Montrose Is the New Hot Spot and Other Changes in a Quiet Week

Schedule Changes

After the blistering action last week, this week proved to be a more quiet one in Airlineville. According to the data from Cirium, many had skiing in the Rockies or a beach vacation in the Caribbean on their minds.

The Eskimo, however, had little on his mind except for avoiding Canada for another month. The Eagle made an airport move in China while also hearing that steel drum rhythm this winter. The Widget did its patriotic duty while also pulling back in Europe over the winter.

Pualani pulled a prank on us all by reversing course on Korea, but she made her bets in Vegas. Ms. Blue made it official that she won’t be visiting secondary airports for some time. The Heart, meanwhile, is happy to visit some new airports including taking his talents to South Beach. The Taxi was the last to get his Thanksgiving plans in order, and there wasn’t much to report while the Globe did a little housekeeping.

All this and more this week. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Skeds of Air Lines.

Alaska Dumps Canada

The border closure has yet to be officially extended, but come on, there’s no way it’ll magically open in November. So, Alaska has extended its skeleton Canadian schedule with only 2x daily flights from Seattle to Vancouver until December. It also did some minor tweaking, adding an extra daily flight in November to Seattle – Bozeman, Reno, and Sacramento along with Portland – Sacramento.

American Makes the Move in Beijing

After dropping LAX previously, American only flies to Beijing from DFW. I mean, it WILL only fly from DFW when it eventually resumes the flight, now planned for March 27, 2021. But when it returns, it will fly to the new Daxing instead of the old Capital airport. This makes sense, because partner China Southern has moved almost its entire operation over there and is building up a hub. Meanwhile, Seoul/Incheon will still have its flight from DFW, but it will be operated by a 787-8 instead of the larger 777-200.

American also did a little upgauging in Phoenix from regional to mainline, reflecting the current strength of that hub. Montrose was one of those cities that received the upgauge, but it also saw bigger airplanes from Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth. It’s the new hot spot.

Delta Trims the Morning After, Europe

If you’re expecting an Election Day hangover, you’re not alone. Delta thinks demand will be down on the day after, so it has cut 60 domestic flights from the schedule that day.

It also made more Europe cuts, canceling Seattle – Paris through the winter and delaying the restart of Paris – Cincinnati and Salt Lake, Amsterdam – Portland, and Atlanta – Munich from April to May.

There is hope for the holidays, however. Delta has decided to make Dec 18, the Friday before the holidays, a peak day. It has added several Caribbean and beach flights to the schedule that day, thinking people will get an early start on their travels. And if you’re flying to Cancun from JFK or Salt Lake (yes, Salt Lake), get ready for an A330 to take you there.

But the big winner? The unlikely LA – Reno market gets a third daily flight before the route even begins.

Hawaiian Cuts Incheon

Hawaiian looked to be conservative with its post-mandatory quarantine restart with one exception. The 5x weekly flights from Honolulu to Seoul/Incheon sounded awfully aggressive. Maybe it was a mistake, but it is now gone from the November schedule entirely.

If there’s one thing that Hawaiians can count on, however, it’s the strength of the ninth island, Las Vegas. The route restarted this month before the end of the mandatory quarantine, but over the weekend, Hawaiian added 5 more flights during the month.

JetBlue Walks Away From Secondary Markets

JetBlue has said this was happening, and now it’s been filed. The airline will stop flying to Burbank, Ontario, and San Jose through the end of March. Considering it left Oakland earlier this year and Long Beach just this month, JetBlue has now completely abandoned secondary airports in California.

It has also stopped flying to Newburgh/Stewart and Worcester through the end of schedule. This is said to be a suspension, but come on, chances of going back any time in the near or distant future are slim.

There were broader cuts again in October and November, but if there’s any bright spot it’s that the mighty Nantucket will keep service through the holidays from JFK. So, there’s that.

Southwest Files Miami, Montrose, and Palm Springs

We knew Southwest was going to start Miami and Palm Springs, and the schedules have now been filed starting November 15. Miami will get 1x daily to Chicago/Midway, 3-4x daily to Baltimore and Houston/Hobby, and most surprisingly 1-2x daily to Tampa. This appears to be set up to get maximum connectivity in each region of the country.

Palm Springs gets 1x daily to Denver, 2x daily to Oakland, and then 2-3x daily to Phoenix. The only surprise is that Phoenix gets what it does, but that too must be all about connections heading east.

The big surprise was Montrose which will get the Steamboat Springs treatment with 3x daily to Denver and weekend service to Dallas/Love starting December 19. Along with the American and United upgauge (the latter you’ll see below), this was a hot market. Montrose is the gateway to Telluride since the Telluride airport itself is not suited for most commercial operations.

Southwest also did the usual tinkering by adding back some flights in November and December.

United Slashes Express

If you look at the number of flights, United Express didn’t change much. But if you look at seats, there was a big cut. What’s going on? The pilot agreement requires United to physically remove 6 seats from all of its 76-seaters until it starts flying more mainline service. So, that is now filed from December 1 through March 27.

United also pulled out the 777s it placed into Chicago/Newark – Florida markets last year. Those will now be on 737s. And then there’s Montrose. United took an all-CRJ 50-seat market and added many flights on 76-(er, 70-) seat Embraer 175s and 150-seat A320s.

And that’s it for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode.

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42 comments on “Montrose Is the New Hot Spot and Other Changes in a Quiet Week

    1. 285 miles and about a four hour drive (which really means five+ hours with traffic and other aggravation, ie., construction)

      1. True, but you forgot time required to go through security & there maybe fewer lines open do to less passenger demand. Therefore the time savings may not justify flying Vs driving.

    2. Not surprising. Similar to HOU-DAL, which is a bread-and-butter shuttle route for them. But really TPA-MIA is about connections, when you look at how many northern cities SWA feeds directly into TPA. A whole lot of those connections will make more sense than going through BWI, MDW, or HOU.

    3. Much like all the LA market flights to Vegas which are all jammed when the world isn’t upside down.

    4. Just going to MIA is stupid in my eyes, they have a large presence at FLL which is only 15-20 miles north of MIA. They are now creating extra expenses to pay the airport, staff the facility, and everything else to run an additional location where it will have minor presence. BTW, FLL customs is a lot quicker than MIA if they plan on doing International out of there as well.

  1. I don’t quite understand reducing the seat counts on the United E175s. Why reduce the number of seats you can make money on just because they’re not mainline seats? What am I missing?

  2. I assume the UA change is ALPA’s move to encourage UA to bring back mainline pilots as soon as possible.

    Southwest adding TPA-MIA is the big head scratcher for me. Everything else makes sense.

    AA/DL move to PKX is a terrible move. PEK is the airport of choice for people going to Beijing. I find it hard to believe that chasing double connection traffic to Central China is a profitable strategy.

    JetBlue is well on its way to running the old VX playbook in the West Coast and winning over those ff. Most of them probably ended up with legacy airlines since AS product just doesn’t fit. 5 years later, JetBlue is finally going to be able to start building the network needed to win them over. In case people are wondering what JetBlue is doing in the west coast. Aside from helping rest of their network, they are looking to win over the type of ff that used to loyally fly VX. If VX could attract those ff in SFO/LAX while serving only premium transcon, Dallas, Hawaii, Las Vegas and the largest west coast market, it’s hard for me to imagine how JetBlue would not be appealing to them.

    1. PEK is the airport of choice because it was the only airport available in the Beijing area – until Daxing opened.

      AA and DL are moving with China Southern and China Eastern; US carrier strategies are to connect to interior China via their Chinese partners. Nearly all else to Asia goes through their joint venture hubs.

      As for B6, they are simply adding a small presence in a number of non-transcon western US markets; they will be much smaller than other competitors and it is far from clear that they will end up any stronger long-term. They will likely push AS out of the largest CA transcons (EWR, JFK and BOS ) but AS has a fierce ly loyal customer base in the Pacific Northwest; the reason why DL has been able to penentrate that customer base is because DL has appealed to the global, true nationwide segment of the PNW, something neither AS or B6 can do. .

      1. PEK is the airport of choice because it’s much closer to the most wealthy parts of Beijing than PKX. The only part of Beijing closer to PKX is the relatively under developed South and southwest corner. They are in for a nasty surprise if they think they can capture high yielding O&D traffic to/From Beijing.

        Going through Chinese partner makes sense when the flight originates from major O&D markets like NYC, LAX and SFO. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense when large portion of widebody aircraft is filled with double connecting traffic.

        Keep in mind that JetBlue already has a larger network out of LAX than VX did pre-merger. in 3 to 4 years, they will be quite a bit larger than VX ever was at SFO. And I think their SFO operation will also reach 75% of VX’s old SFO network by then. If VX was able to get that many ff with a network of transcon, Dallas, HI, LAS and SEA, I don’t see why JetBlue can’t access a larger group of potential customers than that. And that’s all they need in the west coast. They just need enough customers in the area to not lose too much money on the west coast stuff and improve transcon network performance.

        1. PEK was unsustainable in its size; China had no choice but to build a 2nd airport. There is always a geographic advantage for an incumbent airport but it does fall off in time. China has invested alot to cut the travel time to Daxing.

          And the real issue right now is not the location of any Beijing airport but rather that the Chinese government used covid to implement a major reset of the capacity in the US-China market as well as to many other countries. China lost $3 billion shuttling Chinese around the world for vacation and shopping.
          There are so few frequencies available for US carriers that most service to the US is to PVG and DL and UA are operating far fewer flights than they did pre-covid. And for now, DL and UA are at the same level of flights, the first time that has ever been the case. AA is pushing back into the China passenger market but they will be at far less than what they flew even accounting for the routes they previously announced to cancel.

          Opening Daxing allows DL and China Eastern to expand from Beijing including to LA, NYC, Chicago and other markets plus some of DL’s hubs that didn’t have PEK service.

          And most of the cities that are connected via Beijing (either airport) will not ever have nonstop service to the US.

          and if you want to argue about the convenience of specific airports, DL for November will offer more seats from HND than any other airline while JL NH and AA and UA try to focus on NRT and connections through that airport which is far less convenient. Again, Japan capacity is way below normal but AA and UA and their Japanese partners will continue to struggle to compete for traffic to fill two airports. I pointed out years ago that DL would have an advantage only having to have a presence at one Tokyo airport which is focused on local traffic while AA, UA and their partners are trying to deploy capacity to two Tokyo airports for both the local and connecting markets. That strategy is not sustainable.

          And ICN is now the largest Asia market to the US and DL has more capacity from ICN just on its own metal than any US carrier has from any other Asia airport.

          There are significant implications esp. for UA but also for AA given these hub and partner dynamics which will continue long after transpacific traffic begins to return.

          1. I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. Even so, I think AA & DL should’ve sucked it up and stayed in PEK. PVG has been around for a while now and people still overwhelmingly prefer SHA. PVG has only been able to suck up all the international traffic because they artificially constrained SHA from flying to markets other than HND/GMP/TSA. I don’t see that happening at PEK. This was a move by the Beijing gov’t to really favor the hometown airline ahead of the Shanghai and Guangzhou airline.

            If you are going for the 1 stop traffic from America to Beijing, PEK is the way to go. If you are going for the DFW/DTW/SEA to central China traffic, PKX is the way to go since you have partners there. If you are going for the America/South America to central China traffic, PKX is also the way to go. Out of the 3, the first one will be the most profitable traffic there is. The last one is about the same most price sensitive traffic you can get.

            1. again, China made the decision to build a new airport.
              AA and DL’s partners moved to that airport, perhaps not by choice.
              AA and DL are moving with their partners.
              That is what happens when dealing w/ a planned economy.

              MU at least has the potential to build out longhaul services from Daxing which it could not have done from PEK.

              DL was in growth mode in China before covid and will regrow at some point. AA cut its China service before covid and will likely have merely a token China presence at best over the long term. DL and UA are likely to be similarly sized to China because of China capacity limits which will likely persist well into 2021 which means any advantage UA and CA had are limited now.

              The ME3 was the dominant set of airlines from Asia to S. America before covid; it is anyone’s guess how it will all shake out but the US will always be at a disadvantage because all international to international passengers have to clear Customs if they transit US soil which adds time and hassle even if passengers have US visas.

  3. “MIA – TPA, seriously Southwest? That’s a jaunt on I-75 & is just a few hours at worst.”

    While that’s true, WN has been very successful at conducting high frequency flights at this distance. And, they’re not alone: AA has long flown MIA-TPA and I’ve actually flown it (and MIA-MCO) as connections after arriving from Latin America via MIA. In WN’s case, traffic can be funneled to/from MIA via TPA from a number of destinations. So, this is probably all about the connections too.

    1. In the case of AA, MIA being a hub & having a short hop to TPA is understandable. In WN’s situation it just looks out of place as most domestic routes to both regardless of carrier are from the Midwest or northeast.

  4. These weekly updates have become a highlight of airline internet world.

    It is worth taking a birds eye view of what all of the capacity changes mean in terms of airline size and market share.

    The most significant capacity share changes are taking place in the Rockies and west coast.

    For November, AS@SEA is now the largest hub from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean followed by UA at DEN as measured by ASMs.
    DL’s hub at SLC for November is at near flat capacity on a year over year basis, by far the highest amount of capacity restoration among hubs.

    If you look at the west coast as a whole or the west coast plus the Rockies, Delta is the largest airline in terms of ASMs and flights. Unlike AS or UA which have one or two strong hubs, DL’s 3 hub west coast network – LAX, SEA, and SLC – are all re-adding capacity on par or faster than their peers.

    The degree at which AA has fallen in the western US is simply breathtaking. The number of routes which AA is not flying from LAX include ATL, BNA, BOS, MCO and more. AA’s capacity decline at LAX is the largest of any airline in the west.
    B6’ capacity reduction is really in line with its system. When you factor in the secondary cities that B6 is not flying, pulldown of LGB, and then its reduced capacity in its largest markets including JFK and BOS to the west coast, B6 is simply replacing a lot of longhaul transcon flights with more spokes within the west.

    In many hub markets, if there was a second legacy/global carrier, they are gone with an ULCC such as NK becoming the 2nd carrier; AA and WN have both dropped ATL-LAX leaving just DL and NK.

    Capacity cuts in the NE are equally brutal due to quarantine requirements but the west will be where strategic rearrangement of the industry will take place – just as it did in the NE after 9/11.

    MIA to Latin America will very likely be the next region where we start to see significant strategic changes. As the MAX returns to service, WN will have the capacity to fly virtually all of Latin America from MIA – but I expect they will spend a couple years focusing on all but the Southern Cone of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile with new routes coming as soon as next summer. Delta is being very careful about adding capacity to Latin America while its JV with Latam works its way through the legal process – but I suspect we will see DL start to add flights from MIA to Caribbean Latin America countries outside of the JV by next summer. If a vaccine begins to make an impact by the middle of next year, we could see significant new routes from MIA to Latin America starting winter 21/22.

    The chances are good that there will be some return of international travel by next summer due to vaccines, immunity/vaccination passports, or testing but it will be a cold winter. Some countries like Australia appear set to lock down until this has all passed – which itself will result in a shift in market strength between the US and Australia and to/from countries that adopt similar strategies.

    It will be a cold, long winter for airlines around the world.

    1. I think we need to wait another week or 2 to see the final schedule. DL currently has a 70 to 75% schedule for November. That’s unlikely to be the case going forward. I think in the end, you will see DL capacity cuts similar to what AA is offering.

      As for AA, they were down to 18 flights a day at SFO and low 50s in LAX when I checked last week. Things look just as bleak in NYC, where they are down to hubs + SFO/BOS. A lot of AA supporters are not dealing with the reality that their airline is really in trouble and the cuts to NYC/LAX may end up being even more than the pessimists thought back in March/April. That’s good news for AS at LAX and JetBlue at NYC.

      1. DL’s capacity for October 2020 is up 13% compared to what it was for September.
        They very likely will fly the capacity they have scheduled for November with less than 3 weeks to go.

        The theme should be clear: if you don’t add capacity back to your markets, someone else will. DL has been in this rodeo before and understands they have to get back in the game or someone will take it from them.

        The difference between DL and both AA and UA is that DL has the financial strength, like WN, to ride this out until someone else fails or they walk away from major markets.

        AA did it in NYC post 9/11 and they are doing it now at LAX. Airlines wait for years for the opportunity to make strategic moves; you don’t pull back when the opportunity arises.

  5. What’s going on in Montrose? I’m guessing ski season pickup?

    Also, the term “hot spot” has a different connotation in the age of COVID-19.

    1. this is BY FAR the most interesting trend. Miami is not just a one-off for Southwest but rather they have transitioned to a full-scale nationwide carrier serving all of the largest airports. American and United have benefitted from Southwest being at secondary airports while Delta has competed with Southwest in Delta’s single airport metro areas – Atlanta, Detroit, MSP and SLC.

      Suddenly, WN looks like a very credible true nationwide airline and one that can pick up the capacity that AA and UA refuse to add back hoping that they can push yields up.

      ORD is particularly noteworthy; AA and UA for years have been careful not to get into too many domestic capacity dumping contests (there have been some for sure) and WN is now going to upend all of that.
      Add in that DL is certain to stake out what it wants in ORD that it doesn’t have and AA and UA are under enormous competitive assault.

      AA is somewhat shielded because of DFW/DAL but WN clearly intends to add capacity where it can – and that is coming in AA and UA strength markets.

      1. “this is BY FAR the most interesting trend. Miami is not just a one-off for Southwest but rather they have transitioned to a full-scale nationwide carrier serving all of the largest airports.”

        Sure appears that way & AA is the big loser at the moment. Also consider the following – WN has become the #1 carrier at BNA, LAS & BWI. In doing so they pushed out AA, & the former US at two former hubs in the process. This goes beyond the near control of MDW, LUV & HOU they already have had for a long time.

      1. Don’t think Delta is immune. AA and UA are the low-hanging fruit. Southwest will move on Delta when they feel like it. And I think they feel like it.

        1. WN ALREADY serves DL’s hubs except for JFK. WN is expanding in AA and UA strength markets, not DL’s – not ATL, DTW, SLC and MSP.

          And DL is adding back more capacity in WN top markets than other carriers are which means that DL’s relative position is growing. DL has overtaken AA as the 2nd largest airline at BNA. DL is adding back more capacity at PHX and LAS than AA and UA. AA and UA don’t fly to MDW or DAL etc.

          AA and UA have been reluctant to add back capacity while DL has added back more capacity and done it fairly evenly across its system with SLC as a positive outlier.

          There is a substantial difference between DL’s capacity return strategy and AA and UA’s and it is clear that WN has chosen to focus on AA and UA, not DL.

          1. On December 17, 2008, I asked Mr. Kelleher: “Why didn’t Southwest just buy Delta in bankruptcy and shut it down?” He let out a Herbian laugh, and he said: “We’ve already bought one airline and shut it down.” He thought about it for a moment, and he said: “Southwest needs competition. It’s what makes us stronger…and better. Now that Delta has expunged itself in the car wash of bankruptcy, it will be a worthy competitor for Southwest Airlines.” Now it’s been nearly 13 years since he told me that, so my quotation marks are to be taken with a grain of salt. But that is definitely the gist and spirit of his words.

            1. It is far more significant that AA, DL and UA have all been through bankruptcy and mergers but there is a clear dividing line in the industry between AA and UA on the one side and DL and WN on the other.
              You may wish to lump the 3 global carriers into one spot but analysts and investors do not based on financial data.

              Delta might have just had the good fortune of pulling off the NW merger much sooner and doing it so well compared to AA and UA but DL has clear financial strength to weather the covid environment that AA and UA do not have.

              Low cost carriers are not adding more net capacity to DL’s hubs while DL’s capacity share in AA and UA’s largest markets has increased in the covid environment.

              Yes, WN knows it needs competitors. No one likes a monopoly. DL and WN have been fierce competitors in multiple markets. WN was smaller in ATL and every other DL hub just before covid than it was five years ago. WN has managed to keep DL from growing at Love Field but DL has not gone away. DL undoubtedly by choice is not growing MDW and HOU. Both DL and WN know their best growth opportunities are in AA and UA markets and not in beating each other up.

              Over the 40 years of deregulation, DL and WN have gained share at AA and UA’s expense.

              The announcements noted in this article, since covid, and WN’s announcements all indicate this trend will continue and likely accelerate over the next few years.

  6. I’m guessing that the MIA-TPA thing is to offer more direct connectivity to the mid-south and mid-west vs. back tracking over .MDW or HOU.
    Thinking cities like BHM, BNA, SDF, IND, CMH,. etc.

    1. Question for others in the know… if WN start serving ORD, is it at all possible they will move service away from MDW? Same for DFW OR IAH.

  7. Montrose to Telluride is 65 miles?!

    I might as well fly to Denver and drive the 105 miles to Breckenridge. I’ll have far more choices and much lower fares

    1. 65 miles on picturesque US highways or 100+ miles on I70? During ski season? I know which I’d choose.

  8. Wish Alaska would bring back the nonstop between SMF-BOI.

    The added time and fares to get up there every couple of weeks doesn’t work for me. Using DL to connect in either SLC or SEA is better.

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