Regional Air Giant SkyWest Preps for More Growth in '06

ST. GEORGE - SkyWest Inc., which became the biggest regional airline last year, is looking at another year of growth that could increase its revenue by 50 percent, CEO Jerry Atkin said Tuesday.

The company will take delivery of six new 50-seat Bombardier jetliners and 24 additional 70-seat jets by the end of the year, bringing its fleet of jets and turboprops to 409, Atkin told investors at SkyWest's annual meeting.

SkyWest wants to expand the number of routes its regional carrier subsidiaries SkyWest Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines operate for Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. And it is bidding on new business with Continental Airlines.

"We are a pretty big company in the airline industry today," Atkin said.

Airline analysts say SkyWest could rake in $3 billion in revenue and fly 30 million passengers this year. The company is one of the most profitable carriers in the airline industry.

SkyWest earned a $112.3 million profit on revenue of $2 billion last year. The company expects to report first-quarter results today. Last month, SkyWest said it expects net income to fall between $33.9 million and $37.8 million for the three months ending March 31.

SkyWest added 30 of Bombardier's 70-seat jets to its fleet last year.

They were put into service at the company's United Express operations, expanding SkyWest's position as the largest United Express operator flying for Chicago-based United.

With SkyWest's acquisition of ASA from Delta in September, SkyWest became the largest Delta Connection operator flying for the bankrupt airline. The $425 million deal included 153 regional aircraft that should help generate $1 billion in additional revenue, Atkin said.

Through agreements with Delta and United, SkyWest flies as Delta Connection and United Express.

The combined SkyWest-ASA fleet is flown by 3,800 pilots. Atkin said pilot numbers will grow if the company gets more routes from Delta and United or wins new business from another carrier. The two subsidiaries serve 218 airports in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean with 2,350 daily departures.

In other business, shareholders re-elected eight directors and accepted the resignation of Sidney Atkin, who has served on the board since 1973.

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