Triangle Trip

Tag: airline industry

How can US airlines make money from JFK to LAX (or SFO) – bailout is around the corner!

by on Mar.16, 2009, under Airlines

There are four airlines (American, Delta, United, Virgin) that operate nonstop flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles LAX. Each airline has six round trip flights per day out of each airport. This means there are 24 flights per day from JFK to LAX. Assuming each flight can carry around 200 passengers which means there are 4,800 available seats from JFK to LAX. Do we really need that many flights each day between the two cities?

The number gets bigger if you include the Greater NYC and Los Angeles areas. Continental which flies out of Newark has about eight nonstops to LAX, Burbank and Long Beach. Jetblue has four nonstops from JFK to Long Beach and Burbank. This means there are 36 flights a day with 7,200 available seats everyday from the Greater NYC to Los Angeles area.

The among of flights between the two metro areas are way too excessive. This is one of many excess and waste we have in America which is part of the reason we are in a recession. Just like having too many Starbucks on one street, too many Citibanks in a two block radius, we have too many airlines flying half empty planes coast to coast. I can see the demand for the flights during peak travel season and peak travel days such as Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. I highly doubt the Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday flights are full.

For the record, the same airlines have similar among of flights between the Greater New York area and the Bay area (San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose). Also keep in mine that my statistics are only for NON-STOP flights. There are 200 more options if you decide to connect or use multiple carriers. Below is a simple search result from Kayak with a three week advance purchase search:

Kayak Search Result (JFK-LAX)

Kayak Search Result (JFK-LAX)

As a frequent coast to coast traveler, I have been on many half empty plane for the past month flying out on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings (which are peak travel times). Perhaps this is why my round trip tickets has not been more than $400 when I bought it 24 hours before the flight. This week’s round trip JFK/LAX ticket was $210 which was purchased 5 days in advanced. Competition driving prices down is capitalism at its best. I have benefited as a consumer. However we all should know that these airlines aren’t money on these flights. Here’s a link to a WSJ article (March 12, 2009) about fuel-hedging loses are impacting Cathay, Delta, etc. Eventually the airlines will go to the government to ask for money.

Government needs to step in to manage the airline industry or we will see another bail out request situation – which already happened once if you recalled post September 11. The previous bail out also drove every single major airline to bankruptcy. I may sound like a socialist but I rather be a socialist than paying for it like we are funding Wall Street and Detroit. I don’t want President Obama the US to appoint me as the Airline Czar to manage the bailout funds when he decides to distribute funds for airline failures. The airline industry needs government intervention now.

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How to fix the US airline industry

by on Dec.22, 2008, under Airlines

Like Detroit, the US airline industry needs an overhaul. I have been traveling an average of 75,000 actual miles per year for the past 10 years and have seen service only going downhill. Airlines are blaming on unions, high gas prices and corporate cut backs on air travel instead of looking at itself.

Let me first address the unions. Airlines have been laying off people left and right. They’ve been reducing in flight workforce for quite some time. I am sure the frequent travelers do notice this trend. Automatic check in kiosks have replaced many people at the airports as well.

Higher gas prices should no longer be the issue. It is back at the $50 per barrel range. Yet customers are still hit with a fuel surcharge.

I am on a commercial flight in December 2008 and the flight from Phoenix to Portland is packed. So it is definitely not that people aren’t traveling. People are traveling but they are no longer loyal to any airline like back in the 90s. The reason is the lack of service and support for the airliner’s bread and butter customers – people like me flying on behalf of the company or client and does it weekly.

Here are some known facts for business travelers (airline’s most profitable and loyal customers) and many don’t admit it:

  1. Most business travelers don’t pay for their own tickets so they want to accumulate as many miles for personal use as possible.
  2. 99.9% business travelers have status on one of the major airline alliances.
  3. All business travelers want to be upgraded if there are seats available in first or business class. Some are willing to pay for it because they can charge it in. They are probably willing to pay for leg room.
  4. Business travelers want to get to their destination as soon as possible, especially when they’re going home.
  5. All travelers, business and vacationers, would like a plug to juice up their laptop or watch a DVD on the plane.
  6. No one wants to sit in a middle seat.
  7. Not everyone enjoys airplane food regardless if it is from first class or supposedly made by an executive chef.
  8. Business travelers don’t check bags. Most know the boarding drill from TSA checkpoint to putting bags in the overhead.
  9. Many business travelers have tight schedules, i.e., meeting ran late or unexpected traffic at a foreign city. They may not be able to check in 45 minutes ahead of time.
  10. Timing is of the essence. Most of my colleagues don’t get to the airport hours before take off and lounge around the airport. Not many belong to airport lounges except when they are forced to connect or their company pays for it. The old perk of using an airport lounge for last minute check in’s have been replaced by kiosks and TSA barriers as some lounges are behind security.

Using the top 10 guiding principles listed above, an intelligent airline executive should be able to address each issue and easily bring back their customers. I can say some airlines are using some of the guiding principles to help itself but none have made significant impact to increase loyalty or love.

Over the next few weeks, we will list recommendations as well as comparing different airlines in terms of service and what they’re good at and what they need to improve.

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