Air Transport World

Metro's courage continues to pay off. (Metro Airlines)

Metro's courage continues to pay off

The only constants at Metro Airlines during its two decades of existence have been its profitability, its chief executive, its de Havilland Twin Otters and its opportunistic nature. Otherwise, the Metro of today in no way resembles the carrier that was formed in 1967 to fly passengers between NASA facilities on the southeast edge of Houston and Intercontinental Airport 30 miles to the northwest.

Metro doesn't even serve Houston anymore. It sold its operation there to another commuter, Royale Airlines, last year and-- with a strong twinge of regret and the loss of a large portion of its clerical and accounting staff--moved its headquarters from its Clear Lake City stolport to a glass box of a building on the fringes of Dallas /Ft. Worth International.

Metro Airlines, in fact, is only a holding company, a status it assumed in 1981 when it went public with a $3.7-million stock offering. Chairman Edmond A. Henderson, President and CEO Jay L. Seaborn, four VPs and a small support staff establish policies, handle financing and monitor the operations of three (probably soon to be four) subsidiaries that in the year ending April 30 flew 1.23 million passengers (up 26.9%) and 232.6 million RPMs (up 44.4%) to the hubs of DFW, Atlanta and San Juan to connect with the flights of major partners American Airlines and Eastern Airlines.

The current incarnation of the original airline is Metroflight Inc., headed by Executive VP Jeff Spear, which provides American Eagle service to DFW from eight cities in five states with a fleet of 16 1/2 ex-Frontier Airlines Convair 580s (11 are in the schedule, three are spares, two are for sale and one was damaged in a tornado this spring). A second subsidiary, Metro Express Inc., formed in 1984 and headed by Executive VP Doug Caldwell, operates Eastern Metro Express service from Atlanta to 13 cities in seven states with 14 British Aerospace Jetstream 31s and eight de Havilland Dash 8s, and has five more Jetstreams on order. Aviation Associates Inc. (Sunaire), purchased last fall and headed by Robert Phillips, former president of Royale, is also an Eastern Metro Express carrier flying ten ex-Metroflight Twin Otters out of a San Juan hub to six points in Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.

And then there is Metro Express II, a Dallas-based American Eagie owned by Seaborn and Henderson but not yet a part of Metro Airlines, although that company has an option to acquire it. MXII, headed by Executive VP Carter Burwell, flies ten Jetstreams and two Shorts 330s. It was created in 1985 when, says Seaborn, American insisted on Metro's entering the markets of Delta Connection carrier Rio Airways, which had siphoned considerable feed from American by sharing Delta's code. "Metro had just been through three bad years and didn't feel like taking a beating,' says Seaborn. Instead, with the consent of Metro's disinterested directors, he and Henderson agreed to do once again what they had done a year earlier with Metro Express and start a new airline. …

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