Market Analysis of US airline behavior (15Q2-16Q2)

The table below demonstrates reliable statistics on airlines and their affiliated behaviors at their ports. The behavior change is noted by changes in Departures, Seats, Available Seat Miles, Stage Length Averages and Gauges.

The airlines are as follows; American Airlines (AA), Alaska Airlines (AS), Jetblue (B6), Delta (DL), Frontier (F9), Spirit (NK), United (UA), Virgin America (VX) and Southwest (WN).

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AA

  • Resumes to equipment up-size with lengthen operations at expense of frequency appropriation on focus cities with strong competition like Boston, New York La Guardia, and Chicago
  • Tangible changes post-acquisition of US Airways is yet to settle in, with Philadelphia, Charlotte and Phoenix yet to announce major operational changes, fleet-intermingling systems and network-systems appropriation still at a non-mature stage. All 3 cities posted little to no change in combined aircraft size, lengths of missions (although Phoenix saw capacity being pulled out with dedicated fleet amendments due to competition, low-profitability and network-cannibalization with the AA current mainline)
  • AA continues to drive their hubs strong, with strong ASM and departure growth mean aircraft size dropping or holding (more network spokes at major hubs), shorter average sectors (more regional and domestic oriented growth) and varied seat-volume growth.
  • Future growth mainly seen in larger widebody aircraft on TATL/TPAC markets (especially over 767s and A333s), and re-assignment/re-configuration of A321/738 aircraft on shorter routes as respective NEO/MAX replacements are injected.

AS

  • Alaska Airlines continue to drive strong growth in Seattle with growing aircraft size (Horizon Air services put onto mainline), strong ASM growth and more departure/arrival rights in their biggest hub.
  • Strong de-hub movements by AS, with new Hawaii focus-city services from secondary AS bases.
  • Light growth at Anchorage appropriated to GDP and economic growth of the region. Market share drawn in sand (or ice).
  • Los Angeles and Phoenix sees growth with a developing (yet timid) partnership with AA, strong inbound and outbound traffic connecting onto AS-services, growing demand, rampant competition, and growing volumes (at lower yields spilled).
  • AS seeks more services and presence in the San Diego region, with higher departures of lower-capacity aircraft on shorter sectors.
  • Future trends may lead to AS further mingling and distributing traffic alongside their new VX acquisition (although will take years).
  • Dual brand, fleet and operations will be of question; and its respective future will be dictated according to decision made.

B6

  • Strengthened presence at Boston and New York JFK with a changed direction in business; a renewed focus on inherently perceived leisure destinations under-served (as operational hubs). This is depicted by bustling presence into Fort Lauderdale and Orlando
  • FLL and MCO witnessed strong growth alongside longer sectors across to the Caribbean and Central American regions (as observed with the shift in business case).
  • DCA sees low growth to recoup yields (operates smaller aircraft on shorter sectors with higher CASK, hence needing of capacity rationalizing.
  • Jetblue attempts to break into traditional US3 hubs with spokes running off B6’s network (with entry from their growing JFK, BOS, FLL and MCO hubs).
  • Jetblue Mint rollout to rationalize/segment operations proportional to market demands/characteristics.
  • Mint and the mainline set to grow across the US (re-config of A320s + A320/A321NEO orders).

F9

  • Gauge growth in aircraft sizes and movement flexibility practised.
  • Frontier has been pushed out from Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, with shorter sectors cut and network from Atlanta sized upon competition to acquire O/D traffic from the high-competition areas (US3 injecting low-yield capacity to penetrate the DL hub)
  • Frontier taking on more elastic markets (hence capable to grow from below), which are conservatively served as spokes for other airlines (namely Orlando and Las Vegas)
  • Strong growth with A320NEO and A321 orders.

NK

  • Strong growth in departures, seats and ASMs proportionately at FLL and LAS.
  • Transition of LAX from a focus city to a base; sharpest increases of departures, followed by de-gauged seat volume and reduced sector lengths.
  • Settling, consolidation, up-sizing and operational maturity of aircraft at primary DFW and ORD bases.
  • Like F9, with orders of A320/A321 families.

UA

  • Network-wide decreases in departures in bid to up-size and reduce frequencies on major routes and regional arms.
  • CLE with most significant decreases in gauges, seats and ASMs.
  • Bases of BOS and DEN, and hubs of EWR, ORD and SFO, mature in the marketplace. This is seen with moderate increases in ASMs proportionate to the reduced frequency and aircraft up-gauging.
  • IAD sees weaker market demand as DCA cannibalizes with growth in FSC competition and LCCs.
  • IAH sees major downturn with lower yields and higher dedicated capacity for online connections. This is due to the drop in the fuel prices and a softer energy industry (especially oil). Further route cuts and frequency adjustments are to be made.
  • LAX also suffers cuts due to high competition, lower yields, lower desire to operate hub proximate to SFO, and a stronger up-gauging requirement to offset lower yields.
  • We are yet to see further frequency adjustments, consolidation and route cuts; with orders of 737-700 for regionals (replacing many regional aircraft), retiring widebodies (767, 747), widebodies reconfigured and being rostered on domestic runs (772), and a strong order backlog (787, 77W, A350 and a lot of 737-9s).

VX

  • Gauge consistency network-wide
  • Sharp cuts in DAL Love Field.
  • Strong growth in JFK, SFO and LAS; tapping into the competitive and lucrative transcontinental and seasonal Florida services.
  • Future dictated by AS owners.

WN

  • Low gauge growth with 737-300s and 737-500s being replaced by 737-800s.
  • Growth shows signs of future slowing as WN settles into matured LCC market.
  • WN places a growth multiplier on bases being pulled out by other FSCs and LCCs. This is the case for (and respectively consolidated); DAL (VX), DEN (UA/F9), OAK (by proximate SFO airport), STL (AA/UA) and PHX (AA).
  • Will continue to grow and mature.

OVERALL

  • Departure volume has settled down; with growth majority of the times, being driven by up-gauging. This is heavily driven by FSCs managing their respective regional arms, reducing frequencies, managing and de-cannibalizing hub directions, and increasing average size of aircraft (mainly due to better economics and lower CASMs from fleet simplification, higher density cabins, aircraft stretches and aircraft deployed where better fit for purpose.
  • Strong variance of ASM growth amongst competitors.
  • LCCs mostly having disciplined growth where opportunities are presented.
  • Future concerns associated to managing the next downturn (financial + higher oi prices), managing airspace and FSC hubs, growth of regional US regions (policy + airline management), and managing FSC regional arms (through methodologies respective to each carrier’s interests and market position).
  • The future looks to disciplined growth, profit orientation and a slowing trend of airline consolidation within the US market as it further matures. Airlines will begin to tapping into markets as competitors pulling out (rather than failing at “growing the market”).

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