United to give Delta competition on US-Nigeria services
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United, Delta, American Airlines: Cost creep, rising oil prices put pressure on the Big 3 to deliver
For the large three global US network airlines – American, Delta and United – the final quarter of 2016 offers some hope of negative unit revenue trends starting to stabilise, a welcome sign after two years of declines. But those positive developments are occurring against a backdrop of rising fuel costs and overall cost creep for those airlines, as labour expenses rise in the face of new collective bargaining agreements they have achieved.
Although each airline has offered a nuanced interpretation of domestic trends, the general consensus is that dynamics began to improve in Aug-2016 as close-in yields started to strengthen. After enduring tough conditions in Latin America driven by Brazil’s recession, American and Delta posted positive passenger unit revenues (PRASM) in their Latin entities in 3Q2016, and expect further improvement. Higher industry capacity is creating challenges for those airlines in the Atlantic and Pacific, but generally it seems that the path of unit revenue declines in those regions should moderate progressively.
Delta is aiming to post positive PRASM early in 2017, and American believes it can reach a positive result in total unit revenues in 1H2017. For now United is not offering a specific time period for a reversal of negative PRASM, but feels confident it is heading in the right direction, given the changing dynamics in certain areas of its network.
Air Canada Part 1: low cost rouge is a pillar of growth; but further expansion might be constrained
During the past year Air Canada has found itself defending its double-digit capacity growth, stressing that 90% of its capacity in 2015, 2016 and 2017 is being deployed to its international network – an entity the company believes is far from reaching maturity. Recently the airline has outlined plans to introduce a raft of new long haul flights to Europe and Asia operated by Air Canada mainline and its low cost arm – Air Canada rouge.
Air Canada stresses the pillars of its international expansion – Boeing 787 widebodies and the establishment of its low cost subsidiary rouge – enable the company to enter international markets it once considered unviable due to higher costs. During the summer of 2018 rouge will nearly reach its 50 aircraft cap, and Air Canada needs to start determining if there are further opportunities to grow its low cost unit. Those evaluations will partially dictate Air Canada’s overall growth levels beyond 2018.
In the short term Air Canada is not seeing any broad changes in consumer behaviour, reflected in its solid booking curves. Weaker markets in Western Canada, hit by the downturn in the oil sector, are stabilising as capacity cuts have resulted in a rational supply-demand scenario.
This is Part 1 in a two part series on Air Canada. The second instalment will focus on the airline’s costs and balance sheet management.