Sunday, February 3, 2013

When Regional Becomes Mainline

I often hear stories of CEOs wanting to centralize and outsource.  In fact, I'm currently working on a project where centralization may be the best option -- But outsourcing?  It is easy to hand someone your shirt, your logo, and your livery and say, "You're now us."  But they never are.

Many people don't realize the difference
between United and United Express,
but as always, there's a number of differences.
View more of my photos on Instagram
I fly United all of the time -- which many of you #avgeeks will say is a lie.  The truth is that in 2012 I flew SkyWest more than any other airline (and in second place was Trans States Airlines).

For the frequent fliers you all know the issues that come with flying "Regional" Airlines.  The worst being that the onboard product is different.  Sure, the planes share the same livery (most of the time), and the pilots say, "thanks for flying with United," but do they really care about United's brand?  The answer is no.

I know, I know, I'm just sitting here complaining, but what am I really getting at?  United has 13 or 14 Regional Carriers.  Each with their own set of SOPs, Policies, and procedures.  American just inked a new deal with SkyWest.  Delta and US also use Regional Service.  What's the big deal?

SkyWest and Republic.  SkyWest currently serves 166 Destinations across North America, and Republic services close to the same (across all of their subsidiaries). These two airlines have the force to leave behind "Regional" service and provide their own-branded service.

Image from Wikipedia
Fine, you want to bring up ExpressJet (now owned by SkyWest).  I'm sitting at gate 11 at Oklahoma City, ExpressJet used to offer service from Gate 12, which I'm looking at.  They had the great idea to move from Regional to Mainline -- But if failed.  Why?  They didn't have a strong enough brand.

How many times when you fly with SkyWest have you noticed that they push their SkyWest brand as much as they push the United, American, US, or Delta brands?  It's pretty often.  SkyWest is slowly working on making all of their passengers aware of who is really running the airline.

SkyWest and Republic both have a huge advantage with having a history in running their own Passenger Systems (for SkyWest it comes from ExpressJet, and for Republic it comes from Frontier/Midwest).  They have the airplanes, and they have the know-how to run a full system.  What's stopping them?  (yeah, duh, a non-compete of sorts in a contract.)  But how long will that last?

Major carriers are handing their brands and their customers over to these small, but powerful, airlines. Maybe it's time for Large carriers to look to Southwest... one mainline fleet with no regional carriers so that you can maintain complete control of your brand.

And, not to mention, how is flying half way across the country "regional"?  That's just a personal pet peeve of mine.  But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?