Look, maybe I’m the only person that finds this interesting. But, hear me out. I can’t quite figure out why airlines sometimes compete the way they do. I’ve got a reasonable example. We need a bit of history first.
Miami And Dulles Are Hubs
Occupying the role of Captain Obvious for a moment, both Miami and Washington-Dulles are hubs. Miami is a big American Airlines hub while Dulles still remains a pretty decent-sized hub for United (over 100 destinations served from there). These are both big airports. Miami handles the 14th highest passenger volume in the nation. Dulles is the 25th biggest by that measure according to 2017 stats.
American used to rule the Caribbean with the combination of their San Juan and Miami hubs. Now, just Miami remains. That means they funnel a bunch of traffic to connect to the Caribbean (and Mexico and Central and South America).
Conversely, the mid-Atlantic and Northeast is pretty well-served by United from Dulles.
And yet, the two airlines don’t seem to want to compete on the route. For as long as I can recall, United has not served the Dulles-Miami route. They’ve left it to American, who has quietly reduced capacity on the route. American has traditionally shied away from competition. Just see what they did at JFK.
One Airline Likes Miami (Now). One Doesn’t
Somehow I missed this story last week. But, it looks like United Airlines is jumping into IAD-MIA right as American is getting out. American even has a fun comment that almost makes it sound like a positive:
“We will still continue to be the leader in seat share between DCA/IAD (Dulles) and MIA/FLL (Fort Lauderdale) when this change takes effect.”
Sure. Just lump together two airports that are an hour away from each other on a good day. And, another two airports that pretty much fill the same criteria. While you’re at it, let’s treat LAX and San Diego airports the same. And, Newark and JFK. Oh, wait. An airline that shall remain nameless already does that with the last pair.
United is serving it with a mainline aircraft, though their smallest, an A319. And, American does have a ton of lift between DCA and Miami. Anyway, I digress.
So, why is United Airlines adding this route now? Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy my home airport will still have nonstop service to one of the busiest airports in the world. American only has two nonstop flights a day now. Fares aren’t what I would call “low” on the route. I would imagine United could have added a flight here a while ago. Similarly, why is AA drawing down this route now? They had literally no nonstop competition on the route. If the route was soft, why not drop a frequency?
Interestingly, American now only serves Dulles from 3 of their hubs (Charlotte, DFW and LAX). They gave up the goat on ORD-IAD a loooong time ago.
The Final Two Pennies
Why doesn’t AA want to service IAD? The easy answer is “people don’t want to fly to/from Dulles”. But, that answer is patently false. There’s still plenty of local passengers (O&D, as the cool kids call it). Apple and Amazon are both looking seriously at large campuses in the area. And, traffic between the two airports can be quite bad. National is a great airport, if you live inside the Beltway. As you get out into Northern Virginia, nobody in their right mind thinks it’s a smart idea to fight traffic to grab a morning flight out of DCA.
Is the new United service part of Scott Kirby’s philosophy to fly to every dirt strip in the lower 48?
My crystal ball is in the shop.
The post The Curious Case Of DC And Miami And How Airlines Compete was published first on Pizza in Motion