Great Plains Airline's future

Monday, December 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The future of Tulsa-based Great Plains Airlines. With the airline industry in a slump, news of Great Plains' CEO stepping down started a swirl of rumors about the start-up airline's future.

News on Six reporter Tami Marler says once Great Plains CEO Jim Swartz resigned last week, there was speculation about whether the airline was in trouble. A lot of people are counting on Great Plains to be a success, including the State of Oklahoma and the City of Tulsa. When Great Plains Airlines opened for business back in April, city and state leaders were eager to get on-board, so were passengers.

All of the enthusiasm centered on Great Plains' business plan. It had the promise of bringing new industry to Oklahoma. With non-stop flights to Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Nashville and Oklahoma City. Then, something nobody expected. On September 11th, terrorists used US airliners as guided missiles, killing thousands, and leaving the airline industry in its wake. Great Plains shareholder, Steve Turnbo, "Along with the rest of the industry Tami there were a number of dips after the horrendous events of September 11th." Larger, more established airlines were forced to lay off tens of thousands of workers, and drastically cut routes. So, many assumed CEO Jim Swartz's resignation meant certain death for Great Plains, but what would it mean for city and state leaders, who had invested so much?

The state had given Great Plains more than $15-million in tax credits; and the City of Tulsa put up collateral for a $15-million loan. Air Force Plant 3 - part of Tulsa's landscape since World War II. The city would have the first option to either buy or sell the plant if Great Plains were to fail. But Steve Turnbo says Swartz's departure does not foretell doom. “Rumors are rumors; the reality is uh we have hopefully a very optimistic future for Great Plains Airlines. A year out from now we hope to add anywhere from four to ten airplanes to our fleet uh sometime in 2002."

Turnbo says Jim Swartz took Great Plains to where founders planned to go, and Great Plains will take it from there.