US Airways and Delta Air Lines raised round-trip tickets by USD10, mostly on domestic routes where it competes with discount carriers (AP/CNN, 08-Apr-2011). JetBlue and Virgin America have matched the increase. AirTran is also raising fares on some routes which is the first time in several months. Meanwhile American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey stated: “We’re facing another fuel crisis, and crisis is not too strong of a word.”
US carriers raise fares again, in 'crisis'
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Alaska, jetBlue and Southwest cost projections; good in the short term but long term challenges loom
Just as the large three global US airlines – American, Delta and United – work to contain their unit costs, their rivals Alaska, jetBlue and Southwest are committed to keeping their respective unit costs in line as the current revenue environment in the US remains weak.
The latter three airlines face different cost dynamics in the future. Alaska is attempting to embark on a merger with Virgin America, which will inevitably create some cost pressure as the full integration gets under way. Southwest is in the middle of complex pilot and flight attendant negotiations, which makes predicting its cost performance in the near- to mid-term difficult. At some point jetBlue will also conclude a new pilot contract that will affect its cost structure.
Cost performance results for Alaska, jetBlue and Southwest for 2Q2016 and the full year look reasonably favourable, although Alaska has refined its 2016 targets slightly, driven in part by increases in performance-based pay. But its costs should remain competitive compared with its peers, and solidly lower than those of the larger network carriers.
Alaska Air Group: locked in limbo until the government renders a decision on Virgin America merger
Alaska Air Group remains in limbo as it waits for the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to complete a review of the proposed Alaska-Virgin America merger. Alaska had originally hoped to gain government approval and close the deal in early 4Q2016, but the regulatory review unsurprisingly is taking longer than expected. However, Alaska remains confident of finalising the arrangement before the end of 2016, and is taking the proper financial steps to finance its acquisition of Virgin America.
In the short term Alaska is experiencing slightly improving trends in the US marketplace, and its unit revenue improved on a sequential basis from 2Q2016 to 3Q2016. Another positive development for Alaska is a slowing of competitive capacity growth in its markets in 4Q2016 and in early 2017. The tempering of growth is reflective of most US airlines planning to lower capacity expansion in 2017 as higher oil prices heighten the importance of returning to positive unit revenue.
Alaska also plans slower capacity growth of 7% in 2017, versus 8.5% in 2016. Approximately 3ppt of the increase is driven by longer stage lengths and the annualisation of nearly 10 new routes launched in 2016 – a mix of smaller and larger markets with varying levels of competition.