This month’s moves by United and Southwest to add hundreds of new
flights offers a much-needed boost to air capacity in the West.
But analysts are cautious to label the expansion as evidence
that the industry is improving.
“I think (the increase) is primarily seasonal,” said Morten
Beyer, chairman of Morten Beyer & Agnew, an Arlington,
Va.-based aviation consulting firm. “Seasonal, or maybe
Still, the increase in flights will provide relief for agents in
the West who are facing increased summer travel demands from
United announced it is restoring 162 flights to its June
schedule. Its plans for the West include:
"From Denver: United said it will increase daily departures to
Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul,
Newark; Portland, Ore.; San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and
Seattle/Tacoma. Select United Express regional jet service to
Wichita and Salt Lake City will be upgraded to UA mainline aircraft
for the summer season. United will also launch summer seasonal
service to Anchorage, and Jackson Hole, Wyo.
"From Los Angeles: United said it will offer additional flights
to Washington Dulles and Orlando.
"From San Francisco: United said it will increase service to
Baltimore/Washington, Boston, Honolulu, Kona, Maui, Las Vegas, New
York JFK, Philadelphia, and Portland, Ore. The carrier will
reinstate nonstop SFO-Seoul service, and add a second daily nonstop
from San Francisco to London Heathrow. SFO-Sydney service becomes a
daily affair, up from three departures per week. Meanwhile,
Southwest said it plans to significantly boost Vegas and California
"From Las Vegas: Southwest says it will launch nonstop service
to Manchester, N.H.; Hartford, and Detroit Sept. 10. In October, WN
begins nonstop LAS-Raleigh/ Durham service. The carrier is also
adding service on existing routes out of Vegas. And on Aug. 10 said
that it will add additional departures to Orange County, Reno and
"From Orange County: On Aug. 10, Southwest said it will add
departures to Phoenix, Sacramento and Las Vegas.
The flights will ease some air travel options for West Coast
travelers, who had seen significant cuts after 9/11.
But analysts say the additions still do not bring capacity back
to pre-9/11 levels.
Even as United, the nation’s second-largest carrier, prepares to
offer 1,722 daily domestic and international departures, a company
spokesman said that’s 29 percent fewer flights than it operated in
The new flights are, “just a pickup for the summer,” said Brian
Streeval, an analyst with The Boyd Group, a Colorado-based airline
consultancy. “(United) is primarily an east-west carrier. East-west
traffic increases during the summer.” Beyer said he also doesn’t
see other major carriers restoring service as fast as United
because “most of them didn’t cut as much as United did.”
Last week, American Airlines unveiled its own turnaround plan.
While it included lowering some fares to the West Coast, it did not
include additional flights.
For Southwest, analysts said that the low-cost carrier is in a
league of its own.
Historically, carriers perceived by the public as the low-fare
leaders have, if not thrived, at least continued to expand during
“I think Southwest is playing its own game,” said Beyer. “They
don’t need any help from anybody else.”
Such is the perception of the carrier as the nation’s leading
low-fare airline that travelers continue to fill seats on almost
any route it opens.