Maury Gallagher Thinks the Competition is Dumb
Allegiant’s CEO is thrilled to have small markets to himself, and he's not afraid to say it
When I started on the beat, I didn't think an airline’s CEO mattered much. I figured CEOs were interchangeable, except for the bad ones who repeatedly made poor choices. I formed this opinion in part because top executives often inherit decisions about fleet, network, and product made long before they assumed their roles, and it takes eons to make changes. They can move airplanes or hone revenue management systems, but it can take decades to build a mega-hub or to shift brand loyalty.
Now I feel differently — I know strong leadership matters. And long-time readers know I’m particularly impressed by Allegiant Air CEO Maury Gallagher, who has built a juggernaut over the past quarter century by focusing on point-to-point flights in underserved markets. Gallagher retired in 2022, becoming chairman, and the airline did not perform to his lofty standards.1 But Gallagher returned as CEO in September, and Allegiant has its mojo back, while the two other larger U.S. ULCCs struggle to come up with a winning strategy.
Gallagher loves to say exactly what he thinks, and during Allegiant's fourth quarter earnings call on Feb. 5, I sensed Gallagher is as bemused by his competitors' ineptitude as I am. We know that Spirit, which had pinned its future on a merger with JetBlue, appears to have no real Plan B. It has been rudderless at least since the pandemic, and arguably since Bob Fornaro left as CEO in 2019. Now Frontier is having its own troubles and is reacting by expanding in big city markets, where it claims the revenue pie is bigger. It wants to win spill traffic in Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Chicago — something Gallagher said is a fool's errand.
"Being the carrier of last choice in today's world is a steep-hill decline," he told analysts.
Gallagher isn’t holding back, is he?