Another Look at American’s New LaGuardia Flights

I know I just wrote about this last week, but the schedules for American’s new flying at New York/LaGuardia airport have been filed. It’s time to dive in a little deeper.

I realize this may seem like a relatively small addition to the schedule, but the network moves that the new American makes are going to be hugely important to the success of the airline. And this is the biggest move we have to analyze so far. So, what do they tell us? Well, first, all of these flights will be operated by American Eagle Airlines (soon to be Envoy) with single-class ERJ-145 aircraft. The lone exception is Little Rock which gets a CRJ-700. But aircraft type isn’t really the division between market types here. It’s all about frequency.

On the one hand, we have the larger markets with multiple daily flights. I’m talking about Dayton, Greensboro, Louisville, Norfolk, and Richmond. Each of those will have 3 a day during the business week except for Richmond which will have 4. These markets were, as I had thought, designed for the business traveler in the smaller city.

American Post Merger New York Moves

Dayton, for example, has flights out at 615a, 1055a, and 450p. The returns are at 830a, 229p, and 840p. In other words, if you want to do a day trip from Dayton to New York, you can. But if you’re trying to do a day trip from New York to Dayton, that won’t be nearly as easy. The only other nonstop in this market is Delta with a 740a flight out of Dayton and a 720p back, both on ERJ-145s as well. That’s clearly less preferable. And while American will use ERJ-145s without a premium cabin, the competition doesn’t have one either. Schedule should triumph here.

In Greensboro, Norfolk, and Richmond, it’s a different story. The schedule pattern is similar, but the competition is different. Delta has 4 daily flights to Greensboro, 3 to Norfolk, and 5 to Richmond, all on 2-cabin aircraft. I would imagine it will be a lot harder to pull people off Delta if you’re American.

In Louisville, the airlines have a similar schedule though US Airways has a 630p return and that’s an hour later than anything Delta has. Also, Delta has ERJ-145s on the route, so no premium cabin will be available on either airline. This one is something of a toss-up.

The other type of market here is the single-daily operation. That’s Charlottesville, Knoxville, Little Rock, Roanoke, and Wilmington.

In Charlottesville and Wilmington, Delta has a morning flight to New York with an evening return. But American will just have a mid-day flight down that turns back to New York in the early afternoon. In Knoxville, Delta has a morning and evening roundtrip but American will have only an afternoon roundtrip. American appears to be at a disadvantage here for a day trip, but the different schedule timing might end up making American the preferred carrier for at least some travelers.

Little Rock and Roanoke are different in that there is no nonstop competition. American should instantly become the preferred carrier on these routes. That’ll be especially true in Little Rock since a premium cabin will be on that airplane (even if it is a CRJ-700).

So in these moves, I see a mixed bag. There are some markets where the schedule is different enough that American should be able to make a real dent. But there are others where it would seem like it would be tough to pull people away from Delta. I’m curious to see what works and what doesn’t.

But there’s another piece to this story, and that involves slots at LaGuardia. American and US Airways combined had 183 slot pairs at LaGuardia. Each slot pair is good for a daily departure and arrival. Now, 5 of those were already leased out, and those had to be given up. In addition, American had to shed 12 slot pairs that it was using. That means it can run up to 166 daily flights when all is said and done.

Looking at Monday, February 24, the new American will run 177 daily flights, so that’s one less than it’s allowed. But when we look at a Monday in May, May 19 to be exact, American is still at 174. It needs to cut 8 more flights. Here are the markets that see changes between those dates so far:

Market Feb 24 May 19 Difference
Charlotte 17 US, 4 AA 13 US -8
Atlanta 7 AA 0 -7
Minneapolis 4 AA 0 -4
Miami 14 AA 11 AA -3
Cleveland 3 AA 0 -3
Nashville 6 AA 4 AA -2
West Palm Beach 2 AA 0 -2
Detroit 6 AA 5 AA -1
Toronto 8 AA 9 AA +1
St Louis 4 AA 6 AA +2
Chicago/O’Hare 14 AA 17 AA +3

You’ll notice that Charlotte took a big cut, but that’s to be expected. That was the only market where both airlines flew against each other from LaGuardia. There was no need for the level of capacity in that market. And things like Miami could simply be a function of seasonality. But ultimately, there are 8 more flights that have to go. It might seem easy to cut one or two flights from every city with more than 10 daily flights, and you’d be good to go. Maybe that’s what we’ll see. Or maybe there will be some more strategic cutting.

Clearly this is all a work in progress, but it’s a very interesting piece of work, to say the least.

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