Friday, August 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022
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AUSSIE AIRWAYS

By Ruth Miller Fitzgibbons |

BUSINESS When SAM COATS was 10, all he wanted was to be like his older brother, who dipped F-86s in and out of puffy clouds over the Pacific. In time, the attorney and well-known civic leader, now 50, had to settle for something slightly less exotic-a career in aviation law and management.

Now Coats’ flight pattern has taken an unexpected turn: He’s starting an airline from scratch-in Australia.

The new venture began last fall, when a friend recommended Coats to an Australian businessman who, prodded by his government’s efforts to deregulate the airline industry, had been trying for two years to launch a domestic air carrier. As an executive with Texas International, Southwest, Braniff and Muse airlines, Coats had lived through the deregulation experience in the U.S.

In June, the Dallasite resigned from his law practice at Jenkens & Gilchrist and signed on officially as chief executive officer of Southern Cross Airlines. He describes the new carrier’s strategy as low-fare, high-frequency, multi-route-much like Southwest, but with some important differences, such as two classes of service, one for business travelers.

Coats says that years of regulation have left the Australian marketplace bloated with high fares, erratic scheduling, tremendous over-staffing and other inefficiencies. “The flight time from Sydney to Melbourne is about an hour and 10 minutes,” he says, “and they’re trying to serve a hot meal.” The land down under, Coats believes, is ripe for competition. “Only 18 percent of Australians have ever flown- compared to over 80 percent of Americans,” Coats says.

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