Domestic US travel is back. And, in many ways, not at all what it once was.
Research from the Adobe Digital Economy Index suggests ticket sales is US air market is at or above 2019 levels in February, both in number and in dollars. But airports are not recovering equally. New airlines, and a dramatic increase in leisure travel – forced a shift in where planes are expected to fly this summer.
Some of the winners are rather obvious. New Haven now serves as a hub for Avelo, with a handful of 737s flying up and down the east coast. Melbourne, Florida also sees a major boost in service, with an outsized increase in available seat miles (ASMs) as the airport adds European arrivals for the season (previously expected in 2020 but, well…).
Melbourne joins six other Florida beach airports among the top 20 in terms of growth for 2022 over 2019. That two of those are also hubs for Allegiant should not come as too much of a surprise.
For the country’s busiest airports the news is something of a mixed bag. Airports with significant exposure to Asia routes (DTW, MSP, LAX, SFO, SEA) all see notable drops in flights, seats, and ASMs. Atlanta also expects lower numbers across the board.
Not all hubs are suffering, however. Newark, Miami, and LaGuardia all show growth for July 2022 compared to 2019.
And then there are the mixed messages. Charlotte, Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City will each see its number of scheduled flights drop. But they will also each see more seats flying and more ASMs. Airlines are shifting to larger aircraft at these hubs. The draw-down of 50-seat regional jets is very, very real.
Outside the largest airports some of the asymmetry becomes even more interesting.
Key West, Sarasota, and Idaho Falls all see growth in flights, but the seats and ASMs far outpace that number. Gainesville, Florida; Des Moines; and Santa Barbara are among the airports that will lose flights compared to three years ago but still see more seats and ASMs operating.
Lanai and Sitka will see more flights, but on smaller planes or not traveling as far.
Driving the Change
New Haven’s numbers are literally off the charts. There is no reasonable scale that shows its growth well compared to others.
Much of these changes comes from a shift away to hub-based connections for new markets. Smaller airlines have been pushing the approach for years. And even if some of the new point-to-point routes really include a stop, the trend is clear.
Not that the legacy hub-and-spoke networks are disappearing any time soon. But new growth continues to overfly them.
All data reflects scheduled departures for the month of July 2022 v 2019 as reported in Cirium’s systems for the week of 18 March 2022. Markets with fewer than 300 monthly departures in July 2022 were excluded to identify changes with more significant impact overall.
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