United Takes Center Stage With Summer International Cuts

Schedule Changes

Airlineville is abuzz as the last outliers — that’s you Pualani, the Globe, and the Taxi — have finally settled April plans. Spring break is locked in, and now the focus turns toward the lean period until summer. Or does it?

Some residents are looking beyond, and none more than the Globe which this week made Cirium work overtime to process all those reductions in summer international travel plans. I suppose it’s just a recognition of reality. The closer we get to summer, the more we have to realize it won’t be back to normal, not by a longshot. That may also explain why the Taxi is doing the unthinkable and shifting resources INTO Florida during the hot, sticky summer.

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

Alaska Adds New Routes, Retaliates Elsewhere

Alaska announced this week that it would add service into more outdoorsy routes this summer with flights from Bozeman to San Diego and San Francisco as well as from Kalispell to Los Angeles and San Diego. In the nearer term, Alaska is seeing some Portland weakness this month. It has cut back on several short-haul routes by 1 daily flight for the last two weeks of the month.

Lastly, Alaska doesn’t seem to be too happy with JetBlue’s decision to fly Newark – Seattle this summer. It is ramping up from 2x to 3x daily.

American Bulks up Texas, Domestic Caribbean

American has decided the time has come to add more service to St Thomas and San Juan this summer. At the same time, it will either use bigger airplanes or increase frequency on routes from Dallas/Fort Worth to Brownsville, El Paso, Harlingen, Lubbock, and McAllen. Oh, and if you’re going to Anchorage this summer, American will fly a 787-9 from DFW. It’s also extending that service year-round, though only on an A321neo in the winter.

On the downside, American won’t fly from Bozeman to LAX this summer. Also, Ecuador gets a haircut through the end of schedule with Miami – Guayaquil and Quito each dropping from 3x to 2x daily.

Delta Extends April

It was an odd week for Delta. The airline extended its April schedule by three days, cutting service significantly on May 2 – 4 to match the earlier pattern. Why? I don’t know, but I assume that there will be a different May schedule that starts May 5. What’s interesting about this, potentially, is that middle seat blocking currently ends on April 30, so I figured the schedule would end that day as well if the block was really going to end.

Separately, Delta decided to push the restart of a few European routes into June/July. That includes Amsterdam – Portland, Atlanta – Stuttgart, and Cincinnati – Paris/CDG. More interesting than that, however, is that Delta is going BIG in Rome. This June, Delta has 4x daily scheduled from JFK. That’s unreal.

Hawaiian Extends to May

Hawaiian gave us a twofer by finalizing both April and May schedules this week. In April, most of the returning markets are Lihu’e-focused as Kaua’i re-enters the quarantine exemption program. Lihu’e – Kahului, Los Angeles, and Oakland all return, as does Kahului – Kona. Then in May, Austin – Honolulu starts up as planned. Right now, Papeete and Pago Pago are both still in the May schedule, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see those fall off as we get closer.

Southwest Tinkers

As usual, Southwest has been tinkering with its schedules, adding back flights where it can. Most notably this week, Southwest has decided to add flights and extend the season for Denver to Montrose and Steamboat Springs. It is also shifting its Saturday schedule from O’Hare by adding Fort Myers, Orlando, and Tampa. Saturday from Houston/Intercontinental adds Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix. Both replace existing frequencies in other markets.

Spirit Shifts to Florida

Spirit finalized its April schedule this week, but most interesting was a big shift of capacity into Florida, specifically Fort Myers and Tampa, from elsewhere. Austin loses Baltimore, Denver, and Nashville. Nashville also loses Baltimore, Cancun, and New Orleans. Baltimore also loses Charlotte and Denver. The lists go on. But Tampa gains Boston, Columbus, Hartford, Kansas City, Minneapolis/St Paul, and Pittsburgh. Fort Myers gets all those plus Cleveland.

United Sets April, Slashes Summer

April is now finally set for United, but the bigger news here is that summer international flying has been slashed. Several aircraft will see downgauging, but many routes will also disappear this summer, including:

  • Chicago/O’Hare – Beijing, Edinburgh, Shanghai, Zurich
  • Houston/Intercontinental – Munich
  • Newark – Berlin, Geneva, Glasgow
  • San Francisco – Dublin, Paris/CDG
  • Washington/Dulles – Amsterdam, Beijing, Dublin, Edinburgh, Geneva, Lisbon, Tel Aviv, Tokyo/Haneda

In addition, several London and Frankfurt routes will see reduced frequency.

Other Randomness

  • Aer Lingus won’t fly Boston – Shannon in June, and JFK won’t operate to Shannon until later June. I’ll bet neither will fly this summer.
  • Aeroflot has pulled out of Washington/Dulles – Moscow while New York/JFK will only operate 1x daily instead of 3x daily.
  • Air Canada won’t fly Toronto – Holguin or Montreal – Puerto Plata this summer. The airline also appears to be out of Toronto – LA until May.
  • Air China has extended its spartan pandemic schedule through June.
  • Avianca won’t fly San Salvador – DFW through April.
  • Jetstar has followed big brother Qantas by canceling Honolulu flying until late October.
  • La Compagnie won’t fly to Newark in April.
  • LATAM will return to LA – Santiago on April 15 and JFK – Santiago on May 1.
  • LOT Polish made a bunch of changes. Its Newark-Rzeszow and JFK – Krakow flights won’t operate during the shoulder season. Newark and Miami – Warsaw are gone until June when it goes to 3x weekly. LA – Warsaw will operate 2x – 3x weekly during the summer only.
  • Porter has extended its full suspension of service to May.
  • Sun Country has one 737-700 to complement its 737-800 fleet, and this summer that airplane will fly Minneapolis – Hartford, Jackson Hole, and Orange County along with Orange County – DFW.
  • Surinam Airways apparently doesn’t like American flying Miami – Paramaribo. It will now fly the route weekly on a year-round basis.
  • SWISS drops Boston and JFK to Zurich down from 2x to 1x daily. LA, Miami, and San Francisco will all operate 4x weekly.
  • WestJet will not fly Halifax – Glasgow this summer.

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

18 comments on “United Takes Center Stage With Summer International Cuts

  1. Interesting to see DL add 4 x daily out of JFK to FCO. Tourism to Europe isn’t going to rebound much this summer, as vaccination rates on the Continent are not accelerating fast enough. DL has established some sort of COVID free bridge between the US and Italy, but that might be less relevant with apps and vaccinations coming on line. AZ will be very much smaller in this market, given its reorganization and much smaller fleet, so my guess is that this is going to be cargo driven than anything else and some capacity increase to balance the loss of 3 x daily on AZ. AA is supposedly restarting JFK-FCO in the summer as well, but we’ll see.

    1. I thought Italy was off limits to US travelers at the moment, but I guess DL figures “when in Rome?”

    2. shoeguy – Delta was doing a test out of Atlanta to Rome where everyone had to go through testing protocols, but that didn’t allow any new groups to actually enter Italy, including most Americans.

      But I’m looking at the flights today and it appears this was a misfiling by Delta. In Sabre, there are four flights, but two of them are zeroed out.
      So they are looking to operate 2x daily, which still seems aggressive.

      1. Thanks for the clarifications. I agree with you. Even 2 x daily, plus the AZ flight, is a lot of capacity in a market unlikely to revive this summer.

  2. Looks like SWA’s expansion is continuing with Myrtle Beach, Eugene, and Bellingham all beginning later this year.

    1. EUG seems odd at first, but has a larger catchment area than I think most people realize? It’s just far enough from PDX (and MFR) to be viable. Also a good option for people in places like Salem that don’t want to deal with traffic. Having the University of Oregon there of course helps, and Oregon State isn’t all that far away, either.

      1. Great analysis, Kevin. It looks like SWA isn’t going to allow Allegiant to have ALL the fun in secondary and tertiary markets. I did some amateur research today and surprisingly learned that Allegiant had a lower DOT complaint ratio in 2020 than Delta, United and American. Since they retired their MD-80 fleet, they have improved drastically in operational metrics. Of course, with all the international cancellations and refund policy issues in 2020, it makes sense that the Big 3 would see a significant increase in DOT Customer Complaints. Despite that, Allegiant has done a GREAT job in not only staying in their lane, but also expanding their lane. Clearly, they have drawn Southwest’s attention and it will be interesting to see if SWA competes head-to-head with Allegiant or relies more on the strength of its network. Or, perhaps, some of both.

    2. Have there been recent announcements regarding Canada’s border restrictions loosening up? I wonder how optimistic WN’s Bellingham service is, and if they will postpone service if the border situation doesn’t change much in near future.

      1. The details in the SW press release indicates that they plan to start Bellingham after border restrictions are relaxed.

  3. Thanks for your great column.
    Minor but interesting schedule change – Delta switches DTW-LAX from 757 to A350 for April.
    I have booked several mileage runs DTW-LAX in March, April, May.  March and May were (and are) on A321.  (I fly out about 9 am, returning from LAX at noon.)  April had been on a 757.  This weekend that was up-gauged to an A350 – my first chance to fly that bird.
    Probably small potatoes compared to these bigger schedule changes, but interesting none the less.

  4. My September trip to Germany with United got changed from 777-300 over and 777-200 coming back (United is suddenly short quite a number of 777-200s) to 787-9s in both directions. Now it’s a crapshoot whether I can get the Premium Economy seats I reserved as less than half of the 787-9s have the Premium Economy seats on offer. Looks like I’ll be on the phone to either rebook with aircraft that have the seats I reserved or I can get compensation for not having the seats I reserved guaranteed.

    1. The UA 777-222A’s are grounded since the DEN-HNL engine issue in February. The GE powered 200ERs are largely parked. That’s why.

  5. Of interest in relation to the Italy front, I read on another blog that Italian LCC Neos has filed with the FAA to fly scheduled service between Italy (I think MXP) and the US (routes not yet announced).

    I find this interesting in that it could be viewed as the first attempt to bring back some form of long haul low cost carrier presence to Europe.

    1. On the surface that sounds like Meridiana / Air Italy all over again, only with a different foreign investor, and with the 767s retired and on their way to becoming freighters. Should be fun to watch.

      1. Apparently Neos is Italian owned. The TUI-esque livery being held over since TUI’s stake was bought out however many years ago. They’ve got a handful of 787-9’s that would be used. I agree that it is otherwise looking like an Air Italy replacement. My money is on the MXP-MIA route since Air Italy served it before its implosion, AA also dropped the route, and the route is consistent with Neos’s leisure focus.

  6. From what I see UA is almost too pessimistic about things with all of their route and frequency cuts. It’s almost embarrassing that in the Pacific Northwest out of SEA and PHX that United’s last flights for the day are at 3:10pm SEA-SFO and 3:40pm PDX-SFO. They are going to lose market share for sure to AS and DL.

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