Discount airlines gaining an edge

Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:29 PM

NEW YORK, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The biggest game-changer in the U.S. airline industry in recent years is not the recession or fuel costs, but discount carriers, an industry expert said.

"The biggest thing that has happened in this industry over the past decade isn't 9/11, or recession, or SARS, or bankruptcies or mergers," economist Dan Kasper at consulting firm LECG said. "It's the deep penetration by the low-cost carriers."

Discount carriers maintained a 10 percent market share in 1999 and now boast a 30 percent market share, USA Today reported Tuesday.

The recession and high fuel costs haven't helped conventional carriers, but discount airlines fared better in recent years because they offer flights to more cities, analysts said.

"The shift toward the low-cost carriers isn't about price … . The shift really is because of flight availability," said frequent flier Don Schmincke, who logs about 200,000 miles in the air each year.

"You can get to so many more places these days on the low-cost carriers that you couldn't 10 years ago."

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