Kiwi Celebrates First Anniversary
Undated (AP) _ Kiwi International Air Lines celebrated its first anniversary Tuesday, a day some industry analysts predicted the no-frills New Jersey-based carrier would not be around to see.
″Before we started, all the analysts said we could never start up, then they said we could never stay in business,″ Kiwi president Bob Iverson said. ″I’d say to them now ’better luck next time.‴
Named for a flightless bird, Kiwi sponsored parties Tuesday at each of its six destinations - Newark, N.J., Orlando, Fla., Atlanta, Chicago, San Juan, and Tampa, Fla.
In the past 12 months, Kiwi has more than doubled in size, from 196 employees and two 727-200s to more than 550 workers and seven planes. The airline said more than 450,000 passengers rode its planes over its first year.
Iverson said the privately held company has turned a profit for the three months ending in August and expects to finish the year in the black. But he refused to provide any specific figures.
The airline also plans to add West Palm Beach, Fla. to its destination list by November and three more airplanes to its fleet by year’s end.
″They seem to be doing fairly well,″ said Lee Howard, president of the Washington-based consulting firm Airline Economics Inc. ″They’ll probably serve more cities as they see good opportunities. But they’ll be careful to make sure they can fully compete.″
Howard said 26 new carriers have applied for the required certification to operate an airline between January 1991 and May, but six of the carriers are not yet in operation.
Iverson said the employees are the main reason the company has been successful, and some industry analysts agree with that.
″Kiwi has a dedicated workforce,″ said Christopher Fotos, publications director for Avmark Inc., an airlines consulting firm based in Arlington, Va. ″It doesn’t have the serious labor and management problems seen at other airlines.″
The airline, with offices across from Newark International Airport, is comprised largely of employees victimized by bankruptcies and mergers of other airlines, and it is owned and capitalized by those same workers. Pilots put up $50,000 apiece, and other employees invested $5,000 each.
Compared to their counterparts at other airlines, pilots and managers make substantially less, but the rest of the employees earn about the same, Iverson said. Pilots and management hope to make up the lost money in profit sharing.
The airline can afford to offer competitive fares without restrictions because the average employee experience level of 20 years means workers can do more than one job. For example, a flight attendant could help out at the gate.
″Everybody pitches in,″ Iverson said. ″It’s one of the products when you’re employees are also owners.″