It's a shame that everybody is predicting Southwest will be No. 1.
It's a greater shame that they're probably right.
For me, I'll do my bit to keep supporting the legacy carriers. Just watching "Airline" -- and its ridiculous singing flight attendants and the unfriendly folks down in baggage service, not to mention the slice of humanity that flies WN
-- reminds me why I'll gladly pay more money to fly with Delta any day. As does my last flight on WN
, from CO
), USA - Florida">MCO
, when a F/A argued in the aisle for FORTY MINUTES with the passenger behind me about why the passenger didn't receive the cocktail she requested from the same F/A on a previous segment (FLL
), USA - Florida">MCO
). For FORTY MINUTES, they argued.
Sure, sure, there are bad apples on every airline, but based on my WN
experiences, those kinds of things have happened with much greater regularity. But money talks -- and the passengers keep coming back to WN
because of their low fares. They don't promise the traditional, reliable, somewhat-stuffy environment of the other majors. They're brilliant, really, and they probably will be No. 1 in terms of pax enplanements.
But the point-to-point model of WN
and some other LCCs doesn't support the type of network penetration seen in the majors. We see the same phenomenon in the railroad industry, when deregulation slimmed down the railroad net to major cities and required overcompensation by some firms to re-serve smaller markets. The same process is happening over a much longer time frame in the airline industry. Cities like AGS, CHA
, GNV, etc. obviously don't support point-to-point flying by an LCC like WN
. It'll be interesting to see, in five years, how successful AirTran's JetConnect product will be in providing LC
service to smaller markets.
I would argue that because the folks in smaller communities must continue to fly -- and because LCCs won't service those communities with the frequency and regularity of the legacy carriers -- the traditional carriers will always be around. People in AMA
can fly to DAL
for $79 each way, but some of those people still will need to go to AA
), Japan">NRT or CDG
, and those routes for various reasons will likely never be dominated successfully by LCCs. International LCCs have been only nominally successful since deregulation.
Therefore, I'm sure that one carrier among DL
will be the No. 1 carrier in 10 years in terms of total enplanements (including international) and cities served. WN
can't expand ad infinitum under its current model, and consistently has articulated a decided reluctance to change its philosophy and take risks in today's volatile environment. It would take a substantial reversal in WN
's approach -- heretofore low-risk -- to see it approach the legacy carriers in terms of markets served, and WN
's history shows it's extremely unlikely such an alteration would come to fruition.