United States of America
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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 (merged with Continental) and US Airways (merged with American) have each entered and emerged from bankruptcy still flying, though mergers and downsizing have had an impact on the travel experience. The US has three major international airlines that function in a similar manner and size as a national carrier; American Airlines, United-Continental Airlines Holdings and Delta Air Lines. The expansion of LCCs such as Southwest Airlines, Virgin America 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.
Airports in United States of America
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Niche US ULCC Allegiant Air should be embarking on a period of greater stability after reaching an agreement with its pilots and completing a safety review with the US FAA. The airline also recently placed its first order for new aircraft with Airbus, which will help to accelerate the retirement of its ageing MD-80s that are creating reliability challenges for Allegiant.
Although the pilot agreement and aircraft deal will drive long term benefits for Allegiant, the airline faces some cost pressure going forward from increased labour expense and inefficiencies in operating more than one fleet type. As it braces for some cost inflation, Allegiant is also facing increased competitive overlap with fellow ULCCs Frontier and Spirit, which reflects subtle changing dynamics in the US domestic market.
For the moment, the overlap between Allegiant and other ULCCs remains small. But the likelihood of increasing competition is strong as the opportunities in medium sized markets created by consolidation among the US’ largest airlines continue to grow.
Linking Asia with North America has been the market cornerstone for Korean Air and Cathay Pacific while producing a growth market for relatively new entrants like ANA and EVA Air. Yet, while northeast Asian airlines have the geography for profitable nonstop North America flying, southeast Asian airlines are challenged in serving the route.
Singapore Airlines feels the need for a significant North American presence to diversify its network and offset pressure from Gulf airlines, which have profoundly weakened SIA in its core Asia-Europe and Australia-Europe markets. Although Singapore Airlines plans to resume nonstop North American flights, these are token services for strategic purposes.
The primary objective has to be securing more fifth freedom rights for one-stop service. Singapore is encouraging the ASEAN bloc to secure open skies with Japan, Korea and the EU since open skies will entail unlimited fifth freedom rights. Korea is unlikely to agree, with Japan hesitant. Fifth freedom liberalisation is a contentious item in the otherwise benign EU-ASEAN negotiations. Countries worry that granting unlimited fifths opens Pandora's box to growth – not just from SIA, but any number of airlines that are quiescent today but could aspire to be powerhouses in the future.
LATAM Airlines Group faces bigger challenges outside Brazil, as competitors in Peru and Chile attack
During the sharp economic downturn that has engulfed Brazil for more than a year the LATAM Airlines Group has benefitted from less challenging conditions in the domestic markets of its Spanish speaking countries – Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. But during 2Q2016 weakening economies and currency pressure in some of those markets, along with growth by LATAM’s competitors, created challenges for the company in those countries, particularly the Peruvian and Chilean domestic markets.
Some of the competitive pressure in Peru’s domestic market should ease in 2H2016, which should benefit LATAM for the remainder of the year. The company is making a significant international push from its hub in Lima in 2016 and early 2017 with the introduction of eight new markets, six of which are regional routes within South America. LATAM’s expansion from Lima should allow the company to leverage North-South traffic flows for connections through what is its third largest hub measured by seat deployment. Despite bleak economic conditions in many Latin American countries, LATAM continues to leverage its diversified network to grow in markets where it faces few, if any, competitors.
The weakness in Brazil’s domestic and international markets remains status quo. However, conditions in the country’s domestic environment do not appear to be deteriorating as rapidly, which is a welcome sign for LATAM because Brazil still represented 28% of the company’s system capacity in 2Q2016.
Hawaiian Airlines’ unique geography continues to benefit the company in 2016 as favourable capacity trends are one factor in its industry outperformance in unit revenue metrics. Hawaiian’s outlook for the remainder of 2016 remains positive as industry capacity on its routes to North America and long haul destinations remains relatively benign.
The airline is acknowledging slight pressure in its inter-island operations due to heightened competition with the smaller operator Island Air. Hawaiian plans to adjust its inter-island schedule later in 2016 to maximise peak flying and cut some off-peak flights.
Hawaiian is expanding service to the Tokyo market in 2016 after being awarded new slots at Haneda airport. But the expansion is not affecting Hawaiian’s overall growth targets of a 2.5% to 5.5% increase in capacity, which is significantly lower than the double-digit expansion it recorded from 2011 to 2013.
Hainan Airlines' Beijing-Las Vegas 787 service commencing in Dec-2016 will end Korean Air's tenure as the only Asian airline in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is arguably the largest feasible unserved North American market for Hainan. Delivery of over 30 787-9s in coming years means that Hainan will need to establish new markets. The route tests the booking data that airlines and airports rely on: Las Vegas believes airlines have shied away from serving the city and that this is misguided – because Las Vegas' international visitors are not represented, since they often take multi-city itineraries and thus do not appear as a Las Vegas international passenger. Las Vegas wants to prise its international passengers away from transit hubs.
Hainan's presence will initially be about half of Korean Air's, which was upped days prior to Hainan's announcement. Yet this may be the best outcome for Korean. A Chinese service was inevitable, but Las Vegas had to wait for political sensitivities to cool since Las Vegas flights would not have been timely as China's anti-corruption and austerity campaigns unfolded. Hainan brings enough presence to deter more competition in the short term, yet its narrow focus on the outbound Beijing market leaves Korean Air with many opportunities around Asia. Further international growth for Las Vegas is likely after McCarran airport's largest operator, Southwest Airlines, is ready to partner with other airlines in 2018.
As airlines have embraced dual brand strategies to reach full service and low cost growth aviation IT has responded, as seen with Amadeus' acquisition of Navitaire, which mostly but not exclusively powered the passenger service systems (PSS) of LCCs. In the first six months since the deal closed Navitaire has added 230m passengers boarded, to Amadeus Altea's 393m. Navitaire passengers account for 37% of Amadeus' total.
Having significantly grown its market share, and with past LCC product forays not having worked out, Amadeus receives a new business stream. Some Navitaire customers (Ryanair, AirAsia, IndiGo) are larger than Altea customers and have high growth ahead of them. A second benefit is the Navitaire acquisition supporting Altea customers. By owning both products Amadeus can improve connectivity between Altea and Navitaire airlines. Most of Altea's large customers – Lufthansa, IAG, AF-KLM, Qantas and JAL – have an LCC operating Navitaire software. Of Navitaire's passengers – 35% are on airlines that are LCC units of full service airlines. Other airlines may be holding out on pursuing partnerships and connectivity until there is a cheaper, simpler and streamlined way.
It may seem that the Amadeus-Navitaire marriage is about full service and low cost segments, but its greatest strength is the role it will have in the hybrid segment. Hybridity is growing, and Amadeus-Navitaire could galvanise further expansion.