Delta Makes the Week Interesting as Alaska and American Sharpen Their Spears

Schedule Changes

Welcome back to Airlineville, the city that never sleeps. The good folks at Cirium have now changed their update process, and the weekly download now arrives just a bit later on Friday. Why? Well, the later cut-off means more residents get their changes in before the place closes down. And this week was a busy one.

May has firmed up as slackers the Taxi and the Globe have now finalized their plans for the month. Ms Blue is so done with May that she has shifted her gaze toward where she can and can’t go on her ballpark tour this summer. And the Widget? Well, the Widget was playing small ball with all sorts of little initiatives keeping him busy.

Meanwhile, the Eskimo and the Eagle were feeling frisky this week, throwing right at the heads of those who dare step into the batter’s box. Why all the baseball references? Thursday was opening day, of course. And that’s a day that should be a national holiday.

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

Alaska Pulls Back on Mexico From LA

Alaska is taking down Mexico a little this summer from Los Angeles. Loreto goes from daily to 3x weekly, Mazatlan from daily to 4x weekly, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo from daily to 3x weekly, and Manzanillo from 4x weekly to 2x weekly.

On the flip side, after JetBlue extended Newark-Seattle to year-round last week, Alaska extended its retaliation to year-round this week. You’ll now see 3x daily through the winter. Anchorage to Fairbanks also gained two more daily flights this fall and winter, BUT that’s because it has been downgauged from a 737-700 on all flights to an Embraer 175. Apparently the introduction of that fleet into the 49th state is doing well for the airline.

American Boosts Outdoors Markets, Fights Hawaiian

American was busy playing the upgauge game again. It’ll now put a second 787-9 into Alaska with Anchorage – Chicago getting the airplane from June 3 through August 16. Even more fun is the response to Hawaiian’s new Phoenix – Kahului flight. American will upgauge one of its two daily flights from Phoenix to both Kahului and Honolulu from an A321neo to a 777-200.

Outside of that skirmish, this week was more about frequency increases. Outdoorsy markets get yet another boost. All of these gain more flight frequencies this summer:

  • Boston – Wilmington
  • Charlotte – Kalispell, Salt Lake City
  • Chicago/O’Hare – Asheville, Charleston (SC), Fort Walton Beach, Savannah
  • DFW – Asheville, Buffalo, Colorado Springs, Fort Myers, Myrtle Beach, Norfolk, Panama City, Portland (ME), Salt Lake City, Tampa, Vail
  • Miami – Guayaquil, Quito
  • New York/JFK – Jackson Hole
  • New York/LaGuardia – Hilton Head
  • Philadelphia – Bozeman, Panama City
  • Phoenix – Redmond/Bend, St George (UT), Tampa
  • Washington/National – Key West, , Myrtle Beach, Wilmington

It’s not all good news, however. Japan takes a real hit. DFW and LAX to Tokyo/Haneda have now been removed through the end of the summer season in late October. The only flight operating to Japan will be a single daily DFW – Narita flight. Joint venture-partner Japan Airlines also slashed flying but only through September. Boston and LA – Narita each go from daily to 4x weekly while DFW – Haneda goes from daily to 3x weekly. On the other hand, DFW – Narita (4x weekly) and JFK – Narita (3x weekly) will come back into the schedule, presumably to drive up whatever meager connections might exist.

Delta Gets Busy In So Many Ways

Delta had a really busy week, pulling down May a bit more and making all sorts of interesting moves. Let’s just line ’em up.

  1. Delta has slashed Europe in May, giving up on the beginning of the season. It will now only return one new market in May vs April, that’s JFK – Keflavik. Five others will see frequency increases. Everything else will have to wait until June and hope for a better outcome.
  2. Delta also brought down domestic more in May. This was largely centered on the 737-800/900 fleet. Normally I wouldn’t pay attention to something like this, but with Delta again running into cancellation issues this holiday weekend, I wonder if operational needs could be behind some of this. I have no idea, but it seemed worth mentioning.
  3. Delta seems to be getting a dose of reality. Of the 16 markets from Atlanta with the most seats, 10 have seen significant cuts ranging from 1x daily flight to a whopping 5-6x daily being cut to LaGuardia. This feels like the most obvious haircut that acknowledges demand is going to be weaker, and Delta has made these through the end of schedule.
  4. Focus cities from the past and present will be toast through Labor Day. Cincinnati has lost Baltimore, Philly, and RDU through then, even though it isn’t a focus city anymore. Raleigh/Durham will also lose Baltimore and Chicago/O’Hare, plus Cancun service will go weekend-only. Former love San Jose loses Detroit this summer, and it looks like JFK is gone for good.
  5. Boston and LaGuardia get the smoothing treatment. Weekday flights come down through the summer while weekend flights go up. Saturday is still significantly below weekdays, but it’s a much lower spread.

Frontier Tweaks Summer

Frontier again looked long and changed schedules again through the summer. New summer markets are the suddenly-very crowded Hartford – Miami along with Charleston to both Cleveland and Trenton, Denver – Jacksonville, and Raleigh/Durham to both Portland (ME) and Tampa.

Hawaiian Pulls Back on Mainland Flying

Hawaiian appears to have a little too much capacity flying to the mainland. It is bringing Honolulu – San Francisco down from 2x to 1x daily while Seattle comes down from 10x weekly to 1x daily. Oh, and the Honolulu – Papeete flight has been suspended through May.

JetBlue Tries to Set a Summer Schedule

JetBlue took a big whack at summer, cutting a little over 15 percent of available seat miles. The following routes will not operate this summer:

  • Boston – Baltimore, Burbank, Rochester, Syracuse
  • Fort Lauderdale – Aguadilla, Grand Cayman
  • Los Angeles – Seattle
  • New York/LaGuardia – Fort Myers
  • Orlando – Atlanta, Austin, Bogota
  • Philadelphia – Fort Myers, Tampa, West Palm Beach
  • Raleigh/Durham – Austin, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Tampa
  • Tampa – Washington/National
  • West Palm Beach – Chicago/O’Hare, Pittsburgh

Southwest Extends Into November

Southwest has extended its schedule from late August through November 5, and it is… really boring. It looks like the airline basically just posted a carbon copy of its summer schedule with just a small handful of summer markets going away.

Spirit Sets May

Pulling up the rear as usual, Spirit has set May to be down only 3 percent vs 2019, an improvement over the April schedule which was down 11 percent. Spirit also extended its schedule from August through November 16. And it filed its newly-announced flights to Puerto Vallarta and from LA to Columbus.

United Also Finalizes May

After cutting the first half of May last week, United did the back half this week. May is now down 48 percent vs 2019 compared to being down 51 percent in April. United filed its flights from Houston to Joplin for its new essential air service flying. It also added service from Chicago to Rhinelander which is apparently a city where some people live, or at least want to visit.

Other Randomness

  • Azul has canceled flights from Orlando to Sao Paulo/Campinas into June.
  • Avianca is bringing back Miami – San Pedro Sula in July, a route that hasn’t been flown since right before the pandemic. It is also bringing back Miami – San Jose (CR) which it hasn’t flown since 2013.
  • Boutique filed its new essential air service flying from Jackson (TN) to both Atlanta and St Louis. It also extended flying from Ironwood (MI) to Chicago/O’Hare and Minneapolis/St Paul.
  • TAP Air Portugal will not fly Boston – Ponta Delgada outside of the summer season.
  • Viva Aerobus has filed to fly from Cincinnati to Cabo San Lucas. That is one heck of a route for an airline that often focuses on visiting friends and relatives markets and not pure leisure like this one.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode.

30 comments on “Delta Makes the Week Interesting as Alaska and American Sharpen Their Spears

  1. AA is flying JFK/BOS-NRT?

    Also, is JetBlue down 15% from what it had or from 2019? If it’s the former, how does July/August compare to 2019? From what I can see, this first cut would still leave them above their 2019 capacity. Which is what I believe not that far from what they plan to eventually run as long as demand continues to recover.

    1. FC – As mentioned in another comment, no, AA is only flying DFW-Narita.
      JAL is adding those other flights while cutting back on Haneda.

      JetBlue saw cuts week-over-week in the 15% range. Compared to 2019, JetBlue is up 4% in June, 11% in July, and down 1% in August. Previous schedules were for massive increases. September through year-end, for the record, is showing up more than 30% vs 2019.

      1. Thanks CF. I would be surprised if they don’t cut a little more in June/July. But it definitely seems like they are intending to run a schedule of around 2019 capacity in the summer months. Going all in with NYC. Which is quite insane compared to where they were in Jan/Feb.

        1. FC – Oh yeah, I definitely expect more cuts, but this is at least in the realm of flyable, unlike the previous schedule.

  2. B6 will be the one to exit EWR-SEA later this year. They’re not going to manage the response from AS and presumably UA will defend what it has. POS on B6 from SEA is likely to be weak to non-existent. Whatever business traffic there is will be scooped up by AS.

    1. Hmm, ok Nostradamus! Probably the most unpredictable year for airlines, somehow your the one with a crystal ball. I think you underestimate B6 customer loyalty out of ewr, pos from sea, yes AS will have that advantage but not enough to push B6 out of the route.

  3. I was surprised to see (because I was holding a booking that was affected) JetBlue publish a big summer schedule change overnight midweek last week. Don’t these things usually go out on Saturday? I wonder if they’ve realized that with all the leisure travel bookings going on, having an in-progress, glitchy, half-baked schedule posted for much of the day Saturdays while changes process through the system might not be the best idea.

    1. Bgriff – Airlines will often do it midweek, but it usually gets compiled and then often doesn’t get distributed to reservation systems and agencies until the weekend. So you may see changes for direct bookings with the airline earlier.

  4. Cranky, Rhinelander is a vacation destination in Northern Wisconsin. It is the ultimate in seasonal flying.

    Not sure how many people fly to Rhinelander in a summer — it tends to be more of a driving destination from Chicago — but we shall see.

    1. Sounds like Rhinelander is somewhat similar to many of the towns up in northern WI/MN/MI… Lots of vacation/lake homes & resorts and similar in the area, and not terribly well known outside of its home state/region (thus a lot of driving from bigger cities that are hours away).

      I’m glad to see some smaller towns in Northern MN/WI and in the Upper Peninsula & Northern Michigan get some additional service this summer. There are some great lakes in the area that make for good fishing & boating, costs aren’t too high, and it’s a very pretty part of the country. For empty nester families that “grew up” in MN/WI/MI/Chicagoland, the additional flights should make it easier for the kids/grandkids to come back and visit at the lake over the summer, and with any luck the flights may draw some outsiders as well.

    2. Dave – What’s interesting though, is that Rhinelander is an Essential Air Service destination that Delta has the contract on. So with United going in, it’s competing against heavily subsidized service. Of course, that’s not down to Chicago, so maybe it’ll work. It seems like it’s worth of a try.

      1. My father’s family is from Wisconsin, and Rhinelander is smack dab in the middle of northern Wisconsin fishing country. In fact, that area had quite a bit of passenger train service from Chicago back in the day (I know. I’m showing my age). It seems like those kinds of “outdoorsy” destinations are where airlines are focusing their efforts this summer. I tend to doubt we’ll see this much activity up there next year, but who knows?

  5. As you alluded to, Delta has once again had triple-digit cancellations on a holiday. First, it was last Thanksgiving. Then it was last Christmas. And now Easter. If any of the other carriers were having this repeated issue, I would be more likely to give Delta a pass on this topic. But it has become quite obvious that Delta can no longer be relied upon to operate a reliable holiday schedule. In a feeble attempt to minimize the effects of the self-induced cancellations, Delta unblocked middle seats for two days. Which begs the question: What’s the point of having a blocked middle seat policy when you cave on it due to your own inability to crew flights you have scheduled months in advance? To phrase it in a different, but related, context: Delta chose revenue over passenger health. If I had booked Delta for my Easter travel primarily due to the blocked middle seat policy, I would be angry that those seats were used by Delta due to its own inability to repeatedly execute its holiday flight schedule.

    1. Is Delta’s problem bringing back furloughed workers, or have they not kept pace with general attrition (ie. hiring freeze)? Or are we just speculating?

      Enjoy the pimento cheese sandwiches and $4 beers. Lucky. . ..

      1. They put 1700 pilots in the UNA bucket (which has no equipment) and another 2200 apparently took early out. And now, they have an operational disaster because it will take a while to re-train those in UNA and all the cascading effect upward. This is going to be a problem all summer if they continue to chase revenue without any regard to how many flights they can actually handle.

        Of course, in the short run, it allowed them to boast of low daily cash burn. They were seriously not prepared for a quick rebound in leisure demand.

      2. Most voluntary leaves have ended. With almost 18000 people leaving the company, some places are working really short, and that doesn’t even touch on pilot staffing/training issues. The entire system roster was subject to displacement; even without COVID that was bound to get messy.

    2. Agreed. I’m surprised that the media isn’t hammering DL more on this.

      I have a (slight) preference for DL from a service side, and usually find myself flying them more than other carriers (based on routes, schedules, and price), but I’m going to be much more reluctant to book DL in the future.

      If an airline plans poorly enough that they have to cancel many flights over a major holiday weekend for reasons largely within their control, that’s a mistake that can be learned from. If the same airline does that for three holidays in a row, that speaks to much bigger operational planning issues that aren’t being adequately addressed.

      You’d think that after the Thanksgiving and Christmas debacles there would have been some serious planning efforts and a push from senior management on down to “do/spend what it takes to get it right” during the next holiday, but perhaps not.

      Delta’s been trying hard to differentiate themselves as a more premium and service-focused carrier in the past few years. At the end of the day, however, that marketing doesn’t matter much if Delta can’t execute the basics from an operational side and keep the planes and pax going where they need to go.

  6. Cranky,
    Keep an eye on Icelandair service to Iceland, from the US, for this summer and fall.
    They offer good service and good fares, from Iceland they go nearly everywhere, in northern Europe.
    I am in the Denver area, pre COVID, they ran a good old 757, non stop from Denver to Iceland, 7 days a week.
    757 economy seat pitch is 33 inches. Not bad for a 7 hour flight.

    1. A 33″ (pitch) /19″ (seat width) seat in economy isn’t bad, especially for a cheap fare and when the flights are only 5-7 hours from the Northeast & Great Lakes areas of the US.

      Looks like both the pitch and the width are a few inches tighter on the 753s and 767s, though, which would make the flight a lot less comfortable (especially the tighter hip room). Surprised Icelandair doesn’t offer premium economy seats.

  7. The B5 drops to AUS make sense; AA is adding service to both of those routes and…this looks like coordination outside the Northeast if you squint, albeit withlut codeshares. Hmm.

    I’d rather fly JetBlue to/from those places than AA, but there’s no way JetBlue can fill enough seats as the 4th carrier on the RDU route, and MCO is highly competitive as well (WN, NK, AA, F9, G4 to SFB). Though AUS-MCO has been a route for awhile as I recall (haven’t flown it due to flight timing) so it’s sad to see that one go.

    1. AUS-MCO has been around for a long time, but I don’t see any reason for them to keep it around for the next couple of years. I think all the MCO cuts are permanent for now. It’s possible they will bring back down the road. Not worth getting into overly competitive AUS market when they are busy building up NYC.

  8. Cranky – Hawaiian’s schedule past the end of May was the pre pandemic place holding schedule it seems. The 2nd daily SFO and 3/wk SEA red-eyes haven’t flown for over a year. I suspect the summer schedule will look like May, with perhaps a few extra tweaks and frequency additions.

    1. Akke29 – Thanks. Since this comes outside of the regular monthly updates and it goes through the end of schedule, this looks like a more permanent change so still worth noting. But then again, nothing is really permanent.

  9. Can the author please explain why the statement …and with Spirit pulling it up from the end ” as usual “? It’s obvious that the author has not kept up with the numerous big improvements by Spirit with recently named by Forbes as one of the best companies to work for. I will also add as only one of the eight airlines named.

    1. Rob – That’s not what I meant. Spirit has been one of the last to finalize schedules each month, along with United. This has nothing to do with anything else.

  10. Is cargo important on Anchorage-Fairbanks like many other intra-Alaska flights? Higher frequency on E175s seems better for passengers, but with a lot less cargo space than 737s.

    1. Jason – I assume that cargo isn’t that important in that market since it’s one of the few places in the state that has a road between the two. But if it is important, Alaska has those cargo airplanes that it can fly on the route.

  11. Covid sure does make for interesting route selections. Never in a thousand years would I have expected AA to launch a daily (albeit summer) nonstop from Philly to Bozeman. AA (and even US) has never offered a particularly robust USA network from PHL, especially west of the Mississippi. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that these cities are better served by other hubs. But the decline of biz travel and the preference of leisure travellers for the Great Outdoors is certainly causing airlines to deploy airplanes to routes that would never have seen service before. But Bozeman seems like a leap too far to me. I wonder how many Philadelphians have even heard of Bozeman, much less considered it a prime gateway to Yellowstone? Frankly, I think Jackson, WY is a better airport for most Yellowstone visitors to fly into (at least if you don’t mind the sky high price of accommodations there). Jackson is a tourist attraction in its own right, and gives you immediate access to the Grand Tetons (another National Park that will be completely overwhelmed with tourists this summer). Oh, well. I doubt the route will last, so if you live in Philly and don’t mind the crowds, this is probably THE summer to visit Bozeman!

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Cranky Flier