Air Transport World

Northwest-America West combination strengthens position. (Airlink agreement)

Phoenix--Feed has become the name of the deregulated game for U.S. major carriers seeking to protect their share of the total market from incursions by low-cost competitors.

To generate profitable load factors for their bread-and-butter long-haul flights, the established carriers turned first to self-feeding hub-and-spoke route systems. Lately they have gone after additional feed for their hubs via a rash of "partnerships" with regional/commuter airlines.

Now the most conservative of the U.S. majors, Northwest Airlines, has escalated the battle for feed by forging an alliance with one of the largest of the deregulation-spawned new entrants, America West. In doing so, it has come up with yet another solution to the problem of how a carrier with a comparatively high-cost structure can compete in markets dominated by lowfare airlines: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Just short of merger

Northwest's Airlink agreement with America West, which went into effect July 1, is "unprecedented in the industry" in scope, says NWA President and CEO Steven G. …

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