Q. Please explain why American and Southwest are flying heavier schedules than United. What do they know that we don't know?
A. All airlines see a very consistent set of data around demand, so our competitors are not seeing anything that we cannot. We may differ from them in how we view the recovery: we see it as a marathon, not a sprint. Our approach is to conserve cash now to make sure we're in a strong financial position when demand normalizes.
With this I do wonder if any long term damage may occur with people being forced/choosing a new airline. I know at DEN, for the first time in decades UA is no longer the largest carrier, they have been passed in both departures and passenger count by WN. I know that DEN is an important market for UA and I am surprised to see how little UA activity is there. To give you an idea of how lopsided things are currently, For 6/21&6/22 UA is estimated to have just over 5,000 pax going through TSA. WN on the other hand had nearly 20,000 pax in the same time frame. While UA is more reliant on connections, WN is blowing them away.
DEN is a large and important market for UA but it's not as if DEN makes up a large fraction of UA flights, seats, or seat-miles. UA, like AA and DL, is broadly distributed over multiple hubs.
As a short answer, I believe WN is flying more than UA because it has both lower costs and more liquidity. I believe AA is flying more because it is desperate for cash. It can't accept a forecast for long-depressed demand because it will be the first of the Big 4 to run out of cash. We will see in 2Q TRASM figures who was right. A bunch of 30% load factor flights at punishingly low fares is not a mix to make money (nor to lower AA's breakeven I would guess).
I do not believe that UA, DL, AC, BA, LH (and IATA) are wrong when they say they each have 10k+ too many employees and expect a multi year recovery. Like the UA notes said: it is a marathon.
You are glossing over the network differences between each airline, the network demand recovery is what is shaping capacity.
AC, BA, & LH are all significantly more international reliant than UA, DL, or WN & AA so they aren't even in the same category (let alone a completely different geography with different demand environments).
UA is more international than the rest of the US4, I'd assume UA has the least % of revenue coming from leisure travelers, it has no Southeast hub, & their hubs are all in the most demand suppressed areas, it should be clear why they would run the least amount of capacity out of the US4. UA's EWR, SFO, ORD, DEN, LAX, & maybe even IAD aren't built for connections to Southeast leisure destinations, which is where demand is right now. They don't have a CLT or ATL, so they have no way of capitalizing on any of the current traffic demand.(outside of DEN-Mountain West & some IAH-Southeast)
You quote Delta as being in a similar capacity position as UA, but in reality that isn't really true. While overall capacity is lower than AA, they are considerably building up ATL, & to a lesser extent DTW, SLC, & MSP while their other focus cities and coastal hubs remain smaller, which is bringing down overall capacity.
Q2 TRASM isn't going to tell you much, you will need June (& July) data to actually take into account increased capacity, so far DL & AA have been able to significantly slow cash burn with their increased schedules. WN, DL, are at 50% LFs right now (with LF restrictions in place), AA is likely in the 60s with DFW & CLT in the 70s, so it isn't like these planes are going out empty.