Ata: Small Airline, Tricky Flight Plan

Can ATA take on the majors without antagonizing them?

For the past two years, the major airlines have all but owned the skyways to and from the nation's largest cities. A strong economy combined with the 1996 ValuJet Airlines Inc. crash have left consumers less interested in low-fare airlines. And the lack of landing slots in major airports--which are more concentrated than ever in the hands of the big carriers--has made it difficult for startups even to gain entry. The result: The six largest airlines' profits jumped 70% last year, to $4.8 billion.

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