JetBlue is an airline on a mission. With a deal to not furlough any pilots until next May, it is trying to put as many of them to work as possible. After an initial barrage of routes that mostly focused on Florida and Newark, the airline has moved on to its next round of route-flinging.
This round digs deeper, and it seems far riskier. That isn’t a surprise. You run out of top route options pretty quickly when you’re deep in a pandemic. But hey, get ready for some new flying in Los Angeles, Newark, and even Raleigh/Durham.
A Look at the Last Batch of Routes
When the last round of routes were announced over the summer, there were two primary points of focus: Newark and Philadelphia. Newark was given broader reach to both business and leisure markets while Philly was focused exclusively on Florida and San Juan. Newark was, of course, part of a broader New York strategy whereas Philly was just about trying to grab some cash.
Though results aren’t public yet since they’ve barely been flying, we can look at JetBlue’s schedule to see just how things are looking. Thanks to Cirium, I pulled up what percent of flights on these new routes are currently scheduled to operate compared to the original plan.
Actually I pulled this last weekend before even more cuts were doled out for October, but the point is the same. As you can see, there is a whole lot more still planned in September and October for Newark than for Philly. September is particularly ugly with West Palm supposed to have 14 weekly flights and now only having 1. And in October, the only route that will be operating from Philly as planned originally is San Juan with a daily flight. This tells me things aren’t booking up as hoped, and a lot of that is probably because JetBlue just doesn’t have a strong presence in Philly. It is a carrier of last resort.
With that frame, let’s look at all the new routes that are being announced. You’ll see why I like some and don’t like others. Let’s start with the ones I like.
Most Bullish: Newark Gets Caribbean
JetBlue’s first run at Newark connected some domestic dots, but now JetBlue is going international. All of these start on November 19.
- Aruba: 1x daily A320 (Saturdays on Mint A321)
- Cancun: 2x daily A320
- Montego Bay: 1x daily A320
- Nassau: 1x daily A320
- Providenciales (Turks and Caicos): 1x daily A320
- Punta Cana: 1x daily A320
- St Maarten: 1x daily A320 (Saturdays on Mint A321)
In the long run, these all make sense. Sure, you can’t go to the Bahamas now, but eventually that restriction goes away. This allows JetBlue to take all of New York and Northern New Jersey to the Caribbean, as it does today from JFK alone. They know these routes out of JFK, and they have a good shot at making them work from Newark as well.
If I have any hesitation, it’s the competition. United is in all of these markets. Providenciales and St Maarten are currently filed as once daily this winter, but the rest are at least twice a day with Cancun more than that. Cancun, of course, is a huge market, and even Frontier has a daily flight there in the winter. That’s rare to find anywhere in Frontier’s network.
Something tells me that we’re going to see a whole lot more United flying in these markets to try to drown JetBlue out. But then again, I expect we’ll see more demand as well once these places open up. It’s a much easier trip than going over the ocean, and in the near term, those are the kind of trips people will want to take. With a strong local New York base, this seems like a sensible effort.
Don’t Hate It: Raleigh/Durham and Other Southeast Flying Gets a Boost
The next step down for me is what JetBlue is trying to do in Raleigh/Durham (RDU). It’s building up a leisure focus city to fill airplanes with shorter-haul flying. Again, these all start November 19.
- Cancun: 1x daily A320
- Fort Myers: 1x daily A320
- Montego Bay: 1x daily A320
- San Juan: 1x daily A320
As of now, American is operating some Saturday flights to Cancun next year, and Frontier has sub-daily flying to San Juan, but that’s it for nonstop competition.
These aren’t historically big markets. In 2019, Cirium ARC/BSP data says San Juan led the way with 137 passengers daily each way (PDEW) followed by 103 to Cancun, 62 to Fort Myers, and 58 to Montego Bay. But of course, JetBlue has to be betting on stimulation here. If you have people looking to travel and not wanting to go too far from home, the nonstop option on JetBlue should help create opportunity. It also helps people feel more comfortable from a health/safety perspective.
There’s a similar dynamic for these two routes:
- Richmond – Tampa: 1x daily Embraer 190
- Tampa – Cancun: 1x daily A320
These aren’t big markets and there is limited competition. Delta won’t be doing Tampa-Cancun this winter, and while Southwest did weekend flying from Richmond to Tampa pre-pandemic, it’s not in the schedule for next winter.
All of these are stimulation plays in markets that don’t really exist yet, and that’s why I like it less than the Newark flying. But they’re short routes that are poised to capitalize on shifting behavior post-COVID, so I’m not against the effort.
Hate It: Growing LA and Other Thin Long-Haul
I get that JetBlue has a lot of airplanes sitting on the ground now, but these routes hardly seem worth unparking an airplane for. JetBlue has decided to rapidly accelerate the growth in LA markets that it expected to unfold over several years. It’s adding some other very odd long-haul markets as well. I really don’t like this plan.
Here are all the long-haul routes that JetBlue is going to start up. If they have a plus sign, they start November 19. If not, they start December 18.
- +Los Angeles – Cancun: 2x daily A320
- Los Angeles – Charleston (SC): 1x daily A320
- Los Angeles – Liberia (CR): Wednesdays on A320, Saturdays on Mint A321
- Los Angeles – Raleigh/Durham: 1x daily A320
- Los Angeles – Richmond: 1x daily A320
- Los Angeles – San Jose (CR): 1x daily A321neo
- +Los Angeles – West Palm Beach: 1x daily Mint A321
- Fort Lauderdale – Bozeman: Wednesday/Saturday on A320 (holidays only)
- Fort Lauderdale – Palm Springs: Thursday/Sunday on A320
- Las Vegas – Richmond: 1x daily A320
- +San Francisco – Cancun: 2x daily A320
I have to start this out by saying that I don’t REALLY hate the Bozeman flight if it really is just over the holidays. That wasn’t mentioned in the release, but it’s how I see it filed. So, for such a short period, fine. But if it grows beyond that, I don’t like it. Fort Lauderdale – Palm Springs? Ooof. That is a market that doesn’t exist. Even combined with Miami and West Palm it’s 30 people a day with limited stimulation potential. This seems like a real stretch.
The rest, however, well, I have varying degrees of dislike. There are some that I might like on an A220 or as a redeye to better utilize existing aircraft, but not one of these flights is a redeye save LA to San Jose (CR). And the A220s aren’t here yet. Case in point: something like Richmond to Vegas is born to be a redeye, but instead it’s a morning westbound with an afternoon return. Maybe it works — it’s Vegas after all — but it still feels like a stretch.
LA to Richmond and Charleston… those are pretty thin routes, though I was surprised to see in 2019 that Richmond took 111 people per day (Charleston is 93). Still, JetBlue doesn’t like connecting traffic, and it has few if any connecting options here anyway. With one flight a day, JetBlue won’t carry all the traffic in that market, so it’s going to be light. With an A220 with fewer seats… well, then it might be interesting. That is undoubtedly the plan for the long run, but is this really the time to be flying a bunch of empty A320s around, losing money?
Ok, ok, that’s the entire airline industry business plan right now, but you get my point.
LA to West Palm is maybe slightly better than this except that JetBlue is flying a Mint aircraft. That’s a lot of premium seats. Sure, there might be some people that like that — there’s certainly plenty of money in that area — but with multiple flights a day from Fort Lauderdale offering Mint, JetBlue has likely already cornered that market. This just diverts the traffic away from its primary focus city.
The rest of these routes are bigger but highly competitive. Take Cancun. United flies from SF once or twice a day along with once a day from LA. Delta flies it twice daily from LA, and who knows what the Mexican carriers will do. American and Southwest already pulled the rip cord from LA during good times, yet here is JetBlue thinking twice a day (again, no redeye) will work from both markets. To me, it seems far more likely that people in LA will fly to the West Coast of Mexico than to Cancun in the medium term if they’re willing to go at all.
Raleigh/Durham… yes, I get it. JetBlue wants to win there if Delta is going to fail to put up a fight. But LA is a market where there’s already flights on Delta and American to scoop up the demand, and most of that RDU- and LA-based traffic is likely to stick with American or Delta unless JetBlue makes itself a lot cheaper.
The same goes for Liberia and San Jose. They are moderate-sized markets — or at least they will be when Costa Rica decides to allow Californians in again — but there is competition which is more likely to attract the LA traveler. You have service from both Delta and Alaska in those markets, to varying degrees. Avianca carries connections via San Salvador, and Volaris has flown San Jose in the past. Presumably it will happen again someday. JetBlue just doesn’t have that customer base to be a big draw.
To sum things up, if JetBlue just drew a circle around the East Coast and Caribbean, I’d like the chance the airline is taking. Everything outside that circle? Well, that’s a whole lot of flying in markets that are going to be very hard to fill.
So I think you basically have an issue with them making a play for the LA market?
At some point, JetBlue has to grow out of just Northeast and Florida. This pandemic has shown them what happens when northeast demand falls to nothing. In order to diversify their risk, they have to grow to other areas.
The LAX plans were formulated for a while now. And when they got the gate access from LAWA, they need to put it in motion. You criticized them for moving LGB flights to LAX because those flights faced competition. Now, you are criticizing them for adding marginal transcon routes that have no competition. Well, they either have to grab this opportunity and buildup LAX or they have to build elsewhere. Every route they have added are to markets where they have some presence. They already have a lot of service to SJO/LIR, so they make sense as first international markets. They are the largest carrier in PBI, 3rd largest in RIC, 4th largest in CHS and RDU has a lot of connection to NYC/BOS.
If the current pandemic don’t support the announced capacity, they will just cut back. It’s hard to capture demand if you announce a flight as 2x weekly and face a range of 1-stop connections.
People thought BUF-LAX wouldn’t last and it has grew over the years through low fare stimulation and reduction to 4x weekly during low seasons. In 2019 Q3, RIC is at 150 PDEW and CHS is at 110 PDEW. I bet the peak month of memorial day to labor day is higher than that. If you look at surrounding airports, ORF is at 180 that same quarter and CHI was at 30. And they also can draw from IAD. CHS can also draw additional demand from SAV and other places.
These are the type of routes that are ideally made for A220-300 in summer time. With direct service and low fare stimulation, RIC could easily reach 250 PDEW by drawing additional demand from other Virginia airport. Capture 40 to 50% of that demand and you are golden for daily service on A220 with some additional connection traffic added in. CHS will probably be below 200 even in peak summer season. It might never reach daily, but you could do 5x weekly in peak season. In slow season, you could reduce these routes to 3x weekly.
PBI-LAX will only be mint daily while JFK mint route demand remains low. Once JFK demand is restored, it will back to an all-core route outside of some Saturdays and holiday season. Adding service here from LAX is not any different from serving BUR out of JFK/BOS.
I think the AA/B6 partnership at EWR will become quite a problem for UA. A lot of people in that region can go with either EWR/PHL. A lot of the announced EWR routes don’t have more than 1x weekly service even in peak season from AA at PHL. With AA codeshare on these flights, they are going to be able to capture a lot of AA ff that otherwise would fly out of PHL or just connect at MIA. And as a whole, you can now get to all of Florida, Caribbeans, Cali, Arizona, Texas and LV for leisure travel. There aren’t that many more places people want to go for vacation. And for business travel, you can get to Boston, chicago, dallas, Charlotte, LA and SF. I think there are still a few more places JetBlue can add out of EWR before things get really hard. UA has a real problem at hand now that people in Eastern and central NJ has another option. And with additional choices in EWR, more people in NJ and central/Eastern PA will end up picking AA or B6 ff. I see UA’s profitability at EWR going way down. For too long, it has hid at EWR while watching DL, AA and B6 battling out rest of New York.
RDU/RIC/CHS seem like an effort to see if they can gain some additional traction in Atlantic coast. Hard for them to be considered an eastern coast airline when they only have presence in northeast and florida. All of the routes they added other than RDU-LAX has zero non-stop daily competition. It looks like they deliberately avoided any RDU-Florida stuff with competition. RDU-FLL for them attracted a lot of connection to Caribbean. I’m sure that’s how they came up with SJU/MBJ/CUN. I doubt all of these routes will stick around.
Another factor to consider is AA cutting 50 seaters out of NYC. Now, Envoy has closed their base there. I see JetBlue taking over JFK/LGA-RIC and LGA-CHS over time. It’s also possible they will add LGA/EWR-RDU. That’s a good way for JetBlue to add ff along Atlantic coast.
As for the remaining stuff, they are just going to last as long as they can get bookings. Who knows if SFO-CUN or FLL-PSP ever start. Nobody knows what the demand profile looks like in the next couple of years. Airlines are just scrambling to find cash where they can.
FC – That’s correct, I DO have an issue with them making a play for the LA market, because they will never be a leader in it and are going to find it very difficult to make anything work.
JetBlue does not have to grow outside of the East Coast for the foreseeable future. There is plenty of runway left to grow, including eventually going longer-haul internationally. Then there’s always M&A opportunity out there to grow as well. Trying to organically muscle into a very crowded market is not a great plan. I know what they’re thinking. They figure they can just take advantage of the shifting pandemic situation to muscle in. But then what? They go from number 7 to number 6? Congratulations. I think it’s probably safe to assume that at least one airline will de-emphasize LAX. Let’s say it’s American since that airline has already cut the Pacific hub. American will just rely more on Alaska for feed on smaller routes and still fly bigger routes on its own. It’s not like it’s going to pull out of LA. JetBlue will be fighting an uphill battle here.
LAX is really important in terms of their overall network. Having a presence in LAX helps their performance on their premium transcons, which are the most profitable part of their domestic network. DL has a 15 to 20% yield premium over them on JFK-LAX. If they can close that by 10% from having more relevance in LA market, that’s an additional $30 million in profit every year. And if you add in EWR/BOS/FLL, that could mean $50 million in additional profit every year. That would be sufficient to cover whatever losses they incur in running a 20 to 25 flight west coast schedule.
Having a larger presence in LA will also help them with getting more corporate contract with companies that have large coastal presence. All of that will help rest of their network which most of us can’t really measure. I think JetBlue has it worked out and believes that having more of a national vs northeast/florida network will help them even if that requires operating some routes at losses. Along that same line of logic, I think you will see them getting additional gate space at SFO also.
B6 may end up with fewer flights than AS, but I think they will end up generating more revenue due to longer stage length + mint. And once they get to 75 flights in a few years, maybe their larger presence could persuade LAWA into getting them access to even more gates down the road.
After 2008, they went from NYC centric to being the largest in Boston and having most flights at FLL. They should use this crisis to become more of a national carrier.
FC – Comparing premiums is really tough in transcon just because of the composition of the airplane. Delta has only 68 percent of seats in regular coach. It has 17 percent in Comfort+ (which is sold as a different fare, not as an upsell) and 15 percent as flat beds… assuming 767s on the route which has been the standard. Meanwhile, JetBlue has 92.5 percent of seats on Mint aircraft in coach with the rest in Mint. Yes, there are some extra legroom seats, but those are an upsell that don’t show up in the fare. So I would be VERY concerned if Delta didn’t get a premium. The reality is that JetBlue does very well on transcon to its focus cities, and flying intra-West shouldn’t change that.
It’s also important to remember that JetBlue is still primarily a leisure airline. Sure it carries business travelers when it can, but outside of Boston and Mint flying it is pretty poorly positioned to carry a lot of business travelers. It has built its business to focus on leisure, and it is not going to be able to get much in the way of corp contracts in LA considering all the competition. It’s just not built that way, no matter what kind of random flights it adds into the market.
JetBlue on JFK-LAX had higher average fare than United on EWR-LAX in Q3 of 2019. So they have the potential to leapfrog network carriers. They are simply not able to compete with DL/AA for the top end of the market at the moment. It’s hard for me to imagine how building up LAX will not help them on mint. Even with a 75 flight station, I think mint will probably be close to 50% of their revenue out of LAX. They will at least have a niche that’s different from AS/WN/NK. They may have the smallest west coast network, but be appealing to people that does mostly leisure and transcon travel. They will even be able to get people from LA to everywhere in Europe and most places in south America in a few years. That’s something other non-network carriers won’t be able to do.
It’s also only partly about corporate contracts in LA. There are a lot of companies with big offices on both coasts that don’t have JetBlue as a preferred domestic carrier. There are also quite a few mosaic members in LAX and SFO that flies mint a lot but would like a more complete route map. The biggest change since pandemic started is that their deal with AA. They will have enough slots in LGA/JFK and space at EWR to capture more of the higher yielding passengers (both leisure and corporate).
If you are a large corporation with major office in NYC and LA/SF. JetBlue wasn’t attractive before, but now:
– they fly to more business destinations out of LGA
– they have a complete map out of JFK and fly to Europe and South America
– they have a respectable map out of EWR and you have a lot of employees living in NJ
– they have codeshare in NYC with AA which allows JetBlue to fly to places they didn’t fly to before
– they also have a reprotection agreement with AA for IRROPS
– Now, they build an operation in LAX and add more flights at SFO. So your employees there can use JetBlue even if they only fly to major locations.
Suddenly, JetBlue is a lot more attractive. Large corporations are always going to be biased toward an airline with a national network that flies to Europe vs one that just flies from northeast to Florida/Caribbeans.
FC – I really fail to see how this makes JetBlue more attractive on the West Coast. You have JetBlue offering 1 or 2 flights a day on West Coast routes where others offer far more. Corporates want flexibility and frequency, and JetBlue does not provide that. Meanwhile something like Richmond and Charleston are both mostly irrelevant to LA. I imagine these are more about bringing leisure travelers from those cities to LA and not the other way around. Buffalo definitely weights toward more Buffalo origin, though it has gotten closer to even over the last couple years.
Still, I doubt any of that is appealing to corporates.
Do you have any concrete proof to backup your claim JetBlue had higher fair averages than United on EWR-LAX in Q3 2019? The most recent OAG report on the top ten highest revenue routes in North America United’s EWR-SFO and EWR-LAX made the list as did American’s JFK-LAX and Delta’s JFK-LAX route. Both United’s EWR-SFO and Americans JFK-LAX managed to crack the top ten as the worlds more profitable routes. JetBlue did not even crack the top ten North American list so where are you getting your information from that JetBlue’s average fare was higher than United?
B6 wouldn’t have to resort to be being the #6 or #7 carrier had they moved their LGB focus city to ONT. They could have immediately become the market share leader at an LA Area airport whose primary catchment area includes nearly 5 million people (more than the MSAs of Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Detroit). The ONT catchment area generates 15 million annual O&D, nearly 2/3 of which battle LA freeway congestion to/from LAX. Why? Because LAX is where airlines provide the majority of LA Area air service.
ONT is convenient to residents of eastern LA County, and northern Orange County. This is a big reason why China Airlines has been so successful with their ONT-TPE nonstop.
ONT has Customs for the Mexico/Central American flights B6 has been yearning to fly, with hardly any Mexico/Central American nonstop service to compete with. ONT has multiple available gates for a B6 focus city. And, with LAX’s CPE growing to $50, ONT has airport costs that are a 10th of LAX.
I see ONT today like EWR in the 1970s. It has okay service like EWR did back then, but most carriers seem obsessed with competing with everyone else at LAX (like JFK and LGA in the 70s). Like EWR is 1979, ONT needs a catalyst to propel it to be LA’s other big international airport. Like PE at EWR, B6 could have been that catalyst.
You make a very compelling argument. You even forgot to mention the great freeway access directly off of the 10, flanked by the 15 and the 60, easy access from the 210 and others. The CPE figures are extremely compelling.
The question I have is the one which could really define the actual market for ONT service… How far east into LA county could they reasonably expect to get significant traction where passengers would actually consider both airports (the realistically potential catchment area for those who would consider ONT on par with LAX, all other things being equal).
I’ll try to answer it. Looking due West along the 10 and 60 corridors, everything east of the 605 seems like a no brainer (West Covina, Baldwin Park, City of Industry).
Pushing further south of the 60, it gets tougher as the distances to LAX get shorter thanks to the 105 and 605’s southwesterly jaunt. I’d still include Whittier for example (38 miles to ONT, 27 to LAX) but things further south would be dicey.
Looking back to the 10/60 corridor, what about pushing further east to the 710 (Alhambra, East LA, Monterey Park)? The 710/10 intersection in Alhambra is 35 miles to ONT and 26 or 28 miles to LAX. And I’d venture to say that’s a push, traffic considerations included. Include them, easily.
Next steps that would be real difference makers:
Pasadena – distances from old town Pasadena right at the 110, 210 and 134 intersection to LAX is 27 miles and to ONT is 38. However the latter is a straight shot mostly along the 210, the trip to LAX requires a trip down the dreaded non-interstate portion of the 110, through the 4 level and all of downtown before picking your poison between the 10 to the 405 or the 110 to the 105. Given this I’d say to include Pasadena and points east along the 210 in the realistically potential ONT catchment area.
Downtown – basically at the 10 and 110 near Staples. This is a tougher sell. 43 miles to ONT and only 17 to LAX though I know personally that those can be 17 brutal miles. You could potentially siphon off some bargain shoppers alternate airport style but it would be tough to position ONT as a realistic alternative airport for regular usage.
Finally northern OC. Start at the intersection of the 5 and the 91. Fullerton, Anaheim, Buena Park and importantly Disneyland and Knott’s Berry farm. This is 37 miles to ONT, 30 to LAX. Easy to put this area and points east in the realistic ONT catchment area. However since this intersection is only 19 miles to SNA, you probably can’t push this much further south than the 91. Excepting, as per downtown, budget travellers looking for better deals and willing to go a bit further.
Smarter folks than me have likely done far more in depth analyses of this issue but that’s how I would see the realistic catchment area for ONT of people who would seriously and regularly consider it as a viable alternative to LAX. Throw in some bargain shoppers beyond these boundaries and it would be very interesting to see how many folks (and their relevant socioeconomic demographics) fall into that area.
Tl:dr – crazy as it sounds on its face, maybe B6 should have taken a harder look at Ontario while leaving their boutique, high dollar, mostly mint transcons at LAX (essentially the current status except replacing LGB with ONT in lieu of LAX and growing there).
Oops, please forgive me. No edit function and I realize that I got a few easts and wests confused. It’s late here (in the east, haha) plus I know you all are smart enough to follow along that notwithstanding!
The 605 has always been the western edge of the ONT primary catchment area, inclusive of the 4.7 million population that I previously mentioned (expected to grow by 1 million people over the next decade). Everything west of the 605 is “gravy” demand for ONT.
I’ve done some work in the past looking at drive times from various points in LA to/from the region’s 5 airports. What’s most relevant is drive time, not distance. For example, LAX is only an 18 mile drive from Downtown LA, but the average drive time (across the day) is 46 minutes. ONT to/from Downtown LA is a 41 mile drive with an average drive time of 63 minutes. So, ONT is 2.3x the distance but only 1.5x the drive time.
Thinking of Northern OC, let’s consider Disneyland. It’s within ONT’s primary catchment area (605) arc, and equidistant to ONT and LAX. 33 miles to ONT (avg drive time of 61 min), and 34 miles to LAX (avg drive time of 60 min).
Pasadena, as you mention, is another city where ONT is competitive relative to LAX. Say you live in Pasadena and have a morning flight from LAX… it’s 30 miles and 30-50 min down the 110 to LAX. Same morning time to ONT? It’s 37 miles and 35-45 min east down the 210.
B6 may not have made the decision to move the focus city to ONT, but I’m confident that another carrier will chose to do something big at ONT. It could be an ULCC that can’t deal with a $50 CPE at LAX. It could be one of the new entrant carriers desiring a blank canvas on which to paint its LA strategy. I also think that other foreign flag carriers will follow CI out to ONT, moving 1 of their 2-3 daily flights from LAX to serve the LA area from both the west side and the east side (just as foreign flags moved some of their JFK flights to EWR starting in the late-80s).
I think you’re right on ONT, will be interesting to see how it plays out post covid (if there ever is such a thing). Times are definitely more important than distance to be sure, I tried to take that into account as much as possible, even if just anecdotally.
What surprised me was that I think you could realistically push that western edge of the primary catchment all the way to the 710, at least from the 210 at the north down to the 60.
Pasadena is certainly a crown jewel of that expansion in terms of both population and demographics.
Of course all of this is predicted on available service. Nobody except the most budget minded traveler is driving even a comparable amount of time to connect at ONT if there is a nonstop at LAX.
So now it’s back to the chicken and the egg dilemma. If you build it, they will come works in the movies but in real life you might end up with the Mid America St Louis airport in Bellevue, IL (which sat empty for what, around a decade, before finally getting a handful of G4 flights). At least expansion of service at ONT would not require any capital investment so it’s not really an apples to apples scenario.
There’s more to it than mileage and highways. You’re neglecting that all of the money exists in LA not the inland empire. Also, JetBlue will always be an east coast airline, and ONT does not have name recognition from the NYC and BOS point of sale. Imagine JetBlue trying to sell ONT to residents of RIC, RDU and CHS.
JetBlue already experimented with secondary LA area and look at where it got them. You cannot get the same fare premiums from ONT or even LGB as you can from LAX.
My mentions of demographics were certainly meant to include money and wealth considerations. Your point is well taken.
I would normally agree with your other conclusion but B6 has a ton of experience with service to a secondary LA airport. In fact, they would most likely still be there if LGB built the customs facility to allow them to expand service outside the US.
As far as nomenclature, I believe B6 used to refer to LGB as “LA/Long Beach” on its website, I’m sure “LA/Ontario” would be feasible. Currently their website bundles BUR, LGB and ONT underneath a “Los Angeles area” heading which would ensure that anybody searching for Los Angeles would see those as well as LAX. Obviously that doesn’t solve the issue with third party travel sites and the GDSes however.
As far as CHS and RIC service, I would absolutely take the nonstop to ONT versus connecting unless my final destination was Santa Monica or somewhere in the 405 corridor or west of there.
I’m not necessarily talking abot the nomenclature on the website. At the ed of the day, people not familiar with southern California are not familiar with ONT, but they are familiar with LAX, and will not choose to fly there. That’s what I meant by that comment about RIC/RDU/CHS. People in those markets know LAX, but not ONT, and will likely not fly there.
There are absolutely no parallels between ONT and Mid-America St. Louis Airport. ONT sits in the second largest metro area in the nation — 19 million people — with its primary catchment area comprising 25% of the region (4.7 million people). The *entire* Greater St. Louis Metro Area has 2.9 million people.
Also, there is an incorrect perception that the Inland Empire is an economically challenged area full of people who have limited income and travel infrequently. That’s simply not true. In 2019, Inland Empire median household was $62,877, slightly higher than the City of Los Angeles ($62,474, 2018), and greater than places like Charlotte ($60,764), Nashville ($60,324), Phoenix ($57,957), Chicago ($57,238), Dallas ($52,210) and other major markets. Source: Statista. Median household income for the ONT primary catchment area which extends west to roughly the 605 is slightly higher than for the overall Inland Empire: $71,484.
Yes, there are really wealthy areas along the coast, but the bottom line is that the area around ONT is not some backwater Schitt’s Creek!
ONT is very much an origination market, generating 11.5 million O&D passengers, but last year ONT handled only 5.1 million passengers. The other 6.4 million ended up using other LA area airports — largely LAX — due to nonstops, greater frequency, and/or lower fares due to the hyper-competition at LAX. The real opportunity for an airline who can resist the allure of LAX and look to ONT are those 6.4 million annual O&D passengers.
Your analysis ignores the elephant in the room — cost of living. That is great that the Inland Empire has a slightly higher median income than Charlotte or Nashville but the cost of living is 35% higher. Who is more likely to travel? IE residents spend a disproportionate percentage of their income on housing, transportation, and utilities and that causes a relatively low propensity to travel in spite of often low fares offered at ONT. There are a lot of people in the IE but many of them are scraping by due to the cost of living. Additionally, the IE’s economy is centered on sectors like warehousing and light manufacturing that produce fewer frequent business travelers. ONT has potential but you can’t just ignore its downsides.
I completely agree. It seems the Latin America leisure flying would have worked at ONT vs LAX, and even some of the short hauls they had planned previously when they announced moving ops from LGB to LAX. I’m surprised they’re going through with FLL-PSP. Like Cranky said, the market doesn’t exist. It would’ve made more sense to add FLL-ONT. Maybe later B6 will decide to add service to ONT later down the road. Scott Lawrence has mentioned that pre-COVID the JFK-ONT was performing well and it was only a matter of time before they added BOS-ONT or even a 2nd daytime JFK. This all seems a play of trying to secure gate space at congested airports like LAX when other carriers are downsizing (similar to how NK added SNA to its network).
In terms of customer base, I think B6 is betting on its customer’s who consistently fly the MINT transcons to FLL, BOS, and JFK to support the recent additions. Its why you see MINT added on LIR and PBI. It will be interesting how to RDU and RIC flights pan out – though B6 does have some brand recognition in RIC. In total (if we include the short hauls and the existing LAX operation), B6 LAX scheduled departures will be around 40/day. This essentially doubles the amount of flights LAX will have by the end of the year. No doubt in my mind B6 is also adding these flights right now in order to secure more gate space before airlines ramp up schedules again when the health crisis subsides (which begs the question, how many gates are they getting, and where?) Eventually, these long and thin transcons are set to be A220 routes.
Personally, I’m surprised there weren’t that many Florida additions out of LAX, given that B6 has a strong customer base in Florida. I wonder what made them decide against LAX-TPA or LAX-RSW (especially since B6 has a strong customer base in the Southwest Florida area, they could easily compete against AS). LAX-PBI should work given that PBI has it’s own catchment area, has a strong B6 customer base especially with Mosaics, and the fact that there’s alot of money in that area. I don’t think that LAX-PBI will cannibalize the FLL MINT flights. People in that area would pay extra to fly non-stop out of PBI than endure traffic on the I-95.
Or even LAX-JAX if they were looking for another entry into Florida without any nonstop competition. Has to be more px on that route than LAX-CHS.
Bill – Well, we can look at that data! Here are the full year 2019 pax per day in some markets from LA:
Hartford – 210 Jacksonville – 123 Richmond – 111 Charleston – 93 Providence – 69 Westchester – 17
Westchester and Providence are likely skewed just because most people drive to nearby airports where they can fly nonstop. But yes, Jacksonville would be bigger than Charleston.
Yes, JFK-ONT was performing really well pre-COVID considering it was a new route and the red-eye return was not ideal. Long term, I think they will add a 2nd JFK-ONT flight. Not sure about BOS though, BOS-BUR has failed miserably so far. It seems like they are better off just concentrate on BOS-LAX. Same with FLL. FLL-LGB performed quite terribly. It’s why they have not tried FLL to other LA basin airport. I’m not convinced FLL-PSP will ever start.
As for rest of Florida, I think LAX-JAX will come at some point. It’s a larger market than CHS, but I think the competition from DL on connections through ATL makes it harder for them to capture enough of the market to fill A220. RIC and CHS adds also have something to do with trying to capture more ff in those cities. I think they would’ve tried RSW had AS not attempted it. They have the ideal aircraft for these routes in A220, so they’d have better chance to making it work. Long term, it’s hard to see how JetBlue may become the largest transcon carrier out of LAX.
Other obvious transcon for them to try are BDL, HPN and PVD.
JB always wanting to be different.
The cost of transitioning operations from LB to LA must be costing JB lots of money, no?
AA has a big presence in LA already. With this new partnership, how can/will this help JB in the end?
I just don’t get it.
As you mentioned, the fact that is it really worth it flying airplanes than letting them sit idle?
Airfares right now are unbelievably low.
Back in Newark, United is a BIG base there. Yes, competition is good but how much is it worth it by taking a chance? People have issues with JB and its limited route system outside of the East Coast.
I’m betting that JB might not last after this virus is over.
BOS-BUR did much better after it was re-timed to a daylight eastbound from a brutal early red-eye that got you into Boston at 5am.
Part of what is needed to make ONT work is that flights need to be catered towards the ONT Point of Sale. Few people on the East Coast know where ONT is and even if it is marketed as “Los Angeles Area”, more people are willing to go to LAX, especially if flights are priced similar. It’s the same reason why people prefer flying to SFO rather than OAK and you don’t see that many transcon or longer stage flights. B6 would have to focus ONT as more of a leisure focus, with low fares to stimulate demand. Part of what needs to make ONT work is that there needs to be lower fares vs LAX – this should capture some of the traffic going to LAX and SNA. International flights to Mexico and maybe even some Central American VFR could possibly work as well since theres very little competition.
You’re right that BOS-BUR was under-performing, however once it was retimed to a 7:00am departure out of BUR, this seems to have improved the performance of the route. B6 has been successful in operating some secondary markets to BOS. One example is the SJC-BOS flight (which pre-COVID was supposed to have a 2nd daytime flight; though SJC is surrounded by major tech companies). So I wouldn’t be doubtful that a ONT-BOS flight could happen, though it might not be a daily.
You’re right that FLL-LGB performed terribly, though this can be attributed to the timing of the flight due to the curfew. Like the BUR-BOS redeye, the flight left early at night and got into FLL at around 4:50-5:00am-ish IIRC. This also because LGB catchment area and the LAX catchment area overlap, and both flights were priced the same – yet the LAX flight had a better schedule (not to mention it was also on a newer A321 vs the classic old A320 out of LGB). With no curfew at ONT, B6 could time a better redeye out of there. ONT as has been mentioned previously in this discussion, also has its own catchment area and has the potential of stimulating demand with low fares. Also keep in mind that F9 operated ONT-MIA pre-COVID, so there is some sort of demand from ONT going to South Florida (Though I’m not sure what the exact PDEW is out of ONT-MIA/FLL.) In addition, B6 has been shifting its strategy at FLL from being point-to-point to more of a hub, connecting flights from the mainland US to the Caribbean and Latin America. Therefore there is potential of connecting traffic to the Caribbean islands. If the cruise ship industry recovers, there is the potential of cruise ship traffic going to FLL.
I do agree that BDL and JAX are obvious adds though I’m more skeptical about PVD due to its proximity to BOS and HPN namely due to the length of the runway at 6,549ft. As for RSW, had Alaska not added the route, B6 would have tried it. However for 2 carriers to operate a route with only 100-110 PDEW at the same time is risky, especially when you can connect via ATL or CLT on DL/AA respectively. Let’s see how the route plays out with AS, though with the costs of opening a new station, competition with connecting options from DL/AA, and with little recognition in Southwest Florida will be a challenge.
Overall, while B6 may not be the largest carrier or largest transcon carrier out of LAX long term, it really doesn’t need to be. LAX is not going to be on the scale of JFK, BOS or FLL. However with a market as huge as LA, B6 would want to capture some traffic and revenue – however it’s not going to go head-to-head with AS and WN trying to grow out a dominant short haul West Coast presence. These adds out of LAX play to more of their strengths, which is transcon, VFR and leisure. However, because real estate at LAX is so limited and valuable, B6 probably had to advance their strategy earlier than expected in order to secure space while it was available. B6 always had an LAX strategy prior to the pandemic. It tried to bid for VX back in 2016 for a West Coast presence however they got outbid by AS. Now with carriers downsizing, it doesn’t want to miss an opportunity for gates especially when they don’t need to spend $2.6 billion to get them.
It will be interesting how these routes perform in the coming months. The pandemic and the consequential economic fallout
on the airline industry have changed network planning. All airlines are looking at any city pair that has demand outside of hubs and focus cities. B6 however, is not only trying to capture some of the demand – but is working towards a longer term strategy to solidify presence in its biggest markets.
@FC : quote “I think the AA/B6 partnership at EWR will become quite a problem for UA. A lot of people in that region can go with either EWR/PHL…. I see UA’s profitability at EWR going way down. For too long, it has hid at EWR while watching DL, AA and B6 battling out rest of New York”
bwhahhaahaha you should totally do stand up comedy. The exact same spins were used by UA-haters when Southwest entered EWR. Remind me again exactly how many flights WN has at EWR now?
Is it zero squared? or zero factorial ?
“To sum things up, if JetBlue just drew a circle around the East Coast and Caribbean, I’d like the chance the airline is taking. Everything outside that circle? Well, that’s a whole lot of flying in markets that are going to be very hard to fill.”
Perhaps, but I believe this is JetBlue’s thinking – they see blood in the water with AA in both LAX & PHL along with UA in EWR. So they are laying the groundwork for post COVID flying even if it doesn’t make sense at the present moment. That said, you are right that some routes are headscratchers.
RDU is one area that I find interesting as it’s a gigantic research area & college town, but being situated between three aviation hubs CLT, ATL & IAD there’s few direct nonstops to the area beyond the northeast. Also the population growth along with it’s increasing wealth would give the impression that there would be demand for more direct international service as well as domestic flights from the west coast & other large hubs.
As a side note – the artwork on this post reminds me of Richard Simmonds for some strange reason.
As an RDU resident, I am very excited about the CUN and MBJ nonstops. I plan to use them at least twice a year as my family loves beach vacations and we prefer the resorts around Cancun or the islands over Florida. Hopefully they can make it work until the A220s are available to cover the routes. Perhaps they need to drop down from daily frequency to 3x per week.
A few years ago Frontier attempted an RDU to PUJ nonstop and it was amazing..while it lasted.
If DL takes its time bringing back RDU, RDU will be an obvious focus city for JetBlue to build up. In this round, they basically avoided going after any DL/WN markets out of RDU. Going forward, I see them adding more flights to NYC area airports. I also think that if these moves go well, they will start adding other Florida markets and LAS. It’s easier for me to see them building up RDU than pretty much any other airport of its size and growth potential.
Why is it that B6 never focuses on growing the Midwest?
I think the reason is most of the primary cities have fortress hubs & B6 won’t risk trying to penetrate them. That said MKE, STL, CMH, CVG & CLE maybe options worth evaluating.
It’s a bicoastal brand. It doesn’t get much traction in the heartland, perhaps because WN is so strong there.
You nailed it, CF.
B6 is desperately looking for a way to fly its planes and use its pilots which it committed not to furlough – part of the deal to get their approval to codeshare with AA.
Most of these routes will have potential to work only for Thanksgiving and Christmas/NY holiday; there just isn’t enough demand. Your demand statistics are based on a healthy year which doesn’t exist right now.
The hypothesis that you didn’t consider about the pulldown of PHL flying is that B6 added it so that AA’s outsourcing of flying to B6 doesn’t look too close – so B6 threw in some growth in an AA strength NE market. Demand may very well not be there from PHL – just as it likely isn’t for many other routes B6 has launched – but B6 can try to argue that they were growing throughout the NE including in AA hubs but that “just didn’t happen to work out.”
The FAA has extended slot usage exemptions until March 2021 so there is no incentive for AA to fly much of its own NE network (including DCA) and there will likely not be any decision regarding AA’s plan to outsource NYC flying to B6.
B6 might be just going through an exercise of using gates, slots and airplanes in pursuit of a larger goal of getting their hands on a bunch of AA assets as well as gates at LAX and elsewhere but B6′ finances are likely to be eroded in the process, although they are starting from a position of relative strength. It also is not a given that AA/B6 will succeed at transferring assets between each other in NYC with WN likely to succeed at getting more slots at LGA while UA will likely succeed at regaining access at JFK, both of which will set off significant strategic implications for the industry.
B6 might be just going through an exercise of using gates, slots and airplanes in pursuit of a larger goal of get”ting their hands on a bunch of AA assets as well as gates at LAX and elsewhere but B6? finances are likely to be eroded in the process, although they are starting from a position of relative strength. It also is not a given that AA/B6 will succeed at transferring assets between each other in NYC with WN likely to succeed at getting more slots at LGA while UA will likely succeed at regaining access at JFK, both of which will set off significant strategic implications for the industry.”
I think it’s a bit late for UA to return to JFK at this point as they need to focus on defending EWR as that is their east coast bread & butter hub.
WN likely to succeed at get more slots at LGA? How? They can only get it from another carrier which no one would do and they don’t code share. WN has around 35 or so slots from years of acquisitions from carriers and slots being able to be released, which is now not the case. I think WN LGA and NYC exposure will not go beyond what you see at this point. They are too late to that game. Leaving EWR is a good example of their lack of prowess in the NYC market.
WN could get the LGA slots, but could they utilize them effectively is the real question.
Again, exactly how? They can not just go grab them. No one would be willing to give it to themn. If it were that easy then why haven’t they already especially when they abandoned ewr?
WN has petitioned the DOT/DOJ claiming that DL/WS should be forced to divest LGA slots as a condition of their joint venture.
RE: Ft. Lauderdale to Palm Beach.
This might be because both cities are internationally renowned Gay Mecca’s.
Therefore, they are courting the gay travelers.
I think you meant Palm Springs.
Yes I meant palm springs
I dunno, pre covid there would have been plenty of times a FLL to PBi flight would have seemed very appealing to those sitting on the turnpike or 95.
Apologize, I meant Palm Springs, CA
Sorry, I did know that. I was just trying to make a joke.
Always interesting, but enough about routes, aircraft. Just where are bookings coming from?
Pick some city. Who, or what type of people are travelling from that city? Where are they going? Can you see very pronounced orgin-destination combinations? Does this represent a change from pre-pandemic? Is it obvious that some combinations have esentially dried up?
Are most people, now more than before, limiting their travels to nonstops? Has connecting travel dried up, or has it increased? Are people saying, it’s a non-stop or forget-about-it?
Are people. now more than before, willing to take flights that make intermediate en route stops?
[Disclosure: I will not be selling the information you provide.]
Jaybru – We don’t have that information yet publicly.
Although (like Cranky) I am not sold on all of B6’s new routing decisions from LAX, I do like the idea that they’re being aggressive there. This has been a bizarre year and in confusion there can be profit. Case in point, LAX. Each of the Big 3 considered it a hub prior to the pandemic. Now, only DL seems committed to keeping LAX as a full “coastal” hub. AA has cut back, clearly choosing to route more fliers through PHX; UA has cut back as well in favor of SFO. WN is staying the course, and all of this leaves a bit of a vacuum that B6 may be able to take advantage of. And they seem to be throwing the kitchen sink at it. Many of those routes will work better with the A220, but for now they’re probably trying to simply grow the passenger base.
As another comment stated above, B6 really should expand beyond the northeast and Florida. This is a good opportunity for them to do so.
I think you were referencing this from FC – “At some point, JetBlue has to grow out of just Northeast and Florida. This pandemic has shown them what happens when northeast demand falls to nothing. In order to diversify their risk, they have to grow to other areas.” They do, but some hubs currently need to shrink to allow B6 to slot in & be profitable.
The problem w/ B6′ network – and to a lesser but similar extent with AS – is that all of the major markets in the middle of the country are major markets for the big 4; neither AS or B6 do very well in other airline hub/strength markets. The strategic challenge for them is that other carriers, esp. DL, is moving into AS and B6 strength markets but they can’t “extract the same pound of flesh” in DL markets.
both AS and B6 are trying to leverage AA’s network to help them and will probably get some benefit but DL and UA’s more comprehensive, single networks will have advantages that can’t be overcome.
As for growth of WN or others at LGA, AA holds 25% of slots, underperformed DL on many routes even before covid, and clearly is not interested in trying to operate dual hubs at JFK and LGA. While the press release was that AA would give up slots at LGA in order for B6 to gain access while swapping slots at JFK for AA’s supposedly growing international operation, AA had more than enough slots at JFK for any international growth it wanted to do just by swapping with B6 to get proper slot times. LGA is only part of the equation because AA wants to shrink there and B6 wants some of the slots.
Based on that reality, the DOT and DOJ will likely put limits on what can be swapped between the two carriers before transfers are open to other carriers. GIven how successful WN is in the political arena, I would strongly bet that WN will succeed in getting more LGA slots.
DL has also been pushing for the perimeter restrictions at LGA to be removed or relaxed; WN could be a huge ally in helping make that happen. AA’s domestic operation at JFK will sink if the LGA perimeter rule is relaxed. B6 could well be positioning itself to have enough slots at LGA to compete if that happens.
There is no real slot swap happening. JetBlue is getting slots from AA at both LGA and JFK. I’m pretty sure AA has already leased some slots to JetBlue. Out of LGA, I’m not sure why it would require divestiture for a carrier with more slots to sublease some to one with only 16 slots. Just recently, WN leased 6 slots at LGA and 4 slots at DCA without any divestiture. Even at JFK, I’m not sure why it would be needed. UA sold all its JFK slots to DL without any kind of divestiture required. DL will still have more slots than JetBlue even if AA lease 30 JFK slots to JetBlue.
Why would WN want perimeter restrictions at LGA relaxed? They don’t fly that many transcon flights. Aside from PHX, I can’t think of where else they would need beyond perimeter slots.
At this point, DL has a problem where it has too many slots at LGA and business demand not being there for a long time. When slot restrictions go away at end of March, DL better be ready to fly a lot of empty planes around.
As for your statement AS and B6 can’t ““extract the same pound of flesh” in DL markets”, it seems to me that expanding at LAX, LGA and JFK are definitely extracting flesh from DL markets. And if most of their numerous RDU leisure adds work out, I could see a more concerted effort by JetBlue to build a 30 to 40 flight station there. If you are referring to just the core DL hubs, I would agree other carriers are not going to build up there.
The reason the DOT and DOJ will be interested is because slots in the US cannot be sold; they can be traded which is why AA/B6 are trying to frame this transaction as a trade.
In reality, I agree that this is about AA trying to sell/lease/transfer slots to B6 as a means for AA to retain some sort of relevancy in NYC and BOS where B6 would otherwise knock them out of the market.
It is precisely because slots are limited access that slot transactions require federal approval; the government wants to ensure that all competitors get a chance to grow and that carriers don’t get to pick their own successors/winners/losers.
Much of the reason why LGA and JFK traffic is down so much is because of the extensive NYC lockdowns and quarantine requirements. Not to turn this political but neither is sustainable including for businesses that want to operate there. Cuomo is not going to allow deBlasio to destroy NYC even if the latter will leave a deeper and nastier mark on NYC than anyone ever has.
NYC and the travel market there will rebound; the slot exemptions will ensure that no one is forced to operate flights that don’t have any commercial value – which means that we will continue to see private pilots doing touch and goes at 5 pm at NYC’s top airports for another 6 months at least.
Delta is still the largest carrier at RDU; the market as a whole is down considerably but Delta has not given up any seat share – which is true at LGA, JFK, BOS and every one of Delta’s core hubs.
As CF noted, B6 has to make money flying the routes it is attempting in order to gain anything from anybody. It is far from conclusive that will be the case and very likely that they will whack these latest schedules just as they have done elsewhere.
Gates have not helped B6 gain an advantage in Boston; Delta attained revenue parity with B6 in the 3rd quarter of 2019 operating 2/3 of the flights.
And, lest it needs to be noted yet again, AA and B6 are two separate companies that cannot and will not share revenue or jointly plan routes or strategies. AA and B6 can buy seats via codeshares on each other and cooperate in their loyalty programs. DL has and will have deeper relationships with AF/KL, VS, KE etc in BOS than AA will have with B6 – and that is true for UA and its partners as well.
As much as you want to see unlimited opportunity for B6, they simply do not have any core hubs that can bankroll the endless expansion you think they have. AA is living off of DFW and CLT; DL has four strong core hubs while UA has strong hubs if international business travel ever returns and someone else doesn’t jump into those markets like other carriers are jumping into UA’s domestic markets.
B6 has none of that. Every one of its hubs/focus cities are highly competitive and it cannot fight battles in every one of them.
WN’s relative position in LAX is unchanged and may move up depending on what AA and UA do; as in many markets, the most competitive markets are likely to have a higher percentage of DL and WN going forward.
If WN stays solely at LGA in NYC, they have every reason to want to use their slots in the most versatile manner possible.
one other tidbit
NK is now the largest airline at FLL, not B6.
For Sept, B6 was actually number 3 in terms of number of flights behind NK and WN.
For October, B6 moved back to #2 as WN pulled back.
Florida is heavily dependent on the NE but there are sizable parts of the market in other parts of the country. WN and NK cater much more to those markets. WN just doesn’t see the value in deeply discounting in a market where demand is heavily tied to the cruise industry that is more at risk than airlines.
B6′ entire network is much more competitive than any other airline. They are desperately trying to find a few places where they can find a place with demand but it is precisely because B6′ markets are so competitive that other carriers will recover just as fast as B6 does.
Again, it won’t be straight sale. It will be leasing. There is no reason for AA to outright sell those slots to B6. Aside from other factors, those slots have been used as collateral for loans. AA can’t just easily sell them to B6. WN has done 10 year lease with AS for its DCA/LGA slots. There is no reason AA can’t do that here. And also, UA somehow managed to sell its JFK slots to DL after the original JFK/EWR slot trading deal didn’t work out due to EWR losing its level 3 status.
JFK and NYC is far and away the most profitable hub for JetBlue. You are right in saying that B6 doesn’t have a fortress hub like DL does. However, JFK was running a higher margin for them than most legacy fortress hubs. You cannot equate DTW/MSP/ATL with PHL/CLT/DFW. DL was generating way higher margins than other legacies’ fortress hubs. JetBlue does not need JFK to be as profitable as DTW/MSP/ATL. It just needs additional opportunities in NYC which this partnership with AA will allow.
Pre-COVID, they had the goal of trying to build a fortress hub up in BOS, but that was only due to constraints in NYC. The desired prize is always the NY/NJ market. Post pandemic, they have announced close to 60 new routes. Not a single one passes through BOS.
The deal with AA gives them additional slots, gates, access to the entire AA’s network and ff + reprotection for IRROP situations. What more can they possibly get from AA? If I were DL, I’d be worried about my JV partner VS right now. That’s an unsustainable situation.
As for your other comment about Boston gates, JetBlue only had a 3 or 4 gate advantage over DL there for the past year. By 2022, they can have 30+ gates of their own + whatever AA is going to lease to them (AA has 18 and likely will be down to 80 flights post-COVID) + be able to kick TP/EI out to Terminal E. They have enough space there to build a fortress hub with AA’s help. But realistically, they will be content to slowly bring back capacity at BOS and not getting into a market share battle with anyone. Right now, the business demand is rock bottom. Those gates aren’t going away. No need to rush capacity back there when gates at EWR T-1 are up for grabs and when additional JFK/LGA slots are finally obtainable.
Over the next year, I think you will see JetBlue work something out with SFO to have enough gates (probably 4 gates) to run a 30 to 35 flight operation. If the RDU adds work out well, I think you will see more adds into RDU and the start of a mini-focus city there. They will secure more space at FLL as WN continues to give up on their Latam gateway there. I think you will see them add a lot of within perimeter market out of JFK/LGA as AA abandons them.
I enjoy the conversation w/ you.
We don’t know what AA or B6 have proposed to the DOT and DOJ about slots but they will have to put forth a concrete plan in order to get approval – and they both have acknowledged that there is approval required for them to move/trade/whatever slots. The DOJ and DOT are not going to accept a blank check or undefined limits about what AA and B6 might do. You and others need to hold off on what AA and B6 might do until there is federal approval. There have been and will be small scale slot transfers and if that is all AA and B6 want to do, they will probably succeed. Again, however, AA controls 25% of LGA’s slots and underperforms DL on most markets outside of AA’s hubs. Given AA’s higher system costs, they cannot continue to fly even 100 flights/day underperforming the competition. The DOT has access to all of the same fare information I am quoting and so do other airline execs; they know where the opportunity lies for AA to step out of underperforming markets and where B6 could potentially do a better job with its lower costs.
The fate of slots at all 3 of the slot-controlled airports is dependent on a rebound of demand; B6 will fare no better in tapping into that demand than anyone else.
As much as you want to keep repeating it, gates do not translate into a revenue advantage. B6 can add the 20th flight to PBI and the 32nd to FLL from JFK or BOS or any other city and their revenue will not move appreciably forward. B6′ revenue problem is that it has a relative handful of cities in the country where they can fly from their major focus cities; they are trying desperately to add more spokes but they are simply outclassed by all of the big 4 and B6 also has an enormous hole in the middle of its network that it thinks AA can help it fill. Remember that B6 and AA had a partnership once before; AA and AS have had a longstanding partnership as well. Despite what each of those management groups would like to tell anyone, domestic codeshares have had little success in the US. The best partnership was CO and NW but that was not sustainable for multiple reasons.
B6′ intention to fly the Atlantic is precisely to build their revenue base so that they can compete more effectively with DL and other global carriers. 20 or 50 more gates won’t allow B6 to get revenue like DL if B6 can’t provide a superior network. B6′ move to grow at EWR is precisely to do what no legacy carrier is doing which is to have a major presence at both JFK and EWR.
I will stand by my statement that UA will re-enter JFK and DL might add to EWR regardless of what UA does if it becomes clear that either is losing to B6 more than they have now.
B6 has to either build its own network in markets where it doesn’t fly now and get its revenue up in other carrier strength markets that it does serve but significantly underperforms its big 4 competitors.
According to B6 execs, pre-Delta buildup, BOS was their highest margin hub. They might have made up for the lower margin at JFK with more flights to come up with a larger total profit but B6′ system margin has been considerably less than DL’s for several years. DL also pushed far more revenue through JFK than B6.
If B6 grows at RDU or any other airport, it will likely be because AA has decided to retrench and AA wants to try to recapture some of its passengers through a domestic codeshare but that still does not mean that DL will lose; B6 might just take share AA once held at those cities.
I think we have made our points and, since we are replying to replies, I’ll let you add the final word and we’ll check back in a couple years and see the progress.
B6 will grow but so will alot of other carriers; it will largely come at the expense of other carriers including AA and UA; that has been the way the US industry has evolved for 40 years since deregulation.
Thanks. You definitely know your stuff even if I don’t agree with a lot of your viewpoints.
On the subject of AA’s slots in LGA/JFK, my guess is that AA had already leased 15 to 20 JFK slots to JetBlue before March and have already given back some additional JFK slots. It’s a good question on how many flights they will end up with. I think they will be down to 45 flights at JFK by the end of this. Let’s say they can lease some slots to other OW/JV partners and use 80% of rest of remaining slots, they’d probably still have 30 slots they need to give up. LGA is a tougher question. They’ve already closed Envoy base in NYC. Removing 50 seaters alone with result in 35 to 40 flights based on my estimation. I don’t think your suggestion of under 100 flight is unreasonable, but I find it still a little unlikely. Could they really reduce that much in NYC and still hold on to their ff and corporate contract here? If AA ff in NYC earns most of the miles and EQD on JetBlue flights, why would that person not just move to JetBlue long term? I’m waiting to see how many LGA slots they will lease to JetBlue. I’m guessing close to 30. I don’t think JetBlue at this point could even handle more slots than that given their desire to grow JFK/EWR and the likely slumped business demand.
I did a spreadsheet of performance of every domestic route in JetBlue’s network in 2016 and 2017. It’s hard for me to see how BOS could’ve been generating higher margin than JFK even in 2016. Since then, BOS has gotten less profitable and JFK has only gotten more profitable after they chopped many of the lower margined shorthaul routes. There has been a big shift in Jetblue’s direction since March. You see them trying to complete their route network in NY/NJ. A big question for me has been what is Boston’s role in their network. If they can have 240 flights at JFK, 50 at LGA and another 80 at EWR, does it really make sense to make BOS their primary TATL gateway? Winning or at least having same market share in NYC as DL/UA is more important to their national network than having 45% market share in BOS. Although, they can probably achieve both if they player their cards right.
Of course, they have to build a larger network to narrow the revenue gap with legacies. That’s why having LAX focus city is important. That’s why TATL is important and why flying to deep part of South America is important. That’s why not enough have been made about their partnership with AA. Being able to also capture AA ff will make it easier for them to enter markets like STL, IND, CVG, CMH and MKE from JFK/BOS. They can’t capture certain ff without being able to fly to all these places. I think the trade off in losing more money in the next year is well worth it.
The reason why it is a pleasure to chat w/ you is because you also know your stuff and make solid, logical conclusions from the data you see. CF provides a great service in facilitating that discussion.
As for NYC and AA, I wasn’t suggesting that AA would be down to 100 flights/day at LGA but that they could try to transfer 100 flights/day. Remember that it was Scott Kirby at US under Doug Parker that facilitated the LGA/DCA slot swap with DL because US couldn’t figure out how to make 25% of the slots at LGA work profitably. Post 9/11 when the FAA was considering relaxing slot restrictions at LGA and JFK due to reduced demand, AA argued for slots to be removed to improve on-time but also clearly to concentrate slot holdings more firmly among incumbents. The FAA relaxed slot restrictions and DL aggressively added flights at both LGA and JFK when slot restrictions were removed, only to have those flights be grandfathered as slots when slot restrictions returned. There was talk about removing slot restrictions at JFK in order to promote competition and I am sure the FAA and DOT will consider that possibility as part of discussions about the AA/B6 slot transactions. AA has a fairly long history of not wanting to or being able to compete in large competitive markets and their high cost structure – which is not going to improve based on the strategies they and other carriers have announced – make competing in large markets even more difficult.
There absolutely will be an impact on AA’s ability to compete globally with a much smaller footprint in NYC and LAX. The reason why domestic codeshares don’t work is because the same flight is essentially a choice between two carriers. B6 and AS absolutely want to get enough customer data about passengers in/to/from cities it doesn’t fly but AA does in order to add its own service; part of reason why the CO/NW codeshare began to fall apart was because the two were expanding their own networks at each other’s expense and that will happen with AA/B6 and AA/AS. AA just doesn’t have the financial strength to defend all of its network, large portions of which were underperforming before covid so it is taking incremental steps in pulling out of markets but will ultimately become a much smaller carrier with other carriers taking larger and larger pieces of its network.
AS and B6 both see AA and UA as the most vulnerable carriers and are making moves to grow their networks.
BOS had much higher average fares than NYC to the same destinations not that long ago just as SEA did but AS and B6 both used the same strategy of flooding the market with capacity to limit DL’s share growth and hurt their own profitability in the process. DL grew anyway by taking share from other carriers. The reason why the whole argument about having more gates doesn’t work is because yield dilution will be so deep that B6 will have to stop adding flights; DL gets higher yields out of SEA and BOS than AS and B6 because it operates enough flights in competitive markets but has a much bigger network – including its core hubs and the regions around them – plus international – where it can attract a broader customer base.
I am not sure that B6 will shift away from BOS but I think they do see that trying to outgrow DL hasn’t worked so they will accept sharing the market with them and try to build their own larger network and tag onto partners where they can. They will also diversify into other markets which is part of what they are trying to do with all of these announcements.
EWR does have the potential to be a large growth opportunity for B6 including for international flights but I don’t think they will give up on BOS but just tap into a much larger market which UA will be less capable of defending than DL in NYC.
As for the A220 which several people have mentioned as a B6 advantage, aircraft are not an advantage unless you are the only carrier operating it. B6 and DL will have an advantage over AA and UA and others who do not have a new generation small narrowbody but DL will have more A220s sooner and can always deploy them in markets where aircraft cost matters. In markets like RDU or thin transcons like JAXLAX, DL will deploy them if they make a difference. I know DL has to figure out its pilot issues right now in order to fully use its A220s but they will and they still could swap out A220-300s for existing A220-100s in the short term if they are limited by the number they can operate.
And, once again, Delta has not given up any market position in RDU or any other of its focus cities or hubs despite some people questioning whether DL will defend RDU. The strategic value of RDU is that it is in AA’s CLT backyard along with being a decent market on its own. Even if B6 manages to make a route like RDULAX work, it might come at the expense of AA. In BNALAX, AA has been slower to return service than DL. Again, AA cannot defend all of the pieces of its network that other carriers will try to grow into. They are already sacrificing LAX and NYC to non-hub cities and that will continue as they try to prioritize their hubs.
Again, thanks for the great conversation.
The most obvious answer is Boston. Which is going to surprise some people because it was considered their most important station pre-COVID.
Pre-COVID, JetBlue was busy defending Boston from DL because there was no opportunity for it elsewhere. Since COVID has happened, we have seen the followIng:
– AA partnership with them in NYC/Boston allowing them to add both slots/gates at LGA/JFK
– EWR with T-1 opening up next year and UA is going to be operating a fraction of their pre-COVID flights.
– AA is reducing significantly at LAX which opened up gate space at T-5. WN has not seized on the opportunity to expand.
– WN has basically thrown in the towel at FLL
– DL is going to be smaller at RDU for a long time.
The appeal of Boston has gone down a lot. It combined with AA will have around 50 gates at Boston. Delta has 21 gates and will be smaller for a long time at BOS. Is JetBlue really going to be worried about losing out to Delta in Boston at this point?
Aside from Boston, FLL/MCO will take a while to recover too. JetBlue might not see an opportunity like this in NYC for another 20 years. Every other station will have to wait.
With regards to the LAX-PBI route, this flight leaves 2 hours before the first FLL flight, so it’s more an earlier option for those going to Southern Palm Beach County. I think it will compliment the FLL flights nicely. I always wondered why the first LAX-FLL flight wasn’t until 10 am, making it impossible to get to Port Everglades for a same-day departure, or even get to SJU late night.
As for the times, when AA flew this and US flew the LAS-PBI flights they were red-eyes eastbound and late departures west for catering reasons and just didn’t work. This market needs to be daylight eastbound, and the times are perfect.
Phllax – Starting January 5, JetBlue 1800 leave LAX at 605a and gets to FLL at 156p.
For everything there is a first time and I don’t know why it took them so long to do this.
Who else thinks the RIC airport director initially thought the B6 folks were messing with him? Daily nonstops to LAX and LAS? Uh, sure, what’s the catch?
Everybody keeps saying “focus city”, but any chance this is the beginning of B6 trying to build their first true non-coastal/interior hub at RDU? It has all the same long-term potential of a CLT or ATL, and the local market fits JetBlue’s target demographic (young, educated, politically “blue” – basically a Whole Foods of airlines).
RDU is already very much in play between AA and DL so it’s already a slugfest. RDU to LAX will be flown daily by three airlines? Really?
I guess you could have a Denver situation with UA, F9 and WN all carving out niches but I don’t think so as Denver is much larger plus the airlines in DEN are all performing different functions (international full service hub/spoke vs ULCC vs LCC point to point). Whereas AA, DL and B6 are all roughly in the same market segment.
I agree on whether 3 airlines can support RDU-LAX; However, I think the importance of the Research Triangle and the corporate contracts B6 could secure long-term are one of the main reasons they started this route. They already fly to BOS and NY, so adding LA seems obvious to add to its route portfolio if it wants to secure corporate contracts in the long term.
Second, the pandemic has altered airline operations – especially AA. AA may retrench back to CLT and leave RDU as a spoke. As for Delta, it’s a 50/50 chance on whether they want to continue RDU as a focus city. B6 has to betting on AA and DL not putting up a fight. Not to mention that B6 has a lower cost structure vs the legacy carriers – so it can offer a lower fare if it wants to stimulate demand and grab market share. The economics of the A220 should help out with this – however for whatever reason B6 may have had to accelerate its plans and that’s why its launching this route sooner. My main guess its because they think DL / AA are in no means able to put up a fight at this time + trying to secure valuable airport space while its available.
I don’t think this a move to build RDU as a focus city. B6 still has plenty of opportunities to grow at it’s exisiting BOS, NYC, FLL (or should I say South Florida), SJU and trying to work out LAX in the long term. That’s alot of work for an airline the size of B6.
I don’t see RDU as a priority at the moment. Obviously NY is the priority and Boston/LAX after that. The most recent adds are to serve their new LAX focus city and to capture whatever leisure demand might be available out of RDU. But if these leisure stuff do well, I think you can see them adding one or more out of MCO/TPA/PBI/LAS-RDU and keep most of the recent adds. And I think they will start 1 or both of LGA/EWR-RDU. So just through natural connecting dots, they can probably get to close to 25 flight station. While small by big 4 standard, that would be a large out station for JetBlue. After that, it would really depend on what kind of opportunity elsewhere.
RDU makes a lot of sense for JetBlue. It’s a lot easier to build up from an airport where New York is far and away the largest market and Boston is the second largest market and south florida is also in the top 5 vs somewhere like AUS where NY is the 2nd largest, Boston is #7 and South Florida is out of top 10.