You have a lot of believers.
Yes, we changed the business fare because we thought we were doing what was right for customers. I think we reached a fundamental realization that perhaps the other airlines haven’t reached is that doing what’s right for customers in most cases is what’s right for the financials of the airline. We didn’t lower business fares for all terrific reasons, but we did it because we thought it would improve our financial performance and indeed, our revenue performance throughout the industry in the last five months has been stronger than it has been in any period in the last decade.
How difficult is it to get the attention of passengers on other airlines to make sure they know things aren’t the same out there, and how do you plan to go about doing this?
It’s an opportunity for us. One of the things we’ve done pretty aggressively is an elite match program, which we find very successful and people know to check. A lot of times people look to see or find out from their travel agent if there is a lower fare available on America West for business travelers but they’re so locked into their frequent flyer program that they don’t want to fly on America West and we have the opportunity to identify those customers to tell them we will match their elite status and they can still get the same type of benefits they get on the other airlines: first-class travel, earning frequent flyer miles for award redemption. We find that a successful way to get them converted. But really our focus in the last couple of months and will be for the next several months is to more effectively communicate to the business community at large that America West is a low fare airline and does offer value for the money and just give it a try.
On a recent flight I saw a magazine about FlightFund.
We set that up as a joint venture between our in-flight magazine and ourselves. What we wanted to do was convey to all of our members and all the people that fly on us the scope of the program, the benefits that we offer and the number of partners. Given that we attracted so many people who haven’t traditionally flown America West under the operational improvements because of the new fare structure. We wanted to give them the opportunity to read about the benefits of joining our frequent flyer program and flying on America West more frequently. We took advantage of that opportunely to put it in the magazine but we also did tens of thousands of additional copies that we could but at the airports. Once that magazine was out of circulation people would still have the ability of see what those benefits were.
Is America West seeking other alliances?
We are talking to other carriers; we don’t have anything to announce. But it is important to us, particularly for our frequent flyer program, to have as much scope as possible for frequent flyers to earn and burn miles. We already have several international agreements so we feel covered even with the loss of Continental. We are talking to some other airlines about potentially larger relationships.