by Michael Lowrey
The UPoR had a story out on Friday saying that “Charlotte Douglas passenger numbers rise, but flights fall” from January through April. One alleged highlight: “The airport said that since US Airways and American Airlines merged in December, the combined carrier has started using larger planes for many of its operations. That means the number of passengers can increase even while the total number of flights decreases, as smaller regional jets are shifted out in favor of bigger ones.”
Nope. Wrong. False. That’s exactly not what’s happening. Has there been some use of larger aircraft going on? Yes, but it has little to do with the merger. Rather, US Airways continues to replace its old 144-seat Boeing 737-400s with brand-new 187-seat Airbus A321s, which is enough to drive up the available seat count by a couple of percent. In addition, US Airways has more widebodies now, and used more of them on selected domestic and Caribbean routes from CLT over the winter, when they aren’t needed for European service.
Merger-related up-gauging to date effects only the Chicago and Miami markets and only began on June 1.
Much of the reduction in flights mentioned was, as the Observer’s Ely Portillo correctly pointed out, was simply as a result of flight cancellations from an especially nasty winter. That said, there is another factor in play: US Airways has reduced flights — and the number of seats available — in many though not all “near” markets (think: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virgina (except Dulles), West Virgina, eastern Tennessee, plus Savannah and Augusta in Georgia) since about March. Some of the reductions were seasonal, some aren’t.
Overall, US Airways had 632 flights a day last month from CLT (sample day: Thursday, May 15). In May 2013, the airline offered 649 flights a day. The main difference: flights to these “near” markets fell from 202 flights a day total with a combined 12,723 seat in May 2013 to 178 flights with 11,570 seats last month — a 12 percent reduction in flights and a 9 percent reduction in seats year-over year.
As said, some, but only some of these reductions were seasonal. This month (Thursday, June 12 to be exact), the airline is offering 190 flights a day to these “near” markets, thus reversing half of the reductions.
Examples of the cuts: Greensboro is now eight times a day, it had been nine a day for past several years. US Airways offered eight flights a day to Fayetteville, NC (FAY) last May, this May it offered only five flights. This month the FAY flight total has recovered — to seven. Asheville saw nine flights a day from CLT in May 2013; this year it was six in May and seven now.