America West Airlines’ move to launch nonstop transcontinental
low-fare service this fall to San Francisco and Los Angeles is
expected to create fierce competition for business travelers.
The new service will also boost West Coast travel, starting Oct.
26 with twice-daily nonstop flights from New York’s JFK Airport and
Boston’s Logan Airport to Los Angeles International Airport.
Twice-daily nonstop flights from JFK to San Francisco are
scheduled to start Dec. 19, and similar service from Boston to San
Francisco, March 1.Last-minute one-way fares for the flights are
set at $299, about 60 percent less than current fares in the
market, airline officials said.
“High-fare carriers will have a difficult time defending
selves,” said Scott Kirby, the airline’s executive vice president
for sales and marketing. “We expect competition from the ‘Big 6’ to
fully or partially match the prices, but on an inventory-control
basis. It will be difficult for them to sacrifice the large-paying
America West said fares could rise as much as $100 on peak
travel days but most are expected to be $299.
America West said it will use Airbus A319s on the flights that
have 12 first-class seats and 112 main-cabin seats, and will
specifically target business travelers with flight times out of New
York and Boston about 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and flights out of San
Francisco and Los Angeles about 8 a.m. and noon.
“We expected we will see significant market share gains with
small- and medium-business travelers in all of these markets,”
America West, the third-largest carrier from the Northeast to
the West, said the new flights would represent about 5 percent to 6
percent of its total service.
Some analysts questioned how America West would compete if the
larger carriers match its lower fare price.
“We think this should stimulate enough traffic that all airlines
in the market will be full,” Kirby said. “These markets are so
large and there’s so much business traffic there, that even if they
do match us, it’s still profitable.” Officials said the new flights
will comprise about 7 percent of flights in those markets.The
service pits America West and JetBlue, which flies from New York’s
JFK to the Los Angeles area and Oakland.
A federal study released last month showed low-fare carriers are
serving more long-distance markets, pushing their average fares
down about 29 percent over the past two years.