The Redemption of the 757

How the US Airlines Finally Realized its Extraordinary Capabilities

The market opportunities of new aircraft programs are often constrained by the limitations of the past. These new designs tend to be evaluated on current networks, drawn to circumvent the now outdated limitations of the older fleets. It can take years for operators to realize the full potential of an aircraft as they slowly discover how their networks can be adjusted to take advantage of new capabilities. Only then does the aircraft rise to its true potential, re-drawing route maps and creating a new market for future aircraft to emulate. That, in a nutshell, is the story of the 757. The career of the 757 can be separated into two distinct roles: 1. What it was designed to do 2. What it could actually do Originally billed as a 727 replacement, the 757 was designed to replace the former workhorse on short range trunk routes with sufficient field performance to […]

Trend Suggests Domestic Fares Set to Rise into 2020

Domestic Fares vs Fuel

I have long disagreed with the notion that fares follow fuel price, at least directly. Fares (price) are a function of supply (seats) and demand. As such, too much capacity in a market, and fares will drop. Not enough capacity in a market, and fares will rise. Yet, as pricing moves to bring equilibrium to supply and demand, there is theoretically a floor to how low a price can go: the cost of flying that seat. Is the U.S. domestic market *gasp* rational? Since fuel is such a large piece of the cost puzzle (~20-25% of total expenses), it stands to reason that fares should, in some way, be affected by the price of fuel in a rational market. A market which collectively allowed pricing power to increase as costs increased, yet competitively drove fares down as fuel prices dropped would be a strong sign of rationality. The word “rational” […]

Can the A321XLR Replace Wide-Body Aircraft Across the Atlantic?

History Suggests it Can

US Transcontinental Capacity - 1990

Airbus officially launched the A321XLR at the Paris Airshow last week with 4,700 nm range and 243 commitments. The improved range is significant, up from the LR version with 4,000 nm range. However, when you consider the vast majority of A321s flying today are -200s with approximately 3,200 nm range, the XLR will offer almost a 50% improvement in range over the current fleet. This type of range improvement is significant, to say the least. Yet, we know wide-body aircraft have much longer range, up to 9,500 nm with the A380. Of course the aircraft capable of these distances are also much larger, leveraging the infrastructure required to carry the requisite fuel and, in turn, the large amounts of passengers (and revenue) to offset. While the XLR’s 4,700 nm range makes news for extending the reach of the narrow-body, it is the inherent economic advantage the narrow-body has over the […]

Ethiopian 302 – Even Without Answers, The Data Tells a Story

The Ethiopian 737 Max 8 crash preliminary report was released late yesterday and we were provided a rich set of rudimentary data visualizations, coupled with a transcript from the cockpit to decipher.  First things first:  a word on speculation of air disasters.  This is a preliminary report.  It is not final, and we will certainly learn more as the investigation continues. However, this is an industry discussion site and the intended audience is professionals in aviation.  With a healthy dose of objectivity, we can begin to discuss likely scenarios and missing information that will help piece things together.  We are professionals, and we can look at the data available and begin to move the dial in likely directions, keeping transparent what we know and don’t know. Having had that taken care of, let’s begin by first comparing Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines responses.  In a nutshell, Boeing says the MCAS system […]

Welcome to the Hotel Hawaii

Southwest's Unique Time Zone Challenge

Southwest started selling flights to Hawaii from Oakland and San Jose last month, with much fanfare. The $49 fares did not last long as the hawk-eyed future vacationers snatched up tickets quickly. Only, Hawaii on Southwest was not available for all hawk-eyed vacationers, particularly those in the Midwest or East Coast. As discussed in this USA Today article, passengers east of the middle of the country could find flights to Hawaii, but there were no available flights from Hawaii. This created a frustrating one-way situation that the traveling public is not used to seeing. As industry readers are aware, this is entirely due to Southwest’s lack of red-eye flights. While not a new limitation for the airline, stretching the three additional time zones to Hawaii does expose their potential customers to unique frustrations. You can get to Hawaii, but you can’t get back. This week, we look at why this […]

Telling Three Decades of Regional Airline Stories in One Chart

Click here for the completed interactive chart It’s impossible to keep track of the regional airline industry in the US: who flew for whom? Who bought which rival, only to spin them off later and be bought by their mainline partner later? Who even exists anymore? What happened to all of the regional airlines we remember? As impossible a task as this is, we’ve taken a step toward visualizing the regional airline industry in the U.S. over the past three decades. It’s not yet perfect, but we are hoping this may jog some memories. This is not a chart of all regional airlines in the U.S. over the past 30 years. It is a chart of as many regional airlines with mainline code-sharing partnerships during that time. As a first draft, we’ve produced a flat image-ish file that can be zoomed as far as your browser will allow. Clicking the […]

Finding New Sources of Insights – Visual Approach Construction Index

There is a lot of data in aviation. It’s one of the unique things about this industry, particularly in the U.S. where the amount of public data available is massive. However, as great as this data is, it is available to everybody (or those willing to clean and look at it). Everybody is making decisions based on different views of the same data. This inspired us to find new sources of data that are not currently used in aviation planning. Can alternative data sets be found that are relevant to the planning space, yet secondary in its nature? Can we find leading indicators to suggest where the industry is growing beyond just drawing trends based on where it’s been? Finding new sources of insights is critical in building the big picture when forecasting market demand, especially when it provides a competitive advantage. Our first attempt at this is the Visual […]

“Previously Enjoyed” Aircraft Finding New Homes in Mature Markets

When we think of aircraft movements, we typically think of individual flights.  However, aircraft often change ownership from region to region in fairly predictable ways.  Historically, new aircraft entered the mature regions such as Europe and North America after which they were sold to the developing regions. While this certainly holds true on the continent of Africa with that region’s airlines being a net importer of used aircraft, it is no longer the case in the rest of the world.  Latin America, Asia Pacific, and especially the Middle East have become net exporters of used aircraft as they rely on a continuous supply of new aircraft and work to make room for the hundreds of new aircraft orders coming.  Europe and North America have likewise become net importers of these same second-hand aircraft. The shift in North America is particularly interesting as top-tier airlines such as Delta, American, United, and […]

The Gateway to South America – A Changing of the Guard

A running joke has long been that the capital of Latin America was not even in Latin America, Miami.  To get from North to South America, more likely than not you went through Miami.  Even flights originating in Central America or the Caribbean destined for South America would often connect through the south Florida hub. As of 2006, almost half of all connecting passengers destined to South America from the United States found themselves in Miami, and a full quarter of all North American connecting passengers were routed through Miami. Panama City, through the young Copa hub, was a distant second, yet already doubled power hubs such as DFW, ATL, IAH.  Even the massive Latin American metropolitan center of Mexico City with ten times the population connected less than half the number of passengers to South America. With a small presence in the U.S., PTY pulled mostly from within Panama, […]