Air Transport World

Mesa Airlines embraces code sharing: the lessons it learned as an independent enticed the profitable New Mexico carrier into the arms of United and Midwest Express. (company profile)

The lessons it learned as an independent enticed the profitable New Mexico carrier into the arms of United and Midwest Express.

Farmington, N.M.-As Mesa Airlines/ Skyway/United Express prepares to mark its 10th anniversary next month, Chairman/ CEO/ President Larry Risley admits he has almost become a visionary" and can see "totally unlimited growth potential" for the carrier that began life in October, 1980 flying one single-engine Piper Saratoga between Farmington and Albuquerque.

Others think Risley already has demonstrated his visionary qualities amply. After all, in the past five years, Mesa has among other things-Auadrupled in size; driven an entrenched and then much larger competitor, Air Midwest, out of New Mexico in 1986; signed on as launch customer for two new aircraft types, Beech's 1300 in 1987 and 1900D this year; created a successful new airline, Skyway, the Midwest Express Connection, in 1989 that well could be a prototype for future ventures and, in just five months earlier this year, again doubled in size by taking over the Aspen Airways' United Express franchise feeding United's Denver hub.

Model seat-mile costs

Mesa also has managed to remain profitable in every year except for a small restated loss in fiscal 1984 and to hold its seat-mile costs to a level, about 16.7cts, that is the envy of the commuter/regional industry. It has done all this in a market area where a depressed oil-based economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery.

As of Aug. 1, the company was flying 19 Beech 1900s-seven in Mesa Airlines colors, five with United Express paint and seven with Skyway logos-10 1300s and two Cessna Caravans on its Mesa routes and two Brasilias in the United Express system. Its fleet averages just 1.7 years in age, a figure that will drop as it adds an aircraft a month-nine 1900Cs, four 1300s and 10 Brasilias-over the next two years, virtually all to its United Express fleet. Next September, it will begin replacing older 1900s with new stand-up-cabin D models, having signed a letter of intent for 25, and in the 1991 fourth quarter it will start receiving eight more Brasilias. It already is the world's largest operator of the 1900 and it is the only carrier flying the 1300, a 13-passenger derivative of the King Air that was designed to its specifications.

Also as of Aug. 1, Mesa was serving 26 cities, its United Express arm was flying to 14 and Skyway was feeding its partner's Milwaukee hub from 17. At least five more United Express cities will be added by year end, starting with Cheyenne Sept. …

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