Big Fall Cuts For Several Airlines

Schedule Changes

Small ball is dead, at least this week. The residents of Airlineville have reverted to big, sweeping changes to their fall plans. The Cirium data shows the Eagle, the Heart, the Taxi, and the Globe all visited the town clairvoyant and decided to adjust their plans based on what the crystal ball said.

This week, Mr Windy (that’d be Breeze) decided it was time to make some changes. As a new resident, he was hesitant to change anything, but the time has come.

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

Air Canada Ramps Up For the Open US Borders

Air Canada is ready for the US border to open, at least one way, and it is bumping up service starting in August to United hubs in Denver, Los Angeles, and Washington/Dulles… plus New York/LaGuardia. The airline is also resuming service to Nashville. Las Vegas service, however, is gone in August.

Also, it looks like Air Canada Rouge A321s will drop down from 200 to 196 seats, unless this was some kind of mistake. That’s still a whole lot of seats to squeeze on an A321.

Alaska Does Some Housekeeping

Alaska didn’t do much this week, but it did bring Portland (OR) – Billings and Missoula along with San Diego – Orlando down from 2x to 1x daily each.

American Takes Down October, Builds Mexico

American brought down its October schedule by just over 14 percent this week. This is now down 13 percent vs 2019 which would be a sizable jump from being down 20 percent in September.

American also built up Mexico again. DFW will get a third daily flight to Chihuahua, a new nonstop to Hermosillo, and a weekly flight this winter to Manzanillo. Meanwhile, both Monterrey and Oaxaca get upgauged from regional aircraft to A319s.

In the Caribbean, Miami will get Anguilla and Dominica. Miami will lose Manaus for good. Also, the airline is hoping nobody knows what the weather in Bermuda is like in the winter, because it’s extending Charlotte service year-round.

It’s been said that almost anything works out of Charlotte. Apparently that’s an exaggeration since Champaign/Urbana (IL) and Toledo are losing their Charlotte flights.

Breeze Pads Blocks, Cuts Schedule

Breeze filed changes to cut 13 routes down from 4x to 2x weekly. Charleston – Columbus, Louisville, and Richmond along with Norfolk – Pittsburgh, and San Antonio – Tulsa will only operate Friday/Monday and not on Thursday/Sunday. Meanwhile, Huntsville – Charleston, New Orleans, and Tampa will only operate Thursday/Sunday and not on Friday/Monday. That’s also the case for Charleston – Norfolk and Pittsburgh, San Antonio – Northwest Arkansas and Oklahoma City, and Columbus – Norfolk. It has also boosted block times by 5 minutes. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

Delta Shuffles Gauge

Delta took down some more capacity in September, and it shifted aircraft types around with the move. There wasn’t anything overly significant here that I could find, though Atlanta – Montrose will operate this winter. On the other hand, LA to Shanghai won’t operate through the winter season at all.

JetBlue Files New Flights

JetBlue announced this week that it would start selling new routes from JFK and LaGuardia. Those were loaded this week. It includes Boston – Kansas City, Milwaukee, and San Antonio; JFK – Kansas City, Milwaukee, Puerto Vallarta, and San Antonio; and LaGuardia – Jacksonville, Nashville, New Orleans, Sarasota, and Savannah.

Southwest Works on September

Southwest has finalized its September schedule, bringing it down 11 percent this week. The airline really focused on sculpting a different schedule by day-of-week. Before this cut it was a flatter schedule.

Spirit Puts September and October Into Action

Spirit cut September and October this week, but you wouldn’t know it from comparing numbers. September was down nearly 17 percent while October was down a bit more than that. But still, Spirit is up 14 percent vs 2019 in September and 23 percent in October. There are a lot of airplanes coming into the fleet.

United Trims October

United brought October down an extra 6+ percent. It’s now down 20 percent vs 2019. There were some cuts that went beyond October, however. Newark – Edinburgh won’t operate this winter. And it looks like Chicago/O’Hare – Rochester (MN) is gone for good. On the other hand, Washington/Dulles – Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach will start up in December.

Other Randomness

  • Aer Lingus won’t operate Shannon – Boston or JFK through the rest of the summer season (end of October).
  • Air France won’t fly from LA to Tahiti in September. Air Tahiti Nui pulled back its schedule as well.
  • British Airways is now rolling its pandemic schedule in shorter time increments. This week it made cuts for a two week period from August 23 through September 5.
  • Eastern is canceling its flights to Belo Horizonte from Boston and to Quito from both Miami and New York/JFK before any of them started.

That’s all 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 where this week we cover:

  • Miami and LaGuardia Win American’s October
  • Southwest Goes Deep On Day of Week
  • Breeze Slows Down
  • Spirit Won’t Let a Pandemic Slow It Down Long
  • The Shifting Mexican Market

23 comments on “Big Fall Cuts For Several Airlines

  1. It seems like airlines are betting on a northeast business demand return in Q4. I find that to be optimistic based on the recent Delta variant trend.

    1. It is less about anticipated Q4 demand than about intensifying competition as the landscape has changed considerably. The catalyst is the AA/B6 partnership and in some places, B6 expansion itself. This is particularly true in and around the NYC airports, notably JFK and EWR. At JFK, the AA/B6 tie up, while clunky and not all that seamless yet, is triggering responses from DL to re-affirm its share of the market, where previously, pre- and during the pandemic, AA and B6, separately, were less of a threat. At EWR, B6 has expanded significantly, and that has UA scrambling to refocus on what is arguably its most valuable hub and one that probably drives a large percentage of its revenue and profit. In BOS, DL is finding it has to work a little harder against B6 (again, with the AA overlay now a factor where it wasn’t previously). These airlines are focused on a post-pandemic map and seem to be willing to take some losses this fall and winter to grab market share.

      1. On B6’s side there’s at least a little pushback against WN expansion in play too – for example, the seasonal LGA-SRQ service matches WN’s expansion in-season, and lets AA sell this route as a non-stop flight rather than connecting over Charlotte or Washington-National.

        1. WN is no threat in NYC.

          I’m just looking at the more optimistic tones from airline CEOs regarding business travel. I see the recent explosion in cases damper the return to office move. There has probably been a lot of pressure from politicians on company CEOs to return to office. Hence, airlines are optimistic. But with cases going back up, northeast is likely the first places that require mask mandate or at least workers are likely to stay WFH.

          White House is keeping the ban on international travelers for longer time period. I don’t see how TATL travel return until next summer. Airlines are getting ahead of themselves here. Domestic leisure is already back 100%. The other sectors have too many variables.

          1. Very true. WN is not a major factor in the NYC market. It struggles with NYC-end POS and always has. Whatever corporate traffic originating in NYC there is, doesn’t fly WN.

  2. Cranky,
    I know that this question slightly deviates from this column but I heard an AAngel at the ORD Admirals Club tell a pax that they will be increasing service from ORD to MKE very soon. With all of these service additions, cuts and tweaks could requiring rail in the place of planes make sense economically and environmentally? Here is a link to the story that this question references: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56716708

    1. The vast majority of passengers on any flight from Milwaukee to Chicago ohare are simply connecting to another flight at ohare.
      How would “requiring rail” allow that connectivity, given that there’s no train station for Amtrak anywhere near ohare airport? Would you propose that American or United or whoever provide a bus from the rail station in downtown to Chicago out to ohare airport for the passengers? By what law would this happen? What statutory authority and agency could require this? Please answer these basic questions and think about the feasibility of your thoughts

      1. Not sure how true it is (or was), but years ago when I flew from ORD to MKE, the captain described it as “the shortest (mainline?) route in our network”.

        With very few exceptions, I imagine that the only times that pax fly that route WITHOUT actually connecting in ORD are when IRROPS or missed connections cause pax to rent a car or get a ride instead of waiting for a later flight, or when people are trying to do runs to make the elite status tier… Perhaps some brave souls try hidden-city booking on that route as well.

        1. Back around ’63, AA served ORD-MKE with one Convair 240 turn (noontime). AA’s only MKE service then.

          If you wanted to go beyond ORD, you had to subscribe to the “plane change enroute” deal,
          as you had to switch to a DC-6 for the next leg to STL.

          Flights 238/285, if memory serves, and no “%” sign in the timetable (that was TWA’s thing),
          but the plane change was noted in the flight listing.

      2. Rail from MKE to ORD would be absurdly time consuming and would be a failure to roll out as any sort of product. Yes, there’s an Amtrak station near MKE airport, that part is true. But the line runs just inland of Lake Michigan with few stops. The two stops anywhere near ORD are Glenview (a small suburban station) and Union Station downtown. From Union Station, you would have to hike (with your luggage) outside of Union Station to the nearest “L” station for a 45 minute ride (northwest) to ORD.

        This is laughable, when you can drive from MKE to ORD in 90 minutes. But it is typical of the kind of idea that is inspired by the Euro envirofruits that want to ruin everything.

      3. There is a mainline rail line running past O’Hare, and goes as far north as Antioch, just before the Wisconsin border. There are 3 stations in the ORD area – Schiller Park, Rosemont and the aptly named “O’Hare Transfer” but I have never heard anyone ever promote this line as a possible extension to MKE. It would also raise the specter of improving the rail line so that higher speeds could be attained, and while that’s light years from “high speed rail” I don’t believe there is any political interest in promoting, or developing it. An opportunity? Sure – but not in this century!

        1. There is a possible rail link between O’Hare and Mitchell Field. But it would cost millions, if not a billion or more dollars to make the modifications to the existing lines. Using rail connections can make sense in a number of cases. But the cost and effort to implement it widely isn’t necessarily a wise investment. These things need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

          1. It’s also worth noting that the greater Chicago area was one of the great rail hubs in the country, where the Eastern railroads met up with other railroads running west. While RRs have merged over the years, the Chicago area is still a major rail hub, with a lot of (rail) freight hubbing through it, or passing by it, and with regular intermodal freight trains hauling 20/40-foot containers to and from ports on the coasts. Even imports to the Saint Louis and Cincinnati metro areas often wind up hubbing through the Chicago area before being trucked to the final destination.

            Costs aside, I would imagine that the railroads and the businesses that use them would put up a large fight (and extract significant and costly concessions) before they would allow their rail traffic to be disrupted so that tracks could be upgraded to allow for high-speed pax rail service.

          2. Robust rail links from cities to airports are great, and MKE and ORD both have decent-for-North America-given-the-distance rail connections to downtown Chicago. Robust rail links between airports to facilitate connections between planes are nuts, certainly not where I would prioritize rail investment.

  3. NK expansion is what to watch here. As long as NK can continue to keep its costs down, it will be a huge thorn to everyone else, especially WN. Also, the ATL/CLT-Florida margins are going to drop even more.

    Domestic leisure is where the demand is at. That favors ULCCs more than anyone else.

    1. The thing is with more routes you introduce, they always start with low yielding until one gains traction on it. We saw this happen when ben baldanza was CEO of spirit and they expanded so quick around 2011-12 the margins contracted too fast cause whenever you start new routes they take a while to reap beneficial returns. Its always a balance with airlines to carefully start new routes leveraged by mature routes that bring decent returns. If your network is starting to fill up with newer routes compared to matured routes then your margins compress significantly. I see a repeat of this with spirit. Its not like Spirits costs are staying put, they have been creeping up more lately. Between that and all the fast expansion, i don’t know how long they can really expand at the level they plan. Last time spirit expanded fast under Baldanza, it caused the airline to get a shalacking from wall st and also their costs were creeping up and margins compressed a bunch. This almost seems like a repeat.

  4. At 196-200 seats, AC Rouge A321s seem positively spacious! Wizz Air packs 230 seats on their A321s. Cozy!

    1. Luis – You got that right! Though it’s not as bad as it might look. Rouge has 16 business/first seats and 21 extra legroom coach seats, so those in the back get crunched unlike on Wizz where everyone gets crunched equally.
      It looks like Rouge has about 1 inch more pitch in the back compared to Wizz,so I guess that’s what you get for flying a legacy airline.

  5. Note that the Canadian border will now be open in both directions for air travellers. The US never closed the air border with Canada; only Canada did. Both closed the land border. So effective August 9 fully vaccinated Americans and Canadians can both travel by air in both directions. Americans can travel by land in both directions; Canadians can only travel north by land.

    Someone can explain to me how the COVID risk is different for an air traveler than for a ground traveler. That was a previous administration policy, which explains the lack of logic, but I’m rather perplexed as to why the new administration is extending it further even after Canada ends the border closure for fully vaccinated Americans traveling from the US. But if anything that should support the demand for air travel; a friend of mine here in southern interior British Columbia drove to Vancouver (5 hours) then flew YVR-SEA to visit her newborn grandchild because Canadians can fly but not drive from BC to Washington.

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