nighthawk wrote:While there can be a number of operational reasons for this, many of which have been mentioned, there is another factor that no-one has mentioned. There's a term for it in economics, which I cant remember right now, but basically its to avoid splitting the market.
Take for example two flights, one operating in the morning, and one operating in the evening.
The morning flight appeals more to those who would prefer to fly in the morning, and the evening flight appeals more to those that prefer to fly in the evening. You've split the market in half, so your possible catchment has decreased.
If, however, you schedule both flights for the same time, people have no choice but to fly when you say, and so timing ceases to become a decisive factor and instead you can target the entire market. You can then compete with the other airline on other means, such as price, service etc, rather than just on time.
This is an incorrect application of the economic game theory as applied to the airline industry. You want time of day coverage in as many time time channels as you can get. Every market of commercial significance has multiple daily flights to multiple competing hubs. If you concentrate, say, DTW-MCI nonstop service on DL into a single morning time channel, passengers wanting to travel in the afternoon or evening are going to take a connecting flight on AA or UA over ORD. Each time channel is a different sub-market, and the more flights you can offer in a given city-pair the greater overall share you command. For competing nonstops, if one carrier offers 3 flights, and another 4, the carrier offering 4 flights will have a greater than 25% share advantage because customers value frequency and choice. Known as the S-curve effect.
On the other hand, in a competitive nonstop market, you want to be on top of your competitor and not "split" the market. You want your loyal customers to choose you, not to the other guy, if he happens to offer a schedule that might be slightly more convenient.
A good example is the DCA-LGA shuttle. Back in the day, Eastern and Pan Am both operated it. One on the hour, one on the half hour. You don't have to purchase in advance, so which one you took depended on when your cab reached the airport. Today DL and AA schedule on top of each other at the top of the hour, forcing a competitive choice in the same time channel. It may not be optimal from a consumer perspective but it is what is most competitively efficient.