More Schedule Cuts, American Plays With Fire, and Southwest Corrects Its Course

American, Schedule Changes, Southwest, United

I fear my relationship with Diio by Cirium is becoming unhealthy. Every Friday night, I run to Diio to learn about that week’s airline schedule changes, but Diio remains emotionless. Maybe I’m asking too much, but that won’t quell my burning desire to spend every weekend with the website. This seems even more mad when you consider how depressing the data is. Cuts, cuts, and more cuts filled the news this weekend.

Most of this week’s cuts are for August and September, but there were a couple of interesting longer-term moves as well from both JetBlue and American. There is much to discuss, so let’s just go in alphabetical order and run down what’s happening.

American Whacks August and Longer Term in LA

We knew this was coming. In its earnings call, American noted that its strategy to add a lot of flights in June and early July was working. In fact, its cash burn of “only” $30 million a day in June was better than expected thanks to those moves. But demand has taken a turn for the worse, and that means the aggressive run had to end.

American has now cut more than 11 percent of its planned flights in August. There were 106 routes that were expected to have service in August, but they no longer will. Meanwhile, another 122 had a reduction in frequency. Here’s how this looks by hub.

Chicago and Miami took the biggest hits with DFW also up there, but this is an even more stark contrast than it may appear. For places like LA, Phoenix, and DFW, there’s a lot of Hawai’i, Mexico, and Canada involved. Meanwhile, Miami, despite some Caribbean cuts, along with O’Hare, LaGuardia, and National are largely domestic where you’d hope there’d be more demand. Also, note that the numbers don’t add up on the frequency cuts, because there were some hub-to-hub routes that were counted twice.

In general, this looks like American just pulling back to serving cities from fewer hubs. For example, Asheville in North Carolina will still have 4 or 5 flights a day to Charlotte and 1 a day to DFW, but it will lose the O’Hare and Philly flights that American hoped to run in August.

While this was the big news, American did sneak in some long-term changes. This is where I think the airline is playing with fire. American will stop flying from Los Angeles to Eugene, Fresno, Louisville, Medford, Redmond/Bend, and San Diego. To compensate, it will go from 1 to 2 daily flights from Phoenix to Eugene, Medford, and Redmond/Bend.

Why is this playing with fire? Well, remember that Alaska and American now have a partnership, and Alaska recently added several of the routes that are being cut by American including Eugene, Fresno, Medford, and Redmond/Bend. The airlines aren’t allowed to coordinate, and I doubt they did. But DOT is likely watching this with interest.

Delta Shaves August, Trims September

Delta decided to shave a point and a half percent of August flights while cutting September another 6+ percent. Only 5 routes lose service entirely in August and one, Atlanta to Nassau is presumably because of the re-adding of restrictions on American travelers. Other than that, JFK to DFW goes away, but LaGuardia is still there. Then there’s Atlanta to San Jose, Cincinnati to Los Angeles, and Kansas City to LaGuardia that get the axe.

Another 46 routes, however, see reductions. Eighteen of those are in Atlanta with many going south of the border but not all. The only other significant hub seeing cuts is New York with 12 routes split between JFK and LaGuardia.

September, however, is a different story. There were 44 routes the airline hoped would operate in September, but now they won’t. Another 206 routes see frequency cuts. Many of these cuts are international which saw a third of its flights cut including a whole bunch of Europe, but there are two hubs that saw substantial domestic cuts.

Remember how Boston was coming back strong? No it’s not. A whopping 12 Boston routes that Delta planned would come back are gone and another 5 routes are losing frequency. Six of the route drops are at LaGuardia and 19 routes lose frequency from there.

Frontier Continues to Cut Back

I’ve talked about Frontier a lot previously, and things continue to be ugly. August now has 17 percent fewer flights while September has 14 percent fewer. It’s just more of the same with those guys.

JetBlue Takes a Knife to August and September Schedules With a Little Long-Term Growth

Seeing the writing on the wall, JetBlue has given up on trying to run a more full schedule in August and September. It cut August flights by an additional 25 percent. It was going to grow its flights by 40 percent over July but now it will only grow by 5 percent.

JetBlue’s first whack at the September schedule sees big cuts as well. It will now hope to grow flights by 25 percent over the new August schedule, but that seems aggressive for such a soft month for travel in general. We’ll have to keep on eye on that.

In the long run, however, JetBlue is trying out a little growth.

  • JFK to Albuquerque becomes daily service
  • JFK to Atlanta goes from 2 daily to 4 daily
  • JFK to Chicago/O’Hare goes from 2 daily to 4 daily
  • JFK to Denver goes from 1 daily to 2 daily
  • JFK to Houston/Intercontinental goes from 1 daily to 2 daily
  • JFK to Phoenix goes from 1 daily to 2 daily
  • JFK To Raleigh/Durham goes from 2 daily to 4 daily
  • JFK to Sacramento goes from sub-daily to having an additional daily flight

Some of these may be about trying to strengthen flying for the American partnership, but do note there are also some efforts to grow in other airline hubs. I wonder if this American deal makes JetBlue feel more bullish about its ability to compete in all those markets.

Southwest Rethinks Its September and October Plans

During its earnings call, Southwest said it probably wouldn’t get back to full capacity by year-end any longer, and this weekend, it took steps to pull things down in September and October.

I know I said there wasn’t really good news here, but I lied. Long Beach to Phoenix and August move up a couple months to start earlier! Ok, nobody cares. Got it. Overall, here’s a look at what Southwest did.

Data via Diio by Cirium

In September, the airline is removing 24 routes from the schedule, and there is a clear trend here:

Southwest August Route Drops (Red) and Adds (Green) Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

What goes away? A lot of Florida and a lot of longer hauls. But there is a little growth as well, it’s mostly, I believe, moving forward launches of routes planned later.

Beyond that, 70 routes saw frequency increases and 339 had decreases. I don’t need to give you the rundown on each one, but it’s spread pretty far and wide. Here’s a look at one of the Southwest focus cities so you get an idea.

Southwest Denver August Frequency Cuts (Red) and Adds (Green) Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

You see a lot more red lines than green ones here, and it’s the same everywhere. Meanwhile, October looks like it’s finally trying to sync up with the rest of the schedule. October was previously set to be bigger than November because it was put together in a previous schedule. It has now been taken down but still represents an upward trend over September.

November and December will be taken down, but they haven’t been cut yet. Keep your eyes open for that one.

United Takes August Down More Than 6 Percent

United, like the others, had indicated that it was seeing weakness and would pull down August further. It has done that with more than 6 percent of flights disappearing.

Only twelve routes won’t operate, and most are to places like the Bahamas or Canada where the return of travel from the US is delayed. The exceptions are Newark to Burlington, Kansas City, and Syracuse alongside San Francisco to Washington/National. But if we look at the frequency reductions, a pretty clear picture gets painted.

Newark is taking the brunt of the cuts. What United hoped to bring back has now been reversed. Houston is next on the list, but much of that goes south of the border, so it’s a different situation.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for next week when my torried, one-side love affair with Diio continues.

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35 comments on “More Schedule Cuts, American Plays With Fire, and Southwest Corrects Its Course

  1. Now that these posts are becoming regular weekly features, Brett, I think you need to create a soap opera style graphic for these. Something like, “As the Airline Schedules Turn,” “Desperate Route Planners,” or “The Safe Ones and the Reckless”.

        1. “The Guiding Flight,” “11 Gates” (Based on the Canadian soap “11 Cameras,”) Love of Flight,” “As the Schedule Turns,” “From these routes” (1958 – 61), “Long Beach” (based on “Santa Barbara), “Planes Landing”, “Cranky’s Place.”

          1. I’ll add “Schedule (Cuts) on a Plane,” with apologies to the “Snakes on a Plane” movie. Bonus points for including an image of Samuel L. Jackson saying, “I’m tired of these ************* changes to my ************* routes!”.

            Glad we had a few smiles on a Monday. I hope Cranky uses our exercise as an excuse to get his creative cranky juices going, and produce one of the patented Cranky graphics that we all know and love in time for next week’s post on schedule changes.

  2. Another great analysis. Can you please tell (or show) us which Carribean routes American is withdrawing in August? Thank you.

    1. Caribbean Traveller – Sure, I can do that. These were previously scheduled to operated in August, but now they won’t: Miami – Bonaire, Curacao, Eleuthera, Exuma, Georgetown, Nassau, Port of Spain Charlotte – Nassau Dallas/Fort Worth – Montego Bay

      And I never know if this counts as Caribbean or not, but Cancun to Boston, JFK, and Phoenix won’t operate.

  3. @ cranky

    I don’t think it’s the DOT that could be a big problem for America, it’s their pilots. After the signing the 2 code shares and Those 2 airlines not furloughing pilots but AA is going to furlough @3000 I think APA is going to have a major problem with that.

    1. Rob – None of these routes were operated by mainline American anyway. It’s just moving regional flying to partners.

  4. Pretty obvious JetBlue is taking over a lot of these markets that AA will cut back on. Again, a lot of growth at JFK while other stations get left idle. Partnership with AA means JetBlue is shifting their attention to NYC and AA gets to cut back on their losses. LAX is basically the same case between AS and AA. JetBlue also gets to be a big beneficiary there as AA is going to fly a lot less out of LAX.

    Southwest continues to fly way more than it needs to. It’s great to have so much more money than everyone else.

    Not a surprise DL came back down to earth with BOS/LGA. Demand is just not there. Same with UA at EWR.

    1. The AA-B6 codeshare would allow, for instance, American to cut back BOS. They’re currently #3 in the market (not a great place to be). The new JetBlue agreement allows them to throw out the BOS bathwater without entirely losing the baby. Not saying it will happen, saying that if it happens, AA’s downside is less than it would have been.

  5. The biggest market that is being cut in August is American’s withdrawal from Boston to Los Angeles. Since AA and UA are cutting their schedules very close to the next month of flying (we are just a week away from the beginning of August), it is hard to pick up trends but BOS-LAX is a market where AA has tried for years to hold onto volume but has ended up with the lowest average fares in the market. DL and UA are both staying in the market but there is a good chance that AA might simply be willing to cede a major historic route to B6 in yet another indication of the potential scope of the codeshare.
    It is also noteworthy that B6 is reducing capacity in BOS to LAX from July to August and still using Mint aircraft while Delta is switching its single daily flight to a 757 to provide more total seats per flight but remove the lie-flat cabin.

    JBLU reports its financial results tomorrow; analysts expect to see load factors below industry average and average fare declines above industry average. B6 might have the cash right now to try to take the minimal market share that is flying but it will come at the cost of a weaker balance sheet as the crisis and highly depressed traffic likely drags into 2021.

    1. Is BOS-LAX a “temporary” or a “permanent” route cut?

      It has been an AA nonstop route since the mid-1950s, having been started with DC-7Bs (the stage length needed the extra fuel capacity of the -7B).

    1. “I fear my relationship with Diio by Cirium is becoming unhealthy. Every Friday night, I run to Diio to learn about that week’s airline schedule changes, but Diio remains emotionless. Maybe I’m asking too much, but that won’t quell my burning desire to spend every weekend with the website. This seems even more mad when you consider how depressing the data is. Cuts, cuts, and more cuts filled the news this weekend.”

      Two questions – 1. What does Mrs. Cranky say about that. & 2. Have you tried therapy? LOL

      1. SEAN – 1) Mrs Cranky is fine with it. She’d rather not have to listen to me talking about future schedules anyway. 2) Yes, but Diio won’t get couples counseling with me.

  6. One can make a case for the government to look the other way when it comes to American’s cuts and Alaska’s adds in the west (along with other similar moves), at least in the short term.

  7. ‘American will stop flying from Los Angeles to Eugene, Fresno, Louisville, Medford, Redmond/Bend, and San Diego”

    I also read elsewhere that LAX-ABQ, LAX-TUS were also cut. Are these the 8 routes in your bar graph that were dropped out of LAX? Sometimes the timing of when routes are dropped causes confusion.

    1. Eric – That’s correct, but those were just short term cuts, not through the end of the schedule like the other routes.

  8. Watch for WN to suspend or discontinue service from LGB to SJC & SMF as these are two of the weakest markets in the system. LGB-OAK isn’t doing much better, but provides connections north. IMO they should try connecting LGB to DEN, MDW, HOU, DAL & ATL. Although Gary Kelly said there are no plans to drop any cities, they can still suspend or greatly reduce markets to minimal service, which I suspect is coming soon for LGB.

  9. Your “route-cut” posts provide interesting reading, sad, but interesting.

    Complement some other stuff I read in the on-line papers: “Games/Leagues Postponed Today, Possibly Tomorrow!” Plus: “Local Obituaries.”

    These are trying times!

    1. FYI – NYY @ PHI & MIA @ BAL have been postponed today & maybe tomorrow as well. Rest of MLB is scheduled.

  10. A bit worse for AA: still on the schedule (and bookable) for NEXT week is MIA/DFW-SJO. In reality, Costa Rica’s borders remain closed to Americans at least thru 31 August.

    I figured the flights would fall off with the weekend sched change but noooo…

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