United Airlines CEO: It Is “Blindingly Obvious” Frontier And Southwest Can’t Grow In 2023 – Live and Let’s Fly

United Airlines CEO: It Is "Blindingly Obvious" Frontier And Southwest Can't Grow In 2023 - Live and Let's Fly

What would inhibit an airline from growing in 2023? A lack of pilots? A lack of airplanes? Perhaps poor infrastructure? For United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, the biggest indicator is not even what might be coming, but how airlines are performing now when irregular operations inevitably take place. Specifically, Kirby points to the poor performance of Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines, United’s two largest competitors in Denver, to argue that it is “blindingly obvious” that their growth plans are not achievable.

United Airlines CEO Uses Southwest And Frontier To Make Point That Airlines Cannot Possibly Grow As Promised in 2023

I’ve been mulling over the United Airlines’ investor conference yesterday and continue to be drawn to United CEO Scott Kirby’s insistence that capacity growth is unrealistic for most U.S. carriers in 2023. He asserts that other airlines are fooling themselves when promising growth this year.

Here’s what Kirby said in full context, in response to a question about whether airlines would face more regulatory scrutiny if they scaled up flight schedules but experienced horrible operational performance.

While Kirby does not name the airlines, he’s talking about Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which both have a large presence at Denver International Airport, often referred to as United’s most profitable hub. Kirby goes on to distinguish United from Frontier and Southwest, particularly in terms of completion factor, meaning the percentage of scheduled flights that are completed.

United’s growth has not matched earlier targets because it has built in more slack into the system. Kirby asserts that Frontier and Southwest still have not done so, meaning there is little room for error. So when bad weather hits, the weather itself may be the catalyst, but the ultimate cause of the flight cancellations is simply a lack of resources (mostly human, but technological as well) that can deal with such disruptions.

This is a very interesting theory to me, seems to make sense and one that I will be watching closely in the days and weeks ahead.


How is it that one storm can have such a dramatically different impact on carriers operating from the same airport with identical (or similar) aircraft types? Kirby says this problem essentially illuminates why other airlines will not grow in 2023.  I think he’s right.

image: United Airlines

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