Earlier this week, there were a pair of news items relating to route news at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Firstly, Delta will be adding 3 flights per day between Raleigh and Baltimore-Washington. On the other hand, Frontier will be ending service on the Milwaukee-Raleigh-Durham route on June 6th.
The Delta add is a bit of an interesting one, considering that Baltimore-Washington is a Southwest Airlines stronghold; which is served 7 times a day from Raleigh-Durham. That represents capacity of over 850 seats per day. Delta on the other hand, will be countering with 3 CRJs, which translates to around 150 seats per day. The flight times for the flights are as follows:
RDU-BWI 6:50 – 7:45; 12:00 – 13:00; 16:30-17:30
Ultimately, the goal of this flight will be to cater to Delta’s rapidly growing frequent flyer presence in the area. However, unlike previous additions such as Providence and Albany, the Raleigh-Washington market is quite well served with service from 4 other carriers. However fares are extraordinarily high, with yields (average fare/market distance) of $0.49 to BWI, meaning that Delta could have potentially used its lower mainline CASM to exploit a need in the market. But by using CRJs, they’ve shown that this route is more about frequent flyer retention than grabbing marketshare. One thing is for sure however, Delta’s “focus city” in Raleigh-Durham continues to grow (the airline grew to become RDU’s largest carrier in 2010 with close to 25% of the market). However both the RDU expansion, and the usage of CRJs flies in the face of recent Delta talk about cutting capacity and reducing their fleet of fuel efficient planes (which CRJs most certainly are). But given this expansion, we may see new unserved markets on Delta from Raleigh in the near future.
On the other end of the spectrum, Frontier Airlines announced that it would be ending service to Raleigh-Durham from Milwaukee. The route was served twice daily on Embraer E-170 aircraft. This change occurred because of Frontier parent Republic Airways’ plan to shift their Embraer E170 fleet from branded flying to fixed fee operations on behalf of Delta. Loads were solid, if unspectacular at 62.8% in February, but apparently not high-yielding enough to justify a drop in capacity to the ERJ 145. This move is interesting in the broader sense, because it seems to be the beginning of a draw-down or at least a pullback, of Frontier’s Milwaukee hub. With fuel prices continually edging higher (recent drop notwithstanding), the sustainability of Frontier’s Milwaukee hub, which is primarily based on regional jets, seems to wane daily. The following changes have been loaded into the system already:
LAX goes from 6x/week A319 to 0
SFO goes from 4x/week E190 to 0
SEA 4x/week changes from A319 to E190
RDU ends – was 2x daily (12x/week) ERJ
MSN drops from 4x to 3x ERJ
Back in their Q1 conference call, Frontier said that Milwaukee was a big money loser. And that was with sub $100/bbl oil. As such, I’d like to take at some government data relating to their Milwaukee hub next week. There is one piece of good news however, and that is that Southwest will be ending the Skywest partnership that AirTran had in Milwaukee; reducing the viability of that competing hub.