Wednesday, October 08, 2008

With Demand Plummeting, Airlines Cutting More Flights Than They Said They Would

As I've been pointing out to anyone who prefers reporting over airline PR, passenger traffic started going into free-fall a couple of weeks ago. And airlines have been cutting schedules and capacity faster than they claimed they would as passengers simply stop showing up.

OAG has stats out today showing schedules for the fourth quarter, which of course includes the peak Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season: Domestic flights are down 11 percent and capacity is down 9 percent over last year's fourth quarter.

OAG's chief operating officer Steve Casley said: "The scale of the decline in the U.S. market is worse than the previous schedule analysis showed, with airlines taking 265,000 flights out of operation this quarter. When you consider that the combined cuts from all the world's airlines totals 451,000 flights, then it really puts America's domestic capacity decline into perspective."

You can listen to airline PR or listen to this: Even the fourth-quarter published schedules are squishy, given empty airports and rapidly declining demand. My prediction is airlines will cut more flights by trimming the published schedules, and that the holiday travel season will be a great big bust.

It is, on the other hand, a not-bad time to travel if you’re flexible. Fares are holding steady and, in many cases, coming down. Frequent flier award seats are more available than in the past.


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