COVID-19: North America market update (w/e May 10)

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

After two weeks of more moderate capacity declines—with week-on-week falls of 7.6% and 5.2%—the rate of decline in North America’s market accelerated again last week (w/c May 4). Data from OAG shows there were 5.37 million departure seats from and within the region, a drop of 28.3% compared with the previous seven days.

The US accounted for 5.1 million and Canada 243,489. The figures mean that the US market is now 77% smaller than it was this time last year, while Canada’s market has reduced by 87.8%. The latest schedules data indicates there will be a slight rise in total North America capacity this week, up by about 1.8% to 5.47 million seats.

North America airports

Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) again offered the largest number of departure seats in North America last week with 301,723, but the total was down by 9.4% on the previous seven days. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) ranked second with 244,240 seats, a week-on week decline of 15.3%, while Denver (DEN) dropped to third as the number of seats fell by almost 100,000 to 233,007.

Looking at the year-on-year figures, the number of available weekly seats from ATL was 80% lower last week compared with w/c May 6, 2019. This equated to almost 1 million fewer departure seats. Los Angeles (LAX) recorded the second-largest year-on-year weekly capacity decline in numerical terms, down 821,422 seats, and Chicago O'Hare (ORD) was just behind with a fall of 814,280 seats.

The below infographic shows the top 10 airports in North America by departure seats last week, compared with the same week a year ago.

North America routes

Airlines last week deployed the most capacity between DEN and Las Vegas (LAS), with 20,068 two-way seats on offer. DEN-Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) ranked second with 19,825 seats, and DFW-LAX was third with 17,649.

The biggest week-on-week drop in two-way capacity was between Miami (MIA) and ORD, with the market declining by 11,626 seats to 5,786. DEN-San Francisco (SFO) also suffered a five- figure capacity drop, down 10,589 seats to 9,566. Flights between Orlando (MCO) and MIA completed the top three, with the market 9,472 seats smaller than during the previous seven days.

North America airlines

Southwest Airlines remained the largest airline in North America last week by capacity, offering 1.44 million seats. However, this was a drop of 45% on the previous seven days. American Airlines was the second largest with 1.3 million seats, down 28.7% week-on week, and Delta Air Lines was third with 815,165 seats, down 7.9%.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) last week granted approval for JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines to temporarily cut service to 16 large hubs across the country after revising its CARES Act service obligation exemption criteria.

The latest exemptions relieve JetBlue from operating to 16 large hubs: ATL, Charlotte (CLT), DFW, DEN, Detroit (DTW), Houston (IAH), LAS, Minneapolis (MSP), Nashville (BNA), ORD, Philadelphia (PHL), PHX, Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), Seattle (SEA) and Tampa (TPA). Spirit has been granted exemption from serving: CLT, DEN, DEN, MSP, PHX, PDX, and SEA.

Delta has confirmed plans to retire its last McDonnell Douglas MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft ahead of schedule. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the airline intended to retire the MD-88s at the end of the year and continue operating the MD-90s into 2022. However, both aircraft types will now be phased out in June.

But despite the ongoing cuts to its network, the Atlanta-based carrier has signed its long-planned joint venture (JV) agreement with LATAM Airlines Group on routes between North and South America. The deal was agreed in September 2019.

“Late last year, we set out to build the leading strategic alliance in Latin America together with LATAM, and while the industry landscape has changed, our commitment to this joint venture is as strong as ever,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.

“Even as our carriers contend with the impact of COVID-19 on our business and take steps to protect the safety of our customers and employees, we are also building the airline alliance we know they’ll want to fly in the future.”

Roberto Alvo, CEO of LATAM, added: “Our bilateral strategic alliance with Delta remains a priority and we firmly believe that it still promises to offer customers the leading travel experience and connectivity in the Americas.”

Key route updates from Airlineroute:

Delta files last MD88/90 scheduled flight on 02JUN20

American Airlines plans A321neo Philadelphia – Reykjavik service from June 2021 

JetBlue week of 10MAY20 operations as of 03MAY20

Air Canada week of 10MAY20 Domestic operations as of 03MAY20 

American Airlines expands A321neo Los Angeles network in S20/21

Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week