COVID-19: North America market update (w/e March 29)

Routes' latest update on how airlines and airports across North America are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welcome to Routes’ weekly look at how the North American aviation market is responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, helping you understand the schedule changes and manage the impact so we can navigate through this crisis together.

 The data is supplied by OAG using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool unless stated. Please note: the COVID-19 crisis remains fluid as airlines around the world continue to make dramatic capacity cuts. OAG has taken several steps to ensure the data is as accurate as possible. 

North America capacity

OAG data shows that North American capacity dropped by 9.1% last week (w/c March 23) to 22.2 million departure seats, compared with 24.5 million seats during the previous seven days. Capacity is set to reduce by a further 22.5% over the coming week as airlines’ network changes continue to filter through. The figure of 17.2 million seats this week is down by more than 30% compared with the number of seats previously planned by carriers at the start of the year.

Looking at the routes with the largest week-on-week capacity reduction (w/c March 16 vs w/c March 23), Montréal–Trudeau (YUL)-Toronto Pearson (YYZ) experienced the biggest drop, with total capacity falling by 44% or 26,311 seats. Two other Canadian domestic routes—Vancouver (YVR)-YYZ and YVR-Calgary (YYC)—also featured in the top five.

North America airlines

Overall capacity among the top 10 largest North American carriers fell 9.2% last week, OAG figures show. Air Canada capacity dropped by 46.7% and WestJet by 42.5%, to 679,657 and 319,462 seats respectively. Delta Air Lines recorded the largest fall of the US majors, down 12.3%. However, more dramatic reductions among US carriers will be seen over the coming weeks as their network changes come into effect.

American Airlines will suspend 60% of its capacity in April, compared with the same period in 2019, and is planning to suspend up to 80% of its capacity in May. The airline said the domestic capacity reductions take into consideration the FAA’s recent decision to grant additional flexibility in slot-use policies at US airports. 

The most significant change is the reduction in service to Hawaii in April. In response to the new 14-day quarantine order for travelers flying to Hawaii, American has suspended operations into Kona (KOA), Lihue (LIH) and Maui (OGG). The airline will continue to operate one daily flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL).

After already announcing cuts of 70% and plans to park 600 aircraft temporarily, Delta has admitted that the reductions over the coming months could be greater. However, the SkyTeam member has confirmed a number of international services it will continue to operate.

Among the international Delta routes still operating are:

  • Transatlantic: 1X-daily between Atlanta (ATL)-Amsterdam (AMS), ATL-London Heathrow (LHR) and Detroit (DTW)-AMS
  • Transpacific: Up to 7X-weekly between Seattle (SEA)-Tokyo Haneda (HND); up to 6X-weekly between DTW-HND; up to 5X-weekly between ATL-HND, DTW-Seoul Incheon (ICN) and SEA-ICN; and “reduced service” for HNL-HND, Nagoya (NKM) and Osaka (ITM)
  • Central and South America: ATL-Sao Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU)

United Airlines’ international schedule will still be reduced by about 90% in April, but the airline will continue flying six daily operations to and from the following destinations: Newark/New York (EWR)-Frankfurt (FRA); EWR-LHR; EWR-Tel Aviv (TLV); Houston (IAH)-GRU; San Francisco (SFO)-Tokyo Narita (NRT); and SFO-Sydney (SYD).

Southwest Airlines announced last week plans to cut 1,500 of its 4,000 daily flights until a previously revised schedule begins on April 14. This follows the carrier’s plan to reduce capacity by at least 20% from April 14 through June 5.

Photo credit: YUL Montréal–Trudeau International Airport