Airlines Post Dismal February Traffic Numbers
If you flew onboard a commercial airliner in February, the US
airline industry would like to thank you; they also really wish
you'd brought along a few more of your friends. This week, all
major US carriers posted their traffic numbers for February 2009...
and with rare exception, each posted a discouraging downturn in the
number of people flying, outpacing capacity cuts implemented over
the last year.
"Most Wall Street analysts were quite positive that the airlines
would benefit from the dramatic decline in oil prices," industry
consultant Julius Maldutis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"However, that is almost irrelevant given the impact of the
recession on traffic."
Delta Air Lines -- fresh off its acquisition of Northwest --
posted combined traffic numbers that decreased 11 percent over
February 2008. That decrease outpaced the 7.8 percent cut in
available seats over the same period, as the airline grounded
planes to reduce the number of empty seats available in a dismal
The news was worse for other
airlines. While Delta noted an 11 percent drop in international
traffic, that paced the 11.5 percent cut in available seats on
those routes. Compare that to Continental Airlines's performance on
its trans-Atlantic flights... reporting an overall drop in
international traffic of 10.3 percent last month, against a 4.7
percent drop in capacity.
As for domestic travel, Continental posted a 15.8 percent fall
in February 2009 traffic numbers, against a 12.6 percent cut in
capacity. That was in stark contrast to the performance of
intrastate rival Southwest Airlines, which posted a drop in
February traffic roughly in line with a 6.5 percent decrease in
available seat miles over the same period,
as ANN reported Tuesday.
The hits just kept on coming as the week progressed. American
Airlines reported a 13.5 percent drop in mainline traffic, against
a 10.1 percent drop in capacity. Regional subsidiary American Eagle
saw its traffic numbers plummet 13.7 percent over February 2008,
against a 9.1 percent drop in available seats.
United slashed capacity by the greatest amount among carriers
reporting their numbers this week, with 15.9 percent fewer seats
available last month than in February 2008. But even that wasn't
enough to fully offset a 17.2 percent drop in traffic. JetBlue saw
its passenger traffic fall 8.3 percent in February, against a 5.5
percent decline in available seats.
US Airways, on the other hand, posted a 9.3 percent drop in
passenger traffic... and a 9.3 percent drop in available seats,
which should at least earn the strategic planners at the
Tempe-based airline a free soda or two.
So far, only one airline has actually posted an uptick in
February 2009 traffic numbers... niche low-cost carrier Allegiant