Fall Capacity Cuts Across the Board Reflect Weaker Trends

Schedule Changes

Wooo boy, was it a busy week in Airlineville. Every single primary resident except for the Sun — which didn’t change anything — cut their fall plans down to size. This Delta variant is causing trouble for everyone, and many residents had to cope with that reality.

According to Cirium data, each resident cut at least one month this fall by 1 percent or more. Pualani is the exception since she was just a bit lighter in September. It’s a bloodbath all around town.

This biggest reduction in plans came from the Eagle who finally brought November into focus. But as you’ll see in this week’s episode, it’s the same story over and over again….

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the skeds of air lines.

Air Canada Cuts Regional Flying

Air Canada took down flying on regional aircraft this winter. These markets won’t operate through year-end: Calgary – Houston, Los Angeles (through Nov), Newark; Edmonton – Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie, Saskatoon, Winnipeg; Halifax – Boston; Montreal – London (ON), Yellowknife; and Ottawa – Boston, Fredericton, Moncton, Newark, Washington/National. That means Ottawa will only have US flights to Florida this year.

And these markets won’t operate through the full winter: Calgary – Castelgar, Portland (OR); Edmonton – Kelowna, Yellowknife; Montreal – Hartford; Toronto – Cartagena (not a regional), Hartford, Memphis, Milwaukee; and Vancouver – Sacramento, San Jose (CA).

Alaska Brings Down December

Alaska took 4.4 percent of available seat miles (ASMs) out of the December schedule along with nearly a point in November as well. Many of the changes appear to be extensions of suspensions or frequency cuts with a heavy focus on Boise, Portland and Paine Field. Seattle wasn’t spared, but it didn’t take a huge hit like the rest. There wasn’t much into the new year except for a suspension of Palm Springs – Reno going through winter.

American Makes an Accurate November Schedule

American has finally filed its November cut, and ASMs for the month are down 14.6 percent, which means the month is down 6 percent vs 2019. That’s much higher than October which is down 15 percent vs 2019, so we’ll see if there’s more to come or not.

Bucking the trend was JFK, which saw significant growth this week with big frequency increases in November to Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, and Washington/National. Jackson Hole and Philly will both move over from LaGuardia, and with more frequency. Why? Well, American appears to be resigned to the fact that it will have to use or lose its slots starting in the winter schedule at the end of October. This increase brings them up to full utilization with a lot of squatting. (Philly? Baltimore?) At least American can squat less from LaGuardia where it has JetBlue putting some slots to much better use.

Meanwhile from Philly, Baltimore, Charleston (WV), and Charlottesville, won’t operate through the winter. And Des Moines and Omaha appear to be gone for good. If there’s any good news for Philly, it’s that it gains service to Worcester (MA) in Nov. Does that count as good news? Probably not.

Delta Cuts October and November Again

As the B.1.617.2 Delta variant continues to cause concern, Delta (the airline) is cutting capacity again for October and November with both down just shy of 3 percent. Much of the cutting appears to be spread around as a broad capacity cut might be expected to present itself. But there are a few things that stick out.

JFK – Amsterdam will drop from 2x to 1x daily through the winter while JFK – Antigua is gone for good. The return of Paris/CDG – Boston has been delayed into November while Paris/CDG – Cincinnati and Raleigh/Durham are both gone through the full winter, as is JFK – Lisbon and St Kitts. Raleigh/Durham – Philly won’t come back this year.

In a surprise, JFK – Baltimore is back starting in November — more slot squatting — and, in what is probably the greatest week ever for Worcester, Delta filed a return to the airport with flights from LaGuardia beginning November.

Frontier Pulls September

The roller coaster that is Frontier continues to go up and down. This week is a down week with September dipping 3.5 percent with cuts spread around the network.

Hawaiian Continues Interisland Cuts Into September

It looks like Hawaiian’s 717 issues — thanks to akke29 for the comment last week explaining what was going on — are stretching into September. A handful more flights have been pulled down with more upgauging to A321neos where possible.

JetBlue Trims The Rest of the Year

JetBlue took October down 2.5 percent, November 4.5 percent, and December 2.9 percent. October cuts look to be straight capacity cuts, but November cuts much deeper on off-peak days than peak days. Most are frequency cuts, but the Pacific Northwest looks hit a bit harder than the rest in one way. Fort Lauderdale – Portland (OR) won’t operate through year-end while FLL – Seattle will be out until the holidays.

Southwest Chops September and October

Southwest said it would cut capacity to create some more operational slack… and so it did. September was only down about 1 percent but October dropped 3.2 percent. October saw cuts by day-of-week vary greatly with only Saturdays (off-peak) Sundays (peak) remaining where they were.

Spirit Takes a Bite Out of September

Spirit stayed close-in by cutting 1 percent of ASMs in September. It’s mostly a couple of flights here and there coming out of the schedule, presumably to give more operational slack but also to respond to lagging demand.

United Drops October and November

United went in the same direction as everyone else. The airline pulled October down 2.6 percent with November losing 4.1 percent. Though there were several frequency cuts on domestic runs, it looks like the bulk of the ASM cuts are from delaying the restart of long-haul flying. San Francisco – Auckland won’t return this year anymore. These routes will be pushed into November at the earliest: Chicago – Beijing; Houston – Managua, Sydney; Los Angeles – Melbourne; Newark – Beijing, Hong Kong, Lima; San Francisco – Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore; and Washington/Dulles – Beijing, Sao Paulo.

And yes, there was a route launch this week. The rich person express will operate from Orange Country to Aspen through the winter.

And lastly, a mystery. Why is a CRJ flying from Washington/Dulles to Cape Girardeau on the morning of October 8 and again on the 10th? This has no relevance to anything big picture, but I’m just really curious. It wouldn’t be a military charter, but could it be related to some military event? I’ll assume the Pumpkin Dive on October 9 would need a 777 or 787 to fit demand, so it can’t be that.

Other Randomness

  • Advanced Air appears to be building back up. It will begin Mammoth flights from Burbank, Carlsbad, and Hawthorne in November.
  • Aer Lingus will reduce winter flying. Dublin – Boston goes from 2x daily to as little as 1x daily depending upon the month. Dublin – Chicago drops from 12x weekly to 1x daily.
  • Alitalia has canceled all US flying from October 15. Once its replacement ITA — which will probably end up being called Alitalia — gets sign-off from the US, it’ll file all the flights again.
  • British Airways has extended some pandemic cuts into October with some going further. The A380 is now removed from the entire winter schedule. Flights to LA and San Francisco which were scheduled on the A380 will now be flown by the 777 instead.
  • Copa has is cutting frequency to Chicago (2x daily -> 11x weekly), Las Vegas (1x daily -> 4x weekly), Los Angeles (3x daily -> 2x daily), Orlando (5x daily -> 4x daily), San Francisco (2x daily -> 10x weekly), San Juan (2x daily -> 11x weekly), and Tampa (1x daily -> 6x weekly). New Orleans will lose service entirely.
  • Denver Air Connection filed its full schedule for its new EAS route from Ironwood (MI) to Chicago and Minneapolis/St Paul.
  • Eastern continues to make frenetic, last minute changes. Miami – Asuncion now won’t operate in September and October. I hope you weren’t booked on it or you’ll need to find a new way down there.
  • KLM has delayed its Las Vegas service until at least December.
  • Korean is going small with its US service for the summer schedule next year. It has no A380s or 747-8s scheduled to the US. Honolulu and Guam are on the A330 while Atlanta and Dallas/Fort Worth are on the 787-9. Everything else will be on the 777-300ER.
  • Lufthansa cut Austin and San Diego until the end of October. Tampa is canceled until December.
  • Qantas filed its updated schedules. DFW and San Francisco – Sydney are now expected to return in February while San Francisco – Melbourne is gone for much longer. Honolulu – Sydney will be on the A330-300 while Brisbane to both LA and San Francisco will be on the A330-200. Everything else will be operated by the 787-9 at least until July when Qantas hopes to put an A380 back on Sydney – LA.
  • SATA has canceled Boston – Terceira through the winter.
  • TUIfly has canceled all planned service from Brussels to Miami.
  • VivaAerobus has removed Cancun flights from Houston, Miami, and Newark this winter… but it will now fly to Cincinnati.

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 for more, you can subscribe to Cranky Network Weekly. This week we look at:

  • American Plans to Fully Utilize New York Slots
  • Southwest Cuts Deeper Some Days
  • Delta’s Regional Concentration Grows
  • Qantas Sets Plans for a Smaller Footprint
  • Air Canada’s Regional Shift Isn’t Done

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15 comments on “Fall Capacity Cuts Across the Board Reflect Weaker Trends

  1. Are the added flights to Worcester required as part of the strings associated with government aid? I haven’t kept up with the exact nuances of that, I just know that a few airlines really didn’t want to serve Worcester any more than they had to.

    Thanks for highlighting the Cape Girardeau flights. My first thought was possibly a college football charter, but it looks like Southeast Missouri is playing an away game in Clarksville, TN, that weekend, less than 200 miles away, so that can’t be it (and in any event, it might be tough to fit an entire football team and staff in a CRJ, not quite sure what kind of an entourage those teams have).

    1. Kilroy – Not a government aid issue, especially from American which wasn’t even in the airport before. But CARES funding is winding down so they don’t need to keep service. Case in point, look at American ending New Haven, Williamsport, etc at the end of Sep.

      And yeah, I looked at football since United has been big in that way, but nothing there.

      1. I second United has been big on Football. As a resident of South Bend (who doesn’t care much about Notre Dame) I was surprised to see I could go spend a weekend in Roanoke, Charlottesville and even San Francisco (Thanksgiving weekend) via a non-stop United Flight.

        American has done a little bit here too, with round-trips on Fridays and Sundays to LGA. Wish they would add daily JFK flights instead of squatting with the super short flights to PHL and BWI. I miss when United used to have a 1 to 2 daily EWR non-stop.

  2. Totally unrelated to this fine edition of Skeds of Air Lines, but I had some insomnia last night and was up late watching Ida coverage and fiddling with FlightRadar 24. To my amazement (at roughly 1 am), I tracked a Volaris A320 (ORD-MEX) in LA, literally flying just to the west of the eyewall of the hurricane! There was no other traffic within 100 miles of it (the next closest was another Volaris flight over MS). What could Volaris have been thinking?!? And how would you like to be a passenger on an A320 in the middle of the night flying through what was still a hurricane?

    Just interested to see if anyone has any thoughts because this was bizarre and it definitely discourages me from taking Volaris. I know DL’s dispatchers have gotten people in and out of hurricane situations with pinpoint forecasts, but this flight was right in the thick of it.

  3. Re: VivaAerobus, I thought the FAA Category 2 rating prevented Mexican airlines from adding new service to the US…

    1. Tonei – It prevents them from flying it, but it doesn’t prevent them from dreaming! All these things are predicated on Mexico returning to Cat 1 status.

  4. Nothing screams slot squatting more than JFK-PHL. If American is going to slot squat at least add flights to warm destinations as we approach winter you don’t add JFK-PHL, PIT, IND, BWI, ORF, add frequency to places in Florida and the Caribbean in November.

    I still believe those capacity requirements put in place by the DOT as a result of the NEA will cost American a lot more than JetBlue. JetBlue will be the ultimate winner of the NEA if all American can come up with is JFK-PHL.

    1. JetBlue will eventually fly those slots. It has been talking about huge expansion at JFK on all the recent public appearances. Those slots will clearly come from AA. But for this IATA winter season, they are only doing the 19 additional departures at LGA. I’m assuming a lot of additional flying will come in May. JetBlue should have more aircraft available to fly those slots by then.

  5. I think it’s a mistake to look at most of these schedule changes as being anything but temporary. It’s hard to judge who’s going to “win” or “lose” a market based on what’s happening now. Based on what’s occurred in the last few months, the whole situation could look quite different by November.

  6. With the A321neo, Aer Lingus can easily (and profitably) do Boston-Dublin daily through the winter. That aircraft has really arrived at the right time. Look for SAS to return Copenhagen-Boston service with that type next week.

  7. American and JetBlue have both scheduled to fly more JFK flights in Nov than they flew in 2019 and also more than 2018. The AAL/JBLU NEA slot usage requirements were not based on 2019, IIRC.
    Other airline schedules from LGA and JFK are scheduled below 2019 levels.
    Interestingly, AAL and JBLU’s combined JFK schedules for Nov 2021 are about 42 flights/day less than Nov 2019; JBLU’s reduction in BOS flights is about the same amount.

    AAL’s DCA schedules for Nov are also above the Nov 2019 number of flights.

  8. Do the flight additions in JFK to maintain slot allotments mean UA has a reduced chance of obtaining longer-term slots for its SFO and LAX flights? I thought I read their current slots are temporary.

    1. Mark – In theory, yes. But United doesn’t need that many slots and there are a lot of places it can potentially find them.

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