US airlines report steady figures for August; Alaska Airlines, jetBlue and Southwest outperforming ‘legacy’ carriers

Trying new measures to grow even further: jetBlue, which is among the US carriers that grow the fastest, has just launched its All You Can Jet pass, which allows unlimited travel for a fixed fee.

August data from the leading US carriers reveals a similar pattern to July, with most of the legacy carriers reporting modest growth in demand of below 3% (as measured by system RPMs – Revenue Passenger Miles). Soon to be merged Continental was the exception. In July, its RPMs were up 2.5% but in August demand fell by 0.4%. Conversely, Southwest saw demand for its services rise from 3.4% in July to 6.4% in August. Way out in front (once more) was Allegiant Air which reported growth in RPMs in August of 23.2%, well ahead of Alaska Airlines (10.0%) and jetBlue (7.0%).

Chart: US airlines in 2009-2010 - Year-on-year change in system Revenue Passenger Miles

Source: Airline websites

If comparisons are made with August 2008, the only carriers reporting RPM growth are Allegiant (naturally), Alaska Airlines (+9.1%), Southwest (+7.5%) and jetBlue (7.0%). All of the so-called ‘legacy’ carriers have yet to see demand return to the levels seen before the economic slowdown.

Load factors dip in August (except at Allegiant and jetBlue)

Monthly load factors as reported by 12 US airlines have been plotted for the last 20 months to show how different airlines compare and what impact seasonality has on the airlines’ ability to fill their aircraft.

Chart: US airlines in 2009-2010 - Monthly systemwide load factors

Source: Airline websites

New US Airline Routes 2010 - Download SpreadsheetIn August, ten of the 12 airlines reported load factors falling compared with July, the notable exceptions being Allegiant and jetBlue. For the third month in a row, all carriers (except American Eagle, which is really a commuter airline) reported system-wide load factors in excess of 80%.

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