Dreaming of a Better March While Cutting Back in the Short Term

Schedule Changes

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The residents of Airlineville have been dreaming this week. The thought of laying on the warm sand to escape the winter blues has started to dominate their thoughts. And you know what? They’re feeling pretty optimistic about it. At least, the Eagle, the Widget, and the Animal are all expecting March to be a lot better than February… or so they hope.

The Heart also has warm weather on the mind, but Santa Barbara and Fresno aren’t exactly normal spring break destinations. This is a different kind of dream. Meanwhile, many others are fearing the new US testing rules, and they’re cutting back their short term plans even more.

All this and more as we dive into Cirium data to bring you this week’s episode. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the skeds of air lines

Air Canada Goes Long From Montreal

Air Canada had an interesting week — if not a prolific one — by adding two new long-haul routes from Montreal. Delhi starts up in April while Cairo begins in June. Lisbon also gets more frequency from both Toronto and Montreal.

Alaska Responds to Delta

Last week, Delta built up Anchorage-Seattle to 6 daily. This week, Alaska laughed and added another five of its own daily flights during the peak summer. It is now at 19 daily. On the flip side, it pruned some flights down in the lower 48. San Jose to Jackson Hole and Missoula plus San Francisco to Missoula and Reno to Palm Springs won’t operate through the spring. It looks like Palm Springs to San Jose is gone all the way through the summer.

American Cuts March, Files Athens and Tel Aviv

American has put out its March schedule which is now showing down 30 percent compared to the previous year. That sounds aggressive, but the airline must just be hoping that the spring break crowd turns out in force. The airline has also filed its new service from JFK to Athens and Tel Aviv which it said was made possible by the JetBlue partnership. Tel Aviv starts in April while Athens starts in June.

American also took the opportunity to file some speculative Super Bowl flying for the big game down in Tampa. It filed flights from Buffalo, Kansas City, and Milwaukee (not Green Bay), but they weren’t put out for sale. After this weekend’s playoff games, some of those will obviously disappear and the rest will be sold.

Delta Cuts March, Bumps Summer

Delta brought March capacity down to now be 26 percent less than last March. That also seems like a lot of service, but Delta does like to bring things down closer to departure, so I imagine more cuts will be coming. This summer, it has now bumped up flying on Saturday and Sunday to a higher level. It looks like the bulk of the growth is in Atlanta, but there’s also some in New York and Detroit.

There’s more summer leisure flying in place as well with JFK to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket plus LaGuardia to Key West, Hilton Head, and Myrtle Beach joining the schedule for the summer.

Frontier Takes Down March, Adds New Routes

Frontier also took down March, and it’s 14 percent below last year. Is that final? Well, with Frontier, nothing is final until it flies. But I think Frontier is hoping that spring break will pay off. If it can maintain a schedule even remotely close to this, it’ll be a victory. Then there are the new routes coming online through the summer, including Cincinnati to Cancun and New Orleans; Las Vegas to Spokane and Tampa; Orlando to Phoenix and San Diego; Miami to Punta Cana and St Thomas; and Minneapolis/St Paul to Tampa.

Hawaiian Pulls Down Oceania

Hawaiian has given up on being able to fly to Australia and New Zealand until July. Considering Australia’s stance on the pandemic, I expect there will be more pulldowns to come. If Hawaiian flies down there this year at all, I’ll be surprised.

Southwest Files Fresno and Santa Barbara

Southwest had another quiet week, but it did file schedules for Fresno and Santa Barbara. Fresno gets a daily Denver flight and 3x daily Vegas flights while Santa Barbara gets a daily Denver and Oakland flight plus 3x daily Vegas flights. Service starts in April. Southwest has also given up on flying to Kaua’i from the mainland into June.

Spirit Adds Orlando Routes

Spirit has decided to start flying from Orlando to Port-au-Prince, Santo Domingo, and St Thomas beginning in March. In an odd twist, Spirit has canceled Phoenix to Orange County from mid-May into June. It’s a new route, so that’s a bit surprising, but what’s really weird is that it will still fly Orange County to Phoenix. Is this a mis-file? Or is this just an aircraft routing play? Beats me, but it’s weird.

United Tweaks the Spring

United did a little bit of this and a little bit of that. For two weeks starting January 27, it brought down some Latin flying, probably related to the US COVID-19 testing rules. Meanwhile, San Francisco – Bangalore’s start has been pushed to the end of May from the beginning of the month. Newark to Johannesburg is being delayed from the end of March into early June. Denver will get some flights extended through the summer, including Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola, Sarasota, and West Palm Beach.

Other Randomness

  • Aer Lingus won’t operate Dublin to Hartford or Shannon to Boston and JFK in February and March.
  • Air New Zealand won’t fly from LA to Raratonga at least through June.
  • Boutique starts Chadron to Rapid City and Phoenix to Prescott in February.
  • British Airways won’t fly to Atlanta, Denver, or Las Vegas in February.
  • Fiji Airways won’t fly LA to Nadi in March.
  • French Bee has canceled Newark to Paris/Orly until May.
  • Lufthansa won’t fly LA to Munich in February.
  • Silver will start flying from Greenville/Spartanburg to Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa.
  • Southern Air Express canceled a whole bunch of flying, but I have to wonder if it’s some kind of misfile.
  • Sun Country won’t fly Minneapolis/St Paul to Sacramento this summer.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned next week for our next episode.

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19 comments on “Dreaming of a Better March While Cutting Back in the Short Term

  1. I think I read somewhere that AA’s schedule is down 36% compared to March of 2019.

    CF, are you comparing this to what was flown in March of 2020? That should already be down a bit from what was scheduled.

    1. FC – I am comparing to March 2020 and will continue to do so for the full month. Outside of Asia, there were very few cancellations in March that was schedule changes. They were most operational cancels that don’t reflect in the schedule. In Cranky Network Weekly, we have started comparing to 2019 with April, so I expect to do the same here.

  2. With March schedules now being loaded, it’ll nice to be able to do YoY comparisons for 2020 & 2021.

  3. AS and DL’s Alaska restorations are in line with what both have flown in the summers prior to covid.

    March is the last month that year over year schedules will likely work since most airlines extensively cancelled in the latter half of March 2020 while reduced schedules were run through schedule change after that.

    Ironically, we are now back into the mode of close-in schedule reductions as carriers hope for demand return and then pare schedules. United’s decision to cancel down its schedule much closer to departure than any of the other big 4 carriers will certainly add costs while they think they can hold onto a little more cash.

  4. Cranky – what do you make of the protests of other airlines (and most recently United) to the DOT about the NEA? With the new administration, could this docket be re-opened? Did the DOT actually not follow precedence on the review?

    1. Golf_Flyer – I can’t say I’ve followed previous cases well enough to know if this is abnormal or not. Ultimately, Spirit and Southwest just want to get more slots out of the companies. And United’s note effectively is just an attempt to see the details of the agreement for its own commercial purposes. I wouldn’t expect a public docket to change the results.

  5. Did I read that correctly, there are TWENTY FIVE flights per day between Seattle and Anchorage?

    1. Oh yeah, the archive is brilliant! But if you’re an avgeek, beware! You might not come up for air for hours on end.

      As for me, I just learned there was an actual Northeast airlines. I thought it was just the fictional airline in Die Hard 2.

      1. Northeast Yellowbirds flew between NY and Florida like 50 times a day – back in the 60s and 70s. And they did serve DC. Fairly well known airline at the time, though it couldn’t compete with the likes of Eastern (also RIP). I believe that they were absorbed by Delta.

        1. I knew of Northeast Airlines thanks to 70’s era episodes of “Lets Make a Deal” as they were one of their airline partners for trip giveaways as well as PanAm & Air Canada. And yes – I believe they were acquired by Delta.

    2. Bill From DC – This summer, yes. Even tomorrow there are 15, 3 on Delta and the rest on Alaska. This market is hugely important as the lifeline to the state of Alaska for people and cargo. In the summer, it’s a lot more people, of course.

      1. At 19 flights per day, SEA-ANC has gotta be up there for most domestic ASMs on a single route on a single carrier. Betting transcons are lower than that right now on any single airline.

  6. Hi Cranky,

    Do you know of any free civilian database for market share info in specific airports? I don’t want to pay for CAPA or Cirium or the like, but still have an interest. BTS’ Transtats isn’t super helpful because they only report by operating carrier, not marketing carrier. Specifically, I’m looking for airline market share data at STL for the most recent reporting year.

    Many thanks,

    1. Alan – Transtats is your best bet for something like this. There may be some who aggregate for free, but I don’t know who does that.

  7. Looks like AA is back to it’s usual shenanigan’s of scheduling departures in the 5:00a hour. Why AA, why?
    (Think of what time you wake up, leave your house, check-in and go thru TSA for boarding…) Sure, they may carry
    passengers, but only because the price is right. But do you think those passengers are happy?

    I also noticed many of their Originating flights leave at the exact same time, to different hubs. So in some markets they
    are actually competing with themselves.

    Lastly I found banks of flights departing between 8:00p-10:45P, with arrival time near or after midnight.

    One would think that during a pandemic, with decreased demand, including business flyers, the flying day
    would be compressed with later originating flights, and earlier terminating flights. (Like WN has adopted.)

    It’s scheduling flights for the Airlines convenience, not the Customers. AA has been doing this for years.

    1. Agree that 9p arrivals are brutal, especially when you’re working 14+ hours a day. Been there, done that, with the first flight out on Monday mornings and the last flight of the day home on Thursday nights.

      However, a 6a or 7a departure in the morning and a 5p or 6p return in the evening only leaves a few hours for meetings during the day, especially if a connection is involved, possibly requiring an overnight stay, or an additional night away from home (if already spending a few days on the road). In those cases it’s good to have some options on the more extreme ends of the schedule.

      Their flights are suspended due to COVID-19, but this was actually a niche that Ultimate Air Shuttle was able to exploit pretty well out of Cincinnati’s Lunken airport, with direct flights (many to smaller airports closer to city centers, and without TSA or long lines) on 30-seat jets leaving from LUK just after breakfast and returning to Cincinnati in time for dinner at home… I never had the chance to fly them, but with fares that weren’t too far out of line compared to what the major airlines that flew out of the (much less convenient) CVG, a more convenient schedule, and the opportunity to eliminate the cost of meals + a night in a hotel, I can really see the appeal; almost corporate jet level convenience (in terms of making day trips possible) at last-minute coach fare prices.

    2. The only reason American does those 5 AM departures is when they add an early bank at a hub…and the same is the case with a late bank.

      They schedule those because they fill up the other flights. It adds capacity without changing anything else. If the other flights weren’t filling up they wouldn’t do it. And if people would not fly them they would not do it either.

    3. WN was doing <6a flights in 2019 to squeak out a bit of extra utilization on aircraft since at the time they were airframe-constrained. Wasn't just AA.

      I actually liked the late-but-not-redeye WN flights, since e.g. DEN-AUS you had the entire day at the origin…you didn't leave for the airport 'til after dark. No traffic coming back home from the airport at midnight:30 either.

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