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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