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Sneak Peek: “Mother of All Capacity Cuts”, Which Cities Have Lost the Most Air Service

May 2, 2008 | Posted in: Airline News,Travel Tips


Last week when I was writing my weekly column for ABCNews.com “Why Airlines Might Abandon Your City” I began to do my research in my normal “geek” fashion and thought some of you might like to see what actually goes on “under the hood”.

I first pulled together some databases of flight schedule data from the end of April last year and that same data for end of April this year. My goal was to compare scheduled fall (October)flight service last year vs. this year (apples-to-apples) — so I picked a typical Monday in October 2007 to compare with a similar Monday in October 2008.

What I found was completely fascinating and became part of the underlying research for the column. I would like to share with you some of these unbelievable numbers that didn’t make it into the column ..

First I wanted to see who had the biggest percentage drop in fall scheduled service. Here are the larger cities first (those that have more then 3000 seats departing on a Monday in October — with a brief explanation at the end):

  • Kona – down 63% – death of Aloha
  • Honolulu – down 44% – death of Aloha and ATA
  • Maui – down 39%- death of Aloha
  • Lihue – down 30% – death of Aloha
  • Ontario – down 25% – Express Jet and Delta
  • Pittsburgh PA- down 22% – US Airways
  • Islip – down 17% – Delta and Southwest
  • Oakland – down 17% – Alaska, United, US Airways and Southwest
  • Knoxville – down 17% – Delta and Allegiant
  • Providence RI – down 15% – Delta, United, US Airways, Southwest
  • Cincinnati – down 14.5% – Delta
  • Syracuse – down 14% – Delta, US Airways
  • Orange County – down 13.6% – Aloha, Alaska, United
  • Colorado Springs – down 13% – Delta, United, US Airways
  • Albany – down 12.5% – Delta, US Airways, Southwest
  • Reno – down 11.6% – Aloha, Delta, US Airways
  • Columbus, OH, down 11.3% – not including Skybus – JetBlue, Delta
  • Manchester – 10.7% – Delta, US Airways
  • Hartford – down 10.6% – Frontier, United, Southwest
  • Little Rock – down 10% – American, Delta, Frontier
  • West Palm Beach – down 10% – Delta, US Airways, Southwest
  • Sacramento – down 9.5% – Aloha, Alaska, United, Express Jet
  • Tampa – down 9% – American, AirTran, Allegiant, USA 3000,Delta, United, US Airways
  • few dozen others lost service ..

The following cities lost more than 40% of their scheduled fall service (same comparison dates above):

  • Modesto CA
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Hilo, HI
  • Kona, HI
  • Kamuela, HI
  • Decatur, IL
  • Kirksville, MO
  • Great Falls, MT
  • Carlsbad, NM
  • Saranac Lake, NY
  • Aberdeen, SD
  • Huron, SD
  • Cedar City, UT
  • Port Angeles, WA
  • East Sound, WA
  • Oak Harbor, WA
  • Lewisburg, WV
  • Sheridan, WY

Cities with only one airline left:

  • New Haven, CT, lost Pan Am Clipper, only US Airways service
  • Rockford, IL, lost United, only Allegiant Airlines service
  • Tupelo, MS, lost Delta, only Northwest Airliens service

Last but not least the following cities lost ALL of their scheduled fall service (same comparison dates above):

  • Wilmington, DE
  • Marathon, FL
  • Topeka Forbes AFB, KS
  • Bedford-Hanscom, MA
  • Hagerstown, MD
  • Ironwood, MI
  • Manistee, MI
  • Glendive, MT
  • Glasgow, MT
  • Havre, MT
  • Lewistown, MT
  • Miles City, MT
  • Wolf Point, MT
  • Sidney, MT – Home of the German that thought he was in Australia :)
  • Kinston, NC
  • Pinehurst-Southern Pines, NC
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Boulder City, NV
  • Watertown, NY
  • Massena, NY
  • Ogdensburg, NY
  • Plattsburgh, NY, Issue with city code change from PLB to PBG in the “Official Airline Guide” schedules from 2007 and 2008.
  • Youngstown, OH
  • Lancaster, PA
  • Brookings, SD
  • Bluefield, WV

Look for more capacity cuts afteranother merger or two gets done — not a pretty site for those in small cities …

50 Responses to “Sneak Peek: “Mother of All Capacity Cuts”, Which Cities Have Lost the Most Air Service”

  1. Steve Huettel says:

    I think there’s a mistake on the TPA capacity cut. Aloha and Alaska don’t fly here. Am I missing something?

  2. Rick Seaney says:

    It was a type-o, those airlines should have been on the line above (SMF – Sacramento) — fixed.

    Here is the breakdown for Tampa:

    Airline | Seats on Oct-6-2008 | Seats on Oct-8-2007

    AA | 2,508 | 2,656
    CO | 2,803 | 2,621
    DL | 4,211 | 4,778
    FL | 2,303 | 2,403
    NW | 1,271 | 1,146
    UA | 1,404 | 2,028
    US | 2,860 | 3,482
    WN | 11,129 | 11,371
    G4 | 0 | 450
    NK | 720 | 576
    U5 | 168 | 672
    YX | 150 | 323

    Total | 29,527 | 32,506

  3. Mike says:

    For the list of cities that lost all service, why is this a problem? Why does New Haven, Connecticut need service when the Hartford airport is an hour away? Same thing with the Bedford-Hanscom airport in Massachusetts….Boston and Providence airports are 45 minutes away.

  4. Steve Johnson says:

    Rick, why would scheduled service be down in a place like Oakland? Is that a factor of the loss of Aloha and ATA? Also, why would service drop in Ontario, Modesto and Orange County?

  5. gloria says:

    How can you compare seat capacity when Oct 6, 2008 has not even occured. Has anyone else noticed this? I think you may be blowing smoke.

  6. Rick Seaney says:

    Gloria, flight schedules are filed and tickets can be purchased 11 months before departure … FYI I don’t smoke and we license the worldwide flight schedule information from OAG

  7. Rick Seaney says:

    Steve J,

    Here is the breakdown on Oakland:

    OAK | 24,557 | 29,507

    Airline | Seats on Oct-6-2008 | Seats on Oct-8-2007

    AA | 408 | 544
    AQ | 0 | 496
    AS | 1,412 | 2,224
    B6 | 1,800 | 1,950
    CO | 405 | 424
    DL | 600 | 725
    HA | 26 | 40
    TZ | 0 | 700
    UA | 810 | 1308
    US | 560 | 890
    WN | 18,298 | 20,246

    Southwest (WN) is the 900lb gorilla in Oakland.

    The drop is mostly Alaska & Southwest with a smattering of small drops on others (a small bit might be code shares dropped on legacies), if I recall Southwest put in a ton a flights SFO-LAX (8 or so daily) to compete with Virgin America probably at the expense of OAK. A 2,000 seat drop on Southwest (WN) is about 15 daily flights.

  8. Rick Seaney says:

    Mike, didn’t say it was a problem, just reporting the information, you’ll have to ask the people that used to take those flights what the problem is if any

  9. Rick:

    We’ve had you on as a guest on WVLT TV before, and we may be doing so again soon. Can you give me the breakdown for Knoxville 2007 v 2008 (October). I’d be very interested in seeing those numbers. The locals aren;t giving us some of those!


    Brian Gregory
    Asst. News Director

  10. Mike B says:

    Interesting about OAK that AA decided to pull out of there too, effective 3 September (http://dallas.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2008/05/05/daily12.html?ana=yfcpc), so next time you run such an analysis with updated OAG schedules the drop there will be even more substantial. It looks that SFO “rightsizing” its fees, putting in some more sophisticated landing equipment decreasing the incidence of flight cancellation due to weather preventing parallel runway operations, and opening a BART station, is working in bringing traffic back; Oakland’s growth was mainly due to SFO’s greediness and inefficiencies of the late 90s.

  11. Rick Seaney says:

    Hi Brian, I’ll ping your email to make sure you have mine. Here is the TYS info:

    Delta, Allegiant are the ones down, the others are probably just a different aircraft change out like a 70 seater instead of a 100 seater (or 50 instead of 70).

    Airline | Seats on Oct-6-2008 | Seats on Oct-8-2007

    TYS | 2,513 | 3,002

    AA | 408| 444
    DL | 812 | 1,105
    G4 | 150 | 300
    UA | 482 | 516
    US | 661 | 637

  12. Sandi says:

    Did you mean Pittsburgh, Pa.?

  13. Rick Seaney says:

    Sandi, fixed it (Thx) and yes it is Pittsburgh, PA (PIT).

  14. Since Maui is down 39% is it safe to count on some one picking up the slack from Aloha & ATA? I flew three time a year, now fares are up to three times as high LAX to OGG guess I will cut back to once a year.

    Looks like this will be just like the oil companies. Get rid of the competition and raise the prices then corporate bonuses can be taken for Christmas.

  15. John Galligan says:

    Any news on PNS (Pensacola, Fl.)? We are about to embark on a multimillion dollar expansion of gates and parking. This is the fourth expansion in 15 years.

  16. Woody Hoyt says:

    Are you saying Santa Fe’s long awaited DL and AA flights scheduled to begin in July are now dead? For sure?

  17. BRUCE says:


  18. Chris says:

    Not only did we enjoy our cheap tickets, but the terrific attitude of so many of the airline employees, like yourself. How fascinating it is to watch an industry where you can fly to Newark for $1000, or fly through Newark to London for $499. Not the mention the monkey-see, monkey-do approach to competition – the idiots are flying to London for $499, we need to do that too!!! And the closer our product gets to expiration (empty seat) the more we’ll charge for it! Oops, we all lost billions. What happened to the industry happened long before 9/11. Hope you enjoy your retirement.

  19. Rick Seaney says:

    Woody, i’ll check it out tomorrow — could be that these flights operate partial week and not on Mondays this October.

    Update – I did a quick check on AA and DL and it appears service to SAF will be gone in the fall.

  20. Rick Seaney says:

    John, Pensacola is flat, about the same as last year

  21. Steve says:

    When are consumers going to wake up and flood the Dept. of Justice with opposition to airline mergers, which destroy competition, and create an overpriced monopoly / oligopoly.

  22. Shelley Strader says:

    When you say there’s fall cutbacks, is there a date when this is supposed to end? I have a flight booked out of Syracuse for December 27, and I’m wondering if it could be canceled and what would happen if it is.

  23. Scott says:


    Interesting article. I would be interested to see who served all of the small cities that completely lost service. This is truly where the merger mania will continue to hurt.


  24. Joe says:

    I agree with Chris. I received this e-mail from US Air. I can fly from NYC to europe through PHL for $499.00, But if i wanted to fly direct from PHL it would be $899.00. These people are nuts!

  25. Brian in Boston says:

    Plattsburgh, NY (PBG) is serviced by Cape Air (9K) with three daily flights to Boston (BOS). This schedule is currently in effect for the Fall.

  26. Rick Seaney says:

    Shelley, not specific date, just the other day AA announced cutbacks to Oakland, so we will continue to see them trickle in. If you hold a ticket they should contact you if a flight is cut.

  27. Rick Seaney says:

    Brian (BOS), I’ll look into this deeper (Plattsburgh PBG), last October there was service on Cape and Allegiant, the OAG schedules I pulled don’t show either anymore. It is possible they didn’t file or they no longer have service on Mondays or this is an error, I’ll see what it is. Rick — last year CO had some service which is gone which we picked up in the schedules — appears that Cape has service on 9 seater Cessna – BOS and Allegiant on MD-80 to MCO, going to check how these new additions slipped through — Rick
    Update – turns out OAG change the city code from PLB to PBG between last year and this and our software didn’t make the match – issue should only be isolated to PBG. — Rick

  28. James Lyons says:

    I have a reservation on Delta, cvg to srq got it on 3/1/08 non stop, they now inform me that we now have to change planes in Atlanta also even though my reservation was before the one bag policy I now am only allowed one bag. How is this fair or right and what can be done about this id anything?

  29. Diane says:

    Scott, in SD the carrier that served area and left was was United. Aberdeen still has Northwest, Huron has United and Brookings nothing. I’m assuming Huron’s loss was mostly due to extra flight(s) or bigger planes added for Aberdeen leg then being lost when they pulled out of Aberdeen.

    It’s been difficult to see the airline employees attitudes plummet in past few years. My experience past couple of years is they just don’t care anymore, not all of course but unfortunately, way too many.

  30. Woody Hoyt says:

    Rick, SAF hasn’t had service since Great Lakes left in January when DL and AA were supposed to start service from LAX, DFW and SLK. I’m hoping once the great FAA approval debacle ends they at least give it a few months try before cutting service.

  31. Glen Landsberg says:

    Rick, I see the same complaints about the airlines pushing up the prices of airline tickets – well they are a business just like any other and they are selling a commodity. If it is too expensive then don’t buy it! If gas is too expensive or cars are too expensive then you stop buying that commodity. The prices will soon adjust down to the level that people will buy again. Simple economics. We do not want the government to get involved as their past records are horrible. Get real guys!!

  32. SJB says:

    Brookings, SD is only 45 minutes from Sioux Falls, which is well served.

  33. jim long says:

    Airlines are charging $25 for a second bag. This means a 300 lb. person may transport 350 lbs. for the same fare as my 105 Lb. wife Is that fair? Why don’t airlines allow a ticket to transport 250 lbs., over that there is an extra charge.

  34. MCS says:

    I am about to move to Potsdam, NY with my family this summer. I wanted to check out local air service, finding lots of outdated references to Delta and US Airways serving the region but no current flight schedules. Thanks to your article I can now stop looking around. The four regional US airports surrounding Potsdam: Watertown, Massena, Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh, all lost commercial aviation. The only option left is driving to Ottawa, and then standing in line at immigrations to fly back into the US. Stunning.

  35. MCS says:

    It appears Watertown, Massena, and Ogdensburg will receive EAS service through Cape Air in the near future: http://www.wwnytv.net/index.php/2008/03/14/cape-air-chosen-to-provide-air-service-to-north-country/

  36. Francine says:

    James et al

    I am flying Sun County Seattle to Minneapolis in May. I purchased my ticket before the bag limit change. I called the airline yesterday and was informed if I had my confirmation email dated prior to change in policy I would fly under the old rule with regard to bags. I was advised to have the email confirmation available for review by the airline. However, this could just be Sun Country.

  37. enplaned says:

    You’re missing a big one. Las Vegas capacity is down (on a weekly basis) by almost 13% in October.

  38. enplaned says:

    Oh, and its not true that Plattsburgh has lost all scheduled traffic. It has nonstop jet flights to both FLL and Orlando Sanford.

  39. Gerg says:

    I have to say I’m pretty skeptical about this data. Plattsburgh, NY for example is an airport which only started operation as a civilian airport last year. If there is a drop in traffic to it it’s because the low cost airlines which created flights last year changed their mind this year. That’s not a net loss in service. In reality it’s more likely that these airlines just haven’t created their schedules so far in advance — they’re not exactly the most organized operations.

    I think this data is meaningless without a) going further back than 1 year and b) including the airports which have gained flights. It’s perfectly normal in any given year for some airports to decrease in traffic while others increase.

  40. Gerg says:

    To expand on the previous comment, this post is a bit like saying “OMG 1,000 restaurants went bankrupt in NYC this year — at this rate there won’t be any left in 10 years!”

  41. Jim says:

    The ‘lost all service’ list is a little misleading. Boulder City, NV is a stone’s throw from LAS. When I lived in Boulder City we always flew from McCarren. What did BC lose, the once-a-week flight to Grand Canyon airport? Get real, Rick. Give us real facts and stop this ‘the sky is falling’ mentality.

  42. Rick Seaney says:

    It is a list, based on a prgram we wrote to analyze routes and historical schedules. This list will get bigger in the coming weeks, my intent was not be be alarmist, but to show some background research. I agree some of the small cities completely losing service are just a prop plane or two, but it is what it is…

  43. Rick Seaney says:

    Enplaned here is the LAS breakdown

    Our data shows LAS at 8% drop for a Monday comparison.

    Airline | Seats on Oct-6-2008 | Seats on Oct-8-2007

    LAS | 69,931 | 75,605
    AA | 3,188 | 3,156
    AQ | 0 | 124
    AS | 2,050 | 1,960
    B6 | 1,650 | 1,500
    CO | 2,983 | 2,567
    DL | 3,326 | 4,233
    F9 | 888 | 1,284
    FL | 1,233 | 1,096
    G4 | 3,150 | 3,450
    NK | 630 | 1,152
    NW | 1,989 | 2,002
    SY | 162 | 0
    TZ | 0 | 400
    UA | 5,202 | 5,826
    US | 10,265 | 14,795
    WN | 32,760 | 31,619
    YX | 437 | 441

  44. Rick Seaney says:

    Greg, Enplaned, as noted in comment 27, OAG changed the city code for Plattsburg from PLB to PBG last year to this year which made the comparison show the improper data.

  45. Chris says:

    It would be interesting to see the communities that have lost all service except for carriers such as Allegiant, which fly to places like Orlando and Las Vegas. Cities such as Plattsburgh or Youngstown may still in fact have service, but a once-daily or four-times-a-week flight to Orlando doesn’t really help if you are a business traveler or trying to go somewhere other than Florida. (I realize in many cases, those airports served by Allegiant are simply alternate less expensive airports for the carrier.)

  46. Chris says:

    I think Winston, NC is supposed to be Kinston, NC…formerly served by Delta Connection.

  47. Joshua says:

    New Haven, CT has NOT lost all service. A few years ago, Delta Connection terminated service to Cincinnati. In the past year, Pan Am started and abruptly ceased service to Elmira, NY; Baltimore, MD; and Portsmouth, NH. However, US Airways Express still offers multiple daily nonstops to Philadelphia at their hub. I just came back from a flight this week, and I have just ticketed two reservations for July and November.

  48. Rick Seaney says:

    I’ll see why we didn’t pick up the US airways service on New Haven, we show Clipper going away – Rick

  49. Chris says:

    Looks like this list will grow longer. Mesa just announced it is eliminating its Air Midwest subsidiary and service to 16 communities:


  50. Brad says:

    I’m not too sure about some of this.

    61B (Boulder City) hasn’t had scheduled service in the 10 years I’ve lived in Las Vegas. That field can pretty much only handle single engine operations, let alone single wheel ops (Cessna 172s/182s and the like), so I don’t know where you’re saying that there is scheduled service there. In fact, anything scheduled that isn’t out of LAS, is coming from VGT or HND.

    According to their website, Modesto still has all of their scheduled service (Skywest as United Express).

    This appears to just be based on ticket sales (in which most aren’t even available 11 months prior to departure), and if so, it isn’t something that can be counted on as it is subject to change up until the flight pulls away from the gate.

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