Air Transport World

Secret party: Carnival Air Lines succeeds by maintaining fun atmosphere, low costs and a low profile.(Niche Airlines)

Carnival Air Lines succeeds by maintaining a fun atmosphere, low costs and a low profile

FT. LAUDERDALE--Carnival Air Lines Chairman Reuven Wertheim hesitates to describe the company he helped to found as a "niche" airline. "I don't know exactly what a niche carrier is," he confesses to ATW. "What are we trying to say by 'niche?'"

Nevertheless, the term fits. Carnival operates within well-defined market and geographic boundaries, and expands almost exclusively within those serf-imposed limits. Generally, it avoids direct confrontation with larger competitors and its service patterns are unlikely to irk hub-and-spoke airlines by wooing business fliers off their jets.

Carnival mainly transports leisure travelers from the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut metroplex to vacation destinations in Florida and the Caribbean, typically offering no more than two round trips per day in any market. The exception to the north-south focus is daily service from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. The airline relies on strong local traffic to fill its cabins. The little hubbing that occurs is almost incidental. Fares are deeply discounted off standard Y-class and carry few restrictions. Average stage length is 1,200 mi.

Carnival differs from most low-fare operators in a few important respects, however. …

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