Air Transport World

Survivor of the West. (airline SkyWest Inc.) (Company Profile)

Adaptability has been the key to SkyWest's success over the years. Any carrier that has gone through seven logos in its 20-year history has to be adaptable. But dealing with the new lower-fare system and federal regulations mandating expensive safety-related avionics equipment for regional airliners may prove to be the biggest challenges for SkyWest and its CEO, Jerry Atkin.

SkyWest has grown up along with the deregulated regional-airline industry. Gone is the parochial airline that more than once reinvented the wheel. Today, Sky-West consists of four divisions. A decentralized management team oversees an airline serving 44 cities in eight western states with 500 flights daily.

There are a few changes to its leader, as well. The cowboy boots and jeans have been replaced by a conservative suit. But the year-round tan remains. So does Atkin's low-key, roll-with-the-punches style, despite these latest challenges that could impact his consistently profitable operation greatly.

"It's a problem for us," Atkin says of the fare restructuring induced by American Airlines. "After all, we are a full participant. When the majors' fare goes down, so does ours.

"The $64 question remains, will the simplified fare structure, which results in lower fares in most categories, generate the additional traffic to offset it? Damned if I know."

CFO Brad Rich is more specific: "If we are talking about a 10-15% hit to our yield, we are going to have to have a 3% increase in load factor to offset it. And I don't see that happening. …

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