COVID-19: North America market update (w/e April 5)

Welcome to Routes’ weekly look at how the North American aviation market is responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, helping you understand the schedule changes and manage the impact so we can navigate through this crisis together.

The data is supplied by OAG using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool unless stated. Please note: the COVID-19 crisis remains fluid as airlines around the world continue to make dramatic capacity cuts. OAG has taken several steps to ensure the data is as accurate as possible.

North America capacity

Overall capacity across North America fell by 22.5% last week (w/c March 30) to 17.2 million available departure seats, a week-on-week reduction of 5 million seats. The figure of 17.2 million seats for the week is down by more than 30% compared with the number of seats previously planned by carriers at the start of the year. This week commencing April 6, total capacity is set to plunge by a further 32% to 11.7 million departure seats as airlines across the continent continue to suspend services and reduce frequencies.…

Looking at the routes with the largest week-on-week capacity reduction (w/c March 23 vs w/c March 30), there were more than 31,000 fewer two-way seats between Atlanta (ATL) and Orlando (MCO), and almost 30,000 fewer between while Honolulu (HNL) and Tokyo Narita (NRT). ATL-Tampa (TPA) and HNL-Los Angeles (LAX) were at number three and four in the top five routes by capacity reduction, while New York (JFK)-London Heathrow (LHR) was fifth.

In terms of airports, the number of departure seats from ATL last week fell by 39%—or 436,693 seats—to 679,613 seats. According to the latest OAG data, capacity is set to fall by a further 29% this week. There were other large drops last week at LAX, down 212,230 seats; San Francisco (SFO), down 203,431 seats; and JFK, down 199,353 seats.

North America airlines…

Delta Air Lines slashed capacity by 45.7% last week to 2.36 million seats, almost 2 million fewer than during the previous seven days. The fall comes as the US carrier prepares to cut its schedule by 80% in April, compared with what was originally planned, with 115,000 flights cancelled.

In a memo to staff, CEO Ed Bastian said the first three months of 2020 “was unlike any quarter in Delta’s history” and the second quarter would be “even more difficult than the first.”

“We are expecting our revenue in the second quarter to be down 90%,” he said. Bastian added that the CARES Act was “welcome news”, but without self-help actions to cut costs and raise finance, that money “would be gone by June.”

During April, Delta plans to operate just two transatlantic services: ATL-Amsterdam (AMS), which will be daily; and between Detroit (DTW) and AMS, which will be “less than daily.” In the transpacific market, the SkyTeam member will only serve Seoul Incheon (ICN)—from DTW and Seattle (SEA), both up to 5X-weekly—and Tokyo Haneda (HND), up to 7X-weekly from SEA.

United Airlines also made large cuts to capacity last week, with the total number of weekly departure seats falling by 37.9% to 2.2 million seats, compared with the previous seven days. On April 5 the airline made further significant cuts from its New York airports. Flights from Newark Liberty (EWR) will reduce from 139 per day to 15, while from LaGuardia (LGA) the number of daily flights will fall from 18 to two.

The OAG figures show that cuts across the networks of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines were significantly lower than those of Delta and United last week, with weekly capacity down 5.6% at American and 0.1% at Southwest. However, American’s capacity this week is set to fall by 63%.

Photo credit: Nigel Howarth/Aviation Week

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.