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Who needs low fares,non-stop to Las Vegas?

Dec 12, 2000 9:51 AM

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS! Ever since National Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11, I’ve been earnestly talking to plenty of chiefs and plenty of Indians in the casino industry.

Why not?

Nearly everyone has a stake in Las Vegas’ future, which so largely depends on the business of the casinos. I won’t bore you with numbers. They all say the same thing. Las Vegas, one of America’s leading expansion cities, can’t make it without the casinos. If they don’t make it, no one else in the valley does, either. If you don’t work for a casino, the chances are excellent that the company you work for relies on casinos. Monthly mortgages can’t be paid. Banks can’t collect. The wheel won’t keep turning if someone isn’t taking care of business.

Our town is on the grow. It is no longer just a place to gamble. Dining, shopping and entertainment are important partners. Nearly all of the revenue depends on tourists. And, of course, the locals who frequent the casinos. Californians currently make the bell ring loud and clear. Mainly, they motor here from the Golden State and make things happen in the Silver State. But with Indian gaming expanding in California, this may no longer hold true.

Then what?

Enter the airlines. Especially National Airlines, which has its hub locally with 56 flights per day flying non-stop to Las Vegas. It has been highly successful in attracting passengers. Within 10 months of operation, it showed a profit. Then along came the soaring fuel prices. No one could have foreseen how expensive fuel would become. Despite what anyone says, National’s passenger load is about 70%. That’s strong for any airline. For one now only 18 months old, it says a lot about the company’s future.

As casinos expand to nearly every jurisdiction possible, Las Vegas relies heavily on air service.

I spoke to a highly respected industry senior. He did not want to be identified, but his message spoke volumes:

"I think National Airlines went a long way in capturing long-haul passengers coming to Las Vegas. They not only made it easy and comfortable, but they made sure the price was right. Because of them, air fares came down as competitors were forced to match price. However, they continue to lead the way in non-stop service.

"When Atlantic City opened, nearly everyone in Las Vegas knew the importance of non-stop travel to Las Vegas. People continually wanted to come here, but they weren’t able to spend 10 hours trying to get here.

"Now National needs to reorganize. I think the service they offer from major cities to our casinos is so important that all of us should try to help."

Some executives have told me they don’t see the wisdom of helping out an airline that is largely owned by a competitor, Harrah’s/Rio. They also argue that Harrah’s went their own way when it was time to oppose Indian gaming in California. Therefore, they wrongly conclude, helping National is helping Harrah’s.

My response has been consistent. I may not necessarily like my mother-in-law, but she’s part of the family. Focus on National Airlines and decide the value it has. If non-stop service is important, then put the pettiness aside and take care of business. Don’t think for one minute that other airlines will come along and pick up the slack: low fares and non-stop flights. Before National, you needed a magnifying glass to find a carrier that offered inexpensive non-stop, long haul service to Las Vegas. It was National that brought the fares down.

I readily admit that when Mike Conway came around looking for investors, I opened my door. Only Harrah’s and Rio did the same, albeit to a much larger extent. Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I don’t toss my money around carelessly. I liked what National had to offer. I wasn’t afraid of the risks. And even now, with Chapter 11 in progress, I firmly believe National Airlines will succeed.

Our company (Dirson Enterprises Inc.) is now in its 25th year in Las Vegas. All that time we have published this newspaper every week without missing a beat. When National began flying, we entered into an agreement to publish their in-flight magazine, Flyer. It has grown in size from 20 pages to 80 pages for its January issue. That growth was made possible mainly through the hotels that saw an easy way to reach a targeted market of incoming tourists.

The airline voluntarily went into bankruptcy to protect itself. It realizes that its future is brighter than ever, but it needs help with the expenses that have accumulated mainly from the fuel crisis.

National Airlines is a winner. That’s News You Can Bet On!