February 25, 2021

Southwest Adds Bozeman and Fort Walton Beach to Its Route Map

Southwest continued its rapid expansion of leisure destinations by adding both Bozeman (Montana) and Fort Walton Beach/Destin (Florida) to its route map.

Bozeman will be served twice daily from both Denver and Las Vegas starting May 27. Denver ramps up to 4x daily on June 6. Fort Walton Beach will have more destinations with 1x daily beginning May 6 to Baltimore, Chicago/Midway, and Dallas/Love Field. Nashville will get 3x daily flights.

Fort Walton Beach, sandwiched one hour east of Pensacola and one hour west of Panama City, completes the Panhandle Trifecta for the airline. The state tried a “fly three, get one free” approach to get service into the state capital in Tallahassee, but Southwest declined since it only wants to serve destinations with names its customers can spell. It is unclear how the airline justifies serving Cincinnati.

2020 Was a Great Year for Airline Operations

While 2020 was an awful year for airlines financially, it proved to be a great year from an operational perspective according to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) latest Air Travel Consumer Report.

The reporting U.S. airlines averaged an on-time rate of 84.5% for the year, compared to just shy of 79% the year before. Outside of Allegiant, which ran a dismal 71% due to the way it scheduled at the beginning of the pandemic, no airline had fewer than 82% of flights arrive on time. Cancellations soared to 6.0% vs 1.9% the previous year, but that is solely because of the massive number of cancellations that occurred at the onset of the pandemic.

Looking at other metrics, the mishandled baggage rate improved from 5.85 bags per 1,000 enplaned passengers down to 4.11. Oversold flights plummeted more than anything, which is unsurprising since you have to actually have passengers to oversell a flight. In 2019, there were 526,000 passengers denied boarding. In 2020, that dropped to 80,000, most of which occurred in the first quarter of the year before the pandemic.

2020 Was A Horrible Year for Airline Complaints

In that very same Air Travel Consumer Report, there was one category that saw things go in the other direction. Complaints filed with theDOT soared from 15,342 in 2019 to 102,550 in 2020. You have three chances to guess the category that nearly 90,000 of those complaints fell in, and the first two don’t count. That’s right, the complaints largely focused on the color of employee uniforms refunds.

You again can probably guess which airline had the highest number of complaints. With more than 10,000 surrounding refunds alone, United nearly doubled the next worst performer. The airline played games with refunds early in the pandemic, so this is no surprise.

Dishonorable mention is due to second-place airline Air Canada which continues to deny refunds to this day. It had more than 5,700 refund complaints alone. TAP Air Portugal had over 5,000, giving it third place. That is an impressive showing for an airline with such a small presence in the U.S. We understand a petition to have the official DOT name of this list changed to “airlines you shouldn’t book” is working to gather signatures.

Qantas Delays International Flight Resumption Until Late October

Qantas — which announced a large half-year loss — says that it will no longer resume flying its international network in July as previously hoped, except for additional flights to New Zealand. The new target start date for the rest of its international flying is October 31.

On October 31, Qantas says it will resume flights to 22 of its 25 international destinations but with smaller 787 and A330 aircraft. It has retired its 747s and the A380s are not expected to return to the fleet for years, if ever. The three destinations that will not begin that day are New York/JFK, Osaka/Kansai, and Santiago. Those will resume when Qantas good and well feels like it.

The change in date reflects the current estimate for Australia’s expected completion of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country. The July date was based on people being immunized, but the government has now expanded to require all wallabies, koalas, and kangaroos to be immunized as well, just to be safe.

Lufthansa Announces Leisure-Heavy Summer Plans

Lufthansa Group has announced its summer plans, and unsurprisingly the focus is on leisure markets. There will be 20 new destinations from Frankfurt and 15 from Munich.

Within Europe, the focus will be on the Canary Islands and Greece with new flights to places like Chania, Mykonos, Zakynthos, and Preveza, proving that unlike Southwest, Lufthansa will gladly serve destinations its customers can’t spell.

Beyond Europe, service to the Maldives and Mauritius will now become year-round destinations instead of summer-only. Eurowings Discover will launch this summer with new flights from Frankfurt to Anchorage, Mombasa + Zanzibar, and Punta Cana.

Meawhile in Austria, Austrian will return to New York/JFK and Montreal in May with 3x weekly flights to each. SWISS returns from Zurich to Miami on March 28 and both Boston and Los Angeles get more frequency.

Airline Potpourri

  • Air New Zealand lost NZ$185 million (~US$137 million) for the final six months of 2020 with revenues decreasing 59% on a 65% reduction in capacity. For a country that has sealed itself off from the rest of the world, that could have been a lot worse.
  • Delta and LATAM received final approval from Brazil for their joint venture.
  • Flydubai will begin flying to Cluj in Romania from Dubai.
  • SAS operated only 25% of capacity year-over-year in its weird November-January quarter.
  • South African Airways has seen the cost of its business rescue program double. I know you are all shocked.
  • United said its board has authorized the sale of up to 37 million additional shares of common stock “from time to time.”
  • United acquired the slot for its new Boston – London/Heathrow service from British Airways.
  • Volotea continues the low-cost carrier invasion of Italy with flights from Bologna to Lampedusa and Pantelleria.

Maxwell’s Moment of Levity

I’m a big fan of whiteboards. I find them quite re-markable.