Thursday, July 20, 2017

More competition coming for the Big 3 US carriers

Despite the PR nightmare of United's recent dragging and beating episode, United is on track to have a great quarter, and they'll likely have their highest number of boardings ever. Despite all of those Facebook comment threats about "never flying them again", it's amazing how many people still do when it's the cheapest, most-convenient, or only option. People might still hate United, but not enough to pay $50 more or take a 2-stop itinerary instead of a direct one...

This is why competition is so important. I still don't understand why the Obama administration approved the three mergers that eliminated Continental, US Air, and Virgin America. The airlines have now fully recovered from their post-9/11 financial crises, are making record profits, and yet they're raising prices, introducing "Basic Economy" fares with even fewer amenities, and treating customers worse than ever. As we drift toward monopoly, this is exactly what we'd predict would happen.

Well, there's been a little bit of good news on the competition front.
  • Frontier just announced a huge expansion – adding 21 new cities and 300 new pilots. 
  • Alaska is expanding to 13 new routes from the Bay Area, and potentially adding passenger service out of north Seattle's Paine Field
  • In somewhat shocking news, Southwest's previous booking system was so stone age, it didn't support red-eye flights, nor several other seemingly-basic features. Their new system should allow them all kinds new options to compete. 
  • The new 737-Max and A321-LR planes are giving budget airlines the ability to do transatlantic service. Norwegian is already offering transatlantic service out of JFK, Newark, and NYC-exurb Newburgh (SWF), and while they may force you to pay for your carry-on, they're at least giving you free Wi-Fi onboard
  • A new-ish low cost carrier called Primera is using new A321s to launch service between NYC/Boston and London, Paris, and Birmingham.
  • JetBlue is adding transatlantic service when they take delivery of their A321-LRs in 2018, and they'll feature the industry-leading Mint Business Class
  • Speaking of JetBlue Mint, they've also announced the Mint is being added to Seattle and San Diego and being expanded at Boston. And the Big 3 (mostly) only offer 38" recliner seats only those routes, so JetBlue has a competitive double-whammy there.
New JetBlue Mint routes

As a data point on competition: the introduction of Mint on the JFK-SFO/LAX run caused United, Delta, and American to drop their prices on these runs by $1000, so you'll likely benefit even if you're flying one of the legacy carriers.






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