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Another airline pulls out of MSP-ORD

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BCL,

 

Quite correct, I think, that we are surrounded by three very competitive airports currently. But, those airports have existed as long as DAY has. I assume all have improved their facilities, but DAY has also as well.

 

DAY is clearly a step-Sister in my opinion in the minds of the airline executives and I don't clearly understand why.

 

If because of deregulation that profitability of the airlines is the prime motive for such an action. it is a "win" for them. But, what about, "We, the People"? This seems to becoming a lost concept in the America of the 21st Century.

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Part of the problem with deregulation, is the constant merging of carrier's, and consequently the closing of many hubs, or reducing service drastically. Look at what happened to St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Nashville, Las Vegas, Reno, etc....all just from AA merger's and acquisition's....add to them the other hubs suffering from similar on DL, and UA....

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On airlines:
I think it is questionable as to just how "skeletal" service was then, and a lot of that depends on the question of hub-and-spoke services versus through-routing. I would note that, for example, PHF (Newport News) had quite a bit of service pre-deregulation. In the years since, it has been a veritable yo-yo at times (as mergers knocked out service due to consolidation at RIC (Richmond) or ORF (Norfolk). So I think this is a case where your mileage may vary.

With that being said, I do think that deregulation combined with the mass consolidation did ultimately screw the pooch for many smaller-to-midsized airports. One thing I would note is that while in "real terms" airfares have been declining for a long time, this has been largely invisible after inflation (they've been reasonably static in nominal terms since about 2000 or so) and is also masked by the steady increase in ancillary revenue (e.g. seat selection fees, baggage fees) in recent years. [1]

I do agree that in many cases, we're coming out ahead of where we were 40 years ago...but in many cases I suspect that at least some share of the gains are down to more efficient engines reducing fuel consumption, increases in seat density, and reduced operating crew requirements (and costs, once you take into account the splitting-off of many short-haul flights to "regional" operators such as SkyWest, who IIRC have much lower costs; remember, pre-deregulation, many of those routes would have been on "mainline" through-routings). Trying to disentangle what elements of deregulation worked out well and which ones "misfired" would be an interesting exercise for a PhD student in transportation economics.

With all of this being said, I think that security regulation hasn't helped anything on the airline front. In particular, I suspect it has made it an increasingly dubious proposition to support airports (and city pairs) on the lower end of the passenger count range (I think you face mounting viability issues anywhere below 250k pax/yr). It has also engendered what I can only call a racket in "expedited security" options (how many airlines sell this as an option now?).

The new TSA plans are a mixed bag that I can't quite sort out. On the one hand, I feel like they would help smaller airports in some specific cases (particularly where you've got a lot of traffic that isn't connecting onwards), but there's a risk of enough operationally "blown" connections, airports not set up to handle kicking a bunch of pax on smaller planes out and sending them back through security (anyone want to imagine trying to deal with this at Atlanta?), and issues with having to do a Chinese fire drill wich checked luggage that some airlines may just say "screw it" and cut service. I can also imagine being a little bit annoyed at boarding a regional plane going XXX-YYY and then having to go through security at YYY to transfer to a similar plane going YYY-ZZZ (and in this case, I could see the emergence of "unsecured terminals"...there's already a side-market in quasi-general aviation services in different markets, after all...just seeing the market fully bifurcate, with the "unsecured" market having a size limit on the planes involved, would be interesting).



On CHI-MSP:
I tend to think a corridor on this route would work pretty well. As noted, there are a number of decent internal traffic-generating stops, and the timing is pretty competitive with taking a bus or driving. I suspect you could nudge that down by a bit as well (shooting for the 6:45 timetabled times of the 1950s seems like a reasonable goal for a corridor project; I'm not sure if you could pull it off with a MAS of 90 MPH or you'd need to go to 110 MPH). I'm also trying to find some of the studies from the old Chicago-Madison-Minneapolis project to figure out what the proposed end-to-end runtimes were like.

My guess is that with 2-3 "dedicated" trains (that is, not LD trains) on the route you'd have something that was pretty successful. Ideally you'd want something closer to the hourly service of Brightline, but I think you'd have to seriously knock away at travel time to make it work (pushing your average speed to 80 MPH, offering a 5-hour travel time, would almost assuredly require getting MAS to 125 MPH for some portion of the route...and I think 5 hours is just too long for a Brightline-esque model to work).

Whether there would ever be either serious interest in or funding for anything beyond this (aside from perhaps an alternate routing via Rochester) is an open question...the 400-ish miles between Chicago and Minneapolis is /just/ long enough to start stretching the viability of any sort of HSR plan (you start needing average speeds in the 130 MPH range (not far off of the Nozomi trains on the Tokaido Line, and above that of the Hikari trains). There's also the hand-wringing fact that a "true" bullet train from end-to-end would probably risk dropping intermediate stops.


[1] I'm reminded of one time when I bought my brother a ticket in F on a flight. He was confused, until I pointed out to him that buying a Y ticket, a checked bag (he was going to need one since a wedding was involved, at best straining his carry-on's capabilities), and an extra-legroom seat (he's all legs) would actually be /more/ expensive than the F seat, and F came with breakfast and drinks.

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Reminds me of some of those 'super-short' flights, pre-deregulation...

UAL had DC-8's flying between Norfolk and Newport News, as well as between San Francisco and Oakland... :)

Those were part of longer, multi-leg flights, another thing that is fairly rare in this hub and spoke era....Alaska Airlines still has quite a few of those...

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Reminds me of some of those 'super-short' flights, pre-deregulation...

UAL had DC-8's flying between Norfolk and Newport News, as well as between San Francisco and Oakland... :)

Those were part of longer, multi-leg flights, another thing that is fairly rare in this hub and spoke era....Alaska Airlines still has quite a few of those...

Those kinds of flights are still around, just not to the extent they used to:

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Delta carries more than 70% of the passengers at that airport, it is very hard for anyone else to match their worldwide reach. But MSP - ORD also adds United and American to the mix. For an airline that is more geared towards point to point leisure travel as opposed to business travel, competing on price alone to get passengers on a plane with little opportunity/reason for a connecting flight is a losing proposition.

Exactly. People are jumping on this like it's a big deal but NK only had a fraction of the market and the Big Three were farming revenue from hub connections.

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Also, don't forget that "Chicago" also includes Midway, and WN flies that route something like 8x daily. So between the "big four" MSP-CHI you have:
DL: 14x (7 ORD/7 MDW)

UA: 10x (10 ORD/0 MDW)

AA: 6x (6 ORD/0 MDW)

Nobody else is in the market, granted, but (looking at the other carriers) B6 and AS are based on the coasts while NK and G4 simply have different models (Spirit doesn't "do" connections, for example). SY is the one that's sort-of a "shame" but my guess is that they couldn't make do trying to supplement their MSP hub with a bunch of CHI flights.

One other possibility: The article says that NK started out with 3x daily flights to Chicago. It is quite possible that if they didn't increase this rate, between (possiblly) lousy OTP and low frequency they just couldn't "cut it".

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3x/day is actually pretty frequent for NK. Most of their routes they only operate once/day, at least out of MSP. LAS may be an exception to that rule (I think they do 2-3x/day there,) and there may be a Florida destination or two that gets multiple frequencies. NK does do connections, but they're often not severely discounted like their direct flights are, and sometimes the layover times are abysmal.

 

G4 doesn't directly serve MSP or a different airport within most generally accepted definitions of the MSP metro area. G4 does serve STC, but their routes generally have other LCC/ULCC competition at MSP and so their market seems to be more outstate Minnesota where MSP would require more driving and paying for parking (STC does not charge for parking.) F9 does serve MSP, and for a time they did serve ORD, but that ended pretty quickly and most of their routes are less-than-daily (DEN is two-three times a day and I think there's a Florida destination or two that's daily, but the rest are less-than-daily.) SY is kind of an odd duck and when they switched to ULCC but didn't immediately drop fares in the way that I would have expected I've kinda ignored their progress. Their snafu with their last flight of the season from a Mexican destination (the flight didn't operate, but they didn't offer any rebooking or rescheduled flight option and they only refunded the fare amount, which was significantly lower than last-minute tickets on a non-ULCC carrier) has made me swear them off for almost all travel at this point.

 

My guess is that NK was either close to or fully breaking even on the flights (which is why they kept them for so long) but once they expanded their route map and had less connecting traffic the load factor or fares that it generated weren't panning out. Maybe they were also hoping to get some of the lower end of the business market but weren't able to capture it. For a while they dropped to a single flight, but the timing didn't work for us and I'm guessing they found that it didn't work well enough to capture the business needed for it. It makes sense, considering the corridor is still short enough that driving or Megabus/Greyhound are viable options for a wide swath of leisure travel. A flight only saves a few hours, which probably isn't enough to register as "saving vacation days" if you're flying. There's always the parking cost worry, but there's enough easy-ish alternatives (staying in a suburb and using a park-and-ride, parking a car outside the city somewhere and transit/Lyft/taxi in, or simply paying for parking downtown) that paying a bunch for a flight doesn't pan out cost-wise.

 

Maybe at some point someone will try again, but I'm not hopeful. It's disappointing, since the time savings made it so a day trip to CHI was possible as a long day instead of having to sleep overnight somewhere/on a bus, but I really can't justify spending $400 for two people round-trip just for a day trip.

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BCL,

 

Quite correct, I think, that we are surrounded by three very competitive airports currently. But, those airports have existed as long as DAY has. I assume all have improved their facilities, but DAY has also as well.

 

DAY is clearly a step-Sister in my opinion in the minds of the airline executives and I don't clearly understand why.

 

If because of deregulation that profitability of the airlines is the prime motive for such an action. it is a "win" for them. But, what about, "We, the People"? This seems to becoming a lost concept in the America of the 21st Century.

 

 

Certain airports qualify for Essential Air Service subsidies, but that's typically places where there isn't another passenger airport for 100 miles. As it is, Dayton has service to major hubs already. Unless someone can persuade an airline to make Dayton a hub, it's going to be underutilized for passenger traffic.

 

For example, Charlotte gets something like 45 million passengers a year as an American Airlines hub, even though it's pretty obvious that most of the traffic comes from connecting flights where nobody leaves the airport.

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Reminds me of some of those 'super-short' flights, pre-deregulation...

UAL had DC-8's flying between Norfolk and Newport News, as well as between San Francisco and Oakland... :)

Those were part of longer, multi-leg flights, another thing that is fairly rare in this hub and spoke era....Alaska Airlines still has quite a few of those...

 

United had an SFO-OAK-DEN route although it was possible to book SFO-OAK separately. I think before they canned it, the equipment used was 727s. I saw some ABC News puff piece article on it during the early 80s. They started off on the set of a soap opera, but it was because one of the actresses was moonlighting there, where her full time job was as a flight attendant where she flew the SFO-OAK route.

 

I heard that it was pretty popular near the end of the year for those who needed a certain number of miles (500 minimum) or one more segment to reach status. They could then take public transportation home.

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I flew on many flights that did short hops during Long Distance Routes.

 

Most memorable to me were Ft. Worth to Dallas, and Austin to San Antonio!

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While I never flew on it, there used to be, not all that long ago, flights between Pullman/Moscow (WA/ID) and Lewiston, ID, a distance of 35 highway miles and considerably shorter by air. It was part of a longer distance route.

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I flew on many flights that did short hops during Long Distance Routes.

 

Most memorable to me were Ft. Worth to Dallas, and Austin to San Antonio!

 

I remember even shorter flights. I used to hang out with a relative who was a travel agent back in the late 70s. Air California used to have supremely short flights. Stuff like Oakland to San Jose - I think at a standard fare of $8 back in the late 70s. I've read that sports teams playing games in Oakland often fly into San Francisco (to be closer to the team hotel) and their charters might have to be repositioned to Oakland (to pick them up closer to the venue).

 

But SFO-OAK was supposedly the shortest regularly scheduled jet flight in the world. There might have also been regularly scheduled helicopter flights. These days BART is more or less direct between those two airports, although that would mean a transfer from a special airport connector that's integrated into the BART fare system. It's $6 for the airport connector, and I believe there's a $5 surcharge for SFO, so the fare would be $16.15.

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At one time United had regular positioning flights between SFO and Oakland (allegedly including a wide-body one) on which they sold tickets. I have no idea how popular they were.

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Many years ago I did MIA to FLL (Eastern Airlines) Back in that era, airlines had to maintain route authorities, satisfy mail/cargo contracts as well as repositioning. With the old student standby fare, it wasn't much more than the bus...You could be "traded" really desirable routes if you took some "less desirable" routes. Or you bought someone who had the ones you wanted. Think PanAm buying National, or Delta buying Northeast.

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Around 1987, I flew from Denver to BWI. The flight was scheduled with one stop along the way. The stop was Dulles. So got to enjoy as 15 minute Dulles to BWI flight in a DC-8. I don't know whether they sold tickets for the Dulles to BWI segment.

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Airlines back then used to do stuff that would be considered completely bizarre today :D

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At one time United had regular positioning flights between SFO and Oakland (allegedly including a wide-body one) on which they sold tickets. I have no idea how popular they were.

UAL having it's main maintenance base at SFO probably had a lot to do with that...

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One of the most "bizarre" flights I recall, was United's local flight from Salt Lake City to Reno, stopping in Elko and Ely. Even the 737-100's were too big for that flight, so they contracted with Frontier to fly it, using Convair 580's. They had Frontier pilot's, and United flight attendants, IIRC, and were sold as United flights. Were even catered by United's flight kitchen...

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Airlines back then used to do stuff that would be considered completely bizarre today :D

 

Like serving hot meals and offering free checked bags in domestic coach? EEK!

 

I don't miss food on coach flights, if I have to eat I'd rather grab something at the airport anyway, but can we at least get the carry-on liquid/gel/aerosol limit raised to 150ml? That way I wouldn't have to check luggage on most mainline flights.

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One of the most "bizarre" flights I recall, was United's local flight from Salt Lake City to Reno, stopping in Elko and Ely. Even the 737-100's were too big for that flight, so they contracted with Frontier to fly it, using Convair 580's. They had Frontier pilot's, and United flight attendants, IIRC, and were sold as United flights. Were even catered by United's flight kitchen...

 

Too big as in not enough runway or too big as not enough passengers most of the time? A 737 doesn't really need that much runway. They regularly use John Wayne Airport, which is 5700 ft long and has a really crazy typical takeoff procedure given the noise-abatement requirements. Boeing delivers 737s out of Renton Airport, which is even shorter.

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has to be passenger load, neither elko nor ely are that short, although ely's runways are not in good shape anymore

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One of the most "bizarre" flights I recall, was United's local flight from Salt Lake City to Reno, stopping in Elko and Ely. Even the 737-100's were too big for that flight, so they contracted with Frontier to fly it, using Convair 580's. They had Frontier pilot's, and United flight attendants, IIRC, and were sold as United flights. Were even catered by United's flight kitchen...

 

Too big as in not enough runway or too big as not enough passengers most of the time? A 737 doesn't really need that much runway. They regularly use John Wayne Airport, which is 5700 ft long and has a really crazy typical takeoff procedure given the noise-abatement requirements. Boeing delivers 737s out of Renton Airport, which is even shorter.

 

Passenger load.

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Airlines back then used to do stuff that would be considered completely bizarre today :D

Like serving hot meals and offering free checked bags in domestic coach? EEK!

I don't miss food on coach flights, if I have to eat I'd rather grab something at the airport anyway, but can we at least get the carry-on liquid/gel/aerosol limit raised to 150ml? That way I wouldn't have to check luggage on most mainline flights.

This!

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