Topic of the Week: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes

Great Lakes

Great Lakes has been shrinking a lot. Take a look at the most recent traffic numbers. Number of passengers down 62.2 percent. The benefit, however, is a higher load factor (way up to 55.7 percent) and a huge increase in unit revenue (up an incredible 64.1 percent). But the airline only flew 557 people every day in July. That’s not a lot. What do you think is the future for Great Lakes… if there is one?

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17 comments on “Topic of the Week: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes

  1. How much of this is because of their reducing many of their planes from 19 to 9 seats to them to fly under part 135 rules?

  2. We need some economical 9-seaters ASAP. Someone to feed the remote Western cities to SLC/DEN and similarly the upper midwest to MSP/DTW/ORD. There’s probably also a case for it in the South feeding ATL and some EAS markets like DFW-GCK. I thought Cape Air was working on an aircraft here with some Italian company.

    Another thing that will help is less than daily frequencies (say 3 weekly) like they do in Europe. Lot of the times the airlines want to do daily or double daily to provide maximum hub feed and day trips for business travelers. Take a upper Michigan market that DL ran 2x daily on a Saab 340 (476 seats a week). Probably too much. Make that 2x a day, 3-weekly and probably you can run a CRJ-200 on it (300 seats/week) and still keep capacity in check.

    But yeah Great Lakes is basically in trouble, and I don’t see how they fit in the regional picture going forward.

  3. Since they do so much EAS, they should have learned by now you don’t make money doing that. Most EAS routes are not needed and as already pointed out, not with daily service. They should break away from EAS and find a niche area with not much air service and link small cities into a local bigger city.

  4. Their fortunes are almost entirely reliant on continued existence of EAS. Considering the cut backs and increasingly tighter criteria for EAS, it is hard to see any real growth in their market. And I can’t see where they would then put their planes considering their size and ranges.

  5. Great Lakes, as well as all Regional Carriers, will simply evaporate if a solution to the new FAR Pilot mandates are not achieved.

  6. Great Lakes flies to a lot of places with low demand. For example, Denver to Pierre, SD. Great place to visit, actually. Had to make that RT flight once. I think there were three or maybe four passengers. But it’s not a fun flight to get there especially in the Beech 19. Driving from someplace in SD not an option. Really a marginal operation.

  7. Mention Great Lakes, and of course, you’re into the whole EAS debate-the haters vs. the lovers, and those, and there are few, I admit, that can see all sides of such a program.

    Cranky, you a have a guy there who knows more about the EAS program than I do. Just from my knowledge, last time I checked, Great Lakes is the biggie in the lower-48 EAS program, having roughly 1/3 of all the EAS routes. Does Great Lakes operate anything but EAS routes?

    In the same boat, with at least 2 or more EAS routes but with far fewer routes than Great Lakes, are Silver, SeaPort, Air Choice One, Sun Air, and PenAir, all of which, as I understand it, are basically EAS-only carriers. (Other majors in the program are SkyWest and Cape Air, but they also have non-EAS routes. And then, American Eagle, Delta, and American also have a route here and there.)

    But really, don’t you look at Great Lakes, and the other EAS-only carriers and ask yourself, what iin the devil does any management see as a future in this business? Why do they bid? Do they really think, even with the subsidy, they have a future? When Great Lakes bids on a route with a single flight a day from Denver;, to Page, Arizona; to Kingman, Arizona, and on to LAX, and return, is this a business you want to be in?

    Of course, and here I go, I see the whole EAS program is an absolute mess. I, Mr. Smartypants, would change the whole program to look like the structure of the Local Service Air System of days gone by. I would envision a system of cariers and routes all across the country, with no reference to what the airline route system looked like at the date of Deregulation, that connected every small community, that wanted airline service and could explain that want in a petition to Congress and DOT, with the National Airspace System.

    This would take a lot of planning, a lot of coordination with communities and the airline industry. Let the existing airline industry have anti-trust immunity to set up such a system, and let them run it with there own or regional-contract planes. And the cost? Of course, it would never make a profit. Why not pay it in part with a subsidy from a dollar a passenger ticket tax? (Well, for many, I’m sure, that’s the end of that!)

    1. Joe – I’ve been on this same posting schedule for several years now. Monday/Tuesday/Thursday have original content with photos. Wednesday is dark. Friday is just a Topic of the Week for you all to discuss. I don’t usually take part in it, and I don’t add photos. I just don’t have time for more than 3 posts per week right now, but I’d love for that to change in the future.

  8. Great Lakes B1900’splane have seen better days. They need a massive infusion of money in order to survive and get new airplanes.,

  9. Most airlines have been getting rid of their small planes. Of course an airline that flies exclusively small planes will be hit the hardest.

    I don’t think there is much future for these planes, or this airline. People can drive or take the bus/train to get to a larger hub airport instead. Congress isn’t going to expand EAS. Great Lakes will probably shrink some more, and eventually be acquired by Skywest or another regional.

  10. Lakes inability to properly crew their airplanes is the main reason for these cutbacks. With other, better paying, regionals all trying to draw from the same limited pool of applicants they just can’t hire enough people to fill the front seats. They’re in a catch 22, because they can’t make a profit if they raise pilot pay, and can’t run a full schedule without enough qualified pilots. On top of that they have limited ability to change the terms of their negotiated EAS contracts.

  11. About fifteen years ago I recall the proud Parents of a young Great Lakes Pilot seeing their son off on his ORD-IMT flight that I was ticketed on, and wonder where that young Man is now. Was his experience with Great Lakes a rewarding step on the way up? Or did his Great Lakes experience ruin him for that occupation.

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