American and Alaska Detail Plans to Shrink

A month ago, Horizon Air revealed its plans to focus on the Q400, drop the Q200 and CRJ-700 aircraft, and shrink its operation by a fair amount. Then last week, American announced its decision to cut 11 to 12% of itself for the fall schedule. Yesterday, both airlines decided to throw out some details, and there are some interesting moves.

Let’s start with American. The airline will drop Chicago to Buenos Aires and Boston to San Diego on September 3. Meanwhile, Chicago to Honolulu will fly on peak days only from September 3 through January 5 and then it disappears altogether. In a separate press release today, American said it will cancel its flying from New York/JFK to London/Stansted on July 2 as well.

None of this should be terribly surprising. We’re looking at long haul (read: gas-guzzling) flights with a high percentage of leisure demand. American Shrinky DinkStill, I’m a little surprised that Honolulu is losing a flight considering how much capacity has already dropped to the Islands with the disappearance of Aloha and ATA. And I’m also surprised about Stansted . . . mostly that it wasn’t dropped sooner. It was clearly a thinly veiled attempt to drive Eos and MAXjet out. They’re gone, so why stay? Again, not a big surprise.

Where it does get interesting, however, is in the American Eagle moves. The press release doesn’t say much, but an internal memo sent out to American Eagle employees says that American will slash San Juan departures from 55 to 33 this winter, the peak season down there. It will be mostly frequency reductions, though flights will cease altogether from San Juan to both Aruba and Samana (in the Dominican Republic, they say, though I’ve never even heard of it). That means they’ll free up some of their ATR 72 turboprops which will transfer over to Dallas where they will take over the flying currently done by Saab 340 turboprops.

There are currently 29 Saab 340s in the active fleet, and they will all be retired. Some of those are in Dallas, but the rest fly out of LAX. From LA, they currently fly to San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, and Monterey. According to the memo, these aircraft will be replaced with regional jets, though there will be some flight reductions. Schedules, however have yet to be finalized.

I’ll be amazed to see how long they can keep this flying up out of LA. I mean, RJs are not cheap to fly, and those short routes don’t see too many local passengers. It’s mostly for connections and I think they’ll be hard-pressed to justify keeping these flights around.

Now on to Horizon. These guys had much more comprehensive changes announced today. Only Butte to Seattle and Billings to Portland will go away completely. A slew of others will see reduced frequency, and you can see those in the above link. There are a couple of new routes coming out of this as well and they’re, well, weird.

Billings to Helena? San Jose to Sacramento? Yeah, that’s just odd. Basically they’re creating round-robin trips where you fly from point A to point B to point C and then back to point A. These have never really worked well for airlines in the past, so I’m not sure what makes them think this will be a winner this time.

These announcements are just going to be the beginning for Horizon and American. The Horizon schedules still include ample Q200 and CRJ-700 flying, and we know both those aircraft will be leaving the fleet. American, meanwhile, is nowhere near reaching the 11 to 12% cut they’ve announced was coming. Hold on tight. There’s more to come.

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