March 12, 2018

Definition: Unhinged


  1. Unstable, off-balance, uncertain, disconnected from past options,
  2. Disoriented, confused regarding situational changes

Also see: Aviation Future Planning

Today, with all the emerging and fundamental shifts in the industry, it’s a fact… traditional planning approaches are, by definition, coming unhinged – i.e., disconnected from the emerging aviation industry.

Many of the traditional approaches and planning options have little or no bearing on the new emerging dynamics that are engulfing the industry. They are galaxies away from what’s unfolding in aviation.

Join Aviation Leaders At the IAFS™ And Get Whole New Perspectives. On August 19-21, the decision-makers in the industry will be candidly exploring the new structures of aviation… big changes in the works.

Let’s take a look at just a couple of areas…

US Air Transportation System & Structure – one major change is the Parallel Airline Universe – a.k.a. ULCCs (Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country) – they’re expanding with marketing models that are completely contrary to what were in place three years ago.

Running periodic but high-density flights between places like Nashville and Richmond, or Philadelphia-Grand Rapids or Memphis-Oakland, with price intended to trump frequency, is an approach not seen before.

12March5Face it, the competitive issues this represents to the four major network incumbents are, yes, uncertain and disconnected from past options. Unhinged from past experience.

And just offering another bare-bones-you-board-last-and-don’t-get-overhead-space fare bucket isn’t likely going to be a meaningful competitive response.

By the end of 2018, the Airports:USA™ forecast from Boyd Group International indicates that ULCC capacity will be in excess of eight per cent of the US total – a very disruptive factor… one that unhinges traditional competitive options and unhinges the traditional definition of “air travel” from meeting a need, to providing a consumer spending option.

The problem is, the two different models are on a collision course.

Traditional competitive responses are not going to be effective. Pulling otherwise-expected service features to implement another low-fare bucket is problematic. Adding an optional fee to get into a “priority boarding” line that starts to build an hour before departure, and can stretch 80 or more people down the hall, isn’t necessarily a strong response, either.

In regard to competitive responses to the Parallel Airline Universe, most of what’s in the traditional book of service options is out of date. Unhinged as solutions to the current challenges.

Small Community Air Access. Take a look around. Let’s tell this just like it is.

Nowhere is traditional aviation planning more “unhinged” from today’s realities.

There are probably dozens of small communities trying to restore or add to “air service” at the local airport, when the new economic structure of the airline industry – and consumer preferences – now make a lot of these efforts akin to latter-day cargo cults. (Google it if you need.)

But even though the realities – and the emerging structure of the air transportation industry – are crystal clear, many communities are still squandering money on “market studies” and “drive analyses” and “task forces” to “find more airlines” when, like in the case of South Pacific cargo cults – nothing’s coming.

In the context of the emerging air transportation system, and its role as part of the communication system, a lot of these efforts – some quite costly – are the equivalent of voodoo.

12March3In short, the approaches to assuring access from the rest of the global economy can no longer focus on just having flights at the local airport.

The traditional methodologies of just collecting lots of data – much of which are often nonsensical assumptions – will not create a connective airline industry that no longer exists. Building a stick model of an airplane and putting at the end of the runway will be just as effective.

Save The Tuition. Another giant waste of money is sending staff to attend generalized “training classes” that purport to represent that “air service development” is just a matter of doing the right data, and airlines will come a-running. Today, there is no drive-up window for air service, and just doing all the “right” analyses won’t bring them to town. The structure of the US air transportation industry is no mystery. Jive training that covers lots of past hypotheticals that have zero relationship with the US system is useless.

Point: traditional “ASD” approaches like this are on another planet from the future, instead, they are unstable, and functionally disoriented… i.e., unhnged from the new realities.

Fleets & Fleet Applications. Standby for huge disruption here. The traditional service models and applications of long-haul international air service are in for a total revision.

First, the days of the small “regional” jets are still limited. Changes in fuel costs and a near-boom in US travel demand have slowed retirements. But, make no mistake… they are getting older, and the next step up on the fleet chain is going to be most unpleasant for a number of local airports.

These communities need to move away from chasing elixirs and magic that are unhinged from an air transportation system and consumer preferences that are fundamentally different from just ten years ago.

Second, there are enormously disruptive new airliners in the pipeline. The 787 was just a minor taste of what’s coming.

At the 2016 International Aviation Forecast Summit, held at Reno/Tahoe, we showcased the new Boom Technologies 45-50 seat supersonic airliner. At the time, the usual cognoscenti advised us that since the Concorde (which rolled out when Gunsmoke was the #1 TV show, and smoking Raleighs for those valuable coupons was the in thing) didn’t work, that meant that this new airplane was also doomed.

Today, the Boom Technologies airliner has over 130 orders, and support from Japan Airlines, Virgin, and several major component suppliers…

The unhinged effect of the Boom Airliner is that it will – will – have the effect of functionally moving the high-yield business/first customer segments off of the front ends of 777s, A-350s, and A-330s.

Then, we may want to get into the issue of new powerplant technologies… maybe.

Regionalization. Reality is only starting to hit some mid-size regional airports. The traditional do-a-study-lure-an-airline-to-a-new-route approaches are now largely disconnected from the past… unhinged.

The fact is that changes in fleets and raw economics have laid bare the nonsense foisted on many airport that if they want certain new service, it’s just a matter of reaching out for one of the faceless many airlines out there.

One Midwest community recently touted that it had over 31,000 annual O&D in the Boston market, and therefore, it was a slam dunk to “lure” an airline into nonstop flights.

The fact that this number – if all were boarded on a single flight – represents less than a 50% load factor on the smallest airliner of the only (and not identified) airline that could have a snow cone’s chance in Havana of even considering such a route. Apparently, that part of the “route analysis” was somehow left out.

Point: this example is not rare, anymore. Traditional air access planning is increasingly devoid of any relationship with new air transportation realities… it’s unhinged.

Internationalization. It was Boyd Group International in 2008 that first outlined the value of internal, non-hubsite US airports to EU carrier systems.

Today, that trend is well underway. Nashville, Indianapolis, Austin, New Orleans… and more. Plus, Boston even now has nonstops from China.

IAFS 350What this represents is the need for every mid-size and large airport to become more internationally-focused. No, nonstops to Heathrow aren’t in the cards for Ithaca… but access-planning for effective connectivity to US gateways is a future imperative. (One, by the way, they are pursuing.)

Join Us In Denver & Get A Grip On The Future. It’s a new aviation industry – unhinged… unstable, unplotted, un-experienced, and yes, confusing.

But it’s reality – and that’s what we’ll be exploring at the International Aviation Forecast Summit – no wandering “panels” – instead, sessions that will illuminate the future.

We’ll be discussing the unhinged future with airline CEOs, aircraft manufacturers, suppliers, and financial experts… uncovering what aviation will emerge into in the coming years. If you can attend only one conference this year, the IAFS™ should be the one.

If you’re not registered, click here for more information and to get the early registration rate.