Air Service Planning Assumptions – Unhinged
Traditional thinking. Historical experience. DOT-reported data.
And of, course reliance on what “everybody knows.”
These approaches are leading a lot of today’s aviation planning into the deep weeds. They’re the very foundation of most of what is passed off today as “air service development.”
And they are increasingly bogus in dealing with the future.
Traditional Air Travel Concepts Getting Ignored. In the past few weeks, air transportation news has been tush-deep in route announcements from ULCCs that represent outright burn-‘em-at-the-stake-heresy in regard to the accepted norms of air service planning.
Allegiant. Frontier. Spirit. They are directly standing counter to the norms we once held dear. The ones we’ve always found as bedrock planning. These airlines are being very disruptive.
Harrisburg-RDU nonstops… With A-320s? Yikes! Or, Syracuse – Nashville? And more.
Nonstops operated with 160+ seat airliners just 2-3 days per work week? And not even in leisure markets.
Goodness, whatever are these carriers thinking?
Friends and neighbors, these are absolute anathema to the sacred foundations of air service planning. No way there’s enough demand to fill those flying machines… we have the sources to prove it, right?
Quickly, let us repair to the sacred scripture – a.k.a., DOT O&D tables – and gain enlightenment to counter such ULCC blasphemy against accepted “air service development” norms. We all know that these data – coming from the deep maws of the federal government – are the horn of truth, right?
Relief! The data are beyond being clear.
See, as just one example, they tell us that there are not enough passengers reported daily each way between MDT and RDU to fill one and a half rows of seats on that airliner. Literally.
There’s A New Travel Paradigm – One That’s Consistent With Consumer Shifts. But these flights are coming, and they are not being scheduled by folks who just fell off a turnip truck.
What this represents is what Boyd Group International has identified as the new “unhinged” aviation future.
Here’s a fact: the traditional air service thinking, as well as accepted planning and forecasting methodologies, have become unhinged from the past. There is a new emerging air transportation market…and we’re seeing the start of it.
The Oracle At DOT – A Lot Of Smoke From Yesterday. Let’s start with this tidbit of iconoclasm: DOT data is merely reflective of air transportation based on a set of complex factors, and determined largely by what airlines are offering.
These data have little to do with illuminating “demand” – because air travel is not like taking the rainfall in the Midwest and then being able to forecast the water flow on the Mississippi.
Air Travel: A Consumer Spending Option. No longer can air traffic forecasts be founded on the assumption that passenger levels are merely the caboose on the GDP growth train. We’ve been slowly unhinged from that since airline deregulation, 40 years ago.
True, GDP projections are the traditional way of forecasting. But it’s now completely outside of air transportation system realities. (Sorry, FAA. Your annual reports look very nice, but they’re the equivalent of a giant vacuum tube in a digital world.)
The number of consumers who will take to the skies, to the contrary, is based on a lot of variables, and DOT data only reflect (often imprecisely) the results of the travel channels that exist.
What that means is that the data are not reflective of what could be, should some fundamentals of air travel be shifted.
Shifted – like tossing day-of-week flights between mid-size cities within a region.
It’s Total Travel Time That Counts. Let’s consider this: air travel choices are made based on issues of convenience, cost, and – missed in a lot of the ASD schemes foisted on smaller airports – the travel-time factor, i.e., how long the total trip will take.
Like we’ve seen in failed attempts to bring local network airline service to places like Laughlin, Youngstown, Cheyenne, Naples and others, it’s the total travel time compared to alternative options that drives consumer choices.
It’s not the location of the local airport, either. A 60-minute drive to MCI from Topeka to get a nonstop flight is time-superior to shoehorning an itinerary to accommodate two local departures making a connection at ORD. Been there, done that.
That same overriding consumer dynamic can also apply to the attractiveness of new mission applications such as we’re seeing coming from Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant. The travel-time superiority is demonstrable, and that could override the concept of frequency. Whether the traffic will develop will depend on a lot of factors, but one thing is certain – past consumer trends are not indicative of the future.
Travel Decisions May Adjust To Superior Elapsed-Time Schedules. Let’s take the BNA-SYR market. There could be a lot of latent demand in that market, if the travel-time and cost factors were significantly better than the current hub-connect options. We don’t have any historical data to prove it one way or another. It’s up to the consumer in each affected market.
And, we all assume that convenience drives a lot of the travel decisions. We assume that one or two weekly round trips won’t be convenient. Really? Compared to a circuitous connection over ORD?
What is to counter the argument that, faced with time-gobbling and expensive hub-connect options, consumer travel patterns – and business meeting schedules – might shift to accommodate the existence of a nonstop, low fare flight on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
This is not to imply that all of these new markets will be a success. But it is to say that there may be a whole air system developing. It’s what Boyd Group International has defined as the Parallel Airline Universe.
Get A Jump On The Unhinged Aviation Future. Enough talk. The fact is that we are at a major turn in the air transportation system in the US, one that addresses functional and time-barriers to getting between major points.
One that, carefully crafted and applied, may create enormous additional air traffic.
So, if you’re interested in getting up to speed on this, join your colleagues at the International Aviation Forecast Summit, August 19-21, and get the straight facts from the CEOs and executives driving this change.
We’re honored to welcome Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier... Robert Fornaro, CEO of Spirit. Jude Bricker, CEO of Sun Country. Lukas Johnson, SVP of Allegiant. Plus Andrew Watterson, EVP of Southwest… and this is just part of the line-up.
We’ll have one-on-one discussions with these and other airline executives from across the globe.
Hosted by Denver International Airport, you can register by clicking here.
And bring your staff, too… it’s two days of solid data, forecasts, and new perspectives that no other aviation event can even get close to.
Annual Rite – The Annual Airline “Quality” Reports
It’s when birds and bees get social. Flowers pop up out of formerly frozen ground. College students head to Daytona for all manner of on-beach rituals.
And, of course, we have the usual suspects in the media doing literary back-flips reporting on the latest airline “quality” reports. No questions are ever asked about source data or the actual “quality” of the conclusions.
It comes from academia, don’t ya’ know.
Again, plan for some in the media to inaccurately and sloppily refer this stuff as a new “survey” – when it’s really just rejiggering DOT data – which any high school kid can access. Just put it through some type of mathematical formula, and, voila! we have a report. One that is postured to be strong research.
Not A Clue Regarding The Airline Industry Structure. Not much here, especially from a “quality” report that doesn’t know the difference between a “certificated operator” and an “airline.” Point: it’s not of much value to consumers.
For example, regurgitating federal data regarding “bumping” rates on operators such as ExpressJet or SkyWest – which mainly lease planes and crews to various major brand airline systems and which have little or no control over booking rates – is just ill-informed.
Which is where these tomes leave the consumer.
But, again, it’s spring.