Orlando blooms with booming international traffic; jetBlue adds most new routes

Image: Cake celeberation
TAM Airlines helped to boost Orlando’s international traffic with the introduction of a daily service between Sao Paulo and Orlando last November. Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chairman, Jeff Fuqua, welcomed the crew before the flight.

Handling 35.66 million passengers in 2008 meant that Orlando Airport (MCO) maintained its positions as Florida’s busiest airport despite seeing demand fall by 2.2% for the year as a whole. While domestic traffic was down around 3%, international traffic has grown by 17% thanks to a range of new services. Orlando is perhaps best known as the nearest major city to Walt Disney World, one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions. The city is also home to many conferences and exhibitions, as well as a range of golf courses catering to all ability levels.

Chart: Orlando Traffic: 1990 - 2008
Source: GOAA

Prior to 1975 the airport was operated as McCoy’s Air Force Base (hence MCO as the designated code) for the US military. Traffic has virtually doubled between 1990 and 2007, though traffic suffered in the early part of this decade with traffic levels surpassing those in 2000 only in 2004.

No airline dominant but Southwest is market leader

No airline has more than a 25% share of traffic at the airport with Southwest currently accounting for around 23% of scheduled seat capacity.

Chart: Top 10 airlines at Orlando
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 2008 and w/c 16 February 2009

Year-on-year capacity for February is down 10% and only one of the top 10 airlines (jetBlue) has added capacity during that time. Southwest has reduced capacity by almost 8% but has not dropped any destinations. AirTran has reduced capacity by around 5% but added new routes to Columbus, Harrisburg and San Juan while dropping services to Charlotte and New York Stewart.

Image: Ribbon Cutting
Last year JetBlue launched a number of new non-stop domestic services from Austin, including Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco and Long Beach, California.

jetBlue helps international market growth

Since last January jetBlue has added new daily domestic services to Austin, Burlington, Portland and Richmond, and international connections to Cancun and Santo Domingo. This week it launches a new route to Bogota while further connections to Nassau (February) and San Jose (March) begin soon. As a result, the airline’s seat market share has risen to around 10.5%.

Route Launch

Other international routes added in 2008 include Spirit to Aguadilla, TAM to Sao Paulo and Mexican to Mexico City. This means that international capacity this winter represents more than 10% of the total for the first time. Scheduled services to Europe are provided this winter by Aer Lingus (to Dublin), British Airways (to London Gatwick), Lufthansa (to Frankfurt) and Virgin Atlantic (to both London Gatwick and Manchester).

The single biggest international market is still Canada and this winter Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing and Westjet are all transporting frozen Canadians down to the relative warmth to be found in Florida.

Competition keeps fares low on domestic routes

Despite being only the 10th largest airport in the US Orlando claims to be the fourth largest O&D market in the US. With LCCs playing such an important role at the airport it is also no surprise that average fares at the airport are among the lowest in the US. The top domestic routes in terms of seat capacity are led by Atlanta. The top domestic routes are:

Destination Carrier (weekly departures)
Atlanta AirTran (83), Delta (105)
Philadelphia AirTran (28), Southwest (46), US Airways (55)
New York Newark Continental (70), jetBlue (33)
New York JFK American (7), Delta (29), jetBlue (70)
Detroit AirTran (14), Northwest (49), Southwest (7), Spirit (14)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 16 February 2009

According to the airline’s own analysis of data for the second quarter of 2009 the top O&D markets at Orlando are Philadelphia, Newark, Detroit, San Juan and New York JFK. Atlanta ranks just ninth but is a major hub for AirTran and Delta and thus a major source of indirect traffic.

Research from the DOT’s Office of Aviation Analysis reveals that in the second quarter of 2008 Orlando’s air fares were around 15.5% lower than the US average when adjusted for sector length. This is even better than the 10.9% reported in the first quarter of 2008 and reflects the growing share of LCC traffic at the expense of some of the US ‘legacy’ carriers.


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