Air Transport World

Darwin and competition. (latest airline fare war threatens to eliminate financially shaky carriers) (Editorial)

As an aircraft's airspeed decreases, it hits a certain point in the airspeed/power curve when suddenly, massive amounts of power are required to eke out small increases in airspeed. Welcome to the fabled "back side of the power curve." Once on the back side, an airplane must be handled with the greatest skill and delicacy or it will fall out of the sky. It is not a place a pilot wants to be.

Airlines in Chapter 11 bankruptcy or hovering just above it clearly are on the back side of their power curves. Continental is the only major to have crawled out of this financial hole briefly; the rest fell out of the sky. History usually repeats. It is not a place an airline manager wants to be.

With three of the nine U.S. majors in a bankruptcy from which none has returned permanently, we need to start talking about the state of competition with six majors, of which Northwest and USAir are a little shaky financially and one, Southwest, is the horse of a different color, slowly expanding its competition eastward. …

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