A United Airlines plane takes a taxi at Newark International Airport in Newark, NJ on January 11, 2023.
Kena Betancourt | AFP | Getty Images
Newark, New Jersey — Crowded Airports, Rising Costs, pilot shortage and resurrection travel demand, airlines are increasingly turning to the same remedy. A bigger plane that can accommodate more passengers.
Average seat capacity on domestic flights operated by the 11 largest U.S. carriers last year topped 153, up from an average of nearly 141 in 2017, according to aviation data firm Cirium. In April, U.S. airlines had 0.6% more seats on domestic schedules compared to the same month in 2019, but operated 10.6% fewer flights.
The trend toward larger aircraft, part of a strategy known in the industry as “upgauging,” is a sign that airlines can sell more seats on each flight and get by with fewer aircraft. I mean short supplyMore passengers per plane means lower unit prices for airlines, but fewer flight options for consumers.
for example, united airlines The company says its flights are 20 more seats per departure with the full network than in 2019.
Rodney Cox, United Airlines’ vice president of airport operations at Newark Liberty International Airport’s airline hub, told CNBC last month that it would be difficult to increase the number of flights in and out of the airport. Most crowded.
“The way we continue to grow our model and grow our business is by upgrading our flights,” he said.
United Airlines announced last month that it will operate about 3,600 domestic flights using widebody aircraft. A company spokesperson said it uses his 777, the largest aircraft in its 364-seat fleet, to fly between major hub airports and Orlando, Fla., during spring break.
early COVID pandemicreassigned by US airlines Largest domestic jet When the crisis and travel restrictions prevent international travel. Competition for these planes is fierce now that international travel is recovering.
Cox also noted that there are limits to the number of flights airlines can upgrade, especially on the largest planes.
“Not all gates are the same,” he said. “You can’t put a widebody in there. [airplane] at every gate. ”
The trend of increasing the size of airplanes Airlines are becoming more important at a time when airline executives expect a busy spring and summer when pilots, air traffic controllers and new aircraft will be in short supply.
United vice president Cox said it was important to keep operations running smoothly in busy Newark. When planes don’t take off fast enough on schedule due to the limited number of gates, “we find that it turns into a parking lot,” he said.
Airlines and federal officials have agreed to cut flights at busy airports serving New York and Washington, D.C., in hopes of avoiding a repeat of flight cuts and schedule delays this summer. Did.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would allow airlines to cut flights at airports serving New York City and Washington’s Reagan National Airport as a means of avoiding disruption.
american airlines said it will temporarily reduce flights on select routes from LaGuardia and Newark this summer due to FAA slot waivers.
“We are actively reaching out to affected customers to offer alternative travel arrangements,” a spokesperson said. The airline plans to reallocate aircraft from reduced flights to routes to hubs at Dallas Fort/Worth International Airport, Chicago O’Hare and Philadelphia International Airport.
united airlines In a statement Thursday, it said it would reduce daily departures from 438 to 408 during peak hours in New York and Newark and reduce service from the New York area to Washington, D.C., in response to the FAA’s plans. Fewer seats are expected at these airports than in the same month in 2019, with fewer than 2% of customers affected.
delta airlines‘ operations chief told the FAA Airlines intend to seek waivers that allow for reduced flights.
“Airlines will operate larger aircraft to carry more passengers and take steps to minimize the impact on passengers, including keeping passengers well informed of potential disruptions,” the FAA said. I hope so,” he said.
However, some airlines are forced to switch to larger aircraft. jetblue airlinesFor example, operate all narrow body jets.
“There is no 70-seater that can be made into a 150-seater.[-seater]JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told CNBC last week.
Additionally, the airline does not contract with regional airlines for many flights like the major U.S. carriers do.
“This is going to have a huge financial impact on JetBlue and our customers,” Hayes said of the reduced capacity. “It’s always the smaller communities that have a disproportionate impact on this.”
To get more passengers per plane, United and other network carriers are also reducing their reliance on feeder airlines in regions with the worst pilot shortages and highest unit costs.
According to Delta Air Lines, 70% of domestic flights will be operated by major carriers this year, up from 55% in 2019. The number of seats per departure he increased by 15 from 2019, a spokesperson told his CNBC.
Delta has also transitioned from regional jets to major aircraft such as Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s on traditional business routes such as Boston to Chicago, Seattle to San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It has completely phased out its Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas regional jets and replaced them with larger planes, a spokesperson said.
Some major airlines service outage to some small airports, citing pilot shortages on regional airlines.American last year left the city Most recently, including Dubuque, Iowa and United, announced they were suspending flights to Erie, Pennsylvania, in June. Delta also announced it was suspending flights to State College, Pennsylvania, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, this month.
Reducing regional flights instead of mainline routes “could cut departure options in half for travelers, which means longer layovers and longer travel times and costs,” he said. It could also mean that one city that was once in service is no longer operational,” said Faye Malarkey. Black, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Aviation Association.
“This is another detriment to small communities that don’t have passengers to fill larger planes,” she said.
— CNBC’s Gabriel Cortez Contributed to this article.
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