price is right, we see this in how they use turboprops to connect to hubs in other cities. And people who usually drive will not be put off by seeing a turboprop rather than a jet, especially if it is a modern 70-seater. In fact, a lot of people unconsciously think of a jet as any airliner that can be boarded with a jetbridge or is big enough to have a flight attendant. The Southwest name and its customary new-city advertising would do a lot to attract traffic. Also, many routes that are currently served only by regional jets or props are high-priced from the point of view of the point-to-point traveler. The airlines just do not think about this market very much, and when they do, they think that only high-paying business travelers would be interested. For example - currently the fare from Springfield, Illinois to Chicago is often around $150 roundtrip, even with the supposedly low-cost ATA in the market(it was even higher before). Cut that price in half and you could have enough traffic to fill several Dash 8 flights, and make money doing it.

On the COST side.....Q400's are more fuel efficient than jets on shorthauls, which is how they would be used, mainly. They are available for very low prices and at good terms. The cost of using these planes is even lower when you account for the fact that most airlines under-utilize them in order to accommodate hub schedules. Give them 12 hours a day and they look even better. They are also less demanding of airport facilities. The big question mark is in labor costs and agreements......

One of the main factors that may eventually limit Southwest's expansion is its preference for at least 10-12 flights for each city right from the start. Many, many more cities could support 10-12 dash-8 flights. It would take far fewer aircraft to provide them if they were traditional Southwest shorthauls than if these flights were RJ style runs to "hubs" like BWI.

The dash-8 could complement the 737. Cities could have about a dozen dash-8 flights and maybe a 737 or two to a more distant or popular destination. Dash-8's could be used for some less popular runs at or between major bases.

IN SHORT- the advantages of the dash 8 versus the regional jet....
1. Better suited to Southwest's core, original business model.
2. Lower acquisition, fuel, and facilities cost - leading to a lower breakeven
load factor.
3. Many overpriced and underserved routes could be more easily opened with
props than jets.
4. They allow service to a wider variety of cities, both because the demand less from airports and because they have lower costs.

The main disadvantage, as I see it, is a potential labor cost disadvantage and/or labor strife. But regional jets would suffer from the same thing........




26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineJayDavis From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 2000 posts, RR: 16
Reply 1, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4377 times:

You forgot one major drawback to your plan.

Most people hate prop airliners. Especially in the US. They don't bother me personally, but a lot of people would soon drive in their car than fly in a prop plane.


Jay


User currently offlineHlywdCatft From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 5321 posts, RR: 7
Reply 2, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4323 times:

Cloudy, do you work for Bombardier?

You did put on a good sales pitch and could convince someone to buy it, but just like JayDavis said a lot of people are afraid of anything with propellors and that is partially why a lot of airlines are switching to RJs


User currently offlineBUFJets From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 231 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4263 times:

There are many people who won't get on a prop, ever. My wife is one of them. We had a bad flight on a J-31 around a thunderstorm once. I know the Dash-8's are much better than J-31's, but the average person doesn't.

Also, even the Q400 has a max alt of 25k ft., so it can't fly over some bad weather systems. Bad weather is more likely to ground turbo prop flights than jet flights. I don't think WN will go for that.

Nothing upset a pax more than a canelled flight (due to a prop) when jets are still going out. I've been there once. It was icy in RDU. All turbo prop flights were cancelled while the 737's and MD-80's continued.


User currently offlineDash8tech From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 732 posts, RR: 5
Reply 4, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 4209 times:

Also, even the Q400 has a max alt of 25k ft., so it can't fly over some bad weather systems. Bad weather is more likely to ground turbo prop flights than jet flights. I don't think WN will go for that.

I believe the Q400 does offer an option for O2 masks at the seats and can go higher. This came up when we ordered ours. We didn't take the option.

Also, as far as Southwest goes...why would they need to bother. If it ain't broke don't fix it and it certainly isn't broke!

Cheers!


User currently offlineDanny From Poland, joined Apr 2002, 3505 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 4154 times:

No way for Q400 in SWA in my opinion. I agree with you guys - average american passenger hates props. So if new plane type foe SWA - then probably one of RJs.
I'd say they look first how successful JetBlue will be with their Embraers and then make decisions.

Daniel

[Edited 2003-09-19 16:49:18]

User currently offlineGreg From United Kingdom, joined May 2005, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 4065 times:

I'll skip the props. Gimme a jet, anyday.

User currently offlineSuperDash From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 574 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 3919 times:

So if the Q400 is such a bad airplane, how come Horizon has kicked SWA's butt in the PacNW? Cloudy is right. Economically it is way way better than an RJ and in many cases a 737-300. It can come with up to 78 seats. It's comfortable, it's fast, it's a money maker. On a route of less than 2 hours it is a great plane. SWA should get someone like Horizon (can't beat 'em join 'em) to fly Q400s for them. Call it "Luv Connection."  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8091 posts, RR: 24
Reply 8, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 3901 times:

Luv Connection, lol, I like that one.


This Website Censors Me
User currently offlineRedngold From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 6907 posts, RR: 45
Reply 9, posted (10 years 7 months 3 days ago) and read 3871 times:

OK, I'll bite, even though I love to hate the Dash-8.

From BWI:
MDT
ABE
IAD
RIC
DOV (Dover Air Force Base; Delaware has no commercial passenger service)
ACY

From PVD:
BGR
PWM
BTV


From RDU (take over from Midway/II):
CHS
GSO
GSP


From TPA (take over from USAirways Express):
EYW
MLB
DAB
RSW
APF
CSG
SAV
TLH

How about that for building up the east coast a little more?

redngold



Up, up and away!
User currently offlineExpressjetphx From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 3811 times:

From the West Coast-

PHX:
FLG
TUS (supplement)
FHH
HHH
PGA
SOW
PRC
IGM
PSP
LAS (supplement)
RNO (supplement)
EKO
SAN (supplement)
LAX, ONT (supplement)
BUR, SNA
SBA
FAT
SAC (Sacramento???, supplement)
OAK
SJC
SFO (supplement)
MED
EUG
PDX (supplement)
BOI
SPK (Spokane???)
SEA (supplement)
DEN (supplement)
COS (supplement)
TEX
DUR
SLC (supplement)
ABQ (supplement)
STF (Santa Fe???)
FMN
ELP
TUL
CHY


User currently offlineSllevin From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 3376 posts, RR: 6
Reply 11, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 3718 times:

It's a great argument!

The only bad side is that (unless jetBlue's numbers are not to be believed) this exact same argument can be made for the EMB-190, which has the two basic advantages others have mentioned:

It can fly higher.

It doesn't have props.

And a third thing: It can fly significantly longer stage lengths effectively because of its higher cruising speed.

It won't surprise me to see Southwest go to the 190 (or equivalent aircraft) as well, in order to manage capacity.

Steve


User currently offlineBoeing nut From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 3630 times:

No way for Q400 in SWA in my opinion. I agree with you guys - average american passenger hates props.

For the aviation enthusiast, this is true. However, most americans that fly have no clue what type of aircraft they are on. I remember a story around the time that jetways were starting to be used for boarding turboprop regionals. A woman said to a gentleman walking down a jetway with her, "I'm sure glad we aren't flying a turboprop."

Now, from what I understand, the Q models all now have sound deadening technology, making them very quiet. Quieter than some jets from what I understand. With the Q400's performance and economics, I think that this is a very good choice for a new aircraft type.

My2cents.


User currently offlineGreg From United Kingdom, joined May 2005, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 3564 times:

Not true. Americans have the interesting knack of thinking that the props of today are on par with the DC-3 in terms of technology. I've stood next to a passenger that flatly refused to get on a 340 in Westchester.

I won't book a turboprop if possible. RJ's are here to stay.

I've done the 400 on SAS. I'll stick to Bombardier's other offerings. It's no better than the -300 or ATR...I've flown all three...


User currently offlineDeltAirlines From United States of America, joined May 1999, 8868 posts, RR: 12
Reply 14, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 3480 times:

Greg is right in saying that many Americans will flat out refuse to get on a turboprop. I even know on some websites for airline tickets, an option is "avoid flights on turboprops". I also know people that I have personally booked tickets for tell me to avoid turboprops, and others have told me after I booked them on a prop to have me avoid booking them on one again. I personally do not mind turboprops on shorter haul routes, I flew on one CHO-PIT earlier this week and it was just as good as any other flight I've been on. However, many people have this idea that turboprop technology = old technology (which isn't the case), and then they follow that first assumption with one that old technology in this case is bad.

Jeff


User currently offlineJjbiv From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 1226 posts, RR: 5
Reply 15, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 3398 times:

Witness Chicago Express Airlines (ATA Connection). For the right price, people will compromise their aircraft ideals.

Yes, it could work out very well -- however, I wouldn't be surprised to see ATA beat WN to using a larger turboprop first...

ATA Connection really is a diamond of an airline. Quite a unique and profitable concept, IMHO.

joe


User currently offlineFlyboyaz From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 3358 times:

It's a great plane, I agree.....perfect for a new airline offering regional service...for example intra California flights. Working for CO I have had about 5 people in the past year REFUSE to get on an ERJ-145X! People have negative feelings about RJ's as well...not as much as turboprops however. But for cost, the Q400 is a great plane, offering jet like performance with lower operating costs.

User currently offlineCloudy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 3228 times:

BUFjets said...

Also, even the Q400 has a max alt of 25k ft., so it can't fly over some bad weather systems. Bad weather is more likely to ground turbo prop flights than jet flights. I don't think WN will go for that.
-----

Good point. WN, especially, does not like weather delays.

As to ATA - their regional service is hub based and works the same way that other airlines do. SuperDash mentioned Horizon...that would be closer to what I am thinking of. It would be more or less a 70 seat version of WN's original shorthaul point to point service. "Hub" flights to places like BWI and Midway would be icing on the cake.

ATA also prices its turboprop flights in much the same way that the majors do. They assume that if you fly on their turboprops you must either be connecting to another flight or you are a businessman who must fly and will pay. That is why it often costs almost as much to fly from SPI to Chicago as it does to fly all the way to the east coast. I view these assumptions as fallacious. If you lower fares like WN did in 737-sized markets, people will come out for the same kind of point-to-point travel in 70 seat markets as well. The connection possibilities with the 737 network are just a bonus.

I like to think that what people hate about turboprops is not the simple fact that they have different technology. What they don't like is that they are smaller, more bumpy in flight, louder and are not usually boarded from jetbridges. These objections do not apply to modern 70 seaters like the Q400. In short, when people hate props it is mainly due to their experience with 19 seaters and some 30 seaters. Get them on a dash-8 via jetway and they will hardly notice. I've even heard of someone getting on a dash-8 saying how glad he was to be on a jet. Good advertizing helps also. A good picture on a billboard or newspaper banner add showing a Q400 interior would work marvels. So does price. As well as the lack of alternate service. Many people don't like WN's boarding process, either. Yet they will try it because of the price and most end up at least tolerating it. If we were to have a lot more Q400 flying than today.....I think most experienced travelers would continue to prefer mainline jets over RJ's and Q400 sized props. But they would not really distinguish between the Q400 and RJ's. I'd rather be on a Q400 than an ERJ-135.


But I could be fooling myself......I am assuming people would act rationally in the end and they do not always, even with all the right information........You still have people that will to this day strongly prefer an airline with assigned seats or with newer planes......


User currently offlineMidway2airtran From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 864 posts, RR: 2
Reply 18, posted (10 years 7 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 3224 times:

Good postings on both sides. I personally doubt that WN will go to a smaller a/c anytime in the next five if not more than ten years, but then again, who knows? The Q-400 is a great a/c and I'm sure that if not with WN, it will find its niche somewhere for sure. Opposite to what the majors think, RJ's are not always the perfect solution!


"Life is short, but your delay in ATL is not."
User currently offlineNwcoflyer From United States of America, joined Jun 2003, 687 posts, RR: 14
Reply 19, posted (10 years 7 months 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3128 times:

Cloudy, that was a very good argument.

I love flying on props. When ever I can I love to take an Saab 340 on XJ, though I am not your typical flier. I love getting bumped around.



The New American is arriving.
User currently offlinePVD757 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 3406 posts, RR: 17
Reply 20, posted (10 years 7 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3070 times:

Don't even bother listing your cities that it would operate from. WN has had plenty of opportunities to expand in that direction. Until someone can come up with a concrete reason form WN's point of view as to why they would change the only business model that has made money every year since deregulation, everybody can speculate all they want, and dream all they want; but reality is that WN is in the driver's seat after working very hard to promote their product and bring it to mainstream America. They are not going to get a new type of aircraft until Boeing starts to entertain a replacement for the the 737. The only change until then might be the 737-600 series. WN never went larger than the 300 or 700 because they would have to add another flight attendant. They have their economics down so well that they actually will gain a lot of benefit when they just fly the 700s around and nothing else. I have seen some performance differences at PVD between the 300, 500, 200, and the 700 series. The only aircraft that does not take weight penalties on a consistent basis is the 700 series. That will be their bread and butter aircraft even longer than the 200s have been. Please stop the fantasies and get realistic..............

User currently offlineFlyboyaz From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (10 years 7 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3005 times:

Oh please PVD757....that's what these forums are for....to fantasize and discuss possible options....nothing wrong with doing that, even it nothing ever comes of it. An imagination is a good thing......I presume you've never been to Disneyland?

User currently offlinePVD757 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 3406 posts, RR: 17
Reply 22, posted (10 years 7 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 2976 times:

I just get tired of reading unrealistic ideas. I would love pull 50 planes out of the desert and start my own operation but that's not happening either.
P.S. Disneyland has nothing on Epcot Center.


User currently offlineFlyboyaz From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (10 years 7 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 2959 times:

I understand your point, but it's fun to do that sometimes.

All the Disney parks are great.

Disney's point in creating Disneyland (the original), was for people to have a place to go to where their imagination could run wild. A place where many things did not make sense, but we have fun exploring. He believed having an imagination was very important to every human being.

I agree.


User currently offlineOuboy79 From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 4482 posts, RR: 22
Reply 24, posted (10 years 7 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 2924 times:

PVD...If you want to crab about it, just blame Southwest itself for letting it leak out that they were entertaining the idea. What is going on here is nothing more than the typical "brainstorming" that Southwest is probably doing itself.


Any opinion/comment posted is that of my own and not that of Southwest Airlines Co.
25 Expressjetphx : I agree with you, Nwcoflyer, I will always take props over jets. But, earlier people were arguing about consumer preference of jets over props. Sure,
26 Post contains images Paddy : Oh no, its another "Why doesn't Airline X use Dash8's?" thread I can't think of any reason why WN should use them. Or any turboprops for that matter.
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