Two Discount Airlines to Add Philadelphia Flights

Two growing discount carriers, AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines, announced plans yesterday to add flights next year at Philadelphia International Airport.

AirTran plans to add another nonstop flight between Philadelphia and Boston by early next year, giving it seven daily round-trips between the cities, Stan Gadek, chief financial officer of the Orlando, Fla., carrier, said in an interview. AirTran also has increased its flights between Philadelphia and Florida cities in the last year, and is now up to 20 such round-trips a day, Gadek said.

Southwest said it would add one round-trip flight each on six routes it already serves: Houston, Pittsburgh, Chicago Midway, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Jacksonville, Fla. The additions will give the Dallas-based airline two daily round-trips to Houston, Las Vegas, Jacksonville and Phoenix; seven to Pittsburgh; and eight to Midway.

AirTran's share of the Philadelphia air-travel market has grown steadily in the last two years despite Southwest's entry here in May 2004 and US Airways' matching of both discount carriers' fares.

AirTran had 4 percent of Philadelphia airport traffic this summer, compared with 2.5 percent two years ago. Southwest carries about 7 percent, making it the second-largest carrier behind US Airways.

Also yesterday, AirTran's parent, AirTran Holdings Inc., said higher fares and increased passenger volume allowed it to narrow its third-quarter loss, despite a doubling of its costs for fuel.

AirTran lost $228,000 in the third quarter, compared with a $9.8 million loss in the same period a year ago. The company had revenue of $374.6 million in the quarter, its highest quarterly figure ever and 53 percent more than the $245.6 million it had in the year-earlier quarter.

The company said it had $1 billion in revenue in the first nine months of the year, a 36 percent increase over the $735 million it took in the first nine months of 2004. Net income for the nine months was $3 million, compared with $11 million a year earlier.

The airline has raised its one-way fares by $3 to $5 twice in many markets since August, reflecting higher demand.

AirTran paid $127 million in the third quarter for jet fuel, its highest expense category, compared with $65 million a year-ago.

Philadelphia Inquirer

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