3 Links I Love – Southwest Shakes Up Small Cities, Emirates’s Godfather, and Air Canada’s Pit Crew

Air Canada, Emirates, Links I Love, Southwest

Last week, most of you liked the idea of doing a weekly news roundup, but not all. So I’m trying something a little bit different. I’m going to pick just a few links (3 this week), and then pick one as the featured link. That one will show up first and will help guide discussion. This week…

April 2016 Schedule is Here! No Foolin’!Nuts About Southwest
Southwest rolled out its April schedule this week, and there are some interesting smaller-city changes hidden in the full list.

  • Dayton loses service to Baltimore and Denver (besides seasonal Florida cancels) and instead gets new thrice daily service to Chicago.
  • Des Moines loses its Chicago flights and instead gains St Louis.
  • Flint loses Baltimore and Vegas (besides seasonal Florida cancels) and instead gets Chicago.
  • Grand Rapids loses St Louis and one of its two Baltimore flights (besides seasonal Florida cancels). Instead, it gets 3 daily to Chicago.
  • Greenville/Spartanburg is the oddest of all. It loses Baltimore, Chicago, and Houston. In their place? Three daily to Atlanta a mere 150 miles away.
  • Wichita loses Chicago and Dallas and instead gets Phoenix and St Louis.

What do you make of this? It’s an interesting restructuring in these markets. It says to me that these markets weren’t working well before, so the airline is hoping a shifting of routes will fix the problem. Not a great sign for people in those cities.

Links I Love

And then, here are two other stories that caught my eye.

Arabian knight: Sir Maurice Flanagan’s proud legacy as a founding figure of EmiratesArabian Business
This is a good read profiling the father of Emirates, Maurice Flanagan. What really stands out are the digs at Etihad and Qatar. US carriers have made this false attempt to lump the three of them into one bucket. But there is clearly no love lost between them.

Dream Team: Air Canada takes a ‘pit crew’ approach to 787 maintenanceSkies Magazine
Air Canada has apparently decided to have mechanics swarm 787s after landing in Canada. This has allowed the airline to speed up its turns.

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24 comments on “3 Links I Love – Southwest Shakes Up Small Cities, Emirates’s Godfather, and Air Canada’s Pit Crew

  1. No surprise there is a lot of grousing about this on the Flint airport facebook page, they are responding
    by saying the Chicago flights are great but the public isn’t buying it.

  2. Yeah, the GSP recductions don’t make sense. Compared to ATL & CLT (within driving distance – 90 min), GSP is a higher fare airport. WN has served GSP with relatively constant levels of service since their start in 2011, tweaking a bit here and there but nothing drastic. And now, ironically, they’re going head to head with DL on the ATL route, which – as Cranky said – is only 150 mi away, and has plenty of flights, including the only legacy mainline service out of GSP. I believe that GSP is simply losing WN flights due to its geography. The airport is smack dab in the middle of CLT & ATL, both of which have plenty of WN service. Despite having a high amount of foreign direct investment for its small-ish 1.5m metro area population, Greenville/Spartanburg service for WN would be highly redundant in an era where its jets may be better off used elsewhere. i.e, they won’t lose any business despite GSP area residents losing nonstop destinations. (i.e, GSP area residents getting screwed, lol)

    1. While I can understand a certain amount of fleet rationalization, it seems like they would be giving up traffic that will end up likely being better served by Delta/AA. This is the general problem in the Southeast; most competitive carriers can’t beat Delta/AA between their two hubs in ATL/CLT, and they especially can’t beat them with paltry flights to their own hubs. Why choose another carrier all things considered equal when you can access significantly more connections and a shorter connecting flight to ATL/CLT (or simply driving there). This is how we end up with even midsize cities in the Southeast having considerably less service than midsize cities in other regions of the country.

  3. I wonder if Southwest is seeing that the onward destinations are better served by routing them away from MDW. Could allow for higher yield connecting or O&D traffic around MDW.

    1. Almost 15 years ago AA bought TWA with the intention of routing more connections through STL due to ORD’s (then) operational issues. Now with MDW running close to capacity for WN, they’re flowing more connections over…STL. Funny how history is repeating itself, though STL seems to be safe from any massive WN cutbacks in the future as they’ve been utilizing STL as a connection point successfully for many years now.

    2. That was my initial thought as well. Grand Rapids, Flint, and Dayton are all around a 3-5 hour drive from Chicago, depending on traffic and where exactly in the Chicago metro area a person is going, which makes the door-to-door time by air on those lanes similar to the door-to-door time by car. Unless fares on those legs are REALLY cheap, I can’t imagine too many leisure pax opting to fly instead of drive, and suspect that most of the pax will be connecting to another flight at MDW. Sure, some business pax may choose to fly, but will the times be right, and do that many business pax default to Southwest?

  4. It seems as if this is a scaling back of routes that were inherited from AirTran, except for GSP. For example, I believe that BWI – Akron, Dayton and Grand Rapids were all legacy AirTran routes. My guess is that these planes will eventually be deployed on international routes out of Houston, BWI, SoCal and a city or two in Florida.

  5. To me, this is just further solidification of Southwest’s Hub & Spoke structure. The days of WN’s flying point-to-point are over – unless you live in one of their focus cities. While they may keep the cattle-call boarding and free bags (which I don’t use) there’s really no other positive differentiators between them and the other legacy carriers at this point.

    Even if they start new service to a domestic city, they’re not going to come in with 10 flights to 4 different cities. You’ll be lucky to get 2 cities and 3 outbound flights a day.

    1. Yes and no. First, they have 18 hubs, leading to many more nonstop options. Second, there’s still quite a bit of non-hub flying like their routes from MSY to AUS, SAT, and DCA.

  6. I am so happy about MDW-FNT. I live in San Francisco and my family is in Michigan/Flint. The only reasonably priced flights from the west coast were of course to DTW, and by reasonably priced I mean only about $500 r/t (or $650 n/s on Delta). Seriously SFO/OAK -DTW is one of the most expensive routs I fly regularly. So anyways, it’s now technaly possible to fly to FNT and GRR from the west coast, with the previous routes to BWI or ATL the flights were way to long, or you could not connect.
    If the price is right, the drive from GRR to just about anywhere in Michigan is fast and easy. Even for me, if it’s faster getting a rental car and getting on the road the extra 20 minute drive to Flint would be worth it.
    GRR also is close to Lansing which is losing its flights on Sun Country to BWI as well. I think DL picked it back up though.

    As for FNT, it’s actually closer to Oakland County and Auburn Hills than DTW. You could drive some business traffic there. You just have to market it the right way.

  7. I fly BWI/GSP occasionally and I have noticed that the GSP schedule is generally incorrect when Southwest extends the schedule. If you check back in a couple of weeks, the schedule will be updated and the BWI/GSP flight will reappear. I’ve emailed Southwest about this before but never received a response.

    1. Clark – This is different. Southwest has specifically and publicly announced that those flights are done. It’s not just an omission, it’s a proactive announcement.

  8. I find the 787 pit crew piece interesting. Do widebodies really require that much more maintenance than narrowbodies? Is this just a 787 thing or does it also apply to the other widebodies? I fully get that your not going to turn a 787 or a 777 in 45 minutes like you can an A320. But the pacing item in turns on the 320 is getting people on and off not mx so I find it very interesting that on the 787 that mx has become the pacing item.

    1. 121 Pilot – Well, they’re keeping these airplanes in the air for 16 to 18 hours a day, so they have to do more work on the turns than on a narrowbody which may sit overnight longer.

  9. I’m based in GRR and when AirTran it was a huge deal and then Southwest was gaurenteed some low rate or something by the Airport to stick around and fly so many flights. I think that deal is ending which is why there is some wind down. It was expected, however I don’t think the Midway flights are expected. There seems to be many more options now out of MDW than the long flight to BWI to connect.
    The issue might be the 35 minute flight over the lake might be too short to offer the same services they are used to? Not quite sure.

    Also Lansing is a terribly small airport for our state’s capital and the drive about an hour to downtown Lansing from GRR so that’s not bad at all. If I’m in Auburn Hills, Sterling Heights, etc. DTW is a looooong drive away compared to Flint/Biship which is short hop down I-75. Would be nice if they advertised or some how got some of that business traffic?

  10. @Jeremy <>

    @Jonathan <>

    I wouldn’t say it’s easy from anywhere, but being on the SE side of Grand Rapids city, there’s zero city traffic to factor as well. And definitely useful for Lansing and Flint.

    And CF love the livery.

  11. I’m in DSM and I am a bit surprised at the switch to STL. Of course we also have AA and UA going to Chicago (although ORD instead of MDW). DSM was the smallest city Southwest kept after the AirTran buyout, and traffic at DSM has been up year over year so much so that they are planning a brand new airport to replace the existing one. Chicago has been pretty popular in my estimation, so I am wondering if this is also an attempt to rationalize traffic into and out of the Chicago area and replace it with STL which has fewer problems.

  12. I think that the Dayton shift to flights to MDW is a combination of factors from fleet utilization, but more than that, DAY has been seen as an alternate for CVG, but now that CVG has been flooded with low cost flights on Allegiant and Frontier to many Southwest markets (Orlando, Denver, seasonal IAD), that the demand for travel on Southwest in Southwest Ohio has likely decreased. Additionally, by offering a connection in MDW, Southwest is more directly competing with AA and UA that funnel a huge amount of their traffic from the region through O’hare.

  13. Southwest’s Florida cuts from Akron, Flint, Dayton and Grand Rapids are not just seasonal reductions, they are year-over-year drops. The schedule change grid (which I do love and am always grateful for) only compares the new schedule to the one it comes right after. So routine seasonal adjustments appear prominently and mask the meatier year-over-year changes. The same period last year Southwest flew daily nonstop from Orlando to Dayton, Akron (2x), Flint and Grand Rapids and nonstop from Tampa to Grand Rapids, Flint and Akron. Those high-volume leisure markets at tertiary airports like these are their bread and butterl. Without those nonstop more people will drive to other airports or to Florida. In effect Southwest is dropping DAY, FNT, GRR and (sort of) ICT and DSM on 4/6. Then on 4/7 they are a new airline in town flying (mostly) new routes which will vie for significantly different traffic. That’s not 100% true in every sense (for example they will still fly DSM-LAS 1x just as they do today) but it’s largely what’s happening. Imagine if Southwest was to add new destinations with routes like this — like the added Huntsville-Atlanta, Madison-Chicago, Sioux Falls-St Louis, and Lexington-Chicago. Few people would give those new cities much of a chance. Sadly I think this is not a design to succeed in those cities.

  14. I love the article on the pit crew approach for Air Canada. From that article, it sounds as though the airline can make it work with 2 pit crews on the clock at a time in YVR, and I have to imagine that having a larger team ready to swarm the aircraft helps keep the flight on schedule more often even when unexpected or unusual mechanical issues are encountered. Definitely makes sense having the most common replacement items (seat belts, screens if IFE reliability is an issue, etc) right in the truck and ready to go if there is an issue.

    I’d really like to learn more about airline scheduling and optimization, as the constraints involved with crew scheduling, maintenance checks (looks like Air Canada is doing their A-checks every 150 hours, or 8 days- wow), etc must make it a tough thing to balance.

  15. For anyone who says that ATL is only 90 miles away, that may be true on the map, but in real time, that’s 4 hours with our traffic. Side note: SW also dropped ATL-SFO for ATL-OAK. Could this open the door finally to Virgin, since we only have Delta flying that route??

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