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Air Travel is frequently the most practical method of covering the large distances between cities in the USA. The domestic air system is extensive, with dozens of competing airlines, hundreds of airports and thousands of flights daily. The US is the world's largest aviation market. Domestic airlines have mostly rebounded since September 11. Delta (now merged with Northwest), United (merging with Continental) and US Airways have each entered and emerged from bankruptcy still flying, though mergers and downsizing have had an impact on the travel experience. The US has five major international airlines that function in a similar manner and size as a national carrier; American Airlines, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways. The expansion of LCCs such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue has increased competition and lowered prices domestically and in some cross-border markets.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation with authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the US. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the government agency responsible for security in all modes of transportation and is solely responsible for carrying out screening of passengers and their baggage (both checked and carry-on) at 450 airports across the US.
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The somewhat-hyped acquisition by start-up PEOPLExpress of charter carrier XTRA Airways may accelerate the carrier’s long overdue market entry, but it will do little to improve PEOPLExpress’ odds of survival in a US market place that now revolves around three distinct business models – ultra low-cost, hybrid and full-service network carriers.
PEOPLExpress’ declaration that it would retain the XTRA brand and its charter services only clouds its already murky business plan, which should give rational, would-be investors pause as the carrier has done little to crystallise its vision other than buying a smaller carrier in order to obtain an operating certificate after overestimating the time and effort entailed in gaining approval from the US FAA.
After years of scaling back its Memphis hub, Delta Air Lines has officially declared Memphis is losing that status in late 2013. The airport’s fate has been sealed as Delta has been steadily cutting service from Memphis – from a peak of 300 daily departures during 2000 to roughly 93 daily flights. Once the de-hubbing its complete Delta’s departures from Memphis will decrease a further 35% to 60 daily departures.
Delta’s reasoning in closing Memphis rests on the significant reduction in 50-seat jets it is undertaking to reduce its small jet fleet to roughly 125 shells from a peak of more than 500 five years ago. The carrier determined it is unprofitable to operate those aircraft in Memphis where the amount of local originating traffic is somewhat sparse.
Even though the official de-hubbing of Memphis comes as no shock to the airport, which has been courting other airlines, political backlash has ensued against Delta. Tennessee politicians are accusing the carrier of making false promises when it merged with Northwest in 2008 when the company assured service from Memphis would not diminish. As American and US Airways work through the requisite approval processes for their merger, the decision by Delta to de-hub Memphis will only create additional pressure on those carriers to pledge no hubs within their respective combined networks will lose their respective status.
Southwest Airlines continues to refine the combined operations it has with AirTran in Atlanta as part of its overall strategy to put less emphasis on Atlanta as a connection point and more focus on creating a rolling schedule in the market that is more reflective of its other top focus cities.
All of the efforts that are designed to reach fruition in Nov-2013 are being undertaken to improve the overall performance of Atlanta in the combined AirTran-Southwest network as the integration of the two carriers continues.
But in the short-term Southwest is battling some revenue weakness as unit revenues during 1Q2013 increased just roughly 2% and fell 4% to 5% during Apr-2013. Some of the weakness in Apr-2013 resulted from the timing of the Easter holiday and system slowdowns triggered by budget cuts in the US. Moving forward, Southwest believes it should post unit revenue improvements during the last two months of 2Q2013, with the momentum continuing throughout the rest of the year.
Hawaiian Airlines is still awaiting the rewards of network diversification it undertook a few years ago with the launch of several new Asian routes along with flights to Auckland and Brisbane. The effort was designed to offset Hawaiian’s dependence on service to the US mainland, which has become increasingly competitive during the last few years.
The rapid-fire route introductions have been plagued by currency weakness in Japan, retaliatory competitive capacity additions and Hawaiian’s spooling up in understanding the distinctive nuances of each market. At the same time overcapacity in its North American markets – which still comprise the majority of its revenues – continues to pressure Hawaiian’s performance.
As those challenges continue to cast a spectre on Hawaiian’s performance, the carrier has reversed its fortunes within its inter-island network, which weakened during 2012 when Hawaiian made a push from Maui and overestimated the capacity it needed to build a hub in Kahului.
Air Tahiti Nui plans metal neutral alliance with Air France and partners as losses continue to mount
Air Tahiti Nui has announced a planned deeper alliance with Air France on the Los Angeles-Paris CDG route and is rolling out a refurbished fleet of A340-300 aircraft to allow it to compete better with rival South Pacific carriers. But profits remain elusive for the heavily indebted carrier which survives with the support of its French Polynesian Government majority owner, which appears to be resisting a much needed restructuring of the airline.
The far flung archipelago territory’s tourism industry is slowly recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis which saw visitor numbers fall more than 40%. But while French Polynesia is benefitting from growth in tourism from Australasians eager to venture beyond Fiji, the bigger spending European market remains in decline.
Air Tahiti Nui is also facing tougher competition from a rejuvenating Air Pacific, as well as Hawaiian Airlines which has launched services to Australia and New Zealand. All provide connections to the United States and in the case of Hawaiian, as far afield as New York, making each an attractive option for an island stop-over.
Alaska Air Group is warning that it faces a challenging 2Q2013 as the maturing of new transcontinental routes and competitive capacity pressures in its markets to the state of Alaska are creating pressure on yields even as demand remains strong.
Some of the steps Alaska has taken to rationalise its capacity between the US mainland and Hawaii as a means to improve its performance in those markets is being diluted by several carriers making a push into the state of Alaska during the summer high season in the northern hemisphere.
Even though the carrier is spooling up new markets and facing increased competition in some of its mature markets, Alaska for the moment is sticking to its higher than industry average capacity growth for 2013 of 7.5%. However, the carrier is not completely wedded to its current expected capacity growth, and is evaluating the possibility of adjusting its supply targets during autumn 2013.