This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, September 26, 2002, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: OK, so airlines in are trouble. We know that, they know that, and the government knows that. It's ready to dole out up to $10 billion to boost a lot of these guys skyward again. But it looks like the folks in Washington are being pretty picky about who they hand that money out to. My next guest says it's not fair. He may be a smaller airline, but he certainly thinks he matters. Joining me from Las Vegas, the president and CEO of National Airlines, Michael Conway.
Michael, good to have you back.
MICHAEL CONWAY, PRES. & CEO, NATIONAL AIRLINES: Good afternoon.
CAVUTO: So you think that this money is being doled out to the big boys?
CONWAY: Well, that is only part of the problem. There was 10 billion allocated by Congress more than a year ago and less than 400 million has been doled out. And I think the message that the ATSB is sending is that can unless are you very big, and very desperate, you need not apply. And I think that is wrong.
CAVUTO: Did you get any money?
CAVUTO: So you haven't gotten a penny of this 10 billion that was originally offered.
CONWAY: In fact, only one airline has received any funds and that was America West. And that was the less than 400 million.
CAVUTO: Now the big guys, the argument for giving money to the one big guy, is that there is a lot more at risk if a big guy folds than, no offense, if you fold?
CONWAY: No, I think that the stakes are quite different than that, by just giving money out to the large high cost carriers, you are perpetuating something that's completely contrary to the dynamic that is taking place, and that is customers are saying no to high and illogical fares and they're moving toward the more efficient, low fare carriers. And that's exactly opposite.
CAVUTO: When they can. But the crucial issue is when they can. Now you're right. A poll bears in mind much of what you are saying. When people are asked about their whole flying experience, they do mention the hassle issue. I think if we could show that, if not, take my word for it, that they do mention the hassle factor. They do mention the fact that they just find it is bad management, and that these guys can't get out of their own way. But having said that, how do you counter the notion that you're as important as a big airline?
CONWAY: Well, I think their importance needs to be determined on their own merits, but certainly just because you are big and especially if you are inefficient doesn't mean that you qualify. But the general public thinks that Congress provided $15 billion to the airline industry, which is on the verge of collapse, and yet, of the 10 billion remaining, less than 400 has been allocated to the industry. And that is clearly wrong.
CAVUTO: All right. Now, let's say the government decides, you know, you are right, we think we should get more of this bailout money out to airlines but not to National, what would you say?
CONWAY: Well, we think that would be wrong because on the merits, we certainly think we qualify based on how they've conducted themselves so far. But, no one ever said life was fair and then we will just find an alternative.
CAVUTO: An alternative being what, a merger?
CONWAY: Well, we did announce on September 4 a $112 million alternative financing package, and that is what we are going to pursue. That doesn't mean we should keep quiet if we think that something is unfair. And this is blatantly unfair.
CAVUTO: Michael Conway, National Airlines, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
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