Monday Insight – December 27, 2021

Before we get started…
There’s something new coming in aviation analysis


Saying What’s Obvious, But Verboten…

Air Service Access Planning: Using Analog Metrics In A Digital Future

The year 2021, aside from re-sorting the market wreckage of the CCP-inflicted global Covid pandemic, displayed a range of dynamics that without any question have restructured the very foundations of the air transportation system. There are lots of emerging opportunities, particularly in regard to changes in fleet missions and in the growth of logistics.

The system has changed, and is continuing to change.

But much – no, most – of the traditional air service development approaches have not.

They assume that “catchment areas” are just simple geographical boundaries, with no recognition that consumer preferences increasingly are based on a lot more fundamental drivers than residential zip code. They go into lots of pre-2019 data to develop “leakage analyses” that are really fading snapshots of past, not future, airline capacity strategies. They blissfully ignore major fleet changes that deliver new (and in many cases increasingly expansive) mission and route potentials that will alter consumer travel decisions on what airports will be used and which will need to recognize that regionalization of air travel access is the future.

The Old System Is Gone. The Name of The Game Is Repurposing Airports’ Economic Foundations. It’s unfortunate that most ASD approaches like those above are still structured to measure and restore a system that’s dead… killed off by progress and affected by the pandemic. It’s a system that at its operational, economic and consumer bases has completely changed.

But this means dealing with difficult realities… realities that most air service studies don’t touch.

–  Airline fleets are changing in mission structure. It’s convenient to simply blame recent 50-seat jet retirements and route cuts to a pilot shortage. The more cogent underlying reason is that these airplanes are following the market evolution seen with their small and mid-size turboprop precursors. These reductions are due to new operating economics, not only a change in staffing issues. That means changes in air service potentialities.

Changing airline strategies of which fleet changes are a key part – dictate new route and market planning. The AA/B6 alliance is just one part of these shifts. There will be more, and any ASD study that doesn’t contemplate such changes and discuss the planing and opportunity alternatives isn’t reliable. It’s veneer analysis.

– More regionalization of scheduled air service access. It’s what Boyd Group International has dubbed “road hubbing” and which has been a key part of our assistance to our airport clients. The claim that a community is “economically dead” without scheduled flights at the local airport is not only bogus, but is a factor that deters more regions from exploring wider air access options consistent with airline industry realities. It is lamentable that a lot of consultant studies today are geared to propagating this obsolete and incompetent canard, basically because telling the hard truth would preclude the entire study.

“Studies” that completely mislead, but deliver the “politically desired” message. A lot of “air service development” studies have descended into programs that smack at the ragged edge of ethical responsibility. Most are concocted with past data and pre-Covid perspectives that assume that pre-2019 air service is the returnable norm. Some airports have been inflicted with multiple such missives, with predictable results. None.

The Latest Elixir: Fix That Website, Maintain A Cutesy Twitter Message, And Voila! Flights Will Come. Not long ago, there was a “study” published for a small airport, exploring where the airport stands in regard to the future. This magnum opus was in excess of 70 pages, including the perfunctory “leakage analysis.”

In addition to some ULCC leisure-destination impulse service, the airport involved is now down to just a single network hub feed route, with just about all the traffic demand in the region taking advantage of the hundreds of flights at a large connecting hubsite an hour or less away. That should have been the analytical and professional focus… the future role of the airport within the realities of air service dynamics.

This airport is in a crossroads situation that demands exploring innovative concepts on repurposing its role and its economic base. But in a lot of these projects, reality isn’t welcome. The city fathers, who understandably do not have much knowledge of the fundamentals of air transportation, naturally want more air service. Even if getting it is about as likely as a visit from Martians, well, by golly, there are folks who are ready to develop missives that will deliver that vision.

Accordingly, it’s a give ‘em what they want situation. This epic document contained nearly zero discussion or analysis of airline-related issues, which in all candor would have revealed the new future that this specific airport needs to pursue, especially in light of it having a snowball’s chance in Miami of ever meaningfully competing with consumer alternatives an hour or less away. The situation dictates immediate action to plan for a repurposed future.

Nothing doing. Instead, there were pages after pages delivering – get this – in-depth critiques on the airport’s website, web app, and social media messaging, deep-diving into great detail to compare them to other airports’ similar programs.

Meanwhile, back in reality, the airport still is facing changes in airline route strategies. Other than just some brief and veneer comparisons with other “peer” airports, the client was not provided with a shred of light in regard to the specific local potential (or lack of same) of attracting additional network air access, or exploring building a new strategic role for the airport. None.

You can’t make this stuff up. The basic conclusion was, incredibly, that, not to worry, “more airlines” would be attracted to the client airport if these areas were improved. Not a word about specific airline strategies, alternative service options, discussion of the ability to increase impulse traffic. Nothing in detail relating to the fundamental aviation opportunities of the future.

The worst part of this example is that it’s more the norm in a lot of ASD studies.

The Reality: Lots of New Opportunities – Particularly For Smaller Airports. This is the reason that there’s a need for direct, tell-it-like-it’s-going-to-be aviation discussion and research. These traditional ASD programs miss the future… a bright future where changes in distribution and logistics will deliver new revenue streams for airports that have the vision and gumption to embrace change. A bright future for communities that band together and recognize that regionalization and concentration of scheduled commercial service is the only way of assuring stronger air access a new-generation airliners come into operation.

At Boyd Group International, we’re pursuing projects that assist communities and airports adjust to and optimize the new dynamics of aviation. We really are not concerned whether a client’s website meets the latest and subjective trendy look and feel. We’re a firm dedicated to aviation results based on the future, not feel-good consumer surveys that have zero effect of air transportation and consumer trends. We are laser-focused on optimizing economic viability of our airport clients. That means readjusting to new economics – and they represent new potential.

We’re not into trying to recreate the past. We’re a forecast research firm that helps our clients find the future.

Their specific future. Give us a call and we can talk about it.