Friday nights are now one of the most exciting times of the week. Each Friday, Diio by Cirium loads that week’s schedule changes, and I get to see how the airlines are feeling about the near future. (Please, hold your criticism of my social life. Yours is probably just as sad these days.) A near-term cut means demand is likely weakening. A good outcome these days is no cut at all. And this weekend, the scissors were out again in force.
Florida continues to see coronavirus cases increase with abandon. The mismanagement of the virus there would be impressive if it weren’t so deadly, and it is causing real headaches for airlines. Frontier, Spirit, and United all made cuts with a heavy focus on Florida, though United was more geographically varied than the rest. In brighter news, Southwest added some last minute trips, but this is nothing to get excited about. The real story is the cutting. Let’s take a look.
Frontier Cuts More for July
Last week, Frontier made late cuts for July. This week, it’s at it again with flights being reduced more dramatically. Looking at the week of July 15-21, flights were slashed more than 13 percent. That’s an enormous drop so close to travel.
I pulled the data twice to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. Sure enough, there are nearly 100 flights that are being canceled to Florida within a couple weeks of travel. What’s even more amazing is that in a lot of these markets, it’s a complete pull out during this time period and not just a reduction in frequency.
Spirit Cuts July As Well
Spirit got into its own cutting party this weekend. August was on a pre-coronavirus schedule until these cuts, so the 50 percent cut in flights is an eye-popping number. But Spirit can’t wait until August. It trimmed more than four percent of flights in in July at this late date. Again taking a look at July 15-21, you can see the bulk hits Florida and Myrtle Beach.
Take notice that much of this is from the northeast to Florida. Also remember that this quarantine in place for people flying into New York/New Jersey/Connecticut has to be a big driver. And that brings us to United.
United Told Us This Was Coming
In an SEC filing, United said it was already reversing some of the additional August flying it was planning due to declining demand. What United didn’t say was that it was even making cuts in July.
The near-term cuts for July were completely focused on Newark. Orlando and Miami lost 4 flights per week while Nashville and Dallas/Fort Worth lost 6. Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, and Tampa each lost 1 flight per day while West Palm Beach lost 2 per day. What do these have in common? All are to states with high positivity rates of COVID, and that means that travelers are subject to a quarantine upon arrival in the New York area. It’s no surprise that flights would be cut here.
In August, more than 3 percent of flights were cut. Newark to Orange County and San Francisco to Shanghai were removed completely. The rest just saw decreased frequency.
As you can see, there was a whole lot of cutting in Florida, but there was a lot of cutting in other hotspots as well. California, Phoenix and Vegas saw cuts as did Texas, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. This isn’t solely about quarantine rules.
Southwest Grows in July
It’s not all dire news. As some readers pointed out last week, Southwest has been adding extra flights at the last minute as demand allows. There isn’t really a geographic focus here, but the map still tells us something.
To me, a couple of things stand out here. First of all, if you drew a line from Baltimore to Phoenix, you’d see the bulk of these adds being north of that line. Below there are some adds within Texas, but there is very little in Florida, as you’d expect.
One thing to keep in mind here is that these aren’t big adds. For the week of July 15-21, these adds are from 1 to 3 weekly flights in each market. So don’t read too much into this. I just figured I’d try to find a little good news in a sea of bad.
These changes paint a picture of major demand decreases to major leisure destinations. If the change was minor, then it wouldn’t require such cuts. Until Florida and other states get the coronavirus under control, it looks like demand has stalled… and that’s the best case scenario.