American Slashes Long-Haul While Delta, JetBlue, and Spirit Cut Further Out

Schedule Changes

Happy Monday… I’m starting my vacation now. I’ll be back with regular posts next Monday.


Oh my, where has the summer gone? The kids in Airlineville are starting to go back to school, and that means the adult residents are dreaming of a Delta-free world where more people want their wares. Some of that concern is reflected in the Cirium data this week.

The Eagle is having supply chain problems at work, so it has to scale back its biggest fall and winter plans. Meanwhile, the Taxi is getting a little more cautious after things got out of control this summer. The Widget and Ms Blue are trying to look further into the future while the Globe had to give up on four pet projects. Oh, and the Animal? Well, it looks like he’s feeling wobbly about the next couple months.

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

Air Canada Cuts US Flying Down

Air Canada was looking a little more bullish at the US with borders opening, but this week it pulled things down in September. It won’t fly to Austin, Charlotte, Cincinnati, or from Newark to Vancouver. It also pulled down frequency elsewhere as it tries to find the right mix to match demand.

Alaska Cuts Thanksgiving, Adds Three

Alaska pruned its schedule around Thanksgiving to line up with demand, so if you’ve booked something then, you may very well have a schedule change email sitting in your inbox. It also added three new winter, Saturday-only routes from San Francisco to Loreto, Mazatlan, and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo.

American Takes Long-Haul Down

American has given up on Boeing. The airline told me that while it was supposed to take delivery of 12 787s this year, it has so far only received one. And now it is assuming it won’t get any more for the rest of the year. Instead of dragging A330s or 767s out of storage, it is pulling down flights primarily in the Atlantic and Latin America. Asia is untouched except for extending the China suspension through October. (The airline is also adding widebody flights from Miami to LA and JFK.)

  • Amsterdam – Philly won’t operate through winter, but Amsterdam – DFW will instead operate, but it will go as little as 3x weekly during December.
  • Barcelona – Miami won’t operate the first half of Nov, and then JFK won’t operate the second half through Jan 4.
  • Dublin – Philly will operate only in the first half of Dec until after the holidays.
  • Frankfurt – DFW won’t operate the first half of Nov, and then Charlotte won’t operate the second half through Jan 4.
  • London/Heathrow gets a pandemic extension. Charlotte, LA, and Miami drop from 2x to 1x daily while Chicago drops from 3x to 1x. DFW goes from 24x weekly to 2x daily and JFK goes from 27x weekly to 2x daily. Phoenix and Raleigh/Durham won’t operate this winter.
  • Madrid – DFW and Philly won’t operate through winter and JFK will be suspended for the first half of Nov.
  • Milan – JFK is the only Milan flight scheduled this winter, but it will not operate between Nov 3 and Jan 4.
  • Munich – Charlotte is the only Munich flight scheduled this winter, but it will not operate until Dec 17. (Remember when US Airways was a part of Star Alliance? My, how airports and their importance in a network change.)
  • Paris/CDG – Chicago and Philly won’t operate through winter, JFK is suspended for the first half of Nov and then DFW is suspended from then through Jan 4.
  • Rome – Philly was the only Rome flight scheduled this winter, but now it won’t operate until Mar 4.
  • Zurich – Philly is the only Zurich flight scheduled this winter, but it will not operate until Dec 17.

In Latin, the cuts are just frequency reductions:

  • Montevideo – Miami will drop from as high as 1x daily to 3x weekly.
  • Rio – JFK and Miami both drop from as high as 1x daily to 3x weekly.
  • Santiago – DFW and JFK both drop from as high as 1x daily to 3x weekly.
  • Sao Paulo – DFW will drop from as high as 1x daily to 3x weekly. Miami will drop from 2x to 1x daily.

And it’s a domestic route, but Chicago – Honolulu won’t operate this winter.

Delta Cuts Big Into Next Year

After getting close to setting its schedules for this year, Delta has taken a whack at next year. Between January and May, Delta cut between 4 and 8 percent of seat miles. This looks a lot like Delta trying to clean up its placeholder schedule with something a little closer to reality but still far from it since we’re so far away.

Buried in here, however, there are some routes that look to be gone for good. Current and former focus cities take the biggest hit. Raleigh/Durham says goodbye to Baltimore, Hartford, Indianapolis, Nashville, and Cincinnati. Cincy also loses Baltimore and Philly. In random route land, Detroit – San Jose seems to be gone as does JFK – Montreal and Minneapolis – Tucson.

Frontier Cuts Early and Adds Late

Frontier has cut 1 percent of seat miles for August and September. These cuts look like demand-related concerns thanks to the rise of the Delta variant. But starting in November, Frontier is back adding again with these mostly Miami-focused routes from the press release.

JetBlue Makes Changes in 2022

JetBlue has cut down January flights through mid-February. January is now showing up 6 percent vs 2019 which looks like it’ll be fairly accurate, or as accurate as you can be this far out. The changes are all over the map with Newark being pulled down a lot and LaGuardia and Washington/National going up. The thing is, this mostly aligns with what is filed this fall, so it just means the placeholder is highly inaccurate.

Spirit Pulls Down Capacity

Spirit has pulled down flights from November 17 through January 4. This cut looks broad and blunt and doesn’t feel even remotely like a final cut. There may very well be an operational component to this. There was one new add that I thought worth mentioning. LaGuardia – Phoenix weekend service will start in November. Thanks for the perimeter rules that apply during the week, this can only be flown on weekends, just like the LA service it started earlier this year.

United Kicks Four to the Curb From Houston

United had high hopes for some new pandemic routes, but four of them have not ended well. Houston to Abilene and Chattanooga started in October, Tallahassee in November, and San Angelo in April. Those are all gone. For three of those cities, this is the end of their stay in the United network. Only Chattanooga remains with Chicago service.

United also pulled down some more hub overflight markets from San Francisco. Columbus, Northwest Arkansas, and Oklahoma City are gone into February.

Other Randomness

  • Aeromexico will put its 787s on 2x daily LAX flights and 1x daily JFK flight, both from Mexico City, this fall.
  • Air France will start JFK – Guadeloupe in November using its Caribbean-based A320s. It will also bring back Seattle – Paris/CDG that month.
  • Asiana canceled Honolulu service through year-end while cutting back frequency in its other US gateways.
  • Azul will pull Campinas – Fort Lauderdale down from 5x to 4x weekly.
  • British Airways continues to cut US flying, this time through September. Austin, Baltimore, Nashville, New Orleans, and San Diego won’t operate while other markets see frequency cuts.
  • Cabo Verde Airlines continues to torment me. The Boston – Praia route is off yet again. Apparently they are still paying someone to file schedules just for fun.
  • Contour will replace Boutique in the Greenville (MS) market with flights to DFW and Nashville starting in October.
  • Eastern will take a shot at Miami – Santa Cruz (Bolivia) from November. It briefly tried that last December.
  • Fiji Airways will cut Honolulu – Kiribati flights through the winter, instead taking that once weekly flight and increasing frequency direct to Nadi.
  • Iberia will drop from 2x daily to 13x weekly between Miami and Madrid this winter while Chicago to Madrid goes from 1x daily to 5x weekly.
  • Singapore will restart LAX – Taipei flights after more than a decade away.
  • Virgin Atlantic moved its Glasgow – Orlando flights over to Edinburgh.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode. But if you want more, you can always become a subscriber to Cranky Network Weekly. This week, we look in greater detail at:

  • 787 Delays Lead American to Slash Long-Haul
  • Spirit Cuts Its Schedule Through the Holidays
  • Delta Cuts Back Focus Cities Yet Again
  • United Gives Up on 4 Pandemic Experiments
  • JetBlue’s Uneven 2022 Cuts

24 comments on “American Slashes Long-Haul While Delta, JetBlue, and Spirit Cut Further Out

  1. This LGA-PHX route sounds interesting. Any idea on the start date or link to the announcement?

  2. Notice a lot of the Virgin Atlantic pull downs are regularly missing from this.

    Of course, VS tends of be pretty sneaky…they will pull inventory for the flights (for new sales) up to 2 months in advance, but won’t cancel until ~2 weeks in advance of the flight). For example, right now, the 9pm JFK-LHR departure isn’t available for sale through September 13th, but hasn’t officially been cancelled (yet) for September 1st through 12th. Terrible for customers as they have less time to rebook (and will be doing so when there is less availability).

  3. I don’t understand what the heck United was trying to do with IAH-TLH. They flew it once per day in each direction with a CRJ-200. IAH-TLH left at 2pmCST and arrived around 5pm EST, then it went back TLH-IAH 5:45p-7p.

    They launched this in the heart of the pandemic with a single late evening departure that had pretty much zero appeal to the leisure traveler in TLH. It was doomed from the start, but they never tweaked the schedule. You’d have thought United would have tried harder to get a foothold in TLH, which has surprisingly high average fares.

    1. CO flew TLH-IAH for years (2x I think) when they were allied with DL but these flights absolutely must be timed to allow connections from TLH to the west coast and Mexico or else it’s completely and utterly pointless.

  4. The bottom line seems to be that airlines are settling in for a not-very-rosy fall and winter. With Southwest’s investor guidance that near term bookings are soft and a number of companies are pushing back their returns to the office (if they had previously announced a date to do so), it will likely be spring before there is large scale demand return. There is enough capacity in the system for the amount of demand that is present. Airlines will be focusing on their core networks which means point to point and peripheral routes won’t be around for months. “Permanent cuts” likely means at least 6 months. In Delta’s case, they will likely retire a bunch more RJs before demand returns and they just aren’t willing to keep rolling point to point RJ routes further into the future.
    American’s international cuts are not just about the 787 delays. If there were enough demand, they would pull international aircraft off of the domestic routes they are flying. American’s cuts largely are coming where they have indicated they are weak internationally.
    Spirit likely is pulling back on their growth for operational reasons but they and Frontier have been jockeying for growth. They will both settle down to what is sustainable.

    Enjoy your well-deserved time away, Brett. Thanks for your work esp. on these weekly schedule updates.

    1. Tim
      No airline is strong this fall internationally. Your constant nonsense about American’s international weakness based off one small comment and only the one comment (ignoring everything else) from an AA exec is a bit much.
      AA and United have some of the strongest international JV partners on the planet that enable strong connections. Delta’s pilot agreement is the only reason they’re forced to fly as much internationally as they do within their JVs. This “weakness” you ascribe to American is a bit ridiculous when the truth is Delta is only flying as much as they do because they’re forced to do it or else they’d be in breach of their pilot agreement.
      No airline is going to be strong internationally this fall with the Covid spikes we’re seeing worldwide but only one airline is forced to keep flying internationally because their partners need to given how weak their domestic Networks are in their respective regions. Delta has to fly internationally if their partners need to. Simple as that.
      Delta would likely be putting their wide body aircraft as domestic as possible if they could. It’s no surprise that’s where the money is this fall and winter.

      1. your argument is, umm, interesting to say the least.
        If American and United have such great partnerships, then why would American’s pilots be satisfied with a much, much deeper cut in capacity than Delta?
        If Delta is being forced to fly a bunch of routes in order to satisfy their pilot contracts, what does that say about their competitors’ pilot contracts?

        In case you missed it, AA execs have said that 1/3 of their international operation didn’t make money for more than half of the year even before covid. DOT data confirms that. AA simply had and still has a less profitable global route system than Delta or United.

        And the real region to watch is Asia. For months, Delta has been flying more capacity than United. China and Hong Kong will take much longer to return because of geopolitical reasons. Japan and S. Korea will return much sooner. On a combined basis, Delta is and will be in a stronger position in NE Asia than United or American.

        1. @Tim,

          With all due respect, your constant comparisons beg this question: Why do you seem to have this burning desire to force every airline to be a clone of Delta? When did it become a capital offense for airlines to be a bit different from each other? As I wrote below, I think we’re going to see a significant change in the industry in the next few years, and airlines may very well differentiate themselves from each other more and more. I welcome this change if it comes about. But unlike some people (to be clear, this sentence does NOT apply to you), I want to see the airline industry thrive.

          I’ve flown the legacies, their predecessors, and Southwest for over 50 years. I also took trains many times, as they were often a viable alternative to flying when I lived back in the midwest, but I digress… Among the aforementioned airlines the last time I checked, only Southwest has avoided bankruptcy. That’s odd. It doesn’t have in-seat entertainment, power at every seat, a major international network, a significant presence in New York City, and many of the other things you and many others allege are vital to an airline’s survival.

          In all the years I’ve flown, I really haven’t seen that much real-world (repeat, real-world) difference among any of the major airlines. All airline seats are relatively uncomfortable compared to my couch at home (train seats have airline seats beat by a mile), and airline food is generally mediocre at best (and food on the train was much better than airline food back in the day). The best meal I ever had on an airplane was a cold breakfast in domestic first class on Northwest back in 1977 or so, which consisted of cold cereal with skim milk, a blueberry muffin, and some fruit that was relatively fresh. TAs for the cooked meals I’ve had on airlines – eh!

          But all the flights did what they were supposed to do. They got me where I needed to go in one piece. But ultimately that’s all I really want. I don’t fly to be entertained or eat. Airlines are in the transportation business. Their mission is to get people from point A to point B. Everything else is fluff.

          1. Ghost,
            The airline industry is highly competitive, every US airline touts its advantages relative to competitors, and there is an enormous amount of data generated by US airlines, much of which becomes public in time. Airlines employ different strategies, many of which are legitimately discussed on this site, including re: schedule changes. All airlines are simply not all alike and you cannot argue that they are when data shows that different strategies yield different results; it is absolutely fair to compare the results of strategies as data becomes available.
            Specific to American, Doug Parker himself said 10 years ago that one of the major purposes of the AA/US merger was to compete globally with DL and UA. For years, AA lost billions of dollars flying the Pacific and just broke even flying to Europe, largely because of losses to continental Europe. AA execs have admitted they cannot continue to fly the TATL and TPAC networks they once flew because of the losses they incurred; covid just increases the size of the cuts they must make.
            UA has been larger to Asia for years because of its much larger size to China and HKG. They also tied their NE Asia strategy to NH with split Tokyo operations, just as AA did with JL. DOT data shows that DL is getting significantly higher average fares to Japan than AA or UA by using only Haneda although clearly volume is now much lower. ICN is simply a larger connecting hub than either HND or NRT and, as markets reopen, and because of the China/HKG situation, DL could very well return to being the largest airline across the Pacific, just as it was right after the NW merger.
            as for operational reliability, AA yesterday was another day with 10% system cancellations due to DFW weather and ATC which is setting up to repeat again today. AA has heavily focused its schedules around a few key hubs including DFW and yet DFW just might not be capable of handling the volume AA is pushing through it given the tstorms which are normal in the summer. you and I might have had good luck over years of flyiing getting where we need to but many passengers are not this summer.
            Julie,
            You made the comparisons between the size of international operations and JVs and yet your logic doesn’t work – unless you want to believe that AA and UA have much less restrictive pilot requirements. None of the big 3 are meeting their pre-covid scope requirements which means that JVs and scope are not the driving issue at all. International network size right now comes down to the ability to serve markets and to the profit potential between using international aircraft on int’l routes or to use them domestically. DL and UA are operating similar percentages of capacity to Europe while it is AA, for reasons noted above, that is pulling back for the winter and will run a very small TATL operation.

            1. @Tim Dunn, the weather here in BigD is nothing about being normal or typical this summer. We are normally baking in July / August and streaks at or above 100 degrees and maybe a couple days of rain if we are lucky. We are already 2.5in above our August normal rainfall and every dang storm is dragging lightning along with it, which pulls ground personnel off their work. IROPS has really been an impact at Love with one of the 2 runways being down for the rest of the year to be rebuilt and they have almost zero ability to recover. Getting those banks to move at both airports, aircraft to finish out from diversion sites, and an employment market that just doesn’t seem to have enough folks looking for jobs is a challenge for both hometown carriers.

              One of these days mother nature is going to give us a break. Until then my yard and local lakes will rejoice and air travel will continue to cry.

        2. “ If Delta is being forced to fly a bunch of routes in order to satisfy their pilot contracts, what does that say about their competitors’ pilot contracts?”

          Tim, sometimes you don’t know anything about what you’re trying to say yet you still desperately have to say something and retort.

          This is one of those times.

          You obviously know very little about the respective pilot contracts and how they govern the flying within JVs much less why respective pilot unions value different things or negotiate for various things.

  5. As Howard Cosell once observed, “Hindsight is always 20/20.” The airlines are doing everything they can to cope with a very fluid situation. A little patience might be a useful practice for all of us in times like these.

  6. > Alaska pruned its schedule around Thanksgiving to line up with demand,
    > so if you’ve booked something then, you may very well have a schedule
    > change email sitting in your inbox.

    I wouldn’t count on getting an email from AS in a timely fashion. Virtually all of my schedule changes are flagged online in “My Trips” weeks before AS bothers to send and email.

  7. It might not be only American with widebody woes. Qatar Airways has grounded 13 of its A-350s due to premature fuselage wear concerns. An A-350 Airworthiness Directive would be painful for Delta, considering the unique routes it operates for them.

    1. since no other airline besides Qatar has at least publicly complained about the workmanship of the A350, it doesn’t appear to be an issue for anyone except QR.

      As for the comment about PHL, DFW is clearly AA’s largest international gateway including to Europe and Asia – which is hard to understand given how far inland and south DFW is. JFK and MIA both have multiple daily flights to Europe while PHL has just one as CF notes.

      Many would like to believe that airlines will be able to flip a switch at some point in the future and regain their positions which they have given up – but that just might not be possible. In the NE, AA seems far more interested in trying for yet another time to make JFK international work – when it hasn’t for decades outside of LHR. Other airlines just might grow enough into PHL, just as they might into other markets which other airlines are not operating, that PHL might not be viable as a hub in the future.

      1. What other airlines are you suggesting will launch PHL? Of course, I know you hope DL/AF/KL? They have clearly not been able to sustain PHL – they cannot even make EWR make from EWR, CDG or AMS. Either way, they are not going to suddenly decide to fly this winter. AA has fully loaded PHL TATL in S22. Either way, if an airline launches a route PHL-XYZ, there’s no doubt AA will fly the same from the same day.

        PHL does not have competition, so there is no need for AA to fly TATL out of PHL when there is no demand. Moreover, it is not that the demand is all to CDG or AMS, or to any destination that they are flying to from PHL.. The demand is very little and spread out. If anything, airlines are trying to fly as little as possible to cut losses, while at the same time not lose market share. They are clearly trying to defend trunk routes out of JFK, especially LHR, CDG, MAD, BCN since these are the routes that see competition; PHL does not. They have the liberty of not flying from PHL, and they are using it. That’s it. There’s a good reason that they are flying DFW TATL more – that also needs defending, especially with AF trying to sustain DFW-CDG and KL launching AMS-AUS. It appears that AA is trying to make DFW-CDG and DFW-AMS year-round.

        DL has no way other than fly TATL from JFK because all those routes see competition. To add to that, AA is flying as well…

  8. I’m guessing we may see a rather different industry in the next two to five years. It seems to me that most carriers will be somewhat smaller and more nimble. They’ll look to exploit their own individual strengths and fine-tune their business plans to suit their own markets. There won’t be this now-prevalent urge to be virtually the same as every other “comparable” carrier. I find it interesting that airline enthusiasts feel a need to play judge and jury and impose their arbitrary standards on every carrier. Why not let jetBlue be jetBlue, Alaska be Alaska, Hawaiian be Hawaiian, Delta be Delta, United be United, Southwest be Southwest, American be American, Frontier be Frontier, Spirit be Spirit, Allegiant be Allegiant, etc.? Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t like the idea of “AmAir.” I like variety, and the idea that each carrier can be a bit different.

  9. The US DOT just released its latest Air Travel Consumer Report which covers operations for the month of June 2021 and, as I have consistently said it would be, it reflects how absolutely aweful air travel is in the United States this summer with most airlines.
    As usual, Hawaiian is at the top of the list in terms of on-time and fewest cancellations but Delta has performance that is just as good despite being much, much larger and having hubs and operations across the continental US, the same cities that other airlines operate from. Delta’s system on-time performance was more than 10 percent higher than American and United and a mind-blowing 20 plus percent better than Southwest and JetBlue. Even Alaska’s on-time is 6 points worse than Delta. In cancellations, Delta cancelled just 0.1% of its flights while American and Southwest each had over 3000 cancellations for more than 3% of their system cancelled. And the statistics for other metrics including baggage and wheelchair/scooter handling, customer complaints, oversales and even civil rights complaints are far worse than they were pre-covid and what even those airlines were doing in the spring.
    And this is only the report for June.
    Weather is not the issue here.
    Some airlines including esp. American and Southwest have pushed their systems to their limits throughout the pandemic and they are doing it with predictably poor results this summer
    And to add insult to injury, American and Southwest are the two large airlines that are not serving alcohol in economy. Their passengers are acting out because of the horrible operations and their managements are blaming customers and cutting them off from alcohol rather than admitting that their covid management plans have been wrong throughout the pandemic.
    The level of customer disservice in the US airline industry is not sustainable and airlines that cannot and are not delivering reliability have an opportunity to cut schedules to what is manageable and appropriately deliverable.

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