A Busy Week as Airlines Make Their Bets for 2022

Schedule Changes

That was a short-lived slumber in Airlineville. This week, the residents got back to work… and in a big way.

The Cirium data shows the the Heart set spring plans while the Taxi went all the way through summer. The Eagle too was thinking about summer, but he was scaling back unlike all the rest. The Eagle’s sister, the Queen, was also thinking about summer.

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

Alaska Works on Spring Break

Alaska brought down February capacity by four points, mostly because of the proper gauging of 737-900s down to 737-800s which will actually fly. It also flopped frequencies around during the spring:

  • Markets gaining frequency: Anchorage – Fairbanks; Boise – Paine Field, Palm Springs, Seattle; Los Angeles – Belize, Bend/Redmond, Portland; Portland – Oakland, Ontario, San Diego, Seattle; San Francisco – Spokane; Seattle – Bellingham, Bend/Redmond, Calgary, Eugene, Kalispell, Missoula, Pasco, Vancouver, Victoria
  • Markets losing frequency: Los Angeles – Newark, San Francisco; Portland – Boston, Burbank, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis/St Paul, Palm Springs, San Jose; San Francisco – New Orleans, Tampa; Seattle – Dallas/Fort Worth, Kansas City, New Orleans

Also, SFO – Cancun will fly this summer while San Jose – Spokane is gone, some frequency being pushed up to San Francisco instead.

American’s Week of Forced Cuts

It was announced publicly last week, and I have a much more in-depth look coming tomorrow, but American has set its long-haul plans for next summer now that it has given up most hope on getting long-delayed 787s delivered any time soon. You can read the press release or wait until tomorrow for more.

But before that, American pulled down February into March by a little over 1 percent. Why? The airline tells me that this is due to labor capacity and not based on demand.

In other news, from April, American is slashing its Washington/National – Boston flights from 16 to 10x daily and DFW from 10x to 9x daily. There are also some Charlotte cuts. Washington/National will get an extra daily to Atlanta, Burlington (VT), Cleveland, Dayton, Fort Myers, Hilton Head, Memphis, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm.

British Airways Plans Summer

British Airways is bulking up summer schedules, and that means more frequencies in most markets, but there’s a little nuance. LA goes from 2x to 3x daily. Houston and Seattle each go from 12x weekly to 2x daily. Orlando (to Gatwick) goes from 1x to 2x daily. Nashville (to Heathrow) and Tampa (to Gatwick) each go from 5x weekly to 1x daily. New Orleans creeps up from 3x to 4x weekly.

On the fleet side, Chicago gets a boost with a 777 going to an A380. Dulles also sees an A380 come in, upgauged from a 787. Boston gets an A380 as well, but it has to sacrifice a frequency to get it, dropping from 4x to 3x daily.

In mixed news, San Jose will remain gone until June, but then it goes 1x daily instead of the previous plan for 5x weekly.

The two losers are JFK, which drops from 8x to 7x daily, and Las Vegas – Gatwick which is gone. (Heathrow still operates.)

Delta Runs Into Regional Trouble

It’s happened to everyone, and Delta is no exception. Delta pulled down a point of capacity in March and over 3 percent in April. In April, it is a broader cut, but mainline flights are down only 5 percent while Endeavor is down nearly 7 percent and Republic is down a whopping 18 percent. It looks like Detroit – Lacrosse; Minneapolis – Great Falls, Lincoln (market exit), Marquette; and Salt Lake – Cody (market exit), Grand Junction (market exit), Indianapolis are all out of the schedule through summer at least.

In better news, Delta will fly JFK – Stockholm this summer starting in June. Atlanta – Rome will go from 1x to 2x daily this summer. Oh, and Boston – Savannah will operate starting in March.

Frontier Files Fort Lauderdale

Frontier has, as announced, gone into Fort Lauderdale in a big way. Details of that and other additions can be found in the press release.

Southwest Extends Its Schedule, Part 1

Southwest did the first part of the Texas two-step this week. It extended its schedule from April 24 to June 4. Next week it is expected to roll through the summer. In the new period, capacity is roughly flat vs 2019. You can see the primary schedule changes in the press release.

Spirit Extends Through Summer

Spirit also extended this week, but it went long, extending from May 24 through September 6. As announced, it has filed a Philly extension, and you can read the press release for more.

Like many of the older folks living in the airline’s home state, Spirit seems to be having PNS problems. Flights won’t be getting up to Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and St Louis until the end of May, delayed from April.

Ok, ok, there are actually a few other markets in the same boat. Also not flying in April: Chicago – Baltimore, Phoenix; Dallas/Fort Worth – Philly, San Diego; Detroit – Oakland, Philly; Fort Lauderdale – Kansas City, Raleigh/Durham; Fort Myers – Pittsburgh; Milwaukee – Cancun; Minneapolis/St Paul – Denver; Myrtle Beach – Akron; and Tampa – Kansas City.

United Tinkers

United pulled March capacity down about a point and a half with a mix of mainline and regionals, though GoJet was hit hardest with departures down over 10 percent, and Mesa followed down 6 percent vs the 3 percent for mainline. There was also just a lot of tinkering. Notable moves:

  • Denver – Anchorage boosted from 1x to 2x daily next summer
  • Houston will gain a daily flight to Comayagua, the new airport that will replace Tegucigalpa for good at some point.
  • San Francisco – Atlanta, Baltimore, Madison, Omaha, and Pittsburgh will not operate in February. That list of suspended hub overflight markets from SFO continues to shrink.

WestJet Sets April

WestJet continues to feel more confident looking into its crystal ball. It brought April capacity down 35 percent which has it sitting 25 percent below 2019 levels. It’s a general cut, but noted cancellations for the month including Cancun to secondary cities (Halifax, Regina, and Saskatoon) along with Calgary – London/Gatwick, Ottawa – Orlando, and Winnipeg – Las Vegas.

Other Randomness

  • Aha! has shifted the Reno – Spokane route to operate on Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday instead of Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
  • Air France will add another LA – Paris frequency this summer, going up to 26x weekly.
  • Asiana won’t fly to Honolulu through the winter schedule.
  • Breeze added two new cities, Islip will have flights to Charleston (SC) and Norfolk along with West Palm Beach Saturday service to Akron/Canton, Charleston (SC), Columbus, New Orleans, Norfolk, and Richmond.
  • Finnair will start Helsinki – Seattle in June as well as extend its Stockholm – JFK and LA flights through summer.
  • Hawaiian extended its Asia pandemic schedule through February.
  • Icelandair’s summer schedule sees increases in JFK (12x weekly -> 2x daily), Chicago and Toronto (11x -> 12x weekly), and Newark (5x weekly -> 1x daily).
  • KLM will raise LA service from 13x weekly to 2x daily next summer. Minneapolis/St Paul goes from 4x to 6x weekly.
  • Porter will bring back weekend Myrtle Beach service in March.
  • Public Charters, the assumed Hard Rock flights from Scranton to Atlantic City, are now showing flights from Scranton to Philly, for those who think the two hour drive is just not short enough.
  • Ukraine International will restart Kiev – New York/JFK (4x weekly) and Toronto (2x weekly) in June.
  • Ultimate Air Shuttle has suspended all flights after December 16.
  • Vietnam Airlines will reduce its San Francisco flight from 2x to 1x weekly.
  • Volaris El Salvador will begin flying from San Salvador to Los Angeles (1x daily), New York/JFK (4x weekly), and Washington/Dulles (3x weekly) in late March/early April.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s episode of Skeds of air Lines.

18 comments on “A Busy Week as Airlines Make Their Bets for 2022

  1. BA’s drop on JFK-LHR in terms of frequency is probably offset by the fact that AA is going back to 4 x daily, with 3 on the 77W instead of the usual 2 x 77W and 2 x 77E.

    DL adding JFK-ARN is just weird. They’ve flown it before, on a 757 with lie flats, and it didn’t work out.

    Seems weird for DL to respond to AY. Do they really think they’re missing out here? It’s a saturated market without AY, with UA returning on EWR-ARN and SK flying it year round.

    1. DL has had an on again, off again relationship between JFK and Stockholm. Flew it 20 years ago in biz on a 767 (I’m guessing). It was definitely a wide body, they didn’t fly Airbus then and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an L10. Seems this route runs for a while, gets cut, comes back a few years later, runs for a while, gets cut, etc. I don’t know that it’s a competitive response, per se. Just another chapter in an ongoing saga.

  2. Love the snarky jokes on this post, between the Pensacola references and the “…for those who think the two hour drive is just not short enough” bit. Please keep it coming (with the usual “read between the lines” innuendo that makes the actual text safe for work, of course).

  3. Did WN pull service from MDW to PSP or was that always intended to be seasonal?

  4. It is not an exaggeration to say that the collapse of US regional airline services is underway. There are so many other pilot and mechanic opportunities that many are simply not willing to spend the time at regional airlines. The cost of regional carrier services will soar as regional airlines increase pay for these workers; routes that once worked no longer can be justified.
    Given that Delta operates the lowest percentage of regional airline flights compared to its total domestic network, they are in the best position to adapt since they have already transitioned so much regional carrier capacity to mainline aircraft. United’s refleeting is intended to address the issue but will come with enormous capex.
    Small markets will be hit hardest and it will be harder to justify 3 or 4 network carriers serving these types of markets with RJs; more and more markets will be dominated by the one network carrier that can use mainline aircraft on at least some of their flights.
    It will also be harder and harder for network airlines to justify 3+ hour large RJ flights that overfly one or more of their hubs; AAL and UAL have added a number of these types of markets over the past several years. The same amount of block hours can be used to serve many more flights to closer hubs.
    As summer 2022 gets closer, it is likely there will be even more cuts as regional carriers recognize they cannot staff the flights that network airlines want them to fly.

      1. you do realize that JFK-MSP is a hub to hub flight for Delta even though it operates on RJs? And given the duplication between DL’s DTW, MSP and SLC hubs, there isn’t a need to operate huge amounts of capacity from JFK to all of them.

        Routes that are examples of what are actually at risk are DFW and IAH to the east and west coast and Denver to Florida on large RJs.

    1. You conveniently forget that AA is handing its NorthEast and West coast RJ flying to B6 and AS. DL will be hit very hard by RJ pilot shortage. Maybe not as much as UA. But ULCCs doubling size in 5 years will absolutely plunder pilot/FAs from regional airlines.

      1. American’s financial statistics do not show a reduction of regional jets to approx. 350 units which is where Delta is. American and United both operate approx. 600 RJs in their network. American is moving RJs around its network but it is not reducing them to anywhere near the degree Delta has.

        The pain from regional airline shrinkages will be felt by all airlines that use them – AA AS DL and UA – proportional to the size of regional aircraft operations to the total size of the domestic system. Delta has the lowest percentage of RJ to total domestic system flights of the 4 airlines that use regional aircraft.

        And yes ULCC growth its pulling pilots and mechanics from regional airlines. Delta saw the need to shrink its regional operation more than 10 years ago – which is why they acquired the 717 fleet; at one time, DL had the largest RJ operation in the world. AA and UA are just that far beyond the curve. DL is the only one of the 4 airlines that has a new generation small narrowbody aircraft -the A220 – which has the potential to replace large RJs with even better economics. Again, Delta, whether you like it or not, is in the best position of the 4 US airlines that use regional aircraft as the regional airline industry collapses over the next few years.

        1. When did it become a crime for individual airlines to have somewhat different business models? The relative profitability of airlines isn’t constant. Among other examples, US Airways was profitable while the “perfect airline” was bankrupt. Unlike some, I hope all airlines improve their bottom lines. I’m not rooting for any of them to be liquidated.

  5. Such a bummer that UAS shut down for good (or at least for the time being). I always enjoyed my flights on them.

    Your PNS joke was perfection. Well done, Cranky!

    1. I’ve always been a big fan of UAS’ business model and the value it appears to offer for business travelers in the “long drive”/”shortish flight” routes, but I moved out of Cincy before they started up, so I’ve never had the chance to fly them. Shame, too, as I lived much closer to Sunken Lunken than to CVG.

      I was sad to see when I checked their site recently that UAS had announced that they were shutting down again due to the pandemic. I assume that a good chunk of their major corporate accounts have travel restrictions in place for the foreseeable future and that is what is driving the shutdown. I hope UAS can survive the shutdown and find a way to keep its planes and staff earning some money for them.

    1. Narita Kuko – Heathrow is operating 1x daily year-round, but Gatwick will also operate in the summer up to 2x daily. At least, that’s the plan as of now.

  6. The ultimate shrinkage of regional airlines is something Tim Dunn and I agree about. I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it in draconian terms like “collapse” but I do agree quite a bit of shrinkage is probably inevitable. There are a number of possibilities, far outside the scope of this post, that are apparently under consideration, such as the possible return of 19-seat aircraft (possibly powered by electricity or other alternative energy sources). And, of course, the replacement of regional aircraft with small mainline jets such as the Airbus A220 and/or Embraer 190/195-E2 E-Jets. Regional fleets will also be ungauged, a process well underway across the board in one way or another. But, as Tim correctly points out, all of those need pilots, flight, and ground crews. to that point, it’ll be quite interesting to see how the next round of contract talks will address scope, given the limited choice of new regional aircraft on the market.

    There are other options, such as consolidation among the regional carriers, or a universal, pooled codeshare agreement among the legacies to serve smaller communities from major cities such as Chicago O’Hare, LAX, or JFK that have more than one primary hub carrier. Some of that flying could be done at risk or with some kind of subsidy, but scope clauses will come into play under all of those scenarios. Then there’s always the possibility of enhanced high-speed rail service in some parts of the country. Amtrak’s Acela is making inroads in the northeast, and the recent infrastructure legislation includes some enhancements that should make that service even more competitive.

    I’m merely tossing out possibilities. I have no skin in the game one way or another about anything I’ve written. All of the aforementioned options have pros and cons, which I’m not going to get into here.

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