This seems a good place to bring up what appears to be early resutls of Southwest's strategy of gradual-transition of AirTran to Southwest metal without
code sharing in place.
At AirTran's MKE
hub, Southwest took over the bulk of flights to Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale from AirTran starting January 9. We don't yet know what the loads are in the individual markets because the January T100's won't be out until April. But the Milwaukee airport stats are out for January and things look remarkably weak. Here's how those look compared to last year.
We know that Southwest runs 137-seat planes into Milwaukee. So knowing the operation and passenger counts we can get an idea of average onboard loads for the operation.
Southwest January 2011 in MKE
65,016 passengers on 730 flights
89.1 pax per flight, approximate LF
Southwest January 2012 in MKE
75,213 passengers on 1,018 flights
73.9 pax per flight, approximate LF
Passengers increased nearly 16%, but capacity increased nearly 40%
Now January is a weak month for MKE
traffic, of course. To get that 65% average onboard load at MKE
last year, Southwest filled around 53% of seats on their non-sun markets (MCI
) and about 81% of their seats to the sun markets they served (Florida, Vegas and Phoenix).
This year, Southwest does have a new non-sun market which was likely weak (STL
) but they also added all those flights to Orlando, Vegas and Fort Lauderdale. Those routes usually run north of 80% even in January, and in fact last January AirTran Vegas and Orlando flights ran 85% full. Those very flights were moved over to Southwest starting January 9, and it seems likely they ran perhaps 20 points or more emptier.
For Southwest to only average about 54% full for their entire MKE
system, they likely carried fairly tepid loads in the sun markets which usually run 80% or fuller, and rather weak loads elsewhere. Here's a sample
scenario to show how weakly individual markets may have performed to come out to a 53.9% total onboard load factor in January at MKE
62.0% ……. phx
60.0% ……. mco
60.0% ……. tpa
60.0% ……. las
55.0% ……. fll
53.0% ……. den
46.0% ……. bwi
46.0% ……. mci
42.0% ……. stl
Remember that's just an illustration on what sorts of loads come out to an average of 53.9%. But there's no way to come to an average as weak as 53.9% without serious weakness in the routes Southwest took over from AirTran. Last year AirTran ran around 85% full to LAS
, and clearly Southwest flew far emptier on those flights they took over. And why would that be?
--Southwest does not code share with AirTran, and so there's very little connecting feed onto those Southwest flights.
--Southwest flights are not for sale on airtran.com. Customers used to flying AirTran who went to their website did not see anything encouraging them to look for those flights on southwest.com.
--Milwaukee cusomters are not groomed to seek out southwest. If they didn't go directly to sites like airtran.com, they went to Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, etc. And if they didn't find the AirTran flights they were used to, they flew Delta, USAirways, etc.
Now January is a very weak month. And in MIlwaukee, those LAS
flighs transitioned back over to AirTran in mid February. But I suspect they'll run into similar issues -- perhaps not as severe but still pronounced -- everywhere they gradually phase Southwest in and AirTran out until there's code sharing and FF
reciprocity. Some of the frequencies Southwest is currently operating like ATL
may be doing okay because of the hub connections available on the other end...even if they can't serve MDW
, they can serve OMA
. But that will be more dificult in markets like SDF
if there are next to zero connecting options at Atlanta.