Air Transport World

'We do things that others won't: World Airways survives by taking some of the toughest jobs along with the easy ones.(Profile)(Company Profile)

At first glance, Hollis Harris and World Airways make an unlikely match. The courtly, soft-spoken Southern gentleman who spent 36 years at Delta Air Lines at a time when Delta truly was a family would seem to be an odd choice to lead a carrier perhaps known best for flying into places that people are trying to get out of.

But the two have one thing in common: Neither likes to shrink from a challenge. Though small in size, World enjoys a colorful 55-year history and an outsized reputation for acts of humanitarian derring-do earned during the 1956 Hungarian Revolt and the Vietnam War. And since leaving Delta at the end of the 1980s, Harris, 71, has built a second career as an airline fixer-upper, most notably at Air Canada where he is widely credited with carrying out a broad restructuring that put AC on a solid path of profitability until the recent downturn.

Significantly, Harris has spent nearly as much time at World as he did at Air Canada in the early/mid-1990s. He joined the company in 1999 as chairman and CEO and only recently has seen it return in profitability after losses before unusual items in 1999, 2000 and 200l. Even today, after reporting an 87% rise in first-half profits to $13 million, he remains low-key about long-term success, agreeing simply that the carrier is "going in the right direction." His caution is understandable given the vicissitudes the airline faces in its position as a niche player on the fringe of the mainstream industry.

In fact, World operates very much in the fashion of a "supplemental carrier," the classification it bore back in the days of US airline regulation when it was prevented by the Civil Aeronautics Board from offering scheduled service. …

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