An August 8, 2003 article by Cynthia Wilson in the St Louis Post-Dispatch:
About three weeks after American Airlines said it will cancel half the flights it offers at Lambert Field, five airlines have committed to expanding service in St. Louis. And others have pledged to do the same, an airport spokesman said.
Last week, Delta Connection added one daily nonstop flight to its hub in Atlanta and a nonstop flight to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. United Express and Air Canada will begin offering new flights next month. Northwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines have committed to new flights, as well.
The combined 14 daily nonstop flights still are a long way from replacing the 210 flights American will cancel Nov. 1. But city officials say the new flights signal that St. Louis is still an attractive market for airlines.
While declining to be specific, Brian Kinsey, Lambert's business market manager, said other airlines have committed to adding service here. He said that could happen in the first or second quarter next year.
"We just have to be patient until they are able to enter the market," he said.
Aviation consultant George Hamlin called the flight additions "quick" and "a positive sign" that St. Louis is a survivor.
"It's possible American (could have) cut back and nobody did anything," said Hamlin, senior vice president of Global Aviation Associates, a commercial aviation consulting firm in Washington.
"I would have found that unusual, but things are tough now. They might not have" added flights.
Although most of the flights city officials announced recently qualify as new or added service, Air Canada's three daily nonstops to Toronto will replace flights suspended in June when travel to Canada suffered because of fears about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
Most of the 14 flights, including those offered by Air Canada, will be on regional jets flown by the airlines' affiliates.
Industry analysts say regional jets are the future for the industry, which is struggling to recoup billions of dollars in losses. The smaller jets can fly 1,000 miles or more and can help airlines boost profits if they are filled with more higher-paying passengers.
While the additional flights at Lambert will provide business travelers with more options when American cuts back, leisure travelers won't be as lucky.
"If you're a leisure traveler, (regional jets) are probably not going to create more deep discount seats for your next weekend getaway," Hamlin said. The airlines "are not looking for additional low-fare backpackers."
City officials courting airlines to replace service at Lambert won't get the kind of response that will return St. Louis to its glory days as a major hub, said Richard Aboulafia, senior aerospace analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va. But "it will be better than just a regular spoke city," he said.
The future could depend greatly on Southwest's intentions, experts say.
Hamlin and Aboulafia said Southwest is in an expansion mode, and St. Louis could reap some of the benefits.
When American announced plans to cuts flights at Lambert, Southwest Chairman Herb Kelleher said Southwest had a "strong interest in expanding nonstop service in St. Louis." The discount carrier said recently that it will take delivery of 42 new 737-300 aircraft next year. Some will replace retiring jets. But Southwest will have 25 net new airplanes, said Christine Turneabe-Connelly, a Southwest spokeswoman.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Southwest has canceled 18 flights at Lambert because of falling demand. It now offers 67 nonstops to 19 cities.
But things have obviously changed, Turneabe-Connelly said. "We could expand depending on our analysis of American's reductions."