American’s Summer Shift, Delta’s March Blitz, United’s Domestic Bliss, and More

Schedule Changes

It’s less than a week until Christmas descends on Airlineville, and the friendly residents are in a pensive mood. Instead of thinking about tomorrow, however, they’re taking the holidays to ponder a better time… some day in the future. It’s clear from their actions that those times will definitely not be coming in January or February.

This was one of the more fascinating Cirium schedule loads in some time. We didn’t have to contend with the regular monthly tidal wave to which the residents often subject us. Nearly everyone was focused on strategery before the quiet holiday period sets in. Even Airlineville residents need a break from the day-to-day slog.

The Eagle was busy shifting its gaze from the cold European winter to a sizzling Latin summer, while also throwing some grenades at fellow Airlineville residents. The Globe had summer on the brain as well, but it was thinking closer to home. Meanwhile, the Widget was busy dreaming about Spring Break in Florida while the Heart was focused on gutting everything before Spring Break even arrives. The Eskimo, the Animal, and Ms Blue had some shiny new presents to show off to friends.

All this and more on this week’s episode. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the skeds of air lines.

Alaska Lives Up to Its Name

New Anchorage flying was announced on the 16th, but only Denver and Las Vegas flights were loaded this week. Presumably the announced San Francisco flight will be loaded soon, as will the year-round extension to Phoenix flying. In other news, JFK to San Diego starts up in April, an interesting choice since partner American already flies that (or is expected to resume it). We’ll see if that sticks.

American Fights Back, Makes a Massive Shift From Europe to Latin America

There was a lot going on with American this week. First, it took a swing at several airlines. Starting in April, it will fly Dallas/Fort Worth to Long Beach once a day, going up against Southwest’s new Love Field flight. It will also bring back Phoenix to Anchorage, something it hasn’t flown since 2019 but a route that Alaska just announced it would fly year-round. (This one is admittedly the least retaliatory.) Lastly, in response to JetBlue’s decision to go into Miami, American announced it would fly Fort Lauderdale to Boston, JFK, Los Angeles, and Port-au-Prince (along with Austin-Orlando, just for kicks). At the same time, it’s upgauging LA to Miami to have several more 777 flights per day. It’s going to be a bloodbath for awhile.

Then there’s the big shift. Europe was pulled down dramatically. American apparently intends to pull out of Keflavik (Iceland), Manchester, and Prague for good while suspending Venice until 2022. It has also pulled down a whole bunch of Europe routes through the spring. April seats are down more than 25 percent, settling down off just over 5 percent through the summer. Meanwhile, Latin America is booming with seats up more than 10 percent off an already large base from April and beyond.

Other than that, there were a few routes returning to Washington/National in February, including Birmingham, Charleston (WV), and Memphis. American is also flexing its DFW muscles with new flights to Eugene, Fairbanks, Fayetteville (NC, seriously), and St George (UT). Fairbanks also gets a Chicago flight. Bermuda loses its flights to Miami, JFK, and Philly, instead just getting Charlotte. Charlotte also gets Appleton (WI), Sioux Falls, and… Honolulu on a 777-200.

Delta Goes Florida-Crazy

Delta is going big in Florida this week with March seeing more than a 10 percent increase in seats. Delta now has more seats scheduled this March than last. Seriously. It also upauged dozens of flights from 717 to A319 aircraft. This still feels like a placeholder as an A319, but it does show the beginning of the 717 fleet disapperance.

Frontier Files New Vegas, Other Routes

Frontier rolled out some new routes this week. It already announced Vegas to Cabo San Lucas, El Paso, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Puerto Vallarta, and Wichita. This week we also saw Cancun to Miami and Cozumel to Chicago/O’Hare.

Hawaiian Shrinks Sapporo

This week Hawaiian cut Sapporo flights from 3x a week to 2x through the end of schedule. It also extended the suspension of Pago Pago through January and pulled down more Lihu’e flying in January as well.

JetBlue Does Boston, Miami, and More

JetBlue took advantage of its soon-to-be partner American by launching Miami service from Boston, JFK, Los Angeles, and Newark. As mentioned, American did not take too kindly to that move. More interestingly, JetBlue doubled down on Raleigh/Durham by announcing a whole bunch of new routes. I like this move as a strategic focus city for the airline. It’s what it should have done in San Jose years ago. The brand will work there. I also like the Newark growth.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t more questionable adds, like Cancun to Vegas and Sacramento. Let’s not forget Jacksonville to LA, a route that will do better when there are A220s to be flown. But still, woof. This and more was announced in a press release, so you can read that for full details.

Southwest Takes February Down

Southwest was hoping to fly a peak/off-peak schedule in February, but it has given up on that plan. All the former peak days have been pulled down to off-peak levels. This had already been done in January before, so it now looks like an EKG where the patient has flat-lined up until March 6.

United Bets on Domestic Leisure This Summer

United has settled its big domestic summer plans, and it’s filled with a potpourri of smaller, outdoorsy markets. Here’s the list:

  • Chicago/O’Hare: Anchorage, Bangor, Durango, Fort Walton Beach/Destin, Grand Junction, Halifax, Hilton Head, Jackson Hole, Kalispell, Missoula, Montrose, Myrtle Beach, Panama City, Quebec City, Steamboat Springs, and Vail
  • Denver: Burlington, Fort Walton Beach/Destin, Pensacola, Portland (ME), Sun Valley, and Traverse City
  • Houston/Intercontinental: Anchorage, Aspen, Bozeman, Durango, Gunnison, Jackson Hole, Montrose, Rapid City, Steamboat Springs, and Vail
  • Los Angeles: Jackson Hole, Kalispell, Missoula, and Rapid City
  • Newark: Anchorage, Bozeman, Hilton Head, Jackson Hole, Myrtle Beach, Nantucket, Rapid City, Traverse City, and Vancouver
  • San Francisco: Anchorage, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Kalispell, Missoula, Rapid City, and Sun Valley
  • Washington/Dulles: Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, Nantucket, and Traverse City

Other Randomness

  • Aer Lingus has slashed its January schedule, cutting most US flights.
  • Air Transat has removed Montreal – New Orleans and San Diego from the schedule.
  • ANA will not fly Narita – Honolulu or San Francisco along with Haneda – Chicago, San Jose, and Seattle in February.
  • British Airways has removed Heathrow – Charleston (SC) and Pittsburgh alongside Gatwick to JFK through the end of the schedule.
  • Japan Airlines removed all Hawai’i flights plus San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle in February, but it will return service from Narita to Chicago/O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, and New York/JFK in February.
  • Qatar starts Seattle – Doha in March.
  • Singapore has extended the cancellation of all fifth freedom US flights through February along with Singapore – Newark and Seattle.
  • Virgin Atlantic won’t fly from Manchester to the US or from Heathrow to Orlando and Vegas through February. Heathrow to San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington Dulles won’t operate through January. It will, however, start new service from Heathrow to San Juan in June.

That’s it for this week’s episode. I expect Airlineville will be busy celebrating Christmas next week, so I don’t have high expectations for excitement. But hey, I’ve been wrong before.

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30 comments on “American’s Summer Shift, Delta’s March Blitz, United’s Domestic Bliss, and More

  1. The DFW-Fayetteville, NC, route on AA is probably targeted at military traffic between Fort Bragg in NC and bases in Texas; I bet the timing of those flights is intentionally set to make for easy connections at DFW to/from flights to Killeen or Temple (which are near Fort Hood), for example.

  2. Why the (seriously) in reference to AA’s DFW- Fayetteville, NC route? They’ve flown it before, and there are military ties. Why the incredulity? It seemed off.

    1. Jason – They haven’t flown that since before the US Airways merger… when they had no Charlotte hub to serve it properly. It stands out as quite a stretch to me.

      1. Hey Brett, I live in DFW. It’s actually been much more recent that they flew that route, maybe within the last five years. I flew it myself, but it was loooong for an ER4, especially coming back.

        The route really isn’t surprising, given their strategy with some of these smaller cities. They saturate the city from the nearby hub, then add one or two flights to the big one farther away. Think DFW-ILM, AVL, or MYR in that area…or YUM or FLG in Arizona. Or MDT in PA, or CMI and BMI in IL.

          1. Ah. Time flies for sure.

            The biggest reason I knew they flew it is because I collect airports. Weird hobby I know but I am up to 352 flown in or out of to date…and I specifically flew that route to pick up FAY.

            But still the strategy holds as it does with places like ILM, AVL, YUM, FLG, or MDT.

  3. Hey Cranky, incorporating the seat blocking from delta through the end of March, is it an increase in Florida capacity YoY in March? Seems like they’re just flying more to make up for their seat blocking policy.
    I’d think it was still a net reduction in capacity even if it’s an increase in flown capacity.

    1. Jake – True, it is a net reduction when you look at actual seats being sold. I still find this middle seat blocking plan to be ridiculous at this point.

  4. AA also added DFW/ORD-FAI. It seems like they just decided this is the week they want to retaliate both “friends” and foes.

    All the airlines are adding routes this past week, because forward bookings are improving as a result of vaccine news. Jan/Feb demand will be terrible, but Jan/Feb bookings for spring/summer might be really good.

    JetBlue’s play in Miami is just part of its overall South Florida strategy and also an attempt to capture as much of that leisure bounce as possible. I don’t see them going more than 20 a day there. JetBlue is no more a threat against AA in South Florida than before this move. It’s commited to 130 flights a day at FLL and that’s it’s focus.

    The Miami entrance unfortunately obscured a couple of really big moves by JetBlue elsewhere:
    1) EWR got 10 additional flights and is up over 70 scheduled now. The entrance into ATL indicates it’s willing to go into large legacy hubs from EWR. I think ORD/DEN/SEA are all coming soon. EWR already has the most demand of the 3 NYC airports at the moment and will continue to gain importance with possible PATH extension and more people moving to Jersey City/Hobokken from Manhattan and more decentralized offices. T-1 is opening up. A 12 to 14 gate JetBlue presence along with liberal usage of AA gate could run over 100 flights a day. EWR will become slot constrained in a couple of years. A UA operation that runs between 280 to 325 flights a day is quite a bit different than one that runs from 350 to 430 flights a day. I think the lasting impact of COVID is that LCC/ULCC invasion into EWR will permanently damage UA’s EWR hub. 100 fewer flights means fewer flights to provide feed on TATL flights and worse schedule against DL at LGA.

    2) JetBlue is exploring the possibilities of mini-focus cities in SFO/LAS/AUS as part of its effort to capture the rebound of leisure traffic. I think SFO/LAS is part of its west coast effort to replicate the old VX network. LAX/SFO/LAS are all about transcon + tech + leisure. Sure, VX lost a lot of money doing it, but JetBlue is a much better run airline with lower cost and a wider array of fleet for the correct routes. Also, it would have a larger purpose would be to help it gain a large portion of the corporate pie that have major offices in East Coast. Jetblue cannot confine itself to northeast to Florida for the rest of its existence.

    3) JFK map is looking more and more complete with the 5 new routes. They got almost all of the A321NEO range Latin America destinations covered. Just SAL, SAP and PTY left I think. I anticipate a domestic blitz for second half of next year once AA deal starts to get implemented. That means CLT/CLE/RIC/PIT will need to get added to provide feed for its own and AA’s TATL flights as well as Latin American stuff.

    4) RDU is happening as a predicted a few months ago. This was always the most likely of their future focus cities once DL cuts back some of its business routes there. There is a non-zero chance that DL will cut RDU down to hub + leisure. Even if does not, I think a few more of those business routes will get dropped in an environment where business travel is down for quite a while. That gives JetBlue an opening to put a network together in RDU with a lot of northeast, Florida, transcon and even Caribbean stuff. RDU is ideally located at a midpoint between northeast and Florida. They have a lot of E90s sitting around doing absolutely nothing since BOS business market cratered. 750 miles from RDU covers all of northeast + much of midwest to Florida That’s the sweet spot for E90 efficiency. They got a chance here to not only take direct demand but also leisure connection to build a station here. What DL does here will be interesting.

    5) AUS also got a couple of more routes. I don’t think they have the ability to make it a real focus city. Given the pace of growth and its importance in finance and tech industry, I’d expect every major airline including JetBlue to make a concerted effort to have AUS as a major out station.

    6) I think JetBlue has made a decision since the start of pandemic to put its good pre-COVID cash position into good use by keeping a high head count, going after where demand might be and aggressively securing gates in constrained airports that otherwise would’ve been only available through mergers. It’s only other option is making huge cuts in its head count and fleet to match the demand out of NYC/Boston. I’m glad it elected to do the former.

    1. Really interesting analysis FC. I think you’re really onto something with the potential of a JB hub at RDU – it makes total sense for them. We may be headed from a world with only two southeast hubs (DL-ATL, AA-CLT) to four (+SWA-BNA, JB-RDU) – plus all the ULCCs streaming into Florida. That will put pressure on both DL and AA. DL may never get back to 1,000 flights/day at ATL nor AA back to 700/day at CLT – a remnant of their old southeast duopoly.

      1. Tory,
        DL is scheduling about 925 flights/day from ATL in March and AA is at 650 plus from CLT.
        In contrast, B6 will have 25 flights/day at RDU, many of which are on E190s. In contrast, they are close to 70 or so flights/day at Newark and trying to push heavily into LAX and now MIA.
        More significantly, B6 is adding service in so many markets that they cannot possibly defend all of the new markets they are adding plus their own historic markets – JFK, BOS and FLL.
        No other airline has ever added as much new service to as many markets as B6 is doing even while burning the most cash on a revenue adjusted basis.

        B6 cannot possibly sustain all that it is adding unless it is willing to give up substantial portions of its historic strength markets.

        1. You are falling into the trap. Anytime that someone is not happy with B6 making a play at their backyard through this pandemic, I get the B6 is burning too much cash argument. Well, they started off with a great cash position and they’ve taken the path of burning more cash in order to build network for the post pandemic world. With CARES act 2 passing, they are really not burning that much more cash. The recent adds are part of their effort to get out of this through getting more revenues rather than cutting costs. They are expecting beach leisure and VFR to lead the recovery and RDU adds will be part of that. We will find out how much they actually burn in Q4. Things can turn around really quickly. Forward leisure bookings have really picked up since vaccines news came out and their cash burn should bet lower than what they anticipated in end of November.

          EWR and LAX are big focus for them. MIA is just a part of their south florida plan and nothing more. MIA is just noise in the overall scheme of things they are doing.

          In terms of scheduling, I can pretty easily build a schedule of 50 to 60 flight a day for them in RDU on mostly E90s in 2 to 3 years. It would mostly be service to Northeast, Florida, transcon plus a couple of important business markets.

          The Research triangle is a rapidly growing area that has probably been losing passengers to CLT, so it’s hard to say how large of an all-mainline network it can support. And I also don’t know how much gate resource will be available to build something larger. I think even 80 flight a day by 2025 would be a very ambitious target. A peak 80 flight station in between NY/Boston and Florida would be a very successful focus city project by JetBlue standard. They need to get beyond Northeast and Florida!

          WN took years to build BNA to where it is now (about 130 flights a day). That should be JetBlue’s blueprint that they can build something in a growing metropolis while having to compete with ATL and CLT. I really cannot think of another airport that’s better opportunity than RDU. And clearly, JetBlue agrees with me.

          1. Everyone’s cash burn goes down by the same percentages since federal aid has been based on labor costs.

            B6 has aggressively added capacity at EWR and UA has been very slow to defend their hub. UA’s position in NYC will be weaker.

            CF noted that their LAX expansion isn’t what he sees as a strength. Not sure his reasoning but it is a patchwork of routes where they are trying to pick off enough nonstop demand against multiple carriers – mostly AA and DL that carry traffic via their hubs.

            BNA and RDU are former AA hubs; WN jumped into both but has focused on BNA. DL focused on RDU.

            Not sure if you have actually looked at the flights and schedules that B6 is adding from RDU but I’m not sure there is much more than 4 or 5 flights/day total to Florida. Those are routes that DL is operating but so are multiple other airlines. Some have dropped Florida to RDU service.
            B6 is adding Caribbean (Jamaica and PR etc) that DL never flew and likely never will.
            B6 is replacing AA on RDU-LAX. And RDU is not part of any partnership which means it is AA’s loss and B6′ gain if B6 keeps it.

            PITRDU was also flown by AA which both dropped; AUSRDU was flown by DL and WN. In both cases plus other routes which DL dropped, there clearly is not enough demand to even fill 50 and/or 76 seat regional jets.
            B6 can’t create demand that DL or WN or AA couldn’t fill.

            The notion that B6 is going to steal the market from DL is not supported by the actual schedules that both have filed. B6 might add some new markets that might work. Or might not.

            And B6 is still in the position of having to defend nearly a half dozen new growth initiatives which impact multiple much larger airlines in addition to trying to defend their historic routes. As much as you or anyone wants to believe that B6 can support all of that growth, it simply has not ever been done on that scale by any other airline and B6 can’t do it now – starting w/ the number of aircraft they have on order.

            B6 has the gate space at EWR to grow a significant operation and I expect they will. The MIA routes are major routes that AA will fight aggressively for.

            Few carriers were in a position to challenge WN at BNA; that is not the case now and no one is giving any carrier a pass on growth in their key markets.

            B6 simply won’t succeed at all they are trying to add and not lose share in BOS and JFK and FLL when any number of potential add routes as demand recovers as they most certainly will.

            Let’s check back every six months and see how all of these B6 growth markets have worked out.

            1. Right, so if PSP reduces their cash burn for Dec to Mar, then they are clearly not in any danger of going bankrupt. In fact, their debt probably won’t look that bad by end of March. So if they are willing to burn more cash now and keep head count and fleet sizes up there to capture a rebound in demand, that’s their business. If they burn an extra $300 million than they needed to but they picked up valuable real estate in EWR and LAX and SFO and RDU, it’s well worth it.

              The other choice is to just leave E90s parked while Boston business market demand remains 0. Do you know how many JetBlue E90 pilots are sitting at home getting paid for 75 hours to do nothing?

              I’ve been saying the same things for a while now. And you can see most of my predictions have happened already. There will be more adds coming to RDU. Right now, demand is still way down and E90 overall operating cost should be lower than A320 for these sub 800 mile segments. There is absolutely no need to start off with too many flights in these markets. You always start off by chasing O&D. Only after you connect enough dots, can you actually put in more connection itineraries. If the bookings look good, they can always add more E90 flights to Florida. Once pandemic dies down a little more, they can start connecting more Northeastern markets. The fact that DL has already chopped 4 business routes and extended all the other non-hub/leisure route suspension to March already should indicate they are not planning to bring RDU back for a while. JetBlue even surprised me with how quickly they went after RDU. The probably won’t officially list RDU as a focus city until demand comes back a little more, but you don’t add that many routes in such a short time without long term intentions.

              As for your question about their existing markets, it is what it is. Boston demand is way down. They are not going to lose any gates if they take their time to add back capacity. If DL wants to fight for market share, they can go right ahead. FLL is going to take the back seat also. WN has basically given up. B6 is unlikely to bring back capacity as quickly as NK. They might loose out a little bit, but there are more important markets. Long term, B6’s biggest competition in South Florida is AA, not NK. Everyone has cut back in JFK. B6 is likely to bring capacity back as quickly as DL when demand comes back. Until then, EWR is doing great. Bookings for EWR is a lot higher than JFK and LGA. If UA is willing to real estate at EWR for slots and gates at JFK, B6 will be very happy to make that trade.

              Imo, JetBlue’s network goals are to expand beyond JFK/BOS to Florida. So if you re a jetblue route planner, you are hoping that by 2025, you are at:
              – 350 flights in NYC airports
              – 180 flights at BOS
              – 130 flights at FLL
              – 75 flights at LAX
              – 60 flights at RDU
              – 50 flights at SFO
              – 50 flights in DC Area
              – 30 flights at AUS
              – Robust flying to Europe and South America
              That’s your national network. That is way more appealing to large corporation with big coastal offices than what WN and AS have to offer. JetBlue’s goal should be moving up value chain rather than moving down.

            2. Other carriers are making plans for the 2nd half of 2021 which is a whole lot more realistic.
              Please let us know where these gates that you think are coming – in 2021 and 2022, not 2025.
              and if federal aid is going to reduce B6′ cash burn, it will do so even more so for other carriers.

              I think we’ve beat this exhausted equine long enough.

              Let’s check back in 6 months and then every 6 months and see how this all has played out.

            3. We got a pandemic, gates are widely available. My flight numbers are based on what JetBlue themselves have been telling people. These things will take a while to play out. The big question is whether or not their bet on rebound in leisure traffic will work out. If leisure traffic is back to 3/4 of pre-COVID level by this summer, then JetBlue is golden. If it’s stuck around 50% of pre-COVID level, then they are in trouble.

    2. i’m still awaiting WN’s autopsy report on how much “damage” they’ve done to UA EWR before surrendering completely.

  5. absolutely, Jake. And since United is still selling their full schedule for Feb while others took down Feb weeks ago, it hardly seems out of place that Delta is selling more for March than it may ultimately fly.

    The real issue is how B6 and AA are developing a partnership in which it seems to be “acceptable” for B6 to add flights into AA’s top markets only for AA to have to turn around and do the same in B6′ top markets. (MIA/FLL – NYC/LAX). Given that B6 has A321XLRs on order and is supposedly going to start flying to Europe perhaps by the summer, how is AA supposed to believe that B6 isn’t going to “help” AA with feed to AA flights while adding B6′ own flights on routes that AA already flies, maybe not now but within a couple years.

    and, yeah, Alaska and leisure destinations will be overscheduled by everyone which will push fares down even as, hopefully, people start traveling a year after this thing all started and as deaths fall with vaccine circulation. (most deaths are still among elderly)

    and the biggest news is that airlines are apparently in line for another $15 billion in aid which will largely subsidize airline operations through the winter and incentivize cutthroat competition as demand recovers.

    infidelity and affairs, money from the uncle, disease, power struggles – just like the real soap opera

  6. A few questions about AA @ LGB:

    1. Prior to 2019, AA (& US) operated 5 flights to PHX. Do they still hold these slots or were some returned?
    2. Do the CR7’s qualify as Commuter slots?
    3. Why retaliate with one E175 (RJ) to DFW and not a mainline A/C?
    4. No retaliation or even upgauge on the LGB-PHX route?

    I never understood why AA didn’t try (mainline) DFW & ORD out of LGB.

    1. Jack R – 1) No, they only have 3 now 2) They do, so that’s the easy fix for PHX 3) I assume they want to lose less money since they doubt they can fill it.
      4) Nothing has changed on that yet. But something will change.

  7. Kudos to UA – their expansion is right on point. Hopefully these new flights aren’t operated by RJ’s only.

  8. How did AA add the DFW flight at LGB? Looks like they are still operating their 3 PHX flights on CRJ-900s, so with this new flight they are at 4 daily but only have 3 slots? I wonder if they are expecting Delta to give back some of its slots at the end of a March.

    1. Rudy – American has been using some SkyWest CRJ-700s for some flying lately, so that’s the easy fix. The 25 commuter slots are entirely unused and a CR7 can use them. So if AA wants to shift one to a CR7, problem solved.

  9. Two unrelated thoughts:

    – Likely that EI plan to start flights from MAN soon. Given that EI are joining the AA-BA-Finnair-Iberia jv, and I suspect most traffic originates in the UK, it makes more sense for a European airline to fly the routes instead of AA.

    – Lots of extra Jackson Hole flying by United – makes sense but tough little airport for the flight crews.

  10. I LUV that AA decided to start LGB-DFW service only after WN announced it would fly to DAL after having served LGB in one iteration or another for eons. That thought just now occurred to them, huh? Seems more like “monkey see, monkey do” than actual strategic route planning.

  11. It was written above that Southwest has basically “given up” in FLL. The same poster recently wrote “WN is done in FLL.” In its 49 year history, Southwest has NEVER “given up” in a city where it built its own Terminal. Not even ISP.

    Currently, Southwest has closed Terminal A in FLL. Just as Delta has closed its half of Terminal C in ATL. The idea that Southwest will simply walk away from a terminal it financed is absolutely ludicrous.

    While I applaud JetBlue’s growth strategy, I also agree with Mr. Dunn that JetBlue will be fighting a multi-front war against multiple adversaries when the dust settles. Their EWR move is solid, but LAX and RDU are questionable….at best. They should focus on EWR and LGA (via American). Being the number 1 overall carrier in NYC adds real value to their franchise. Adding London and close-in Europe also helps. They’d better hope their cost advantage carries them through the upcoming wars. Otherwise, Southwest will pick over their carcass, including in FLL.

    1. South Florida’s largest O&D market are the northeast and international. There are also quite a bit of premium transcon demand out of south florida. These are all areas WN is very weak in. WN made a terrible mistake in picking FLL as their Latam gateway originally. They were not able to get any point of sale out of FLL. That’s why Southwest started cutting back at FLL even before COVID hit. At this point, NK has clearly taken over as the leader in the market and WN is easily the weakest of the 3 main airlines. WN cannot compete with NK unless they have network advantage. And unfortunately for them, WN does not have any network advantage at FLL. I do not mean they will leave the airport. But FLL will just be a large spoke going forward. WN’s primary Latam gateway will be HOU going forward. Maybe BNA can function as their southeast hub and do some connections to Caribbeans also, but it doesn’t have nearly the O&D. They have adopted the approach of strengthening their interior focus cities into hubs. WN has always been a very domestic focused airline and this pandemic has pushed them even more in that direction.

      As for JetBlue, LAX and RDU are also about NYC and Boston. It’s hard to get certain large accounts being just a regional carrier. While it is important for them to be the largest carrier in NYC. It is also important for them to have a national network. Otherwise, their relevance in NYC is just the premium leisure carrier. That’s not a bad position to be, but DL was rapidly taking over the NYC market pre-COVID. RDU makes sense for them because there are a lot of NY transplants there and DL looks to be retreating. It’s a rapidly growing market with good schools and tech industry. It’s well located to build up with E90.

      LAX makes sense because they do need a west coast hub if they want to have a national network. They have like 30 mint flight now scheduled out of LAX. Having more ff in LA will help those mint route performances. Having a larger network there will help them with large corporate contracts. They have a chance to win over a lot of people who travel to east coast, but they also need to do some flying along west coast. All of that will get added, but it will take time.

      1. When Southwest bought AirTran, many felt that JetBlue was the better buy. But Southwest plays the long game. They knew if they passed on AirTran, then UA or AA would buy them and Southwest would be forever frozen out of ATL. Keep in mind that historically speaking, Southwest has ONLY acquired carriers with major operations in Delta hubs. Who else has its major hub in a Delta hub?

        Southwest will watch JetBlue. Who knows, maybe Southwest will acquire JetBlue? They could do so for what amounts to petty cash for them. Or maybe Southwest will stand on the sidelines, watching JetBlue battle Delta and United, while playing kissing cousins with American.

        Like Kansas City, Raleigh has been an airline graveyard for decades. American couldn’t make it there. Midway (with BIG local money behind it) couldn’t make it there. What makes anyone think JetBlue will make it there? There are many empty gates in the A Terminal that Southwest could have acquired years ago, but the O&D just wasn’t there. I’m hard-pressed to believe JetBlue knows the RDU market better than both Delta and Southwest.

        Back to FLL. Southwest has two entire terminals there. When cruise ships start running again and Carribean/Latin markets re-open, I believe Southwest will once again utilize their facilities to the fullest. You may have a point about HOU becoming the de facto Latin gateway for them. Only time will tell. But Latin America will always be there. Right now, the low-hanging domestic fruit is too succulent to dine anywhere else.

        As an anecdote, today I was in MIA. I couldn’t help but note the irony of Southwest using gates in Terminal H, surrounded by Delta jets and all of Delta’s ground service equipment. I boarded my Delta flight to ATL. We pushed back from the gate and the pilot came on the PA and said “Ladies and Gentlemen, Southwest has us blocked in.” If only he knew how right he was.

        1. You were doing quite well until the last paragraph. Drawing strategic conclusions from an anecdote that is repeated in reverse in other locations will most certainly lead to errors.

          WN has indeed acquired multiple airlines in Delta strength markets – and has also dismantled large portions of them as well.
          Southwest had no choice but to try to grow in DL strength markets because, unlike AA and UA, the majority of Delta’s biggest hubs are in single airport cities – or at least airports where one airport handedly handles the majority of traffic.

          Delta, like Southwest, knows that in order to win, you have to be able to dominate not just the airports where you put your largest operations but also the metro areas and then create strong niches even in markets where other carriers are stronger.
          It isn’t a mistake that Southwest so far has chosen not to serve the largest markets from Miami but rather its bases even though NYC and Atlanta are the largest markets from virtually every Florida city.

          The whole S. Florida slugfest is a reminder that there is always a lower cost competitor that can come in and wreck your dominance in a market if you don’t have market strengths. The reason why B6 and WN are both shrinking in FLL and seeking to grow in MIA is because Spirit has bested both of them in a market that is heavily leisure. B6 and WN are trying desperately to find their niche and are doing it from MIA and against AA which has the least financial strength to fight back.

          Notably, DL is still the largest legacy carrier at FLL and the 2nd largest at MIA behind AA and DL only flies from both cities to its hubs and focus cities. When you have about a dozen hubs/focus cities as both DL and WN have, you can easily fly to your strength markets and still have a very strong position from any city.

          As much as you want to believe otherwise, the 40 plus years of deregulation have been defined by Delta and Southwest taking market share from American and United and that will continue. Delta is not adding a bunch of new markets because it figured out the competitive environment years ago and has a viable long-term network. Southwest is moving away from its high-frequency short-haul network to a network based more on medium-haul flights with much more connections because that model works for legacy airlines, including AS.

          The reason why DL does as well as it does in markets like Florida, NY and the west coast (yes, Delta is the 2nd largest airline by revenue on the west coast behind UA) is because legacy carriers have figured out their strengths and also how to provide value that passengers want – and that will still be true post covid.

          AA will struggle because it had so many underperforming hubs pre-covid and will face an acceleration of carriers going after its best markets and some of those carriers will come under the guise of being “partners.” UA has long had the lowest market share in its hub metros, the weakest overall domestic network, but has relied on strong business travel from its hubs. UA’s market share will fall even more as it is unable to cost-effectively operate a larger domestic network as DL and WN can do.

          AS is succeeding and doing as well as it is through covid because it learned with its Virgin America acquisition that it can’t be all things to all people, failed at trying to diversify beyond its core strength markets, and is now returning to those strengths.

          B6’ business model from the beginning was built around very large, highly competitive markets and they will continue to struggle to find a niche because they don’t have one -and every other carrier can duplicate what B6 does. Instead of rebuilding a viable network with real niches, B6 is trying to raid a dozen other competitive markets and will end up no better off. AS should be their model.

          All of the big airlines are so different that there is no possibility of any merger working. The next five years will see the evolution of the industry with AA and UA weaker, DL and WN stronger and larger, and smaller airlines like AS and B6 able to succeed IF they find their niche and stick to it. NK and ULCCs will always find a segment of the population for whom the lowest price – and an absence of any product or service – is key but that is nowhere near a majority of U.S. air travelers.

          No, DL and WN aren’t boxed in. Love Field is proof of that. WN has tried to play games in blocking DL operations there but DL hasn’t gone anywhere. Strategically, though, DL and WN know what they have to do to succeed and are doing it – at the expense of some carriers and to each other’s benefit.

          1. Well, the author and the readers don’t like bickering, so I’ll leave you down in the mud. I just saw the irony of Southwest using (what should be) Delta gates on the Delta concourse, surrounding by all sorts of Delta ground equipment, basically stealing Delta market share (as well as AA’s) literally right in front of them. It was almost as if Delta had proclaimed: “Hey, Southwest, here are some gates on our concourse! Please come steal some of our business!!!”

            All of us can go back and forth about Brand X in Market Y with Business Z. We can postulate the future, learn from (or deny) the past, but we must live in the present. So I will leave everyone with the following fact: Southwest Airlines has the largest market share in 25 of the top 50 largest markets in the country. That is TRUE dominance. And now, it looks like they are going after the next 50 largest.

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