Ok, that's my lame Conan O'Brien rip-off... but all kidding aside, there is an interesting development in the airline industry that I think begs some serious discussion. I got to thinking about this after perusing ACA's latest slideshow presentation.
We've all seen the recent growth of low-cost carriers in the US. We've all heard the plans these airlines have for future growth. But "growth" is really just an extremely vague term for "increased fleet size". Beyond adding planes, there are very very few details of where and how this growth is going to occur - obviously because of two reasons. 1) The planning groups of these airlines don't want to give away any secrets or 2) they don't even know themselves.
We're already seeing situations where the LCCs are going head-to-head.. and it's been mostly harmless so far, but let's fast forward to the end of 2006 (really just over 3 years from now) and see what the LCC landscape might look like.
I don't have numbers from every carrier. Those I do have come from a combination of sources. If anyone has numbers for other carriers or changes to the numbers I have, please post them and we'll see if we can't come up with an accurate "LCC Fleet" number going into 2007.
Southwest currently has over 350 aircraft. They're currently on track to receive at least 95 more by year-end 2006. The -200s will likely be retired by then (someone got a firm number of -200s left? OG?), which will likely yield a fleet of at least 420 aircraft.
AirTran will, by the end of 2006, have at least 75 717s and 24 737s. A fleet of over 100 aircraft.
JetBlue's fleet will be over 120 strong with 97 A320s and at least 25 ERJ-190s.
Frontier will have at least 45 Airbus aircraft and at least 9-10 JetConnect CRJs operated by Horizon. Approximately 54 aircraft in all...
ACA will be operating 80 CRJs and 33 narrowbody aircraft. 111 total for them..
That's over 800 aircraft operated by low-cost carriers vying for your travel dollar. And these are just the airlines with announced future growth plans that I had handy! If anyone has numbers out to 2006 for ATA, America West, or Spirit, please share them. My hunch is we'll be pushing 1000 aircraft at that point.
Those 1000 don't even include Song or Starfish, nor do they include financially re-established and more competitive mainline carriers, nor do they include future plans by Richard Branson and Edward Beauvais to start LCCs of their own in this country!
We could, without stretching imagination too far, be looking at 1200-1500 aircraft operated by competing low-cost carriers in three years' time.
My question is - where are they all going to go?
[Edited 2003-11-04 03:14:48]