May Schedule Cuts Begin While Airlines Look for Places to Bulk Up

Schedule Changes

Spring has sprung in Airlineville, but as some folks begin to cut May, many of the fearless residents are already starting to power toward the summer. The Eskimo seems to have not-so-dire plans for June while the Maple Leaf, well, let’s just say it’s going to be a rough one for those north of the border during the non-frozen season.

The residents are all looking in different directions. The Globe is looking south, the Widget is pointing north, and the Eagle is taking a roadtrip from Fort Worth, right down I-35.

Cirium had its hands full this week with a whole lot of changes rolling through, and we’ll talk about them all this week. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the skeds of air lines.

Air Canada Takes Summer Down

Air Canada is losing faith that it’s going to have a good summer season, and I can only feel bad for the airline. This week it slashed US service. The following routes won’t operate until the fall, if then:

  • Calgary – Houston/Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Newark, Phoenix, Portland (OR), San Francisco
  • Edmonton – San Francisco
  • Halifax – Boston
  • Montreal – Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, Hartford, Las Vegas, Miami, Pittsburgh, Raleigh/Durham, Washington/National
  • Ottawa – Boston, Newark, Washington/National
  • Toronto – Austin, Cincinnati, Fort Myers, Hartford, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Memphis, Milwaukee, Miami, Minneapolis/St Paul, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Providence, St Louis, San Diego, Savannah, Tampa
  • Vancouver – Anchorage, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Newark, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose

Alaska Sets May and June

Alaska has taken a swing at both May and June. May is down 21 percent vs 2019, the same as April, so this is likely a realistic cut. June is only down 7 percent, however. Whether that can hold up is questionable. Alaska also added new routes Boise – Austin and Chicago/O’Hare along with Seattle – Idaho Falls and Redding.

On the other side of the coin, it looks like Alaska has thrown in the towel on its Oakland – Hawai’i service. It all looks to be gone through the end of schedule now. The same goes for the weekly Sacramento – Cabo flight. For the summer, California – Florida has been pruned with three California routes going away.

American Sets May, Adds Austin, Introduces New Aircraft

American had a really busy weekend. It also took a stab at May, with the month now sitting down 23 percent vs. 2019, 5 points better than April. Several long-haul routes will return, but American has also shed a few others. Charlotte – Munich and Philly – Zurich are gone through summer. Philly – Lisbon looks to be gone for good. Meanwhile, Joplin and Sioux City will disappear now that another airline has been been chosen to continue the EAS flying under contract.

American also loaded its first 65-seat Embraer 170s into the schedule. With this reduced capacity, American can add a ton into the fleet thanks to the pilot contract. Republic starts flying the airplane with May with Envoy following in June, all from LaGuardia for now.

Lastly, all that new Austin flying that American announced this week was loaded.

Delta Goes North

Delta had a relatively quiet week, but it did load big increases in Alaska. I find the winter capacity most fascinating since it seems like that’s going to be really hard to fill.

  • Anchorage – Atlanta and Fairbanks – Minneapolis/St Paul go year-round
  • Anchorage – Minneapolis/St Paul goes from 1x to 2x daily in winter
  • Anchorage – Salt Lake goes from 1x to 2x daily in summer
  • Anchorage and Fairbanks – Seattle increases by 1x daily in summer and 2x daily in winter
  • New Summer Seasonal Service: Anchorage – Detroit, Los Angeles, New York/JFK
  • New Year-Round Service: Fairbanks – Salt Lake

Hawaiian Bulks Up New Routes

It’s an early positive sign that Hawaiian is already increasing service on Honolulu to Austin and Orlando. It’ll bump up from 2x to 3x weekly, which is good because 3x weekly is much more sustainable than 2x from a logistics perspective.

JetBlue Goes May Too

JetBlue surprised with an early cut at May this week. It is currently only down 13 percent which seems aggressive. I imagine there will be more to come, but it’s hard to know just yet. In a bit of good news, JetBlue has added back a handful of flights over Easter. That’s a last minute add that indicates there’s some underlying strength to be found.

Spirit Files Its New Flights

Spirit announced this week that it would add new flights from New York/LaGuardia and start service from St Louis and Pensacola to several cities. All of those were filed this week.

United Goes Big in Latin

United filed a massive increase in Latin America flying, following in American’s footsteps and setting the tone for the international recovery to really begin in the western hemisphere. There were big increases across the board.

Other than that, there were a few delays. Auckland won’t return in July, with the return now scheduled for August. And the tag flight between Anchorage and Fairbanks now won’t operate in May. You’ll have to wait until June.

WestJet Takes Down the Summer

WestJet has also done some pruning north of the border, though it’s nothing like the cut from Air Canada. The airline won’t fly Boston – Calgary nor Orlando – Halifax, St Johns, and Vancouver this summer.

Other Randomness

  • Aeroflot has reversed course and brought Washington/Dulles service back as 1x weekly beginning in November. New York/JFK will drop this summer from 1x daily (already cut from 3x daily) all the way to 4x weekly. LA and Miami will only see 2x weekly flights through the summer.
  • Air Europa is hoping to resume New York – Madrid in July, but it will now try to fly it only 3x weekly instead of daily.
  • Air France has canceled its LA – Papeete flight into early May.
  • Air New Zealand has canceled its LA – Raratonga flight through the summer season, until the end of October.
  • British Airways has continued its pandemic schedule through May. Even beyond that, Baltimore and Nashville won’t operate through June.
  • Copa keeps rolling its service to Boston and Chicago. It now won’t resume until at least June.
  • EVA has extended its pandemic schedule through May, reducing service on all US routes.
  • SATA won’t fly Boston – Terceira through May.
  • TAP Air Portugal will not fly from Boston to Ponta Delgada through October.

And that’s a wrap for this week. I’ll be back next week with the next exciting installment of Skeds of air Lines.

26 comments on “May Schedule Cuts Begin While Airlines Look for Places to Bulk Up

  1. Surprised AA cut PHL-LIS for good (a cut for the 2021 summer would have been understandable). Portugal is a popular destination but I suppose AA does not have the aircraft right sized to fly this route. The 787 is too much plane and AA does not use 321s and 737-Max jets across the Atlantic so this route will have to wait for the 321XLR.

    1. This surprises me too. Brett, what makes you think it’s cancelled for good? Are you sure it’s not scheduled to start later next summer? Data in Cirium is probably only available through the end of March, 2022. Isn’t it possible that it’s coming back next April or May? Do you have some extra info here?

      1. dfw88 – Back from vacation and getting through this. Both Philly – Zurich and Charlotte – Munich were canceled only through summer. They are currently expected to resume service on Oct 30. Philly – Lisbon was pulled from the schedule entirely. Could it come back next year? Sure.
        Everything is fluid in this industry, and nothing is ever gone forever.
        But this isn’t a delayed restart or anything like that. It is out of the schedule.

  2. Did you miss the Heart’s three new cities: BLI, EUG and MYR? Or did I miss your mention of it?

    Dennis Garrou

  3. Air Canada is the LAST carrier anyone should feel bad for. It has treated its customers the worst throughout the pandemic by illegitimately keeping their money, while at the same time holding out its hand to the government for a bailout. While the employees are the main ones to lose by Air Canada’s deplorable behavior, there’s no love lost if AC is doing poorly relative to its peers.

  4. JetBlue and AA have put in a very optimistic May cut for NYC flying. I find it hard to believe they won’t need to cut further. Counting up EWR/JFK/LGA, JetBlue is at about the same number of departures as May 2019.

    AA is also putting a very optimistic schedule out for May, especially on domestic side. It’s pretty stunning to see how much more they are flying vs UA. I don’t see a lot of their more recently announced routes actually lasting for more than a year.

    DL is finally doing something. I would be surprised if they don’t do more to counter AA’s moves.

  5. In the “other randomness” category, I would appreciate to see some “randomness” as it relates to LH/KLM/AF flying across the pond. All three have/had a big “across the pond” presence and I was wondering if this warrants a mention when there is news. For instance, AA has ditched MUC, but LH just keep postponing their CLT-MUC flight, rather than outright binning it.

    Perhaps an international “Skeds of Airlines” once a month?

    Cheers!

  6. I understand the vaccine situation in Canada is not good. Apparantly Trudeau contracted with seven vaccine manufacturers, but several of those vaccines are still not available while vaccines from a Pfizer plant in Belgium are delayed.

  7. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing American’s new E-170s are an increase in capacity, not a decrease. If I remember correctly, they’ll be replacing 50-seat aircraft at LaGuardia. Between the 21 new E-170s and SkyWest’s 29 new CRJ-700s, there are 50 new 65 seat aircraft coming online for American.

        1. Raja: “What @JetBlue
          does really well there is flying into the sunshine, wherever that might be”.

          “We will be removing 50 seat regional jets from LaGuardia, we will be bringing JetBlue in to operate some of those slots primarily to sunshine markets”.

          I don’t think anything is set in stone. But AA is a very weak airline in NYC and demand is definitely down. Increasing capacity at the moment would be very hard. If they are lucky, LGA slot waiver will keep extended.

          1. @FC, I saw that. But note Raja said “some” not all. As you mentioned, nothing is set in stone. Given the issue with jetBlue’s pilots, there may be other changes to the originally contemplated partnership (such as slot swaps instead of codeshares). As I understand the arrangement, it’s designed to make both carriers more relevant in New York. To that end, it’s probably more beneficial to American than jetBlue, but that’s just a guess. If I’m observing the situation accurately, American was too small to be really competitive in New York, but too big to be really profitable. It was kind of in “no man’s land.” Demand is down all over, but I also remember seeing the American was finally profitable at JFK pre-covid. It’s also possible that American can live with some losses in New York because it contributes to its overall network. But no airline can withstand a bloodbath, even in the best of times. In addition to its own flights, American also has to consider oneworld in New York. Last but not least, it’s not like New York is needed to connect passengers. Philadelphia can do that far better than JFK/LGA. But New York is a very important market in and of itself, even if there are no connections at all. This is mostly a guess on my part, as I have no access to American’s internal financials.

            1. AA is really noncompetitive in NYC. They became profitable in JFK for international flying in 2019 because they cut everything that was losing too much money. How can you possibly lose money if half of the capacity is on the world’s most profitable JV route?

              The question right now is whether there will be another slot waiver. I can guarantee you B6 don’t want to utilize the slots that AA would lease them right now. There is no demand.

              I predicted several months ago that AA was going to lease at least 30 slots to B6 because that’s how many would free up once the 50 seaters are removed from service. Based on what JetBlue has revealed, they are expecting 35 to 45 additional slots at LGA and about 35 to 55 at JFK. You can guess where that will come from. The big question is whether B6 should prioritize getting gates at EWR over growth at LGA. As long as slot waiver is in effect, they don’t have to chose.

            2. I don’t want to go all T.D. on you here, but what do you men by non-competitive? American must fly enough people in New York to make a profit at JFK, even if it is minuscule. Profits are generally better than losses. I don’t live in New York, so I appreciate your insights on the situation there. In general, history has shown over and over that profitability is more important than market share. There are lots of airlines that went for size over profits – only to go out of business. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important if American leases slots to jetBlue, swaps them, sells them, what their current market value is, whether slot waivers will continue, etc. as long as the airline is relevant to enough people to make consistent profits (and that’s a nebulous figure). I want to see all the airlines thrive. That’s good for everyone. These are very unusual times. It’s hard to say what the situation will be like in the next six months. Let’s see what it’s like in two years.

            3. For a legacy carrier, their yields are not high enough. On the non-hub routes out of JFK for example, they cannot even get the same level of yield as JetBlue, let alone DL. They also have the highest cost of any US carrier which is only going to go up further with all that interest payment. And due to their JFK cuts since 2017, their performances on various routes that I tracked declined on average 10% vs competition in the space of about 2 years. The declines were especially noticeable in Q2/3 of 2019. This is when a lot of AA ff joined DL/UA. The initial plan is for them to probably lease up to 40 slots to JetBlue. Long term, I could see that number going up further if AA continues to underperform financially.

            4. American turned profitable at JFK in 2019 with the phase out of the 767 on the remaining TATL routes that had them (CDG, MAD). American went all 777 (772 and 77W) at JFK to all long haul destinations it served at the time, LHR, CDG, MAD, BCN, FCO (seasonal), MXP, EZE, GRU. All planes featured premium economy, more cargo capacity, and a consistent product, minus the nuances on the 772. But AA at JFK relies on corporate traffic to be profitable.

      1. Since B6 doesn’t have anything smaller than an E190 and no regional partners, I don’t know how they could fly those.

        I took that to mean B6 would take over flying that AA used 50 seaters for but using their larger aircraft. This presumes a slot is a slot regardless of the aircraft being used.

  8. I assume we will start to see the summer Europe tourist flights (think United’s EWR to Naples seasonal) start dropping off the schedule as we get closer to summer.

    I can’t imagine the airlines will keep those type of flights alive for the summer given the environment.

    1. It’s going to be interesting to watch the summer flights.

      Most of the people I know aged 55+ (across a dozen or so states) have either received at least one of the vaccine shots or have an appointment scheduled, but at this point in time I’m not confident that that will translate into busloads of retirees invading southern Europe this summer, especially if the international restrictions don’t loosen up soon. I do think we’ll see a lot more of the usual snowbirds migrate north in another month or two than we did last year, as some of the more northern states with stricter COVID rules (think MI, NY, MA, etc) start to relax the rules a little, perhaps along with strong travel to outdoors destinations in the northern parts of the US (national parks out west, Alaska, Maine, etc), but we’ll see.

      1. Yeah going to be interesting. I don’t think the passenger numbers will be there or if places like Italy will even allow them.

        I think you are right. There will be lots more intra US movement this summer.

    2. And will the number of flights to ATH increase given Greece’s announcement that they are opening up for tourism in May?

  9. Personally, I think the mask mandate onboard has to go away before the international travel rebound begins. I never really stopped flying with covid but 2 or 3 hours is about all I can take of the mask. It should now be personal choice. Airlines will continue to suffer till that mask mandate goes away.

  10. Many are hoping for Greece this summer, but I’m afraid if this next wave/surge in Europe continues that may need to keep us locked out.

    1. Yeah. I’m not going to be optimistic for US to Europe travel yet. I see the EU countries wanting to stall the C US travel until fall

  11. Can’t believe JetBlue is going to make people PAY FOR A CARRY ON.!!! 65.00 for a SMALL carry on!!!! How greedy and nasty. Don’t they realize that people can go to Southwest and take a BIG checked bag FOR FREE?! Jet Blue should allow ALL FARES to take a big checked bag for free. This would likely eliminate the need for a carry on, which would solve their overhead bin space problem. Was going to use Jet Blue in May to fly from R.I. to Florida, but their price is OUTRAGEOUS. They want about 900.00 for 2 people. I think I am going with SOUTHWEST which is about half the price AND WE GET TO TAKE A BIG CHECKED BAG. FOR FREE. It’s pretty obvious they don’t care about their customers. They only care about Money. This is the reason they won’t be able to compete with Southwest. They created the overhead bin problem themselves by charging the people who could least afford it for checked bag. Too bad too, because I used to like jetblue,

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