SkyWest flies in every direction. The airline operates through three carriers: SkyWest Airlines, Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), and the newly acquired ExpressJet. SkyWest has destinations to about 275 cities in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Combined, the carriers operate a fleet of about 700 aircraft consisting of Canadair regional jets (CRJs, made by Bombardier) and turboprops. SkyWest also has a code-sharing agreement with Delta Air Lines and United Continental's United Airlines. (Code-sharing allows airlines to sell tickets on one another's flights.)
SkyWest picked up rival regional carrier ExpressJet through ASA for a reported $133 million. With the addition of ExpressJet's 1,300 daily scheduled departures, SkyWest saw about a 15% increase in departures for 2010. The expanded regional family has its sights set on continuing to serve Continental and United hubs.
Amid growing demand by airline giants to cut costs by outsourcing regional flights, SkyWest is moving to further diversify its operations and marketplace presence. Owning Expre Jet, SkyWest Airlines, and ASA positions SkyWest as a strong competitor for more business from Delta and United, as well as for contracts from other carriers. Industry turbulence, however, is growing as air carriers move to consolidate. In late 2010 the airline acquired a 30% stake in Vietnam-based Mekong Aviation (operating as Air Mekong) for a reported $7 million. SkyWest also stocked Air Mekong with several pilots from its ASA subsidiary. Air Mekong now flies to eight destinations from the US, including Da Nang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Phu Quoc.
In the meantime, SkyWest entered into a marketing alliance in late 2009 with AirTran (now owned by Southwest Airlines). SkyWest Airlines operates aircraft for AirTran Airways under a under a pro-rate arrangement (a system that gives SkyWest the ability to control aircraft types, customer service, fare pricing, flight schedules, and routes served). The company manages flights between Milwaukee and a handful of destinations, primarily located in the Midwestern US. The AirTran partnership lets SkyWest continue to provide regional service from Milwaukee, a hub that the carrier served through a former Midwest contract.
In mid-2009 SkyWest announced it was pulling the plug on its contract to provide regional service for Midwest Airlines. SkyWest became a Midwest Connect carrier in 2007, but the relationship began to falter in 2008, after Midwest (along with the rest of the airline industry) ran into trouble with high fuel prices followed by the economic downturn. SkyWest removed the last of its aircraft from Midwest's routes in early 2010.
All told, the airline carried about 4.4 million passengers in 2010, nearly a 17% increase from the previous year. Although revenue per available seat mile declined more than 8%, the company was able to reduce cost per available seat mile by about the same amount.
SkyWest leases more than 75% of its aircraft. Aircraft rentals for 2010 totaled $11.1 million, up about 4% from 2009. The cause for the uptick in lease fees can be attributed to leasing four CRJ900 aircraft for Air Mekong and more than $3.5 million in aircraft rental fees related to the acquisition of ExpressJet.
Along with regional passenger transportation, which accounts for nearly all of its sales, SkyWest provides ground handling services -- loading and unloading of aircraft -- for other airlines at several of the airports where it operates.