Posts Tagged ‘Sun Country Airlines’

Airlines Don’t Expect Rapid Growth When Pandemic Social Distancing Restrictions are Eased

April 20, 2020

A Spirit Airlines Airbus 320 arrives in Cleveland after a flight from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Airlines are expecting low passenger counts even after the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing restrictions are eased or even removed.

Although state officials in recent days have spoken about easing their social distancing orders and allowing some businesses to reopen, airline industry observers expect the demand for air travel to continue to lag.

Some have predicted airlines will become smaller and have fewer employees.

The CEO of Southwest Airlines has reportedly approached his company’s labor unions about making concessions on wages and benefits once the emergency air from the federal government is exhausted and if traffic doesn’t immediately rebound.

Southwest, which is viewed as one of the nation’s best-managed airlines, has never imposed pay cuts or layoffs in its 49-year history.

In a recent message to employees, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said the carrier had fewer than 200,000 passengers in the first two weeks of April compared to more than 6 million during the same period in April 2019.

United expects to carry fewer passengers this May than it did on a single day in May 2019 and to slash flights by 90 percent of the normal schedule.

Munoz expects the return of business after social restrictions are eased to be slow because many will remain concerned about the pandemic and the health risks of commercial air travel.

A writer for The Motley Fool, a financial investment firm, predicts it will take at least two years or longer for the airline industry to the level of traffic it had before the pandemic began.

The writer, who said he is optimistic that the airline industry will survive its economic headwinds, expects air travel demand to be muted for the rest of 2020.

Some carriers might not survive the economic downturn and the fate of others hinges on how quickly the travel market recovers.

The federal emergency aid ends on Sept. 30 and worker layoffs could follow.

United’s management has told its employees to expect a smaller workforce as early as Oct. 1.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said bookings for travel later in the summer have shown a slight rise and there may be a gradual recovery in the third and fourth quarters of 2020.

The conditions attached to the federal emergency airline aid has put some carriers in a dilemma.

They don’t want to offer the minimal levels of service that accepting the aid requires, particularly continuing to serve the airports they flew to before the pandemic struck.

The industry apparently thought that the U.S. Department of Transportation would allow them to temporarily drop numerous markets.

But DOT has not been inclined to allow that and has denied all but one of the requests for low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines for exemptions to the serve all airports rules.

Allegiant Air and Sun Country Airlines are also blanching at DOT’s position.

DOT has said that so long as airlines keep one flight to each city they’re in compliance with the law. The flights need not be daily.

Many airlines have fulfilled this requirement by ending all but one flight to some cities.

But discount carriers such as Spirit are unable to reduce 90 percent of their schedules and still meet the law’s intent because they favor typically once a day point-to-point service rather than flying to giant connecting hubs with multiple flights throughout the day.

Low-cost airlines say most of their passengers are leisure travelers and that market is virtually non-existent right now.

A recent story in the Los Angeles Times said that those still flying include airline workers going home after work shifts, medical staff traveling to regions hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks, some business travelers, and people going to help family members affected by the pandemic and social distancing measures.

Some travelers are also heading home after having vacations, school terms and work assignments cut short by the pandemic.

The Times report said those flying in recent weeks described the experience as a mixture of anxiety over the increased risk of being exposed to the virus and amazement at near empty airport terminals and airplane cabins.

Airline officials say it is difficult to determine which passengers aboard their flights are flying out of necessity versus leisure travelers.

Far less affected by the pandemic have been cargo carriers that are operating pretty much their scheduled flights.

In some instances, passenger airlines are using their planes to fly cargo.

Food service aboard flights, even in first class, has been eliminated or reduced to box meals in order to minimize contact between passengers and flight attendants.

With so few passengers flying, there is plenty of room for those aboard to spread out as a form of social distancing.

“They pretty much sit there and watch movies on their computer and sleep because they have an entire row to themselves,” said Rock Salomon, an American Airlines flight attendant based in Boston. “My last trip to Phoenix had less than 20 passengers on each leg.”

Although airlines are not mandating passengers to wear gloves or masks, they have encouraged that practice while allowing flight attendants to wear them while interacting with passengers.

In the meantime, another battle has begin over refunding canceled tickets.

Airlines are generally offering passenger who cancel flights during the pandemic travel vouchers rather than cash refunds.

Three U.S. senators issued a statement saying the industry is sitting on $10 billion in travel vouchers.

The senators said airlines have been obfuscating the right of passengers to receive a cash refund by offering travel vouchers as a default option and requiring passengers to take burdensome steps to request refunds.

New agency Reuters said it reviewed the responses the senators received from the nation’s major airlines as to their refund practices and found that most carriers did not share the total value of the travel vouchers and credits they have issued during the pandemic.

Some carriers said they are following U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines which require cash refunds if an airline cancels a flight.

But only Allegiant and Spirit indicated they are offering cash refunds as a first option for passengers who voluntarily cancel their tickets.

Low-cost carrier Sun Country said offering cash refunds to all passengers who cancel their reservations “would put the company’s future at risk.”

American Airlines said more than 90 percent of its passengers who were offered a refund for flights the company itself canceled chose that option over a travel voucher.

Some of the travel vouchers that passengers who do not specifically request a refund are being issued will expire within a year.

Northeast Ohio Air Service Watch: United Route Restructuring Hits Cleveland, Akron-Canton Airports

January 18, 2020

Changes are coming to airline service in Northeast Ohio including a restructuring of United Airlines service at Cleveland Hopkins and Akron-Canton airports.

Making headlines this week was the announcement that United will cease flying from Hopkins Airport to New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Reagan Washington National Airport on March 29.

Instead the carrier will boost capacity on flights between Cleveland and Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty airports.

A United spokesman told The Plain Dealer there would be no net decrease in total seats to the New York City and Washington areas, which suggests that United may replace some regional jets now flying those routes with larger aircraft and/or increase the number of flights.

The spokesman also said there would be an increase in premium seats available to travelers flying to Newark and Dulles from Cleveland.

A similar change is coming to Akron-Canton on May 8 when United launches four daily non-stop flights to Dulles.

At the same time it will drop its existing twice daily flights between Newark and Akron-Canton.

In the past two years United has been bolstering its service from Dulles Airport by adding destinations and shifting some connecting flight to Dulles from its Newark hub.

United plans to launch a shuttle service between Reagan National and Newark and some observers think the ending of service from Cleveland to Reagan National is being done to give some of those Washington landing slots to the shuttle operation.

United will offer after late March 12 non-stop destinations from Cleveland. As recently as 2014 it flew to 59 airports from Hopkins.

The Akron-Canton flights to Dulles will operate with regional jet equipment under the United Express brand.

All of United’s flights between Hopkins and Reagan National and LaGuardia are operated with regional jets under the United Express brand.

American and Delta also fly between Cleveland and LaGuardia with regional jet equipment under the American Eagle and Delta Connect brands respectively.

American Eagle also has service between Cleveland and Reagan National.

Other developments affecting air service in Northeast Ohio include the assignment of new 50-seat regional jet aircraft by United Express to its route between Akron-Canton and Chicago O’Hare Airport.

The Bombardier CRJ-500 jets have more legroom and increased storage space.

United said the CRJ-550 is the only regional jet with first-class seating and such amenities as space for every passenger to bring a roller bag on board and a self-serve refreshment center for first class passengers featuring snacks and beverages.

The aircraft also has Wi-Fi service in flight. CRJ-550 aircraft feature 10 first-class, 20 economy-plus and 20 regular economy seats.

A CRJ-550 is now being used on one to two of the four daily roundtrips between O’Hare and Akron-Canton. By late spring all four flights will feature CRJ-550 equipment.

United also flies the CRJ-550 on routes linking Chicago with Cincinnati and Columbus, and between the two Ohio cities and Newark.

Also at Akron-Canton, Delta earlier this month began operating mainline jets on two of its three daily flights to Atlanta.

A late morning flight to Akron-Canton uses a Boeing 717 jet while the late night flight uses a 737. The mid-day flight uses a regional jet.

During the Christmas travel season all of the flights between Akron-Canton and Atlanta had been covered by regional jets.

Spirit Airlines late last year resumed seasonal service between Akron-Canton and Tampa and Fort Myers, Florida.

Those flights, as well as Spirit’s year-around service to Orlando, do not operate daily and use Airbus 319 jets.

Hopkins Airport will see the addition of a new carrier on May 20 when Sun Country Airlines begins flying between Cleveland and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

JetBlue has announced it will increase its service between Cleveland and Boston at an unspecified date in 2020.

United plans to add a weekend flight between Cleveland and Tampa in the spring.

Youngstown-Warren Airport Optimistic About Landing New Air Service to Replace Allegiant

December 16, 2017

Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport officials are talking with four airlines about serving the airport, which is poised to lose commercial service next month.

Allegiant plans to end its flights to Youngstown on Jan. 4. Among the carriers that airport officials are meeting with are Sun Country, SkyWest and Southern Airways Express.

Southern has proposed launching routes from Youngstown to Detroit and Baltimore using nine-seat Cessna Caravans 208B turboprop planes.

A public hearing was held earlier this month at the airport to gauge the public interest in the service that Southern has suggested providing.

Founded four years ago, Southern provides service between Pittsburgh and smaller communities in western Pennsylvania, including Altoona and Franklin.

The airline’s chief commercial officer, Mark Cestari, said the carrier is working to form interline agreements with major airlines to boost the attractiveness of its potential service from Youngstown.

Dan Dickten, director of aviation for the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport, plans to meet with SkyWest Airlines in January to discuss service to Chicago.

SkyWest operates flights under the United Express brand, which feeds passengers to United Airlines.

Youngstown had flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport for a short time in summer 2016 that were provided by Aerodynamics Inc.

Airport officials blamed a lack of an interline agreement to access United’s baggage handling and ticketing network for the failure of ADI’s service.

Dickten said SkyWest wants a revenue guarantee for the flights. The port authority has $500,000 that it could pay to SkyWest.

Dickten has also talked with Sun Country. “They are another ultra-low-cost carrier” that flies many of the same routes as Allegiant, he said.

Youngstown airport officials have also contacted Ultimate Jetcharters, which is based in North Canton and flies 30-passenger aircraft.

Ultimate provides scheduled service from Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport to Cincinnati and Atlanta.

Dickten said discussions with various carriers have turned serious and he expects to see scheduled air service within the next six to eight months from Youngstown.

Allegiant currently offers flights twice weekly from Youngstown to Orlando Sanford and St.  Petersburg/Clearwater airports in Florida. It has cited low demand as its reasons for leaving the Youngstown market.