CHICAGO (AP) _ United Airlines' discount carrier Ted plans to expand its fleet by 20 percent this year and fly more often to leisure-travel markets after what it says was a successful first year in operation.
Ted will increase its fleet of Airbus 320 aircraft from 47 to 56 and add flights later this year out of Denver, Washington-Dulles and Chicago to markets in Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean, the carrier told employees.
The increased service represents a shift of resources within United and Ted, not an addition of new aircraft. The additional planes will be taken from United's mainline service and converted to Ted's configuration, the company said.
''Ted has met or exceeded all of our expectations,'' vice president Sean Donohue said in an employee newsletter. ''Given Ted's consistently high customer satisfaction ratings and the strong margin improvement we've seen on Ted routes, now is the right time to increase our service into certain leisure markets that show strong customer demand.''
Ted charges lower fares on certain routes where it goes head-to-head against other discount carriers. It began service out of its Denver hub on Feb. 12, 2004, in a challenge to low-fare carriers such as Denver-based Frontier Airlines Inc. that had been taking away United customers.
The company said Ted carried more than 7 million passengers in its first year, with planes averaging more than 80 percent full. It currently operates more than 200 flights per day to 16 destinations.
Besides lower fares and its own planes _ all 156-seat Airbus 320s _ Ted offers its own onboard entertainment, dubbed ''Tedevision'' and ''Tedtunes.''
The airline now has three nonstop flights a day from Midway to Denver, Ted's base, and two daily nonstops to Washington Dulles.
Leisure fares to and from Denver International Airport last week were down 11 percent from a year ago.
The sprawling airport isn't anything like the secondary facilities that the Dallas-based discounter prefers to fly from.
DIA will spend $41.5 million to upgrade and expand United's regional jet facility on the east end of Concourse B. The airport also will pay off $110 million in debt related to United's failed...