United Airlines says its answer to low-fare airlines will take off Oct. 1 on the West Coast, where United first ran into trouble competing with Southwest Airlines.
But United's ambitious plans rely on shareholders approving an employee buyout next month. Thursday's peek at details of the plan was seen by some as part of United's campaign to win over reluctant shareholders.United has begun working on specifics of how it would operate its proposed "airline within an airline," but the lower-fare operation doesn't have a name yet.
"We have canvassed employees about a name and should reach a decision soon," United spokesman John Kiker said.
The carrier is to fly on short routes, where United's imbedded high costs frequently make it impossible to cut fares and make money.
The specialized carrier is scheduled to begin flying in 14 West Coast cities with an initial schedule of 82 daily flights, United said in a statement. The service is planned to increase to 129 daily flights by November and to 143 flights a day in December.
Kiker said the routes for the new flights would ignore traditional airline practice of feeding passengers into central hub airports, reshuffling them and sending them on to their final destination.
Instead of depending on connecting flights to fill planes, the new airline would concentrate on direct flights and draw passengers by offering frequent departures and lower fares. It's a formula that has made Southwest successful and inspired many copycats.
Kiker declined to identify the cities planned for initial operations, but said United now serves seven of them. United said fares would be announced later.
Implementation of the plan depends on United's parent company, UAL Corp., getting shareholder approval of a proposal to turn over 55 percent of the company to employees to help ensure labor peace during the change.
Shareholders are to vote on the proposed employee buyout July 12 in Chicago.