American Races Toward the Sun, Skirmishes Break Out Elsewhere

American, JetBlue, Schedule Changes

How about a bonus post today? Things are happening quickly in this industry this week, and if I don’t post this now, I’ll never post it.

The Eagle has set its October schedule, and there are a lot of cuts, but that is less interesting than what’s happening south of the border with its evil twin… El Aguila. Meanwhile, Ms Blue has been doing some last minute downsizing in both September and October. The Eskimo strikes back at the Widget, and the LUVer sends the Tulip a message.

All of this and more on this week’s episode of Skeds of air Lines.

American’s October is Set (Mostly) While Point-to-Point Runs Wild

American has been busy slashing a burning in the near term. We’ve already been told that 15 markets are going away. That’s actually now down to 14, with two of those being delayed, but none of this made this week’s filing.

What was loaded this weekend was American’s first whack at October. This isn’t final, since, well, nothing is final until it’s flown, but American is now targeting to fly 51.6 percent of flights in October vs 2019. In September, that number was 49.3 percent, so this really isn’t much growth.

In October, 49 routes that didn’t fly in September are coming back. It’s mostly Caribbean, Hawai’i, Mexico, and other winter destinations… which is no surprise since September is a dead time in most of those In addition, flights return from Charlotte to Westchester; Chicago to Charlottesville (VA), Little Rock, and Toledo; and both Los Angeles and Miami to Seattle. Meanwhile summer-seasonal flights like Anchorage and Montana go away. Outliers that disappear are Chicago to Columbia (MO) and Huntsville; Miami to Baltimore; Philly to Charlottesville, New York/LaGuardia, and Omaha; and Washington/National to Greenville/Spartanburg and Memphis.

But look, this is all kind of boring compared to the longer term stuff American is trying. Like United and JetBlue, American is going to take a swing at some non-hub leisure routes. But it also has the benefit of having a hub or two in the sunbelt, and those see growth too.

Let’s start in Phoenix, where American is preparing for the annual tradition of snowbirds descending on the city. This is what American had said it would do more of in Phoenix, so it’s no surprise.

  • Billings to Phoenix: Daily from November 4 through April 5
  • Bismarck to Phoenix: Daily from November 4 through April 6
  • Calgary to Phoenix: Daily from November 5 through April 6
  • Cincinnati to Phoenix: 4x weekly November 5 through April 4
  • Cleveland to Phoenix: Saturday-only from November 7 through April 3
  • Nashville to Phoenix: 4x weekly from November 5 through April 4
  • Tulsa to Phoenix: Daily from November 4 through April 5

American did the same thing in Miami, but this is not just about bringing people to Florida. It’s also about taking them through Miami to the Caribbean. A new route from Sioux Falls to Charlotte falls into a similar bucket since it’s also about warming people up.

  • Dayton to Miami: Saturday-only from November 7 through April 3
  • Lexington to Miami: Saturday-only from November 7 through April 3
  • Milwaukee to Miami: Saturday-only from November 7 through April 3
  • Portland (PWM) to Miami: Saturday-only from November 7 through April 3
  • Rochester to Miami: Saturday-only from November 7 through April 3
  • Sioux Falls to Charlotte: Daily from November 4 through April 5

Then there’s Mexico, where American is taking some bigger swings.

  • Austin to Cabo San Lucas: Saturday-only from December 19 through April 3
  • Charlotte to Puerto Vallarta: Saturday-only from December 19 through April 3
  • Columbus to Cancun: Saturday-only from December 19 through April 3
  • Indianapolis to Cancun: Saturday-only from December 19 through April 3
  • Kansas City to Cancun: Saturday-only from December 19 through April 3
  • New York/JFK to Cabo San Lucas: Daily from December 17 through January 4, 4x weekly from January 7 through February 8, Daily from February 11 through April 5
  • Raleigh/Durham to Cancun: Daily from December 17 through January 4, Saturday-only from February 13 through April 3
  • Sacramento to Cabo San Lucas: Saturday-only from December 19 through April 3
  • St Louis to Cancun: Saturday-only from December 19 through April 3

Those Cancun routes should look familiar. Those are the same ones that Delta pulled out of the schedule last week. American is going to give it a shot. New York to Cabo, well, the revived Eastern has just decided to start that up, so I guess this is a response to that. Austin to Cabo is less surprising since American was flying that before the pandemic, but Sacramento. Well, that’s something.

Alaska Goes Long, Defends Ontario

Alaska didn’t file much this week, but it did respond to Delta’s announcement that it was going to fly Ontario to Seattle by bulking up its own service. It also added flying from Jackson Hole to San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle, as it had previously announced. Beyond that, Seattle gets another daily flight to Boston, Orlando, and Raleigh/Durham for the long run. That’s a lot of aircraft time.

JetBlue’s Late September Cut, October Goes Down Too

It is September tomorrow, and that means any September cuts are coming in late. While JetBlue was going to run 37 percent of flights vs 2019 in September, it’s now down to 28 percent. I guess demand was even weaker than originally believed. A whole bunch of routes that were going to operate in September won’t:

  • Boston – Barbados, Montego Bay, Nantucket, Newark, Philly, Portland (OR), Punta Cana, Salt Lake City
  • Ft Lauderdale – Austin, Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, San Jose (CR)
  • Newark – Barbados
  • New York/JFK – Cartagena, Nassau
  • Washington/National – Ft Myers, Nantucket

Meanwhile, 65 additional routes will see reduced frequency. Beyond September, the first cut at October now has the airline planning to operate 44 percent of last year’s flights.

Delta Cuts October Again

Delta already knocked down October, but it’s at it again. Seven routes are going away, including Boston to Austin, Detroit to Bloomington, Los Angeles to Lihu’e and Tokyo/Haneda, New York/JFK to Dallas/Fort Worth, and Salt Lake to Cabo and West Yellowstone. Another 85 see reduced frequency with the biggest hits in Boston to Cincinnati, Richmond, and Seattle; Cincinnati to Newark and Washington/National; Detroit to Ft Lauderdale, New Orleans, Orlando, and Tampa; New York/JFK to Syracuse; and Seattle to Vegas.

On the bright side, Guadalajara to Los Angeles and Indianapolis to Memphis have been added to the schedule with daily service. Another 31 routes will see frequency growth.

In the long run looking at next summer, Delta is pulling out of Atlanta to Grenada and Reno along with Seattle to Bozeman. It will reduce frequency from Minneapolis to Cancun but boost frequency from Salt Lake to Puerto Vallarta. Those moves, of course, mean very little since next summer is just so far away.

Frontier and Allegiant Take Down October

Both Frontier and Allegiant have knocked down their October schedules. Frontier was planning on flying 82 percent of last year, but now it will only fly 62 percent. Meanwhile, Allegiant was going to originally grow with 114 percent of flights versus last year. Now it’s down to 92 percent.

United’s Late September Trim

What’s most interesting about United is what it didn’t do. It still hasn’t filed its October schedules. I assume we’ll see those next weekend. Maybe the airline is holding out hope that the government will throw more money at it. Instead, this weekend, all we saw was some last minute trimming in Central America and secondary Mexico cities like Veracruz and Aguascalientes.

Southwest Defends Florida

Southwest was busy doing its usual tweaking with October flights up 2 points, much of it in Florida. But that wasn’t the most interesting move. In November and December, we see Southwest taking aim back at United which had moved into some of its Florida markets. The airline will increase frequency on Fort Myers to Columbus, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh alongside Cleveland to Orlando. It also add new routes from United current and former hubs. Washington/Dulles to Orlando comes along with Fort Myers to Houston (Hobby, not Intercontinental, of course), and Cleveland.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for next week. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Skeds of air Lines.

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12 comments on “American Races Toward the Sun, Skirmishes Break Out Elsewhere

  1. thanks for the bonus post.
    AA’s changes are rational unlike UA a few weeks ago; they are largely additions to MIA or PHX or Mexico beach destinations.

    Since UA hasn’t finalized its October schedules, it is hard to see but, even with the changes you note, it appears that Delta is the largest airline within the US for Sept based on ASMs while also the largest in October worldwide.

    DL is restoring a higher percentage of capacity than any other airline besides WN at about -40% less than Sept. a year ago; AA and SAVE are in the -50% group and B6 and UA are in the -60% group.

    Most notable is that DL and WN have largely maintained their pre-covid network structures and their relative capacity in each market while DL appears to be setting up to become the largest carrier at LAX.

    NYC is just a basketcase for everybody.

    1. Tim – I find ASMs to be fairly worthless these days. Delta is blocking so many seats, that you have to remove that from the calculation. There should be a new calc of ASMs and USMs, UNavailable seat miles.

      1. that is valid but only if the cap prevents selling seats that otherwise would have sold.
        In reality, DL and WN know that they will not sell most of their flights above the cap which is why they are marketing it as an advantage- but it is really just reality.

        AA and UA have specifically said they have a very limited number of flights that are operating anywhere close to full.

        Let’s see what load factors each carrier reports in about 6 weeks but I will bet the caps just serve a marketing purpose and to force some of the lowest fares to other flights and keep flights closer to the average.

    2. -45% for AA and UA, not -50 or -60. Pretty close to the -40 you quote for DAL, and much better than the -50-60 for SWA noted by the WSJ below.

      “United expects to fly around 55% of capacity in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, while Southwest expects to operate 40% to 50% though continues to block most middle seat sales.

      American Airlines Group Inc., which expanded flying during early summer, continues to pull back, and said Sunday that it will fly 55% of its pre-pandemic schedule in October.”


      1. Tory,
        not sure who you are addressing but there is a difference between published schedules which are based on the day a user pulls those schedules and the actual flown capacity including subsequent schedule changes and also a certain level of cancellations and last minute capacity additions.
        Also, some airlines make statements about system capacity while others specifically break out domestic capacity which technically includes US-Canada transborder capacity. Since the US-Canada border is effectively closed, there isn’t much reason to include it and some analyses are focusing just on the US.

        Specific to AA’s changes, they laid out their international capacity plans through next summer fairly early in the covid crisis so the addition of their near international markets does help to increase their international capacity.

  2. I’m not sure if Macdonald Carey (the original star of Days of our Lives, for those too young to remember) is down with the parody or rolling in his grave. LOL

    On a serious note, I’m happy to see that airlines are trying something creative instead of being completely risk-averse. And while I’m a bit surprised by the Phoenix adds, our COVID cases are shrinking nicely and summer’s almost over (and boy has it been a scorcher! 50+ days over 110).

  3. Whoa! Bonus post. Thanks, Cranky!

    Shame to see B6 cut BGI in September. I had hope cargo might make it worthwhile. I imagine the Barbados Postal Service alone would like to see any U.S. service restored. They’re still not accepting U.S.-bound mail partially due to transport issues.

  4. I believe the West Yellowstone is a seasonal EAS flight. Look for it to pop-up in the May 2021 ‘sked.’ I believe WYS closes down entirely during the winter months.

    Would love to hear your opinion on the Delta IND to MEM flights? What’s the affinity and why now? I know both are FedEx hubs and FedEx probably has people going back and forth – but one would assume FedEx would have that figured out – they are an airline, after all (I vaguely remember an article from a news source a while back talking about how both FedEx and UPS maintain the paperwork to transport passengers if they so chose to do so).

    1. Any chance these flights are essentially repositioning flights, or moving aircraft to/from maintenance bases or storage areas? That’s the only thing I could think of.

  5. Regarding the Boston cuts, Massachusetts has some pretty restrictive “recent negative COVID-19 test or quarantine for 14 days” rules in place for visitors from most states (currently, only those travelling/returning to MA from Colorado, NJ, NY, PA, WV, CT, NH, ME, and VT are exempt from that requirement, based on COVID-19 rates in those states; even visitors from RI to MA are supposed to quarantine).

    While those quarantine rules don’t seem to really be enforced, at least for those who aren’t blatantly violating them to make a statement (more of an “honor system”; no mandatory temp checks before you can deplane in BOS), and while it’s very hard to predict what states will be on MA’s naughty list even a few weeks from now, I’m sure the quarantine rules are keeping people from travelling to MA, especially business travellers working for big companies concerned about liability and doing things by the book.

  6. Please, please please keep these Skeds of Air Lines posts coming. It’s the highlight of our week and a great combo of detail and big picture.

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