AirTran catches Midwest in March...or maybe not

Old May 11, 10, 9:20 pm
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AirTran catches Midwest in March...or maybe not

The March MKE stats show AirTran virtually pulling even with Midwest in the month of March:

288,574 total YX/F9
189,589 Midwest
78.087 Midwest Connect
20,808 Frontier


286,360 total FL + OO
253,266 AirTran
33,094 Skywest


This is much closer than capacity would suggest. Even with the 17,436 charter passengers flown by AirTran in March, it still doesn’t fit that AirTran+Skywest would match Midwest+Frontier.

So I looked at the numbers, and I think that AirTran is reporting Skywest as part of their own numbers, and then also Skywest is reporting them separately. A few different things support this.


Questionable Load Factor

The March report for AirTran shows 130,392 departing passengers and 1,083 flights. That comes to 120.4 passengers per departure. I worked out the average capacity per departure for AirTran at Milwaukee for March and it comes to 128.2 seats per flight. That would be a load factor of 93.9% for the entire month of March for the entire AirTran Milwaukee set of routes. That would be stunning, especially considering that this is the first winter when they ran a full complement of business routes.


Comparison to AirTran System Average

If 93.9% is in fact the real Milwaukee load factor, it would represent a major shift. Milwaukee has for quite some time been around 4-8 points lower than the AirTran system average. Check out the change since the start of the year…using Mitchell Airport figures for 2010. These are Milwaukee AirTran loads compared to systemwide AirTran loads for each month.

MKE ...... System... Difference
70.4% ….. 73.2% ….. -2.8% ….. JAN 2009
70.3% ….. 74.2% ….. -3.9% ….. FEB
77.4% ….. 80.7% ….. -3.3% ….. MAR
76.8% ….. 80.4% ….. -3.6% ….. APR
69.0% ….. 78.0% ….. -9.0% ….. MAY
74.0% ….. 83.6% ….. -9.6% ….. JUN
79.6% ….. 88.3% ….. -8.7% ….. JUL
81.8% ….. 84.9% ….. -3.1% ….. AUG
72.4% ….. 77.0% ….. -4.6% ….. SEP
75.7% ….. 79.2% ….. -3.5% ….. OCT
73.1% ….. 76.7% ….. -3.6% ….. NOV
72.1% ….. 77.4% ….. -5.3% ….. DEC
73.0% ….. 72.0% ….. 1.0% ….. JAN 2010
78.8% ..... 75.1% ..... 3.7% ..... FEB
93.9% ..... 83.8% ..... 10.1% ..... MAR


Milwaukee's regular gap below FL system average suddenly turned around the same time Skywest arrived, and was more then 10 points better than the system average for March. The Skywest flights are probably helping MKE loads, but this kind of chagne just doesn't seem reasonable.

If instead we back out Skywest’s numbers from the AirTran reported totals, then things look much more normal. These MKE loads for 2010 are calculated by taking the airports reported AirTran totals and then lowering them by the amount of the Skywest traffic (which is separately reported):

MKE ...... System... Difference
67.3% ….. 72.0% ….. -4.7% ….. JAN 2010
70.1% ..... 75.1% ..... -5.0% ..... FEB
81.5% ...... 83.8% ..... -2.3% ..... MAR

Those are far more in line with what is expected.


Comparison of MKE stats to actual DoT figures

One addition thing which suggests the MKE report has AirTran adding the Skywest figures into their own, and also reporting them separately, is comparing the airport reports to the actual DoT figures.

The DoT figures are actual passengers reported by carrier, market and aircraft. So we can tally those for the month and compare those to what the airport monthly reports show. Traditionally, the reported AirTran totals on the MKE monthly reports are slightly higher than the DoT stats. Not clear why that is, but it is pretty consistent…until Skywest started. Then the MKE airport totals for AirTran started showing a lot more than what the DoT shows.

Here’s the comparison of AirTran traffic between DoT actual and what MKE reported, per 100 passengers. In other words for every 100 passengers on the DoT actual report, here’s how many were reported on the MKE monthly stats:

102.4 ….. May
102.2 ….. June
101.7 ….. July
101.5 ….. Aug
103.2 ….. Sept
101.7 ….. Oct
101.7 ….. Nov
108.6 ….. Dec
114.6 ….. Jan

The ratio of MKE stats to DoT actual was pretty reliably in about the 102-103 range until December and January, when Skywest started. Then all of a sudden MKE reported a lot more passengers than the DoT actual.

Assuming the AirTran totals incorrectly include the Skywest totals, if you subtract those numbers out, then December and January fall in line with other months.

102.4 ….. May
102.2 ….. June
101.7 ….. July
101.5 ….. Aug
103.2 ….. Sept
101.7 ….. Oct
101.7 ….. Nov
102.0 ….. Dec
103.6 ….. Jan


DoT stats are not quite out yet for February to compare actual reported versus MKE reported, but it should be out soon.

Finally, if in fact MKE is incorrectly reporting Skywest twice (on its own and added into the Skywest totals) that explains how Milwaukee’s year-over-year growth actually accelerated in March, the first month where Skywest was a full schedule strength with decent loads (64.76%). Certainly there is huge growth at MKE, and when January was some 40% better year over year, we knew that last January was especially depressed. Last March wasn’t nearly as bleak, and so I figured March would be up maybe 30-33%. To have MKE up some 41% over last March is stunning. Now that I see the details, I don’t think it is accurate.

Of course unless the MKE airport checks this out and (assuming this is right) corrects the numbers, the airport stats will be reported as such and seen as a huge milestone for AirTran.

I do think that AirTran...accurate figures including Skywest exaclty once...will narrow the gap with Midwest this summer. But I really don't think this information reported for March is accurate.

Last edited by knope2001; May 11, 10 at 9:26 pm
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Old May 11, 10, 10:37 pm
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Interesting findings, knope.

Who put out these numbers? Just wondering where the bad information came from. Is it the MKE airport administration? It it AirTran?

Is this happening with the stats released at other airports where SkyWest is flying in partnership with AirTran, such as PIT, STL, or IND, where we can compare this with what was happening before with mainline metal?

If it is indeed incorrect, do you think it was a simple clerical error, or was it intentional?
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Old May 12, 10, 5:01 am
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Originally Posted by newsmanhoss View Post
Interesting findings, knope.

Who put out these numbers? Just wondering where the bad information came from. Is it the MKE airport administration? It it AirTran?

Is this happening with the stats released at other airports where SkyWest is flying in partnership with AirTran, such as PIT, STL, or IND, where we can compare this with what was happening before with mainline metal?

If it is indeed incorrect, do you think it was a simple clerical error, or was it intentional?
I would hope that nobody is doing this intentionally, nor that anybody would be willfully allowing an error this signfiicant to continue if they were aware of it.

People are human, however, and there is of course oppotunity for misunderstanding, careless error, and even deception. Not knowing the mechanics of the reporting, I can't really know where this stems from. This could be at Skywest, AirTran or the county, and it could be an honest mistake by an intern or be the result of something less honest by someone eager to inflate the nubmers of AirTran or the airport as a whole.

I suppose some would naturally expect me to challenge the results when AirTran+Skywest matches or passes Midwest+Frontier. Trouble here is that the traffic just doesn't match the capacity and the context. And if in fact AirTran's mainline departing MKE load factor had increased in march anywhere near 16.5 points from 77.4% to 93.9%, we would have heard about it.

For what it's worth, at least twice these MKE montly stats have contained a major error. Once they missed Continental in their calculations, and another time if you added up the market share of each carrier you got something well over 100% (like 113% if I recall correctly). Both those times I sent them an e-mail and the error was corrected shortly, although with no response to me.

Last edited by knope2001; May 12, 10 at 5:11 am
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Old May 12, 10, 6:58 am
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Originally Posted by knope2001 View Post
I would hope that nobody is doing this intentionally, nor that anybody would be willfully allowing an error this signfiicant to continue if they were aware of it.

People are human, however, and there is of course oppotunity for misunderstanding, careless error, and even deception. Not knowing the mechanics of the reporting, I can't really know where this stems from. This could be at Skywest, AirTran or the county, and it could be an honest mistake by an intern or be the result of something less honest by someone eager to inflate the nubmers of AirTran or the airport as a whole.

I suppose some would naturally expect me to challenge the results when AirTran+Skywest matches or passes Midwest+Frontier. Trouble here is that the traffic just doesn't match the capacity and the context. And if in fact AirTran's mainline departing MKE load factor had increased in march anywhere near 16.5 points from 77.4% to 93.9%, we would have heard about it.

For what it's worth, at least twice these MKE montly stats have contained a major error. Once they missed Continental in their calculations, and another time if you added up the market share of each carrier you got something well over 100% (like 113% if I recall correctly). Both those times I sent them an e-mail and the error was corrected shortly, although with no response to me.
Looks like you might have to send another e-mail
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Old May 12, 10, 7:40 am
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Originally Posted by newsmanhoss View Post
Looks like you might have to send another e-mail
And as always, I will start it out with "I am not a kook" and sign it "Concerned Citizen".
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Old May 12, 10, 7:49 am
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I think that everyone knew this date would come sooner or later. Even if the numbers are correct/incorrect for March, then maybe in April or May.
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Old May 12, 10, 8:11 am
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Originally Posted by knope2001 View Post
And as always, I will start it out with "I am not a kook" and sign it "Concerned Citizen".
LOL
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Old May 12, 10, 9:10 am
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Originally Posted by MKE 1K View Post
I think that everyone knew this date would come sooner or later. Even if the numbers are correct/incorrect for March, then maybe in April or May.
They have not closed the gap in capacity yet.

Peak weekday seats this summer departing MKE
6,854 YX+F9
5,639 FL+OO

That's some 21.5% more seats on peak weekdays. The actual gap will be significantly smaller between the two because:

(a) YX/F9 have a couple of flights which don't operate all five weekdays
(b) YX/F9 have significantly scaled back Saturday/Sunday flying where FL+OO doesn't scale back as much
(c) YX/F9 have more capacity in RJ's than FL+OO do, and all the RJ routes tend not to fly quite as full as most mainline routes do.
(d) Charter work isn't included here, and AirTran might have some in MKE, where YX/F9 don't.

It's certainly possible that at some point AirTran + Skywest will pass Midwest/Frontier, but it's certainly not a foregone conclusion at this point.
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Old May 12, 10, 7:29 pm
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Originally Posted by knope2001 View Post
They have not closed the gap in capacity yet.

Peak weekday seats this summer departing MKE
6,854 YX+F9
5,639 FL+OO

That's some 21.5% more seats on peak weekdays. The actual gap will be significantly smaller between the two because:

(a) YX/F9 have a couple of flights which don't operate all five weekdays
(b) YX/F9 have significantly scaled back Saturday/Sunday flying where FL+OO doesn't scale back as much
(c) YX/F9 have more capacity in RJ's than FL+OO do, and all the RJ routes tend not to fly quite as full as most mainline routes do.
(d) Charter work isn't included here, and AirTran might have some in MKE, where YX/F9 don't.

It's certainly possible that at some point AirTran + Skywest will pass Midwest/Frontier, but it's certainly not a foregone conclusion at this point.
Looks like the gap between the two will continue to narrow. This blog post indicates that AirTran will be announcing two new routes from Milwaukee soon, along with more summer seasonal service.

http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee...l_sort_of.html

The drama at MKE continues...
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Old May 13, 10, 6:59 am
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Originally Posted by newsmanhoss View Post
Looks like the gap between the two will continue to narrow. This blog post indicates that AirTran will be announcing two new routes from Milwaukee soon, along with more summer seasonal service.

http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee...l_sort_of.html

The drama at MKE continues...
Anyone care to speculate on the new routes?
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Old May 13, 10, 8:07 am
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Originally Posted by RSVP View Post
Anyone care to speculate on the new routes?
MEM and DTW
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Old May 13, 10, 8:44 am
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Originally Posted by RSVP View Post
Anyone care to speculate on the new routes?
I'm somewhat curious on the reference to additional summer seasonal service. Is this simply going to be the extra flights to SEA, SFO, SAN, STL, and LGA that have already been loaded but not announced in a formal press release? The reason I ask is that it's a little late to be announcing service for the summer. New routes are usually announced at least 6 weeks in advance and that means any new routes probably wouldn't start until July at the earliest. The heavy travel month of June has already come and gone.

Given that Frontier contines to add and trim capacity in Milwaukee, AirTran probably senses they still have a window of opportunity to add more service and eventually become the dominant carrier in Milwaukee. Republic's fleet is stretched so thin already and they aren't really in a position to respond with added flights/destinations. AirTran is obviously aware of this and seems more than willing to take advantage of this opportunity.

As for new routes, I see any of the following being added:

1) Flint or Detroit
2) Philadelphia
3) Houston
4) San Antonio
5) White Plains
6) Portland

If the SkyWest schedule is modified or expanded, I could certainly see Grand Rapids, Madison, or Moline added.

I'm guessing AirTran will announce something next week during the annual shareholder's meeting in Milwaukee.
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Old May 13, 10, 9:01 am
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Originally Posted by BlueHorseShoe2000 View Post
I'm somewhat curious on the reference to additional summer seasonal service. Is this simply going to be the extra flights to SEA, SFO, SAN, STL, and LGA that have already been loaded but not announced in a formal press release? The reason I ask is that it's a little late to be announcing service for the summer. New routes are usually announced at least 6 weeks in advance and that means any new routes probably wouldn't start until July at the earliest. The heavy travel month of June has already come and gone.

Given that Frontier contines to add and trim capacity in Milwaukee, AirTran probably senses they still have a window of opportunity to add more service and eventually become the dominant carrier in Milwaukee. Republic's fleet is stretched so thin already and they aren't really in a position to respond with added flights/destinations. AirTran is obviously aware of this and seems more than willing to take advantage of this opportunity.

As for new routes, I see any of the following being added:

1) Flint or Detroit
2) Philadelphia
3) Houston
4) San Antonio
5) White Plains
6) Portland

If the SkyWest schedule is modified or expanded, I could certainly see Grand Rapids, Madison, or Moline added.

I'm guessing AirTran will announce something next week during the annual shareholder's meeting in Milwaukee.
I agree with your assessment. They will probably just try to get a PR bump by announcing the service that's already been loaded.

As for the new routes, my bets are on DTW and PHL. They are trying to building MKE as an east-west hub. Portland would balance that out a bit, but they are so weak on the west coast, and I don't think they would announce that route just from Milwaukee. I would think Atlanta would likely get it first.

Or, we could be wrong and the new routes could be SkyWest feeders to help solidify the west coast schedule.

Either way, next week will likely be a pretty good week for AirTran in Milwaukee, as they will likley announce these new routes/frequencies, show off their Brewers 717, and have their shareholders meeting. They are really showing MKE the love right now.

Even though their MKE operations have "matured," they appear to have a continued desire to grow here.
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Old May 13, 10, 4:59 pm
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Originally Posted by newsmanhoss View Post
I agree with your assessment. They will probably just try to get a PR bump by announcing the service that's already been loaded.

Either way, next week will likely be a pretty good week for AirTran in Milwaukee, as they will likley announce these new routes/frequencies, show off their Brewers 717, and have their shareholders meeting. They are really showing MKE the love right now.

Even though their MKE operations have "matured," they appear to have a continued desire to grow here.
The GMAC and local politicians have got to be loving all the attention AirTran is giving MKE.
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Old May 15, 10, 8:05 am
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Originally Posted by newsmanhoss View Post

Who put out these numbers? Just wondering where the bad information came from. Is it the MKE airport administration? It it AirTran?
I suspect it was AirTran and/or SkyWest who supplied the numbers based on a similar incident that happened with VivaAerobus at AUS back in 2008. VivaAerobus was reporting a passenger count that was in excess of their total seat capacity. I emailed AUS a question about it.

Q: The press release states that VivaAerobus carried 22,040 passengers at AUS during May. Based on their schedule and seating capacity, they should have only had 18,352 seats for sale in May. I suspect the correct number of VivaAerobus AUS passengers was 11,020. Could you please verify?

A: The airlines self report all monthly activity to ABIA (aircraft type, weight, # landings, passenger and cargo stats). VivaAerobus submitted a total of 22,040 passengers. Based on what vivaAerobus submitted , the stats on page 15 are correct. However, staff is checking with the carrier for clarification, as capacity does not match the self-reported figure. If the carrier's provided submission is incorrect, a revised May 08 activity report will be posted.
Sure enough, VivaAerobus only carried 11,020 passengers that month, and AUS later revised it's May 2008 activity report. The airlines at AUS report enplaned and deplaned passengers separately. I think what happened was that VivaAerobus inadvertently listed their total passenger count in each of the two categories, thus counting each passenger twice.
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