ST. LOUIS -- American's plan to take over and maintain TWA's hub at
Lambert-St. Louis Airport is good news for business travelers,
according to Jack O'Neill, president of corporate travel at Maritz
"American is a quality airline," said O'Neill. "Having a hub
here means St. Louis business travelers are still going to get the
schedules and service."
O'Neill said a few of Maritz's clients have corporate contracts
with TWA, which are still intact. But when American acquires TWA's
assets, renegotiations will likely take place, he said.
"I suspect that many of those contracts will go to American,"
Southwest Airlines has a significant presence in St. Louis, but
most corporate travelers prefer TWA, said O'Neill, because they
perceive TWA's mileage program as being stronger and because TWA
provides access to larger markets.
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American said operating a hub in St. Louis will help the carrier
increase its East-West traffic by taking some pressure off O'Hare
in Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth, two crowded American hubs. Plus,
American said the local market in St. Louis is large enough to make
a hub profitable.
Ed Faberman, a Washington-based lawyer and airline-industry
consultant for Radius, a travel management consortium, said he
believes an American hub in St. Louis would work only if the
carrier has different focuses in Chicago and St. Louis.
"What American probably will do in Chicago is focus on
connections to international markets and larger U.S. cities, like
Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver and Phoenix," said
Faberman, who also is the executive director of the Air Carrier
Association of America, a group of small and new-entrant
In St. Louis, Faberman said he expects American will offer
connections to large cities but not as much frequency as in
Chicago. He said regional jet service to smaller markets is the way
to go in St. Louis.
"In St. Louis, where American will not have a hub competitor
[such as United at O'Hare], American can have regional jet
operations and have no [competition]," said Faberman.
"American can't offer the same service in Chicago and in St.
Louis," Faberman continued. "It has to offer some kind of [unique]
product in St. Louis, or [another carrier] will come in there."
Faberman conjectured that small markets, such as Bloomington,
Ind., and Springfield, Ill., will be the type of cities that will
be served out of St. Louis.
If Faberman's forecast proves correct, business travelers in St.
Louis would have a lower frequency of flights to larger cities and
higher fares -- not good news.
"American will raise fares," said Faberman. "It won't charge
what TWA was charging. TWA had to give better deals because it had
a smaller market share and a smaller network than other [major]
"It had to offer some incentive for people to fly [with
Southwest will offer lower fares, but Faberman, like O'Neill,
said he believes Southwest isn't a threat to American in the realm
of corporate travel because Southwest doesn't fly to many of the
busier markets -- an inconvenience to business travelers.
Even if American isn't viably threatened by competitors in St.
Louis, Southwest said don't count on American to ultimately operate
a successful hub out of the city.
A spokesman at Southwest pointed to American hub operations that
failed in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Nashville, and San Jose, Calif.
"American says a lot of things," said the spokesman. "In this
business, long-term planning is two days, and that's the way it
will always be."