US Airways Moves Toward Smaller Cities at National After Getting Delta’s Slots

It’s really interesting to watch US Airways as it starts to announce how it’s going to use its newly acquired slots at Washington’s National Airport. While Delta made a huge splash in New York with its hub-creation at LaGuardia after it got the US Airways slots there, US Airways has gone with a softer launch with the Delta slots it acquired at National. That’s quite fitting.

Unlike Delta, US Airways is going with a phased introduction of new flights. Of the 42 slot pairs that it’s getting from Delta, it looks like it’s only announcing what will happen with 26 of them. I’m told by the airline that more will be announced in February. Meanwhile, Delta has already shown which flights will be getting the axe, so we have a pretty good picture of what’s happening. Here it is.

US Airways Washington National Changes

Now, I pulled all this up by hand, so there could be a couple of issues with the number of frequencies in some of these markets, but you get the idea. I’ve highlighted the most interesting ones to me in green.

As expected, Delta is pulling out of every market save for its hubs with one little exception. Want to guess which one that is? It’s Lexington, Kentucky, where it appears Delta will continue to have 1 daily flight on a CRJ. Why? I have no clue. Maybe there’s something special about that particular slot which will keep Delta serving that market, or maybe it was just an oversight and will be removed shortly. Regardless, other than that, there are no other non-hub flights for Delta.

That includes the ditching of all flights between Boston and Washington/National, a market which has probably suffered greatly with JetBlue in there. There’s plenty of room for US Airways and JetBlue in there, but it was probably a little too crowded with Delta anyway. There’s also a noticeable reduction in flights to JFK. I assume that’s because Delta is really trying to shift domestic flying over to LaGuardia. It doesn’t need as many flights to JFK anymore.

But let’s get to the meat of this story. What is US Airways doing? It is not following Delta by ramping up service in larger markets. Instead, it’s really serving some of the little guys out there. Look for flights to Fayetteville and Jacksonville . . . North Carolina. There will also be service to Ft Walton Beach, Pensacola, and Tallahassee in Florida. These are cities that have been begging for service to the nation’s capital and now they’re getting it. I imagine a lot of this is actually military traffic, come to think of it.

The upshot here is that US Airways is really bringing some great new service to smaller cities, a rarity today. That does mean that some of the cities Delta abandons will truly suffer. Des Moines and Jackson (MS) are the big losers here; they lose their only nonstop to National when Delta pulls out. Unless US Airways adds them in the next round of flights announcements, they’re out of luck.

Mid-sized cities Charleston (SC), Columbus (OH), Jacksonville (FL), New Orleans, Providence, and Tampa will all keep the US Airways service they have today, but they won’t get more flights. They will, however, be losing Delta as nonstop competition. That’s bound to impact fares to some extent. Grand Rapids and Madison are losing Delta as well, but they have new service from Frontier coming in just in time. That actually might turn out to do alright.

It’s funny to see big cities like Miami lose Delta service but not get US Airways in return. That’s probably a smart move on the part of US Airways. The airline doesn’t want to serve every big city from National. It wants to serve every city it can serve profitably. The high costs and massive frequency and loyalty advantage held by American in Miami probably make it worth avoiding.

But what will the next round of adds bring for US Airways? Great question. I would assume that the airline wanted to add the routes it thought had the most potential first, but there could be more in the next round that will surprise. Maybe we’ll even see some summer seasonal stuff, I don’t know. Either way, it seems to be a very methodical process for the airline, somewhat different from Delta in New York.

With Delta, it seems like it has an idea about which cities need to be served from New York in order to “win” the town. The airline made the flashy announcement so it could make its mark. For US Airways, however, it’s really a market-by-market decision based on viability, with no effort to “win” a city. Not quite as flashy, but it gives great insight into the amount of demand to different cities from Washington.

I look forward to seeing what’s next.

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49 Comments on "US Airways Moves Toward Smaller Cities at National After Getting Delta’s Slots"

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JRS
Guest

Does .3 on the chart mean three flights a week rather than daily?

Nick Barnard
Member

I’m guessing thats flights a week.. (0.3*7=2.1)

Greg McE
Guest

I believe it’s actually per day. Look at the 16 flights from DCA to LGA for USAirways; they operate the shuttle there and that’s about how many flights head there every day.

Nick Barnard
Member

Err I intended to say two flights a week. Since its less than one per day.

Jason H
Guest
For US Airways this is probably smart. They seem to want to stay under the radar overall. Face it, every time there is a sneeze in the aviation economy everyone says US Airways is going under. So why have a big flashy announcement and get Wall Street thinking about them spending money. Delta on the other hand is viewed as one of the more stable legacy carriers now, so there is less belief they have any financial issues. The phased approach also seems to fit with how US Airways has turned around their operation. They methodically improved their DOT metrics… Read more »
Sanjeev M
Guest

Yeah some of these places are small. I had to look up Jacksonville, NC on Google Maps but it does seem like military traffic to me.

US Airways has long done well in small eastern markets (particularly when PIT was a hub), and of course in North Carolina. They can charge $250 for a 1 hour flight to DC and still be the cheapest option by far.

Places like New Orleans, Des Moines, Jackson have plenty of connecting options to DCA, and most have nonstop to BWI on Southwest. If people want DCA nonstops, they should pay or have a connection.

David SF eastbay
Member

USAir could be adding small cities because they can charge high prices since they would be the only carriers flying nonstop. Also you said some cities have been wanting nonstop DCA service so those cities may have paid for it.

Also where exactly to all those Senators and Congresspersons live? How much could USAir be trying to get in the good graces of some important officials in DC for them to add one flight to a small city?

Jim M
Guest

This could be the Lexington factor. . . . .

Nick Barnard
Member

But Lexington is Delta’s doing..

Scott
Guest

Lexington is likely due to restrictions on the slots imposed when Delta (Comair) was awarded them for serving LEX under Air-21/Vision 100 (see Docket # OST-2000-7182). Since those slot exemptions were awarded to OH on a carrier-specific, destination specific (had to be either LEX or JAN), they may not have been able to transfer them in the US swap (or, perhaps, US just didn’t want slots that were so conditional).

longtimeobserver
Member

Just another smart strategic move that puts the lie to the oft-reported “end of small city service” and “end of small aircraft” usage. With pricing power and economic fares, the service will stay, if not actually expand.

FRANK
Guest

But let?s get to the meat of this story. What is US Airways doing? It is not following Delta by ramping up service in larger markets. Instead, it?s really serving some of the little guys out there.
———————————————————————–

it’s doing what it does best. Competing with REGIONAL JETS. Mainline flying has remained Stagnant for years. NO new growth here.

Nick Barnard
Member

And this is a problem why? Regional jets are still flights that have jobs behind them.

(Yes, I’m FRANK-baiting, but I can’t resist…)

FRANK
Guest

customer stand point, THEY SUCK, THEY HATE THEM.

Nick Barnard
Member

Customers have shown that they hate them less than fewer flights a day or driving to the closest airport.

FRANK
Guest

but, if you look at most of the (above) flights, there is NO frequency here. The schedule will satisfy only but a few, so many will continue to drive either way.
As far as jobs, those planes are likely come from LGA. I would bet those (LGA) Express employees will be trying to get on with Delta, who will be needing more ground staff there. Not moving to DCA for low pay Express rates.

Nick Barnard
Member

err, I also said “or driving to the closest airport.” intending to mean instead of flying from the airport in their town they’d have to drive two or three hours to the next closest airport….

FRANK
Guest

yes, I know. But, many will drive because of the frequency, AND, because those fares will be HIGH. Southwest just ended it’s flights to PIT and look at the current airfare. $300 to $600 one way.
hence, my remark, they’ll be competing with RJ service, what they do best. Charging the heck out of passengers due to little/no competition with low frequency.

Fred
Guest

And again, RJ service to small cities is better than no service to those small cities. You simply can’t get enough passengers for a mainline aircraft to those cities.

SEAN
Guest

One slight correction in regards to LGA & Delta – it is more of a split hub situation. Mid-distance flights will be located at LGA & long distance & international flights go to JFK. The problem is getting between the two airports if you need to connect since you need to traverse Queens in order to do so. This is where an AirTrain extention would be nessessary.

Scott
Guest

I don’t think Delta intends to “split” their hub operation over Queens. You’ll continue to see service (albeit less frequent) from interior cities timed specifically to feed international operations from JFK, while the majority of connecting and NYC O/D traffic will be shifted to LGA. The way they’ll design the traffic flow, there should be minimal “connecting” between LGA and JFK — just as AA has been doing for years (albeit on a smaller scale at each airport).

tom.bacon
Member
“With Delta, it seems like it has an idea about which cities need to be served from New York in order to ?win? the town. The airline made the flashy announcement so it could make its mark. For US Airways, however, it?s really a market-by-market decision based on viability, with no effort to ?win? a city. Not quite as flashy, but it gives great insight into the amount of demand to different cities from Washington.” Another way to look at this is “point of origin.” Delta is focusing on New York point of origin traffic and “winning the town.” USAirways… Read more »
Scott
Guest

Well, I think it also has to do with the fact that:

1) NYC is a significantly larger market than WAS
2) There are three carriers (arguably four, with B6) actively vying to be NYC’s Hometown Carrier, whereas you don’t see the same fight for market share in WAS
3) US is already fairly established as the leader at DCA, whereas Delta only now will be establishing itself as DCA’s “dominant” carrier. At DCA, there’s really nothing for US to “win” — it’s already theirs.

Michael
Guest
DCA-DSM will be starting the day after Delta discontinues service. A little history here about DCA from back in the 80’s and 90’s, before all of the additional Air 21 slots were added and RJ’s came along. With very few exceptions, the airlines serving DCA only served their hub airports. UA to MIA and the US operations were the exceptions. The only markets served by more than 1 carrier were ORD (AA&UA), DFW (AA&DL) LGA (Shuttles), JFK (TW, DL, AA), EWR (CO & US), BOS (US and DL pre-shuttle), RDU (AA, Midway 2 & maybe US), CMH (HP, US) and… Read more »
Scott
Guest

The loss of daily non-stop service between GRR and MSN and the DC area surprises me. Those are two interior cities (one being a state capital no less) where you’d think there’d be political — if not economic — pressure to provide AT LEAST daily service to the nation’s capital, and neither city is served by UA to IAD (nor any of the LCCs to BWI, for that matter). Frontier’s 3x/week operation won’t cut it.

I strongly suspect we’ll see these two cities in US’s round #2.

Bill from DC
Guest

the GRR service to DCA was sporadic, at best, but i too was surprised to see DL abdicate DCA service to MSN, one of NW’s mini-strongholds. i too expect to see this restored in the next round of US announcements.

b757capt
Guest

US actually was the only carrier flying DCA-TPA until the lease on the NW slots expired and the slots went back to DL. This was about a year ago, now it will go back to only US flying the route.

CP
Guest

Whatever happens, let’s hope all of these new flights to small cities (most of which will be flown on CRJ200s) do not go out of God-awful gate 35A. That gate is one of the worst experiences in all of aviation.

Sanjeev M
Guest

LOL That is correct. US couldn’t even find normal stairs. They had to use the jetway stairs normally used by ground handlers. I would much rather prefer ground boarding to that nonsense. But with this many regional flights you can bet that 35A will be used for a long time to come.

Pantharu
Guest

Jacksonville, NC (Cherry Point NAS and Camp Lejeune) and Fayetteville, NC (Fort Bragg) to National (the little pentagon shaped building) = Government contracts for US Airways.

Bill from DC
Guest
Couldn’t agree more about the focus on military related destinations (which also means tons of government paid travel so US can charge whatever they want). in addition to the NC destinations listed above, FL destinations like VPS (Eglin AFB literally surrounds the airport and the entire region) and PNS (Pensacola NAS, Whiting Field NAS) also fit the military bill. TLH does not, however, it is a state capital. US does not serve ECP, which would provide further military opportunities via Tyndall AFB; however, US brackets Panama City with VPS to the west and TLH to the east so it is… Read more »
Scott
Guest

Actually, most government travel is negotiated by GSA contracts at what private citizens would consider to be extremely low fares.

Andrew
Guest

Apparently not my wife’s travel when she worked for the government the past couple years. She flew internationally 4-6 times a year, and I don’t think she ever had a ticket for less than $5K, in coach, because she was required to buy full-fare economy tickets. So stupid.

tharanga
Guest

GSA contract fares are here.

http://fss.gsa.gov/citypairs/search/

the YCA fare is fully refundable, and if a seat is empty, a government traveler can take it at that fare, no matter how late it is.

So that isn’t exactly comparable to a non-refundable advance fare.

Andrew
Guest

That’s not how it worked with her. She was required to purchase a B or Y (full fare, refundable ticket) for all of her international travel. Paid the same price that you or I would pay for a B/Y fare…in most cases, $5K+ for IAD-DXB, etc.

Scott
Guest

Was she actually a government employee, or a contractor (or employee of a contractor)?

tharanga
Guest

Jacksonville, NC? Admit it, you just made that up.

Brian
Guest

DCA is the big loser with gate swap, no doubt about that. It has become a hub to useless cities for US Airways and a welcome mat for discount carriers. Expect a decline in passengers in 2012. How could DL abandon the region with the best economy in the nation?

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