Thank you sir, You guys are always welcome on us as well.
I understand that it was a joint responibility, I also hear the skywest and AW
thing all the time. While I'm not going to defend our poor service as ACA
, I will point a few things out. Skywest had a small percentage of flights out of SFO
, they had the rest of the system to pick up the slack including the delta side. 90% of ACA
flights went out of or into IAD
(10% Delta), two of the most delay prone airports in the country. While I'm not using that as an exuse, after having lived through the summer of expansion in 2001 at ORD
, I was shocked at the level of support from united. We went from 25 flights a day to 75 flights a day in 3 months, with the same amount of gate space, same amount of people. These were some trying times, I'm sure your aware of how these problems compound as the day goes on. I remember sitting in the penalty box for 2-3 hours after landing because we had no gate space, why, because of massive delays at ORD
causing EDCT times to be delayed ect, ect. Now when there are 7 gates and 6 airplanes sitting in those gates that have their crews in the penalty box in other airplanes waiting for a gate to open up, it causes some issues. Our management begged united for more gates, response, NO. I was interesting listening to the passenger saying things like, "look at all those gates at the C concourse that are open, why cant we just get out there."
starts adding flights into ORD
, and the rest of the F concourse gets opened up to ACA
and united gives AW
and SKYW gates at the C and B concourse. How are we at ACA
suppost to feel? we begged for years for them to do that, they didn't, then SKYW waltzes into town an united opens up gates. Was it favoritsm, or did they learn their lesson and start supporting the express carries after that wretched summer. You run into a chicken VS
the egg discussion.
Now comes the interesting part, and the flaw in the system. Could we have done more? Yes, we could have hired more people, bought more tugs, set up repo areas to take planes off the gates so that the operation would run better. But the simple question is why should we spend more money than we have to, its a fee per departure contract, and we only have one customer, United. The job of our management was to maximize profits within the current contract. They did that and did it well. When your revenue is fixed, the only way to increase profits is to cut costs. United made it profitable for us not to care about customer service. So in a sense, we did it better than AW
and SKYW. It sucked for customers of united, but I ask one question, why should we eat into profits when our sole responsibility to our shareholders is to increase their wealth? Why should we spend money on things that aren't going to increase revenue? It's tough position to be in. Of course, having lived through those times, I'm somewhat biased and habour a little bit of ill will toward united management. (note, I said management, not the employees) I'm sure you guys don't like them as well.
Like I said before, I hope united management has learned their lesson and they change the way the contracts are structured so to make the express carriers care about the passengers of united. I'm sure they have changed some things, but it still needs some work.
As far as us splitting away, most people are under the impression that we left because of money. In a sence, it was, but not in the way most people think. United wanted us to buy another 34 airplanes, plus maybe some 70 seaters. The problems arose in the risk sharing. They were insistent on a clause that would have allowed them to replace 50% of our flying on very short notice. With the less expensive regionals in the system already, it was only a matter of time. So we were suppost to take on and additional 700M in debt yet have only one customer that could replace us at a moments notice. It come down to two very risky strategies, and we took what we believed to be the LESS risky strategy in starting Independence. We only had two choices, and we already had the business plan to break away, we worked with united to try to make it less risky, but in the end it ended up that it was less risky to start Independence. Again I'm not making excuses for our performance, but the simple fact of the matter is that we weren't paid for performance, we were paid to move airplanes. Now we are paid for performance, and we are doing everything in our power to change. Things have improved 10 fold in the first month, but there are still some issues to be worked out and they are being worked on. It's going to take a few months to get rid of some old habits, but I think its going well ahead of schedule already and things will only get better in the future.