By Tom Smith
After an airport has that critical first meeting with an airline, such as at ACI-NA’s JumpStart, how much time does the carrier spend fact-checking the airport’s pitch presentation? It depends.
During the day-long ACI-NA International Aviation Issues Seminar on Thursday here in Washington, there were a few useful or insightful nuggets for airports from airlines, consultants and analysts.
Do airline route planners validate airport presentations?
“It depends,” said Sabine Reim, a former long-time British Airways route planner now with the London office of InterVISTAS. If an airport simply claims that the community is the home to “x number” of Fortune 500 companies, then that will require further fact-checking. However, Reim said if the airport details the type of locations a Fortune 500 company may have and their travel (especially foreign travel) patterns, then an “overworked” airline planner is less likely to take the time to fact-check an airport’s information.
A trusting relationship or partnership between an airport and an airline route planner is essential, Reim said. Airlines have fewer people in route planning and a strong relationship helps. While the airline can get the information, the airport providing trust-worthy information certainly helps.
Southwest will be expanding in 2014 and 2015
With the final integration of AirTran into Southwest in 2014 and the end of the Wright Amendment restrictions, Southwest plans to begin its own branded international service as well as non-stop service from Dallas Love Field, said Robert W. Kneisley, the airline’s associate general counsel.
Southwest will take over the 25 AirTran international routes currently flying from eight cities and expand the route network to serve Mexico, the Caribbean and eventually northern Latin America. With the new international terminal that Southwest is building at Houston Hobby Airport, Kneisley said Southwest will compete with United with “Southwest” fares to Mexico.
In addition, Southwest will be competing with United in Dallas beginning next October when the Wright Amendment restrictions are lifted on Love Field. “There is a target rich environment and we will be able to compete with non-stop service with United flying out of DFW. Love to Baltimore, logical. Love to LaGuardia, logical. Love to Midway, logical,” he said.
Southwest flying to Canada?
“Service between the U.S. and Canada is under-served and over-priced,” he said, further noting that U.S. carriers only fly regional jets between Washington and Ottawa. “Canada fits the Southwest target” and it would benefit from the “Southwest stimulus effect,” however, Kneisley said the barrier to entry is the “extremely high costs of Canadian airports.” The high landing fees and ticket charges would restrict the “simulative” effect of Southwest’s fares in that transborder market.
Where will the Dreamliner fly next?
It is only a matter of time before Philadelphia and Charlotte get B787 service to Tokyo with the new aircraft coming into the “new” American fleet. Miami won’t be far beyond and Phoenix will also get the service, said Seth Kaplan, editor of Airline Weekly.
Austin won the BA flights to London with 787 service because it had decent volume and the capacity for higher fares. Its yields, he noted, are higher than several potential competing airports that had greater volume.
While everyone is excited about the route combinations that a Dreamliner makes possible, Reim said this creates more competition for airports to land international service. It will be “tougher” because airlines will not be just considering east-west flights but now there are strategic reasons to fly north-south.