I'd say the state of aviation at ROC
is improving, but not where it needs to be. It's far better than it was in, say, 1999. We have excellent low-fare service on major soutbound routes from JetBlue and AirTran. Independence has given us a lot of backfill on medium-size and medium-small East Coast routes; let's hope Indy lasts. But we still have some serious gaps, such as Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (US wanted $358 for a 2-month advance refundable in June--gack) and much of the West Coast.
Certainly our improving enplanements, up 10 percent from last year's 2.5 million and forecast to pass 1987's record of 2.6 million, are something to cheer about. The bright side of the disapperance of 727's, DC-9's, most 737's, and the huge growth in RJ
's, is that we are gaining lots of frequency, and even with less seat capacity we're still recording record enplanements. Like other Rochesterians I miss the United 727's, USAir DC-9's, Empire F-28s, and Eastern 727's that once populated our apron. But if our carriers are to make money here, they need to fly the right size a/c and number of frequencies.
I stand by my longtime estimate that our natural enplanements level today, with a proper distribution of low fares, would be around 3-3.2 million. In the 1990's, with the economy still strong and Rochester businesses in better condition, it probably would have been around 3.5 or higher, had we had Southwest then. US Airways screwed us in a big, big way, which should never be forgotten.
I don't have recent numbers for air cargo, but I'd bet it hasn't been growing much--the increasing size of FedEx planes on the south side of the airport has been matched by the disappearance of DC-8's at US Airports. Anyone on the ground in Rochester have more detailed info? Side note: three cheers for Scott Kerhaert, getting the first shot of two FedEx A300's at ROC
simultaneously in one frame! See the photo at http://www.myaviation.net/search/photo_search.php?id=00186236&size=large
I could barely believe it when the Democrat & Chronicle reported this week that US Airways is down to 21.5 percent of traffic, from around 50 percent during the 1990's. Our three low-fare carriers flew 30 percent of traffic in August. All of this is big progress. I think our market, like much of the country, will eventually settle out at around 50 LCC/ 50 network when the proper balance of LCC and network capacity is achieved sometime later in the decade.
The future? Unless US Airways goes under, which I think unlikely because this financial zombie seems to have nine lives, we probably won't ever see Southwest. It stinks that Buffalo gets them and we don't, but without the loss of US I don't know that ROC
can support 10 new daily 737's all at once. If US does go under, I think the chance of both ROC
is better than 50 percent, ROC
being more likely because of our bigger population and higher per-capita income.
We have several options for closing existing low-fare gaps in our route map. AirTran or JetBlue could profitably serve Boston with two dailies; I'd bet once the EMB-190's arrive JetBlue could do three. Independence Air, if it proves to have a viable cost structure, will have killer dot-connecting potential with those little jets. Two or three dailies to Pittsburgh, and four to Philly, probably would do very well.
Chicago is a bigger problem. AirTran tried and failed in the late '90s to establish a focus operation at Midway. Southwest isn't flying to MDW
from either ALB
, which surprises me; but if they came here, probably would be similar. JetBlue still hasn't gotten enough gates at ORD
to start the kind of operation they want there. Independence Air hasn't been around long enough to see if they'll try to spread into the Midwest in a big way. ATA is on shaky ground right now, and they're probably going to downsize the MDW
operation as it is. They don't have any a/c suited for Upstate NY-Chicago routes; 738's are too big and the Saabs busy on their regional routes.
Once Indy gets going to the West Coast, we'll have much better options than we do now. AirTran makes you go all the way to Atlanta to connect, and only serves SFO
. JetBlue has great connections to LGB
, and OAK
, but only redeye to ONT
, and I think SAN
(please correct me if wrong).
That's all for now, more later if I think of anything else.