I’ve written about airline schedule cuts multiple times lately, and many of you asked for a deep dive looking at exactly how Los Angeles has fared. I’m going to get to that in a moment, but once I snuggled up with Diio by Cirium data last weekend, I couldn’t just stop at one airport.
Below, you’ll see a comparison of several US airports showing how much things have changed this May versus last. The dark bar is the percent decrease in destinations served while the light bar is the percent decrease in departures.
Obviously, every single one of these is negative, but some are more negative than others. On the more extreme end, you see Newark and Washington/National, both of which were decimated by United and American pulling back respectively. They not only saw the most destinations cut, but they saw the most departures cut as well.
At the other end, you can see that American hasn’t been trimming all that much in Dallas and Charlotte. Seattle is less surprising since Alaska has only one real hub from which to serve its destinations, and Delta probably doesn’t want to fall too far behind. I find it interesting that Phoenix and Las Vegas saw very hefty flight cuts but didn’t lose as many destinations. You’d think Orlando would behave similarly, but it lost a whole lot more on the destination side.
In general — if you remove the Southwest effect — it’s the hubs in the middle that lost the least, and that’s because they are more domestic-focused and the CARES Act means airlines need those airports to connect a lot of cities. Meanwhile, the coastal cities are hit harder due to the bigger loss of international traffic and lack of domestic connectivity.
But wait, these numbers aren’t entirely accurate. That’s not Diio’s fault. Diio only loads once a week, so anything in the last week won’t show up. I did this before the weekend, so I missed an update that would have included Lufthansa’s cuts, for example. In addition, some airlines leave flights filed but then just zero out the inventory, usually meaning they aren’t operating. Diio can’t pick that up.
It would be painful to manually go through every route to see what’s actually operating, so I picked one airport to use as an example. Since so many of you asked about Los Angeles, that’s where I went.
Last May, LAX has about 865 daily departures serving 174 destinations. This May, according to Diio, it’s down to just over 200 daily departures serving 92 destinations, or nearly half as many. But after getting through the manual process, it dropped to something closer to 185 daily departures serving only 73 destinations. That means the airport has lost 60 percent of its destinations, not the 50 percent you see in the top chart.
This is when I turned to the Great Circle Mapper to show what stays and what goes. Keep in mind, May just started. There’s still time for more of these to be cut before the month is out.
Let’s start by looking out over to Asia. I included Alaska on this map simply because it fits best visually.
The bulk of the canceled flights here are into China. And just look at how many Chinese cities were actually served previously. I should note that I’m not entirely sure about some of these Chinese routes. Flights appear to be operating but they aren’t bookable because of some hoops that must be gone through first. So, take that for what it’s worth. For everything else outside China save Osaka, LAX remains an important lifeline into the US from a passenger and cargo perspective. There are fewer flights in these markets, but the routes remain.
Looking down into Oceania (which includes Hawai’i), you see there’s not much left beyond the Hawaiian islands.
Auckland retains service because, again, LAX is the lifeline to the rest of the world. For the rest, they aren’t concerned about that. Heck, some of these islands probably specifically DON’T want a lifeline to the rest of the world.
Now let’s look over the Atlantic.
It’s shocking to see everything gone except for Amsterdam, London, and Paris. There are no United/Lufthansa options after Lufthansa announced it would extend its barebones schedules through the end of May. Of course, that will come back, but it’s unlikely many of these secondary markets will return any time soon.
Now, let’s head south.
It may be hard to find the green on this map in a sea of red. Outside Mexico, the only city with service is San Salvador. In Mexico, it’s Guadalajara, Loreto, Los Cabos, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta. That’s more than I would have expected.
Most of these maps have been dominated by what’s not operating. So let’s put this another way. This is what LAX should have looked like internationally in May:
And here’s what it does look like.
Now let’s talk domestic. I’ll break this into two charts so you can see more clearly. First, these are the routes that aren’t flying in May.
The disappearing routes are mostly thinner, longer haul routes in addition to short-haul routes that are meant more for connections. Then you can look at what remains.
Of course, there are flights to other airline hubs, but the bulk of the rest of the service is thanks to Southwest — which I deemed the Southwest effect at the top of this post — and Alaska having far more service than they should.
There you have it. Naturally, this will change as people start traveling again. Let’s hope this is the floor and things can only go up from here. I’ll have my first June analysis later this week.