When Delta moved from Terminals 5 and 6 over to Terminals 2 and 3 in Los Angeles, one of the touted benefits was that every airline’s operation would improve. Taking an early look at results, things are looking very good indeed.
For those not familiar with LAX, this terrible drawing should help.
This shows all the big moves that happened in the last couple of months at Delta’s request. Delta wanted more room to expand and it wanted to be closer to its partners, but it also wanted to improve its operation. By moving, Delta would, as CEO Ed Bastian told me last month, be able to reduce its gate utilization from an insanely high 10+ flights per day down to 7 or 8. That would instantly help Delta’s performance, but it would also help everyone else.
Before the move, Alaska, American, Delta, and United all flew from the south side and put a higher burden on the southern runways. But now with Delta on the other side, it’s easier to balance the runways. (Of course, other airlines moved from the north side to the south side, but it’s still a better balance now.)
That all sounds well and good, but did this improvement actually occur? I turned to masFlight to get the answer. I took the last 18 days of April and compared them to the first 18 days of June. Both periods started on a Thursday and ended on a Sunday so we didn’t have day-of-week issues. Then I looked at total operations for the big 5 at LAX (Alaska/Virgin America, American, Delta, Southwest, United) including their regionals and, in the case of Alaska, their merger partners. This is what I found.
As you can see, there were big gains for all the airlines, but Delta’s gain was enormous. We’re talking almost a 20 point improvement there. And I should note that this happened in June, a busier time period with 2.5 percent more Delta flights than during the April period. This is a fantastic result.
Of course, it’s hard to know that this is all entirely a result of the move. There could have been a variety of issues that would have impacted performance, as is always the case. LA weather shouldn’t have been a factor, but construction, weather in other cities, scheduling changes, and more could be partially responsible. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine that the move isn’t at least responsible for a big chunk of this.
As I looked through the data, I found a few other interesting tidbits.
American’s One-Sided Improvement
American saw the least amount of improvement, but to be fair, it started from the highest point in the first place. But what’s most interesting is that American’s improvement came almost entirely on flights into LAX.
American had a pretty big gap in April. It saw only 71.5 percent of flights into LAX arrive within 14 minutes of schedule, but it had 81.9 percent of flights departing from LAX arrive on time. In June, the number jumped to 81.9 percent of flights arriving on time into LAX while those leaving LAX arrived on time at a rate of 83.7 percent. That says to me that American has enough padding in LA to account for the weak inbound performance, but now it might not need that if the June performance can hold.
How would the move have impacted American other than having more balance between the runways? Well, the alley between Terminals 4 and 5 was controlled by Delta (I believe) and there isn’t room for dual taxi lanes. If Delta was giving preference to its own aircraft, that could have hurt American.
Alaska’s Weak Performance
Alaska always has one of the best on time records in the country, but it was downright awful at LAX in April. Virgin America runs a much worse operation in general (based on the system numbers), but at LAX, it was only about 4 to 5 points behind its acquirer.
June performance, however is a whole lot different. When Delta left Terminal 6 and Virgin America moved in to join Alaska, things got better quickly… for Alaska. Alaska’s mainline performance soared to over 80 percent on time. Horizon-operated flights for Alaska went above 80 percent for inbound flights but remained low at 67 percent for departures. There’s something wrong there.
Virgin America, however, did see on time arrivals improve but only to 74 percent. Outbound flights were still down at 65 percent. There’s work to be done here.
Compass May Not Be the Problem
Compass flies for both American and Delta, and back in April, it was night a day between the two operations. As Delta Connection, Compass arrived on time just about 55 percent of the time. But under the American Eagle banner, it arrived closer to 78 percent on time.
Fast forward to June and the Delta performance has jumped to be near mainline with about 79 percent of flights arriving on time. But for American? It’s gone even higher to about 90 percent. That’s great improvement in both, but it seems clear that the setup before the Delta move was hugely problematic.
Southwest Needs Help
Southwest’s performance improved handily, but it only crept up to just over 70 percent of flights arriving on time. That may be better, but it’s just not good. Yes, Terminal 1 continues to be under construction with gates being closed as they fix up the place. The station management deserves a medal for operating the airline at all in this situation, but it’s amazing to me that the airline continues to schedule flights thinking this kind of result is acceptable. Hopefully next year when the construction is done, it will settle.
Regardless of specific performances, it appears that overall, things are going much better at LAX. That move has to have played a big part in that.