Among the myriad of vast and sweeping changes In Las Vegas are the skyline, the seemingly unlimited population growth, the ever-changing infrastructure and the evolving face of McCarran International airport, with its relatively new “D” terminal.
A Related to and accompanying McCarran’s newest terminal is a new airline, National Airlines, led by America West Airlines founder Michael J. Conway, chairman of the board, president and CEO.
The Las Vegas-based airline started daily service on May 27 with four daily flights to Los Angeles and two to Chicago’s Midway. Since its inception, the airline has increased the number of non-stop daily flights and entered other markets such as San Francisco and New York’s JFK International. The New York route has increased from a single daily flight two months ago to four flights per day.
The burgeoning airline seems to be yet another example of the growth and opportunity the city is experiencing, and in a way, a mirror image of Las Vegas. National started with $50 million, an impressive bankroll for a start-up,
and a five-year plan encompassing a route system that touches every part of the country and includes more than 20 destinations.
Las Vegas business and industry leaders live by the credo, .. Build it and they will come.” Witness the number of hotel rooms built in the past three years, a growth in room inventory of approximately 20 percent. Until recently, that inventory growth outpaced the number of incoming flights bringing visitors to see the new properties. Air traffic into McCarran International is on the rise; still, in terms of growth in the Las Vegas market, the demand for airline seats surpasses the supply, called ‘lift’ in the airline industry.
“The lift, or number of airline seats needed to satisfy demand in this market, is one of the major reasons why National Airlines made Las Vegas its home,” says Dil Shimizu, director of communications for the airline. “From an industry standpoint, there is tremendous opportunity. Our goal is to raise the bar in terms of quality among the competition.”
“Expansion into other markets takes capital, careful planning, the insight to see an opportunity and take advantage of it and perfect timing,” Shimizu adds. “The logistics are staggering and we must position ourselves
well. We must look at various factors such as competition in terms of ticket fares and the origination and destination of competitive flights, and whether they’re passing through the hub to other destinations. After we’ve identified a market, then there are details such as the availability of gates, ticket counters, office space, personnel and more planes.”
The airline’s initial success can be attributed to more than location. National’s executives have remained focused on how to attain their goals with a set definition of what the company is. “In general, our goal is to create the best airline in the industry,”says Shimizu, “with a definite orientation toward customer service.”
So far, National Airlines has flown more than 100,000 passengers, is poised to break into the top 10 carriers serving McCarran International Airport and is expanding into two new markets, Dallas-Ft. Worth, which came online in late September, and Philadelphia, to which flight service begins this month.
To sustain such growth, National needs to remain focused. In terms of personnel, Shimizu says, “The members of our management team are seasoned veterans with extensive backgrounds in either aeronautics or the transportation field. In conjunction with our veterans, National is committed to hiring personnel who have never worked in the airline industry, mainly in the ticketing and baggage departments. There’s a great demand for people to enter the work force in this market and we want them to bring in fresh, new concepts,” Shimizu adds. In support of this, National Airlines built a training facility adjacent to its cargo and maintenance centers at the airline’s headquarters
at McCarran International Airport, at 6020 Spencer Street.
Another reason for the success of National Airlines is a clear idea of how it wants to set itself apart from the competition. The airline is carving a niche for itself in terms of customer service with its “flight centers,” located inside Harrah’s and the Rio – both of which are prominent investors in the airline. Travelers at these
ticketing locations inside the hotel casinos not only have the convenience to check in for their flights but to also check their baggage as well, enabling them to go directly to the boarding area when they arrive at the airport. This ticketing service is provided to National customers 12 to two hours before their scheduled flights. Also, an airport club for National’s frequent fliers opened last month.
Supplementing its recent growth, National is looking to expand in the near future by adding either more flights or a new destination. Desert towns such as Las Vegas are notorious for their boom and bust cycles. But National Airlines seems to have a firm grasp on its own destiny within a flourishing airline industry and the Las Vegas market, equating the future with growth.