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National Takes on Southwest With LAX-Las Vegas Route

May 27, 1999|STEPHEN GREGORY, travel and tourism correspondent

A new air carrier is scheduled to wade into the hotly contested travel market today between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a route already dominated by Southwest Airlines.

With its inaugural L.A.-bound flight set for 8:30 a.m., Las Vegas-based National Airlines Inc. begins offering four daily flights between Los Angeles International Airport and McCarren International Airport, carrier spokesman Dik Shimizu said. Two additional daily flights are scheduled to start service in June.

Competition on the route is already fierce: Southwest leads with 16 daily flights, followed by United with 10 and America West with nine.

But Shimizu said demand for Las Vegas as a tourist spot should provide ample business for upstart National and the established carriers.

Shimizu said National also plans to compete with its rival carriers by striking code-sharing agreements with foreign airlines that serve LAX. The idea, he said, would be for National to provide the Los Angeles-Las Vegas leg for a foreign carrier looking to offer service to the gaming and entertainment mecca.

The airline plans to carve out similar niches in other port-of-entry cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and New York.

On Wednesday, National also posted fares comparable to Southwest's. Both carriers offered Los Angeles-Las Vegas round-trip fares of $78 with a seven-day advance purchase and a minimum one-night stay.

Southwest officials said they were confident in their position as the No. 1 carrier at McCarren. "We know we're going to continue giving our customers the service they expect and the frequency of flight they say they need," Southwest spokeswoman Carol Pearson said.

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