American Slashes Domestic, United Cuts International, and Southwest Shuffles

Yesterday, American announced the details of its fall flight cuts and the big surprise to me is how deep New York/LaGuardia flying is going to be cut. Meanwhile, United announced it was pulling out of two fairly large cities, Ft Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, as well as from several international routes. On the flip side, Southwest said it will drop a couple routes but add several as well, mostly in Denver and Florida. Let’s get to it.

American
Let’s start with American since that was much bigger in scope. It appears that Miami comes off unscathed while Dallas/Ft Worth will see 5% of flights go and Chicago/O’Hare will lose more than 12%. That looks good in comparison to St Louis (down 27%) and astoundingly, New York/LaGuardia which will be down 33% from 126 departures a day to only 84.

None of those shock me except for the LaGuardia pulldown. American Cuts Flights at LaGuardiaFor the longest time, airlines have clamped down on congested airport fortresses like LaGuardia and Washington/National, and have not been willing to let slots and gates go. LaGuardia has always been one of those places that you just assumed wouldn’t see massive cuts from the incumbent carriers, because no matter how bad things got, the value of those slots would always be worth it when things got better . . . or at least that WAS conventional wisdom.

This cut tells me that American has decided that nothing is sacred, and that’s a good thing. They can’t continue to lose money on bad flights in the short term just because they might be better in the long run. This is time to make some serious survival decisions and they’re doing it.

Of course, they’re not going to do it quietly. They’ve now petitioned the government to reduce slots at LaGuardia by 20% in the name of improving operations. Yeah, right. In other words, we want to pull down flights but we don’t want to allow anyone to take our place. Hmm, 42 daily flight openings would make a nice little operation for Southwest, huh?

A quick note about the rest of the cuts. Overall, American will mostly be cutting frequencies, but a few cities will see American disappear completely. We already knew about Oakland, Samana (Dominican Republic) and London/Stansted, but now Barranquilla (Colombia), Albany, Providence, Harrisburg, and San Luis Obispo go as well. San Luis Obispo also loses its maintenance base. I’m guessing that may have been where they maintained the now disappearing Saab 340 fleet, which would make sense.

United
Now let’s look at our other route cutter. First, United will pull out of Ft Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. These aren’t small cities, and it’s really amazing that United’s presence has eroded to the point where the airline ends up dropping places like this. United gave up on Florida a few years ago when it became virtually all-Ted. All the decent money around these areas would have fled to other carriers, if it was even at United in the first place. Besides, United could get you to Dulles, but Florida is a New York kind of market. Oh well, I guess they’ll just have to codeshare with US Airways and Continental now.

The bigger cuts for the airline are coming internationally. The recently launched Denver – London/Heathrow and LAX – Frankfurt flights are gone, so is San Francisco to Taipei and Nagoya. There will be some other schedule shifts as well as United prepares to ditch 6 747-400s and to start Dulles – Moscow and Dubai flights. I think the international pain is just beginning.

Southwest
Lastly, (man this post is long), let’s look at Southwest’s announcement today about its fall schedule. Nothing too crazy or surprising here. I mean, they’re beefing up Florida, as any airline would do once summer is over (uh, except United I guess). Oh, and the Denver onslaught continues. Southwest moves into yet another Frontier market – Denver to Orange County – as well as one that isn’t competitive – Denver to Tulsa. Oh, and eleven of the existing Denver markets get increased frequency, including 3 new flights to Chicago/Midway alone. Wow. I guess they had to do something to replace a lot of the long haul frequencies from Midway that are being cut back. And two routes will go away entirely – Oakland to Tucson and Kansas City to Sacramento.

If you’d like to see more detail, here’s the PDF with all of Southwest’s fall schedule changes.

(Original LaGuardia Tower Image from 10cuidados on Flickr)

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