Thursday, January 29, 2009

Continental West / Lite - 1985, 1994

Continental West (1985) concentrated on flights out of LAX, while Continental Lite (1993-1995) had a hub at GSO.

Here's a Continental West plane:

Just for fun, here's the same plane today:

Now, about Continental Lite's Greensboro hub, from a 1994 annual report:

As of March 31, 1995, Continental operated 56.3% (57 departures) of all
daily jet departures and, together with Express and GP Express, accounted
for 60.8% (90 departures) of all daily departures from Greensboro's Piedmont
Triad International Airport ("Piedmont"). Turboprop service is provided
to a number of smaller regional cities by GP Express under a code-share
agreement. The next largest carrier, USAir, and its commuter affiliate
accounted for 21.8% (34 departures) of all daily departures from Piedmont
as of March 31, 1995.
I can remember seeing the Lite planes in Miami. I think the reservation number for Lite was 1-800-PEANUTS. Clever.
February 13, 2004
(c) 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Ten years ago, Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL) started its own low-cost airline, called Continental Lite. These days, executives with the Houston airline say that was a mistake they won't repeat. Continental Lite offered only the most basic airline service: safe air transport. To trim costs, the airline cut meal service and even cut the number of cleanings the planes received each day.

Customers didn't like it, and walked. Furthermore, customers confused the Lite product with the main airline, and stopped flying Continental altogether. So within a few years, Continental shut down the Lite operation.
From the November 7, 1994 edition of Business Week:
Continental Lite is not working as well as the airline once predicted. The problem, in short: "Their costs are still too high and their revenues are still too low," says a source close to the company.

For starters, some of Continental Lite's routes simply aren't traveled heavily enough to support frequent, Southwest-style flights. And Continental Lite relies more heavily on one-stop and connecting flights than Southwest, forcing more late flights and other operating problems.

In addition, rivals such as USAir Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. have responded more aggressively to Lite fares than Continental expected. Given a choice, consumers are less likely to choose Continental, which has a higher rate of customer complaints. Southwest, in contrast, is known for dominating markets and driving out competition, allowing it to build up frequent flights and push down unit costs.

Some observers also criticize Continental's marketing efforts. When the no-frills service was first launched a year ago, it lacked a distinct name or identity, missing its chance to make a splash. Now, Continental is trying to sell three "brands" at once--Lite, a premium international service, and its more traditional long-haul domestic flights. The effect: confusion. "You cannot be all things to all people," says one rival.

Only 20% of Continental Lite's routes are losing money. To address those problems, the airline will adjust schedules on Oct. 30--reducing flights on such marginal routes as Dayton-Greensboro, N.C., and pulling out of other markets altogether.

Analysts are skeptical but note that after virtually dismantling its unprofitable Denver hub, the carrier must redeploy its aircraft somewhere.

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