Delta Looks Ahead, American Hibernates, and JetBlue Reverses Again

Schedule Changes

It was a rather interesting week for our friends in Airlineville. As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, the residents made final preparations. For the Globe, it was good news while the opposite was true for Ms. Blue. She just can’t make up her mind.

The Eagle is looking beyond Thanksgiving into December, and it is not getting a good feeling. Its European adventures — and much more — have been cut to the bone. To paraphrase The Beatles, it may be a long, cold, lonely winter.

While everyone tinkers with the holidays, the Widget is trying something novel… looking into a crystal ball to predict what 2021 will bring. It may or may not work, but we can all be certain that these predictions won’t all come true. Further change will come.

Join me and my beloved Cirium data as we dive into this week’s episode. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the skeds of air lines.

Alaska Trims the First Half of December

While all hopes center around the holidays, Alaska is trimming in between. The first half of December sees one daily frequency cut in Seattle to Bend, Eugene, and Missoula as well as Portland to Missoula, LA to Santa Rosa, and SFO to Palm Springs. What will Alaska do with all those airplanes? Well, they’ll sit most of them, but there is an extra flight being added from SFO to LA and San Diego to help pick up the slack.

American Cuts Europe Again and Much More

It’s a dark cloud descending over the Atlantic for American. London sees further cuts between December 1 and January 5 with Charlotte, Chicago, and JFK all being suspended. That leaves only a single daily flight from DFW to both London and Frankfurt as the airline’s entire European network. The cuts on flagship routes go even further. In the first half of December, American will now only operate a single daily flight between JFK and LA.

While we’re on the topic of December cuts, American has extended its suspension of the small city routes it first cut in October. The cuts don’t stop there. Saturday-only service from Boston to Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Nassua, and Punta Cana has been removed from the schedule. JFK also won’t have its Saturday service to Grand Cayman, Punta Cana, St Kitts, and St Maarten nor will LaGuardia have its Nassau flights.

There are bits of good news in here. Charlotte to Cancun, Cozumel, Fort Myers, and Key West get more flights. Philly will also get nonstop service to Cozumel.

Delta Looks Into 2021

The legacy airlines have been lurching from month to month, finalizing schedules about 30 days in advance. Delta is trying to get a handle on that and is taking a first swing at January and February 2021. The initial plan has seats down around 28 to 29 percent from the skeleton schedule. Not all are cuts, however, with a wholesale re-orienting of the schedule toward leisure markets. Growth is in Florida, the Mountain West, and Mexico, primarily.

Florida does see some cuts, however. Miami to Orlando and Tampa are both out of the schedule until June. These markets were entirely to feed LATAM, but the losses are probably unbearable at this point.

Frontier Changes Its Mind in January

After cutting January down to size last week, Frontier is now adding back. Denver, Las Vegas, and Miami all see growth on peak January days.

Hawaiian Delays Tahiti

Hawaiian’s plan to return to Papeete has been delayed. It won’t fly in December. Tahiti is open to Americans, so you’d think this weekly flight might be able to hold its own. It won’t get the chance this year.

JetBlue Cuts Late Again

Last week JetBlue was crowing about how demand enabled it to add 25 flights over Thanksgiving. This week, it’s cutting more than double that amount. I’m starting to get whiplash. It’s now about as exhausting to watch this airline as it is to watch Frontier’s frequent tweaks. For Frontier, that was a feature. I don’t know what JetBlue is thinking. The cuts are scattered in 33 markets ranging from LaGuardia to Tampa all the way over to LA to Cancun.

Southwest Knocks Miami Down a Bit

This was a very quiet week for Southwest, but the airline did whack Miami to Tampa down by about 15 flights a month into March. It’ll now be generally operating twice a day. The only other change of note was that San Juan – Ft Lauderdale gets 14 more flights in Jan while San Juan – Orlando gets 7. See, told you it was quiet.

United Extends Thanksgiving and Tweaks Elsewhere

United has decided to try to add more flying at the end of Thanksgiving. It’ll add a bank in Chicago, Denver, and Washington/Dulles on Tuesday, December 1. It’s also adding around the edges in December but making some notable cuts, including a few frequencies on its point-to-point routes like LaGuardia to Fort Myers and Tampa.

Florida sees some growth but not from San Francisco. Flights from there to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Tampa now won’t resume until February at the earliest. The new Washington/Dulles to Tel Aviv route appears to be suffering as well. It will be suspended between December 6 and March 5.

Next summer, United has Hawai’i on the mind. It’s adding an extra daily flight to Honolulu from San Francisco and Washington/Dulles, to Kahului from Chicago and LA, and to Lihu’e from LA.

Lastly, United added its JFK flights, but you already knew that was coming after last week’s post.


That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s episode of Skeds of air Lines.

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25 comments on “Delta Looks Ahead, American Hibernates, and JetBlue Reverses Again

  1. @Cranky

    Why are you surprised about JetBlue canceling flights, Just Because they added flights over thanksgiving? It’s a case of apples and oranges, they said during the last conference call that they scrub the shed of any flights that aren’t going to be profitable 3 weeks out and then again 1 week out. So the fact that they had broad but systematic cutting is to be expected especially in markets where they have multiple flights per day. I would expect the aggressive cutting to continue until early spring.

    Rob

    1. Rob – I’m surprised because it’s a very customer-unfriendly strategy to keep making these changes so late in the game, and JetBlue has long touted itself as being customer friendly. Further, this kind of super-micro-management of a schedule doesn’t usually end up making enough of a difference to be worth pursuing. Other than ULCCs which give very short leashes, I wouldn’t expect to see this strategy, if it can be called a strategy.

      1. That is a true statement. But any airline even JetBlue can only be so customer friendly when loosing 5 million dollars per day.

        1. Rob – Of course, but that’s where the second part of my statement comes in. I doubt this will meaningfully help JetBlue. Over-managing a schedule is an easy trap to fall into.

          1. The biggest issue is that on many of its new routes B6 does not have an alternative way to route the passengers – not even with a connection. So many of these people are going to be stuck buying a more expensive, close-in ticket on another carrier and will have great antipathy towards B6 as a result.

  2. Is it possible to see the data/ graphics you are mentioning even if it as a snapshot?
    It will help to understand it better Thank you

    1. Eduardo – As much as I’d like to provide more charts and graphs, I’m afraid I just don’t have the time. We are working on launching a new product called Cranky Network Weekly (crankyflier.com/cnw) which requires most of my time over the weekends. That’s why I’ve had to cut down the photos/charts that go into this weekly Skeds post. If you have specific questions, I’m happy to try to share.

  3. I too vote for graphs and charts. It’s part of what makes CF so memorable. Perhaps a Thanksgiving table with half of the seats flying off into oblivion.

    In other news, Moderna is reporting strong results from its vaccine with tens of millions of doses available before the end of the year, making it likely that there will be multiple vaccines available to the public that wants a vaccine (not all will) in the first quarter with Spring Break 2021 and beyond potentially showing strong recovery.

    1. Tim,

      Lets see what these vaccines do in the real world before we jump to conclusions one way or the other. As an analyst, you of all people should know the difference between data in the lab Vs real world results.

      BTW, In what field are you an analyst. Just curious.

      1. I’ll be happy to post my CV as soon as you do.

        The FDA and other governments have rigid tests and protocols for vaccines and other medical procedures and medicines. To somehow doubt that these vaccines will not work in the real world is tantamount to hoping for no progress in eradicating disease and hoping for the further destruction of lives, economies, and, specific to this discussion, airlines.

        Given the track record the US has with eradicating multiple other pathogens, I stand for hope and progress and that my grandkids will read about 2020 as a nasty chapter in global history that has been overcome.

        to your comment below, it was a given that not every airline would emerge from this in a similar position. AA was the most vulnerable going in – because they had so many underperforming hubs (by their own execs’ words) but UAL will see enormous growth of competitive capacity growth in its hubs. You need only look back at 2005-2015 to see what AA and UA lost to competitors and see the same thing is playing out again.

        1. “I’ll be happy to post my CV as soon as you do.”

          “The FDA and other governments have rigid tests and protocols for vaccines and other medical procedures and medicines. To somehow doubt that these vaccines will not work in the real world is tantamount to hoping for no progress in eradicating disease and hoping for the further destruction of lives, economies, and, specific to this discussion, airlines.”

          There’s no need to get hostile. I’m speaking on a scientific level. Even the worlds best scientists don’t always know how their breakthroughs will respond in the real world Vs in the lab. That doesn’t mean we cant make progress, rather it’s the best way for science to prove or disprove if a technique or treatment is effective.

          1. Sean,
            I am not being hostile or sarcastic. This site, like most on the internet that allows discussion, doesn’t require any validation of credentials for people to participate. Many people do not use their real name, or at best, only part of it. There could be rocket scientists on here and we wouldn’t know it – and that is the way the system works. That is the nature of anonymous discussion on the internet.

            As for a vaccination, no one with a modicum of intelligence can deny that covid 19 is real, there are real measures that can be taken to mitigate spread, there are still thousands of people around the world (not just in the US) that are dying, and that modern medicine is capable of figuring out how to conquer covid just as it has other diseases; a vaccine is part of how it will be conquered.

            The FDA in the US is the governmental body that approves vaccines but all of these vaccines are being developed with the intent of distribution on the global market, meaning they have to meet global standards.

            I have never argued for less than a full-fledged approach to dealing with covid on every level – but I have also made clear that some airlines would be permanently weaker as a result of covid.

            As Eric notes, AA is speaking less and less about its global network and all of its hubs but they also in the presentation he cited referred to large connecting hubs – not necessarily domestic or international – and DCA, LGA, JFK, and LAX didn’t necessarily meet those definitions even before covid. The presentation is here
            https://seekingalpha.com/article/4388519-baird-2020-global-industrial-conference

            Being able to see capacity by hub and carrier both in charts and graphs is what made CF’s schedule updates such a hit before. If those graphs are presented now, it shows that some hubs like ORD (for both AA and UA), PHL and even IAH have had a much lower percentage of capacity restored than other hubs, including all of DL’s interior US hubs and most of WN’s bases/focus cities/hubs. DEN has been above average. In specific cities, there are big differences such as that DL is now offering half as many seats at DCA as AAL; given that DL has not committed to seat blocking beyond early Jan, those differences in capacity become more real. There are clear implications on hub capacity because of local/state quarantine/lockdowns requirements but carriers as a whole are made up of their hubs in all types of cities.

            AA did not rationalize its hubs before covid and is now being forced to do so now which means that its size will be challenged coming out of the pandemic. Much of their size was due to having multiple hubs; when you start reducing the size of multiple hubs, it has an impact in dozens of cities around the US in addition to challenging AA to get costs out as it shrinks its schedule.

            As for CF’s comment about B6 publishing its schedule very aggressively only to reduce it weeks in advance, AA and UA are publishing schedules even two months that are way in excess of what they will fly and have done that for months. AA did it even before the pandemic, esp. at JFK. Presumably all of those carriers have weighed the cost to reaccommodate passengers and also to upset customers whose travel plans are changed close to departure against the potentially higher amount of revenue they might pick up by publishing unrealistic schedules.

            1. > As for CF’s comment about B6 publishing its schedule very aggressively only to reduce it weeks in advance, > AA and UA are publishing schedules even two months that are way in excess of what they will fly and have done that for months.

              No, this is different. I’m not talking about weeks; I’m talking about days. All the airlines have greatly changed their schedule process, but most are finalizing about a month out now. Sure, they may add some extra flights like United did after Thanksgiving this week, but they don’t usually cut that close. JetBlue is cutting within a week of travel, stranding whatever passengers were booked, even if it wasn’t a lot. That’s a different ballgame when you do it that close to travel.

  4. Wiplash indeed. I wonder though if after the pandemic subsides will AA be able to rebuild it’s network both domesticly as well as internationally. Between dumping some domestic capacity on AS & B6& nearly erasing it’s entire international network, it would appear as if their survival could be questioned.

    1. Rebuild the network sure, but to what extent and what that will it look like will be interesting. AA recently presented an interesting slide that illustrated the current hub structure. Noticeably absent were ORD and DCA. LAX, JFK, PHL’s absence are at least partially understandable given lack of international flying. However, I would have assumed at a minimum ORD would have at least been used for more domestic connectivity and to a lesser extent DCA or maybe even PHL. Instead the airline opted to focus on DFW, CLT, PHX, and MIA.

  5. It seems like AA is getting very desperate now. These are some pretty late cuts to LHR. I don’t see how most of the flights come back in January/February if they can’t even operate during Christmas season.

    Out of NYC, it seems resigned to basically flying nothing outside of hubs + BOS. At this point, it seems to just be waiting for its partnership with B6 to go through to have any sort of relevance.

    the west coast states have just imposed voluntary quarantine, which is part of what really killed northeast demand. that seems to me a huge hit on AS. We will see. Up until this point, SEA has been one of the best performing large airports.

    JetBlue is in a tough spot in Northeast with the lockdowns likely to come again.

    1. Late cuts to London are likely related to the UK and Europe’s recent increases in COVID cases and re-imposition of restrictions decimating whatever demand was there.

  6. Regarding Hawaiian to Tahiti: Tahiti may be open to Americans, but are Americans going in any significant numbers? And Honolulu is still complicated; what would Tahitians have to do to get into Hawaii, and would it be worth the hassle to do that versus flying further to LAX if they had some reason to want to go to the US? By the same token, if someone from the US mainland wanted to go to Tahiti, would it be worth trying to go though HNL versus Air Tahiti Nui from LAX?

    Looks like TN and UA are running sub-daily service from LAX and SFO respectively so there might not be that much demand, but the A330 should have no issues if HA wanted to take a stab at LAX-PPT nonstop to serve the market while bypassing HNL (they’ve done it before with the DC-10-30, albeit on a charter basis on behalf of Renaissance Cruises).

    1. David M – Though I don’t know this for a fact, I would imagine most of the travel on that route is visiting friends and relatives and doesn’t involve going beyond to the mainland. The flights aren’t timed to connect very well to the mainland, especially on northbound. There are long-standing cultural ties between the two places, and with only one weekly flight, you don’t need that much traffic.

    2. I got curious and used GC Map to look at LAX-PPT, both to compare distance and to see possible alternate airports. Wow, not much in the way of diversion options between LAX and PPT. Looks like TN had to get ETOPS 225 certification for a reason and looks like they fly close to the very edge of the 225 minute limit. I know there are worse places to lose an engine and airlines with longer ETOPS certifications, but that would be a LONG 4 hours in the cockpit if an engine did go out.

  7. Tim Dunn, You said a little ways back that “I am using my own name and looking at publicly available data and I support well-run airlines.” I wrote you making a comment about your being a city council and Georgia mayor. You wondered where anything to that effect came from.

    As you know there are lots of Tim Dunn’s in this country and I fell upon a website where a person by your name had a website page about being a city council member and mayor of the City of Lillburn, Ga., and being someone who was with Delta Airlines for 30 years, retiring in 1994.

    I accept that you are not that person, and I apologize to you for my having said anything to that effect.

    But, my comment is now about who you are and why you are making so many comments that to me sound like Delta press releases or someone just “pumping” DAL stock, “degrading” AAL and UAL stock.

    Above, you referred to Seeking Alpha. There is an individual on Seeking Alpha who Seeking Alpha lists as a Tim Dunn, Financial Blogger, who has written on Seeking Alpha 33 articles, making nearly 10,000 comments, most, talking about airlines, trying to show with facts(?), that Delta Air Lines is the best-managed airline out there, with LUV getting better, and AAL and UAL have serious problems.

    This Tim Dunn has a list of stock picks–BUY/SELL–related to 4 airlines: DAL, a long-time “BUY,” recently. LUV, a ?BUY.” too, and UAL, a long-time “SELL,” and AAL. a more recent “SELL.”

    The topics in the Seeking Alpha Tim Dunn articles are familiar to a Cranky Flier blog reader. The Seeking Alpha Tim Dunn comments are voluminous and have the same tone as those in Cranky Flier. Sometimes a Seeking Alpha Tim Dunn article has a graph or map sourced to Cranky Flier, and Cranky is mentioned in some articles

    The articles contain a disclosure statement: “I am/we are long on DAL LUV. I wrote the article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.”

    My question is: Is the Seeking Alpha Tim Dunn and the Cranky Flier Tim Dunn one and the same?

    If it is, OK. What’s you say in Seeking Alpha is your business, subject to their rules..

    In your Cranky comments you have said, among many, many things:

    –“I will let you argue what you think about Delta’s moves but I will point out facts and correct a number of repeatedly wrong statements you have made where…;”
    –“I truly don’t understand there are still people that can’s accept..;
    –“You do realize…;”
    –“Did it occur to you…;”

    To me, these comments come across a bit harsh, pompous. Just a suggestion. perhaps you would be willing to disclose in your comments that nothing in your comments is intended to have the reader buy or sell any stock mentioned. Until I see such a disclosure, I am going to believe you have that express purpose.

    I don’t have anything to do with the Cranky blog. I have emailed him about your comments but he has not asked me to do anything for him.

    Wish you well.

    1. Disclosures are common if not required in financial media. This site does not fit that category.

      I appreciate the apology but, to be honest, I would suggest that you be careful about accusing someone of being something they may or may not be as a result of a google search you did or what you read on some other site today or ten years ago or heard from the captain’s neighbor etc.

      As noted above, this site and most online discussion forums do not require vetting of credentials to post or even require that real names be used. I participate on this site as CF’s guest (like everyone else) and with no ties to any other organization or site.

      CF is responsive to reader feedback. I would suggest you continue to use that channel if you have concerns about users. He is a fair and good person whether we agree on everything about the airline industry or not.

      one final thing. If you are interested in airline stock performance, I would suggest that you look at what professional analysts say about specific airlines. Those market analysts influence tens of billions of dollars of investments esp. since the U.S. airline industry is largely held by large institutional investors.
      Most financial reporting sites show the number of professional market analysts that monitor a stock and their recommendation for that stock.
      Here is Yahoo Finance for DAL. https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/dal?ltr=1
      Other sites have similar information.

      The recommendation, trend lines, upgrades and downgrades and price targets for Delta are some of the strongest in the airline industry.

      I wouldn’t recommend you focus on any single person’s comments about any company’s finances; summaries of what all professional analysts think of a stock does give you a pretty good idea of how well a stock and a company is regarded.

      By their opinions, Delta is regarded quite highly among the battered U.S. airline industry – and it was well-regarded even before covid. For years before covid, Delta was the most valuable airline in the world based on market capitalization; DAL is now 2nd to LUV. Both Delta and Southwest are worth more than American and United combined.

  8. Does it bother anyone else when the wrong word is used due to either misspelling or auto correction?

    Loosing-means not tightening and is an adverb.

    Losing-means not winning or not gaining and is a verb.

    ?

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