Southwest Airlines might expand

Leading U.S. low-fares carrier Southwest Airlines Co. said on Friday it might expand its services if bankrupt rivals Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. scale back operations.

"If they do, we are always open to that. We will be as aggressive as ever," Pete McGlade, vice president for schedule and planning, told reporters at the World Low-Cost Airlines summit in Amsterdam, according to Reuters.

McGlade pointed to Southwest's decision to capitalize on opportunities at Pittsburgh this year after US Airways cut its services.

Delta and Northwest, which both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week, have said they will focus on reducing flights and switching to smaller planes on some routes.

McGlade stopped short of criticising U.S. bankruptcy laws, which other airlines say allow some carriers to gain an unfair market advantage.

"Unfair or not, we have to compete with it and do as good a job as we possibly can," McGlade said.

He declined to say whether Southwest still expected to grow profits by 15 percent in 2006 despite soaring fuel prices, but said market conditions were challenging.

Extensive purchasing of forward contracts that lock in pre-arranged jet fuel prices has helped some low-cost airlines to shrug off record-high oil prices. But crucial fuel hedges are set to weaken in 2006.

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