Two US airlines have launched new scheduled services, with an "underserved" Las Vegas, Nevada, market set firmly in their sights.

Start-up National Airlines began flights from its Las Vegas hub to Los Angeles and Chicago Midway on 27 May. Five days later, charter carrier Sun Country Airlines ventured into scheduled service with flights from its Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota, base to Las Vegas and 14 other US cities.

National, set up by former America West executive Michael Conway, has raised more than $50 million in financing, with Las Vegas hotel and casino operators Harrah's Entertainment and Rio Hotel & Casino contributing $15 million each. The airline operates three leased Boeing 757s.

National says Las Vegas' growing hotel capacity has created a void in air transportation, and it plans to offer daily non-stop services to most major US cities. It has begun with four flights a day to Los Angeles and two to Chicago, and will add New York Kennedy on 14 June and San Francisco on 24 June.

The airline has won initial US Department of Transport (DoT) approval to operate to four domestic destinations, but the DoT has limited aircraft numbers to six because of financial concerns.

Sun Country has operated as a charter carrier since 1983. It was acquired in 1997 by local travel company owner Bill La Macchia, who believes there is an opportunity for a low-fare carrier in the Northwest Airlines-dominated Minneapolis/St Paul area.

Sun Country, which operates 11 Boeing 727-200s and four McDonnell Douglas DC-10-15s, has launched 86 flights a week to 15 destinations, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York Kennedy, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle.

Source: Flight International