Some worried that this show as getting stale and there wasn’t enough action of late. Fear not, it is back with a vengeance. Cirium was working overtime to load all the dramatic twists and turns that unfolded in Airlineville this week.
Ms Blue shocked many by admitting that maybe she had her hands in too many cookie jars. Some just didn’t have enough cookies in them, so she… pulled them out. While this was happening, the Eagle perched on top of the Texas State Capitol and sunk in his talons, loudly whistling his intentions.
The Heart decided to end the suspense and decided how she’ll spend her winter. Would you believe that Syracuse is part of her plans?
All this and more this week. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the skeds of air lines.
Alaska Adds Leisure Flights, Bumps Up Frequencies
Alaska had a relatively quiet week, but it did file the new leisure flights its announced this week. That means new flights are coming to Austin – Palm Springs, Portland – New Orleans and Tampa, and San Francisco – Cancun. A little more quietly, it increased frequencies in several key markets. All of these gained 1x daily additional flights unless noted: Seattle – Anchorage (2x daily), Boise, Phoenix, Portland, and Spokane.
On the other side, Alaska did some advance cutting of long-haul flights for October into November. This continues a trend where Alaska cuts long haul first. The markets that lose 1x daily are Seattle to Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Raleigh/Durham, and Washington/Dulles.
American Adds Austin and Tampa
American filed its schedules for its new Austin service announced last week. You can read that release for more details, but what we learned is that most of the new flying is on Embraer 175s, at least all the domestic flights but San Juan are. The rest are on 737-800s. But this wasn’t just about new destinations. American also added frequencies from Austin to Cabo San Lucas (+2x weekly), Dallas/Fort Worth (+2x daily), Miami (+2x daily), New Orleans (+1x daily), Orlando (+1x daily), and Tampa (+1x daily).
Beyond Austin, American did file new flights from Tampa to Los Angeles (1x daily), Nashville (2x daily), and Raleigh/Durham (2x daily). Also, New York/JFK to Delhi will go from 3x weekly to 1x daily.
Delta Flips Boston Around
Delta has decided to make big changes in Boston. Memphis and Newark will not operate at least through the winter. There are frequency changes in other markets including Atlanta (+2x daily), Bangor (new, +1x daily), Buffalo (-2x daily), Cincinnati (-1x daily), Cleveland (-1x daily), Detroit (-11x weekly), Fort Lauderdale (-2x daily), Jacksonville (+1x weekly), Kansas City (+1x daily), Las Vegas (+1x daily), Miami (+1x daily), Milwaukee (-5x weekly), Minneapolis/St Paul (-1x daily), New Orleans (new, 1x daily), Norfolk (new, 1x daily), New York/JFK (-12x weekly), Orlando (-6x weekly), Philadelphia (-2x daily), Raleigh/Durham (-1x daily), Seattle (-1x daily), Tampa (-5x weekly), and West Palm Beach (new, 1x daily).
Outside of Boston, Delta took the opportunity to pull down August again. It’s now down 27 percent vs 2019.
Hawaiian Sets August
Hawaiian hasn’t needed to pull down mainland flying, but interisland remains behind. It pulled down that 717 flying for August, so this is likely a pretty set schedule now. It also upped Vegas – Kahului from 4x weekly to 1x daily. That looks like a minimal response to Southwest’s entry into the market.
JetBlue Slashes and Burns For the Long Run
Oh my did JetBlue have a big week. It made several long term cuts which decimated the Raleigh/Durham focus city and hurt Orlando and the West Coast as well. A few routes are going away for the winter, including Boston – Baltimore, Bermuda, and Portland (OR) along with Newark – Seattle.
Far more appear gone for good, it seems: Boston – Burbank, San Jose; Fort Lauderdale – Pittsburgh; Fort Myers – Cleveland, Philly; Los Angeles – Richmond, Seattle; Orlando – Atlanta, Austin, Bogota, Philadelphia, San Francisco; Raleigh/Durham – Austin, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Montego Bay, Orlando, San Francisco, Tampa; Richmond – Las Vegas; San Francisco – Austin; Tampa – Philly, Washington/National; West Palm Beach – Chicago, Philly, Pittsburgh.
Southwest extended its schedule through the winter holiday. I won’t get into too many details, because you can see the new and restarted routes here. Southwest also changed frequencies in Sept/Oct to try and get closer to reality, but it still looks a bit on the high side, especially in September.
United Does a Lot of Stuff
It’s not a descriptive title… or is it? United made a whole bunch of schedule changes through August, but they didn’t seem all that important. Yes, it pulled down long-haul flying that month as it gave up on demand returning in some markets by then. But it was otherwise a lot of tweaking except for a few market additions.
United, like American, will launch Los Angeles to Tampa. And just for good measure it’s going to throw in service to Fort Myers from both LA and San Francisco. Lastly, Houston – Mazatlan will come back in December.
- Air Asia X looks to be pulling out of Honolulu as it restructures.
- Air Canada is giving up on Montreal – Barcelona and Toronto through the end of the year. Meanwhile, Delhi flights are gone through July.
- Cabo Verde Airlines now seems to be out of Boston and Washington/Dulles – Sal.
- Cape Air has filed flights from San Juan to Virgin Gorda from December.
- Caribbean Airlines won’t fly Fort Lauderdale – Kingston through the winter.
- Condor has cut capacity from Frankfurt to Anchorage and Baltimore for the summer, and it looks like it’s giving up on Fairbanks this year.
- Jeju Air is going to take a swing at Seoul/Incheon to Guam starting in October. At least, that’s its plan for now.
- Qatar is actually cutting something. Atlanta and Boston will each drop from 1x daily to 4x weekly.
- Southern Air Express must have not done well with its Destin – Tampa – West Palm Beach flight this summer, because those are now gone until September.
- Sun Country will fly Las Vegas – Williston along with Minneapolis/St Paul – Gulfport/Biloxi and New Orleans this fall.
- Volaris won’t fly Puerto Vallarta – Chicago/O’Hare and Phoenix plus Dallas/Fort Worth – Durango and Zacatecas. It also had various frequency changes, including some increases, in other markets.
- Volaris Costa Rica won’t fly New York/JFK to San Salvador through September. It will also cut frequency from Los Angeles and Washington/Dulles to San Salvador.
- WestJet added frequencies to existing US, Mexico, and Caribbean leisure markets for the winter. With any luck, Canada will allow people to actually travel to and from those places by then.
That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode of Skeds of air Lines. And if you can’t wait, subscribe to Cranky Network Weekly for this week’s trends:
- American’s Austin Invasion Continues
- JetBlue Gives Up On Raleigh/Durham and More
- Delta Reworks Its Boston Plans
- Southwest’s Plan for Dealing With Breeze
- A Southwest Winter of Uneven Growth Begins
There were so many articles about JB making RDU a real hub. I guess what’s old is new again?
You mentioned that JetBlue cut, what looks like, a Tampa – Washington/ Dulles route? JetBlue pulled out of Washington Dulles completely in 2019, way prior to covid. Do you mean Washington National? Please clarify.
Yes, DCA was canceled.
Jason – You’re correct, it’s National, not Dulles.
Cranky – Are these changes that you report week to week are something we would have seen regardless if there wasn’t a pandemic? Or are these whiplash inducing changes tied to the pandemic for the most part. Just curious.
SEAN – It’s a mix of everything. It wouldn’t be this lively without the pandemic, but there would still be regular, significant changes.
It just really feels like JetBlue is having an identity crisis that’s been building for several years. I used to be a loyalist, but they pulled out of all my regular routes and joined the race to the bottom with the other ULCCs. Good thing I can use the handful of points I have left on AA.
Noticed that AA reduced LGB-PHX to 2 flights, but they are both E-175’s.
Also found a new RNO-CLT nonstop, which I don’t remember being announced.
So far no real competitive response to WN and now NKs MIA invasion.
Thank you for continuing this weekly update.
I wonder if JetBlue would have more success if they had a mid-continent hub.
JetBlue’s strength is not in mid-continent. The strategy they have had success with is transcon, and leisure/VFR from the east coast.
They do. It’s DFW ;)
I believe that is the end-game here.
Any more details available on the Jeju Air HNL service? Unable to find it for sale, or any mention of HNL on their website.
SK – Whoops, that’s Guam, not Honolulu. It’s going to try to come back to Guam again.
I did an in depth look at JetBlue’s fleet/pilot resources a couple of months ago and possible growth over the next year using the target they sent to their crew internally. Basically, NYC growth over the next year to utilize those AA slots will require basically all the E90 cuts they’ve made at BOS/MCO/FLL. And that’s assuming they grow minimally at EWR over the next year and that they will be 10% larger in summer of 2022 vs summer of 2019. It will also take all of their 2022 growth to get BOS back to 2019 size. In order for them to reach their target size in BOS/FLL/LAX + being the largest carrier in the area between NYC and BOS, that will take most of their growth from Q2 of 2023 to Q2 of 2025. And that’s assuming they grow at the highest rate of non-ULCC carriers (high single digit range).
I found that they could build up at most 1 other focus city than their existing ones. That’s assuming continued sad state of MCO and minimal growth at SJU.
If you look at what they had added, SFO and RDU were the most obvious choices as that next “focus city”. Of the 2, SFO seems like the far better choice right now. AS has cut down SFO to a RJ station, WN has cut SFO down to a 20 flight station and AA is also a lot smaller. Even doing very little there, B6 has tied for the 2nd most capacity out of SFO. And there is no shortage of available gate. RDU stops being a good choice when AA is also adding non-hub routes there. Gate availability is also an issue at RDU. I don’t think they are done at RDU. They have to focus on NYC/Boston for the next 2 years.
B6 has as much capacity at SFO as Alaska? Really? That comes as a huge surprise to me.
So, B6 in AUS drops RDU, SFO, and MCO, leaving CUN 3x/wk as the only non-hub flying. Even flying to hubs is in a trough: on their own metal it’s just 2x daily to JFK, 1x to BOS, 1x to LAX, 1x to FLL, with AA codeshares filling in JFK/BOS. There looks to be a bit of an outbound bank ~11a-noon, but if AA lets JetBlue use their gates, that probably leaves Gate 12 available most of the day, letting AA run several of its own flights through there. Though between point-to-point flights and heavy E75 usage AA should be able to get solid utilization out of the gates dedicated to it.
It is convenient that B6 is giving up on RDU as AA is deciding to bring back some focus to that market, but there’s also no way that AUS-RDU, which generated enough traffic for a CR7 daily with unimpressive yields, can suddenly support four airlines, at least three of which are running mainline aircraft. So now it’s “just” AA/DL/WN.
Dropping MCO looks surprising at first, but B6’s flight was poorly timed either to or from there (I forget which)…and AA is now bulking up there, in addition to ULCC competition and Southwest. So there’s cover for B6 to drop there. Maybe FLL can stick around with them due to connectivity and a bit less competition (2x daily on WN, 1x on NK).
Just down the road in MIA, it’s impressive that AA now has 2x 7M8, 2x E75, 1x 319 daily AUS-MIA. Want to say that route didn’t exist in 2015.
In all of these cases, I’m guessing that the E75 is a trial balloon with solid paxex, which AA can upgauge later if they decide they need better unit economics (if they can fill the planes). All else equal, I’d take an AA E75 over Southwest, though I doubt all else will indeed be equal.
I’m guessing their ability to throw E75s in places is due to shoving leisure traffic onto mainline elsewhere, while having drawn business-schedule traffic on regional jets way down elsewhere. Only way to explain why they can drop regional flights in like this (but, like DL in RDU, regionals are the right sized planes to start these point to point routes that won’t necessarily fill with leisure traffic the way, say, MCO would).
Keep in mind that AA will have to do a little bit of what B6 did here. Both airlines have scheduled in far more capacity than they are capable of operating. Even after these cuts, B6’s advertised schedule for Q4 is still way ahead of what they will end up operating. It’s even more so with AA.
Most of the non-hub stuff AA added simply isn’t going to stick around a year or 2 from now. That is especially true with AUS. But also true with some of the P2P stuff out of Florida and RDU. MCO as a station is way below average systemwide for AA in terms of RASM. I can’t imagine the P2P stuff to Florida doing better than hub flights to MCO.
B6’s MCO cuts has to do with how it looks at MCO vs other focus cities (hint: not very high). It really has not much to do with AA’s actions.
“Most of the non-hub stuff AA added simply isn’t going to stick around a year or 2 from now.”
I think this is probably correct, but to be fair, I don’t think that a lot of this non-hub stuff (and probably some of the hub stuff as well) is intended to stick around more than a year or two. I’m not quite sure what to make of AUS, but a lot of the other stuff sure seems to be putting planes wherever they think that can make money right now. They’re plays for boosting income and trying to jump-start a recovery, which leads to a follow-up point. When they all disappear in a year or two there will be some who claim that they must’ve been a failure for AA because those routes are being dropped. While that may be true, it may also simply mean that the recovery (business travel in particular) is sufficiently far along that they’re not needed any more. We’ll probably never know if they were any good or not because they were simply meant to be better than nothing.
Random thoughts, in no particular order. 1) Mr. Dunn very accurately predicted JetBlue’s pull-back on a lot of its hodge-pudge stuff (eg. RIC-LAX). 2) FC has been telling us for months that JetBlue is focusing on the 3 NYC airports, thereby increasing the franchise’s value. RDU is expendable. 3) Senator Schumer says SW should serve SYR. Poof, it happens. What is the end game for Southwest in regards to obtaining NYC slots or, perhaps, an acquisition, in terms of gaining Senator Schumer’s favor?
Schumer has historically done some small favors for every airline. This was more to help SYR as a city he represents. Don’t know why people think the one time schumer helps a non-NYC focused airline he will all of a sudden bend backwards to a company that has the most minimal presence in the northeast. Schumer has way more priorities keeping B6 and DL happy which he does alot with the interest he has to keep them relativly happy and he will not go ahead with burning that bridge. Plus this “acquisition” talks, is utter baloney being that all the airlines have just hemorrhaged years of profits in 12 months. restoring balance sheets is most important to shareholders to every airline. If you approach them after this past year of eviscerated money in the coffers to say ‘hey lets spend billions more on a trail and error acquisition” they will be laughed out the door.
I think you have it backwards. Southwest accommodated Schumer by going into SYR after Schumer requested it. And let’s keep in mind that Southwest originally entered JAN when it needed Wright Amendment relief and Mississippi Senator Lott oversaw it. So Southwest has proven itself a political animal over the years. In addition, with Southwest CEO and Board Chairman Gary Kelly also leading the A4A, and his deep involvement in all three PSPs, his connections in DC have to be extensive and layered.
As far as acquisition is concerned, Southwest has a history of buying what it cannot do on its own. That includes purchasing its presence in ATL, which is a much smaller O&D market than NYC. The “NEA” has dashed whatever hopes SW had of obtaining any AA slots at LGA, so perhaps they will revisit their New York strategy before JetBlue reaches a critical mass.
On the other hand, as Desert Ghost noted last week, Southwest has been profitable a long time without a large NYC presence. Its future doesn’t hinge on New York City. Despite that, the New York Metro Area is the biggest hole in its network. Given its historic appetite for competition, it seems likely that they will ultimately find a way to grow that market. Given the size of Southwest’s existing network, plugging the 3 NY airports into it would make a compelling financial case for Mr. Kelly to present to his Board (which he chairs). Of course, this is all complete conjecture and only time will tell.
First, thank you for your comment re: B6 and RDU. It should have been obvious that they were biting off more than they could chew w/ all of their proposed new routes. They also had no choice but to try given that BOS and NYC were far more shut down than other parts of the country.
Re: RDU as a whole, it often gets lost in these discussions that the ULCCs G4, NK and F9 are all much smaller in RDU than they were 3 years ago. WN and UA are smaller in the next few months but start to close the gap. The same thing is playing out in AUS; the ULCCs saw opportunity to deploy a lot of capacity during the pandemic but they are now shifting to longer terms strategies which is allowing the big 4 to concentrate their collective position in a number of medium sized markets in favor of ULLC growth in large leisure markets. Many RDU and AUS markets are not big enough to fly 150 seat plus size aircraft other than to hubs. Large RJs work well.
As for WN in NYC, I agree that it is a hole in their network but I’m not sure that WN is ready to take on a carrier like B6 to operationally undo it – totally different fleet, transatlantic operations on the horizon, very different type of product. It is far more possible that WN is whispering in Schumer’s ear about challenging the AA/B6 agreement to allow WN to get more slots at LGA. They could probably make JFK work if they had to but they fly few transcon flights which is a key part of B6’ network. And B6 is also BOS, also where WN is relatively weak. I wouldn’t rule anything out but WN is probably much more interested in incrementally growing than doing a merger. And an AA/B6 merger is a recipe to dismantle large parts of B6’ network because of AA’s much higher costs. The AA/B6 arrangement is the best that either can do as long as the feds don’t reopen it.
WN at JFK would be a disaster. I wouldn’t even know what they could operate that would be profitable. I don’t know why people keep suggesting it. It’s like WN leaving EWR never happened.
As for RDU, it’s still an attractive market for B6, but not as attractive as it was 8 months ago when AA wasn’t running its new found P2P strategy. The NEA is like a gift that keeps giving for B6. I would assume the route they cut from PHL/RDU/AUS aren’t performing that great. It also gives the added bonus of making AA happy. No reason to get involved in whatever turf war that arises from AA’s new strategy. That strategy isn’t going to last for more than a couple of years. Once the current AA rush dies down and B6 has the fleet/gate resources, RDU may become really attractive again. It could be as small as just bringing back SFO/MCO/TPA, but B6 will have more plans at RDU in a couple of years.
Its primary focus cities of NYC/BOS/SoFla/LAX will be out of growth opportunities in the next 5 years. The most obvious next focus cities are SFO and RDU. SFO right now seems like the far more appealing opportunity, but it’s still possible that RDU will be more attractive 2 years from now.
As for your comment about large RJs, they problem is that A220s will have the same total operating cost as those large RJs. RJ economics just keeps getting worse over time unless aircraft manufacturers actually develop new scope compliant aircraft.
Took the words right out of my mouth. Its like the WN fans forgot that WN did expand a bit in EWR and forgot how that turned out and there was really just UA and B6 which was a quarter of the size they are now in EWR to compete with. JFK they have the trifecta of B6/DL/AA monster to combat and somehow thinking WN is salivating over a few slots out of JFK as if it it would give the other 3 a run for their money. WN isn’t foolish and they run a tight and VERY conservative ship and has done them well. NYC isn’t as high as a priority today to go in for scraps just like DEN or STL isn’t for B6.
to be clear, I was referencing WN at JFK only in response to the suggestion that WN could buy B6 which I don’t see happening.
WN has decided it doesn’t do well on full transcons so LGA serves what it needs from NYC.
Comparisons of JFK to EWR miss that there are two large carriers at JFK but only one at EWR; it was much harder for WN to go up against UA.
I still think UA is angling for more slots at LGA, not JFK or a merger.
The NEA does not include RDU or AUS and AA has reinstated more capacity than other carriers but on a percentage basis is still behind DL at RDU.
When the dust settles, there will be alot less rearrangement of carrier rankings at specific airports than alot of people thought would be the case.
AA will be larger relative to WN in AUS and might overtake them but that might be one of the few examples of a carrier overtaking the #1 in a market. And, given how much other carriers have pulled back in AUS, it doesn’t mean there is not room for other carriers as long as gates are available; AA might have put in alot of its growth to “soak up” any available gate capacity left by NK et al
I think we can ALL agree that Southwest’s forays into NYC have been so limited as to barely cause a ripple in the competitive pond. To make any real headway and to make up ground on the Big 3 in New York, they need to acquire JetBlue. It’s that simple. With $16 billion in the bank, they can afford it. If the NEA expands to CLT, DFW, PHX, and/or ORD, Southwest will eventually regret not pulling the trigger on JetBlue.
JetBlue’s pandemic growth at EWR would give WN the scale it needs to gain a solid footing there. It’s former EWR schedule was more an experiment than anything. But a couple hundred flights a day there elevates them to competitive status. And, with DEN growing and recent entry into IAH and ORD, Southwest does seem to be enjoying competing with United. A major entry into EWR would be a continuation of the trend.
At JFK, the purchase of JetBlue vaults Southwest from nothing to the biggest domestic carrier there. It gives Southwest deeper penetration into Latin and South America than they currently have. It brings London. It gives Southwest the single best place to launch wide-bodies to Europe at some point in the future. And, most importantly, it fills the biggest hole in their network.
At LGA, Southwest would obtain JetBlue’s slots and, coupled with their own (and whatever else they can cobble together) would make them a decent competitor there. Certainly not dominant, but with enough scale to offer more opportunities through their existing network, even considering the perimeter rules.
As Mr. Dunn stated, BOS would also be in play. Overnight, Southwest would become the largest or second largest carrier there, depending on which measuring metric is used. Assuming Southwest has a “northeast strategy”, this would be an acceptable outcome.
In the tropics, a purchase of JetBlue makes Southwest the largest domestic carrier in FLL and the largest in SJU, positioning them for further Carribean expansion. Evidently, they have some sort of contractual verbiage with their pilots which allows for code-sharing to the smaller Carribean islands, as well. If Southwest’s unprecedented Hawaiian expansion is their new growth blueprint, the Carribean could be the next pearl in their oyster, especially with dominance in SJU.
I think we all enjoy spitballing here. Thank you all for engaging. I think the past week’s content has been exceptional, with Mr. Snyder’s well-reasoned topics leading to some thought-provoking responses.
I just got a note yesterday that B6 RDU-CUN has been dropped for my 11/16-26 R/T. (I’m now getting routed through FLL outbound (35 min layover) and EWR going home… 4 hour layover in EWR; yikes.)
The trip was booked through JetBlueVacations; it would be nice if they could reroute me on another airline, but I doubt it.
A couple of thoughts:
I think it’s important to remember that we’re in a somewhat unprecedented situation. It’s hard to tell how many of these route changes are going to stick around once the situation stabalizes. It’s also important to note that no one knows what the new “normal” will look like. The fallout of all of this could be minimal or game-changing. I may be totally wrong, but I think I’ve observed a growing trend toward more point-to-point routes among traditional hub-and-spoke carriers. That’s contrasted with Southwest’s trend in the last few years toward fostering connections in strategic locations. Will Southwest continue its apparent move toward more connecting “hubs?” Will the legacies move toward Southwest’s and the ULCC’s point-to-point models? It’ll be interesting to see what hybrids might emerge, if any. I mention this because I’ve heard quite a bit about how airlines have enhanced their flexibility during the pandemic. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the increased flexibility is real, and how much is rhetorical.