US airlines starting >130 new routes this year; American and Southwest lead the way

According to’s extensive new route database US airlines have already announced plans for around 130 new routes starting in the first half of 2010 (of which 14 have already been launched in the first three weeks of the year).

As expected nearly all major US airlines saw passenger numbers fall in 2009, mostly between five and 10%. The main exceptions were Southwest (down less than 1%), jetBlue (passengers up 2.4%) and niche operator Allegiant Air, whose 5m passengers represented an increase of just over 26% on 2008. As 2009 unfolded the year-on-year performance in terms of demand (as measured by Revenue Passenger Miles – RPMs) improved for all airlines, such that from September onwards five of the top nine carriers (AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Continental, jetBlue and Southwest) were recording consistent growth. That left four of the older, ‘legacy’ carriers (American, Delta, United and US Airways) still shrinking. In Delta’s case this is understandable as it rationalises its network after the acquisition of Northwest.

Chart: US airlines in 2009 - Year-on-year change in system Revenue Passenger Miles
Source: Airline websites

Although demand fell, most airlines cut capacity by the same amount (or even more), resulting in load factors increasing marginally at the majority of US airlines. This happened most notably at Southwest where the annual load factor improved from 71.2% in 2008 to 76.0% in 2009, though this is still lower than at any other major carrier. All other carriers reported load factors for the year of between 79% and 82%, with the remarkable exception of Allegiant Air which broke the 90% mark for the first time.

Chart: US airlines in 2009 - Change in capacity (ASM) and demand (RPM) v 2008
Source: Airline websites

>130 new routes already planned for 2010

According to’s extensive new route database US airlines have already announced plans for over 130 new routes starting in the first half of 2010 (of which 14 have already been launched in the first three weeks of the year).

Button: Downloadable spreadsheet - 130 NEW US routes (First-Half 2010) | click here

Southwest (27 new routes), American (22) and Delta (17) have been the most adventurous airlines so far. In terms of flights American’s new routes will generate more daily departures than Southwest’s network additions (which will be great news for George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham in the current hit movie “Up In The Air”). So far Virgin America has not revealed plans for any new routes this year.

While the majority of new routes being planned are domestic (or to the Caribbean), there are a few new longer-haul services starting including Delta’s new African services to Abuja, Accra and Lagos, as well as their new Scandinavian links to Copenhagen and Stockholm, and Asian links to Hong Kong, Osaka Kansai and Seoul; American’s new Beijing service from Chicago and Madrid service from JFK; United’s new Brussels service from Chicago; US Airways new Rome service from Charlotte; and Continental’s new Munich service from Newark.

No doubt further new route announcements will be made during the year and will report in detail as and when the new services actually start carrying passengers.

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  1. jay says:

    love the downloadable spreadsheet with the routes. great stuff!

  2. William says:

    Um… you forgot SMF-Maui. Alaska starts that daily service in March.

  3. Clint says:

    Hi there!

    You forgot GEG-SMF and GEG-SJC by Horizon starting 3/26 and you forgot Alaska Airlines service between OGG-SMF. replies: Thanks Clint (and others) for pointing out a few routes we overlooked. We have updated the spreadsheet accordingly.

  4. Ben says:

    Alaska Airlines additions for 2010 so far:

    San Jose (SJC) – Kahului, Maui (OGG) 03/11/10 1x Tue/Thu/Sun
    San Jose (SJC) – Kona (KOA) 03/12/10 1x Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat
    Sacramento (SMF) – Kahului, Maui (OGG) 03/26/10 1x Daily
    Spokane (GEG) – Sacramento (SMF) 03/26/10 1x Daily Non-stop;
    1x Daily One-stop via SJC
    Spokane (GEG) – San Jose (SJC) 03/26/10 1x Daily Non-stop;
    1x Daily One-stop via SMF replies: The first two were already in the spreadsheet, the other three have now been added. Thanks.

  5. Joe says:

    Allegiant is adding a new non-vacation hub this year. Speculation is that it will be a location in the central part of the country to facilitate some Florida to the West Coast exchanges.

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