Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flights By U.S. Airlines Hit 10-Year Low

More signs of trouble in the airline industry were reported this week by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Frontier Airlines will cut nearly 500 Milwaukee employees - nearly half of them flight crew members based at Mitchell International Airport - as a result of a major service reduction here.

Those job cuts will occur in April, according to information Frontier filed Monday with the state Department of Workforce Development under the state's layoff notice law.

Frontier said 446 employees will be affected by the cuts, to occur between April 15 and April 30. About 230 employees are flight crew members who will be reassigned to bases outside Milwaukee, the company said in its filing.

Denver-based Frontier has about 1,000 employees based in Milwaukee.

Many of the flight crews don't live in the Milwaukee area, commuting here via flights from around the country. But other employees - including maintenance workers, gate agents and baggage handlers - live in southeastern Wisconsin.

The news comes just four days after Frontier announced it will eliminate five nonstop routes from Milwaukee. Those cuts will reduce daily departures out of Mitchell International from 32 to 18.

Effective April 16, the company will suspend nonstop flights from Milwaukee to Dallas/Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Mich., Kansas City, Mo., Philadelphia and Phoenix. In addition, Milwaukee-to-Newark, N.J., service will be suspended effective April 1.
Cutting flights are they? There is only one reason why they would do that...air travel is on the wane and they can no longer make money with the high price of aviation fuel. The past half-century or so of routine middle class air travel is quickly drawing to a close. In not too many years, it will be exclusively the privilege of the wealthy...before that inevitable day when it becomes just another forlorn and rapidly fading memory from the all-to-brief age of petroleum.

Addendum: After I wrote the initial post, I came across this article from Reuters, which pretty well spells out what is happening in the airline industry:
U.S. airlines in 2011 operated the fewest number of flights since the hijack attacks on New York and Washington depressed air travel and accelerated the industry's worst-ever financial downturn, government figures on Tuesday showed.

The Transportation Department said major airlines, their chief low-cost competitors and the biggest regional carriers, recorded 6.08 million departures last year. Takeoffs were not that low since 2002, when they totaled 5.27 million.

Reduced operations and good summer weather, especially in the East, helped airlines post a 79 percent on-time rating in 2011, unchanged from the previous two years.

The overall number of flights by U.S. airlines have steadily declined since 2008 when the recession dampened travel demand. Most recently, stubbornly high fuel prices have prompted airlines to further cut capacity to reduce costs and maintain higher fares.
So tell me some more about that alleged economic recovery we are now experiencing. I love fairy tales.

Bonus: No disrespect to Peter, Paul and Mary, but a lot of people don't realize it was actually John Denver who wrote this song


  1. Australia's iconic brand is also wielding the axe to jobs, services and jobs;

    Qantas to cut 500 jobs as profits drop 83 per cent.


  2. I'm afraid that the airline industry, if it survives in any recognizable form at all, is destined to return to what it initially was, the province of the rich and well-to-do.

    This saddens me because I grew up and lived most of my life in a world where airline travel was generally available to the middle class (and sometimes beyond). My family was spread out between Canada and the US, east coast and west coast, a continent apart. Absent affordable air travel, visits would have been many fewer and some relatives would never have been met. This was, of course, the normal way of things prior to the existence of air travel. Indeed, even before deregulation, the industry was primarily focused on the elegance of the experience, considering itself largely a service to the well-heeled. But it became something more, something that shrank our world before the arrival of the internet. It brought people to places that they would otherwise only have seen in books or movies, it introduced cultures (with all the good and ill that that entails), and it allowed for families to remain physically connected even over vast distances.

    Those days were, of course, an aberration brought on by almost unimaginable amounts of cheap oil and easy debt. As the era of cheap oil and cheap money draws to a close, the airline industry will inevitably change, probably retracing its evolutionary path, first as a service to the rich, then only the uber-rich and governments, then only the military. Eventually, it seems likely that air travel will fade to a memory.

    Still, I was truly lucky to have been around to enjoy what will almost surely turn out to have been barely a blink of the eye in historical terms. But what a blink it was, and I will personally find it sad when the 99% are grounded and only the 1% can "slip the surly bonds of earth." (

    1. That's an excellent summation, bmerson. I feel so lucky that after growing up in a small town I've had the opportunity to travel around the world. Too bad so few people recognize what an extraordinary gift routine air travel really has been.

  3. Did anyone notice the much vaunted A-380s are now being scrutinized for cracks in the wing clips, which hold the skins to the ribs? Oh, don't worry, its not a safety issue. Apparently the agency responsible for air safety thinks otherwise as all 68 existing jets are now to be checked.

    I read last night that Airbus industries is figuring on spending about 1 million Euros each to repair the problem. That's gotta hurt when you consider the aircraft took almost two years extra to get into service and that the Airbus consortiums entry into military transport flopped major with its turboprop transport.

  4. Its the same squeeze as my friend who owns a Chinese buffet. He says chicken prices have 4x, at the same time he has to charge less because no one can pay. He also believes that welfare benefits are being cut further reducing his customer base.

  5. The death of the airline industry could perhaps be a boon to passenger rail, but then again, I find it very difficult to imagine Congress voting to spend money on something so sensible in the post peak world as passenger rail.

  6. I'm surprised no one here has mentioned the government thuggery one is subjected to in US air travel, as a reason for fewer passengers.

    I have not flown in 4 years, and have no intention to fly again as long the TSA continues to bully air travelers.

    I suspect there are many many more not-flying Americans like me.


    1. I haven't affirmatively stopped flying for good, but I also haven't yet flown since they installed the new scanners. They and the invasive searches have definitely made me less apt to even want to fly.

  7. Airline death-watch continues...
    Budget airline Air Australia placed in administration

    Billabong surfwear company, another Aussie icon that has a very big retail presence in the US, slashes jobs worldwide on huge profit downgrade.


  8. I flew a lot last year and when they're taking your luggage into the xray machines, you can position yourself so you just go thru the metal detectors and not the scanners, so they're useless. But yeah, I won't fly again unless I have to as long as the TSA is irradiating or raping people. I think a LOT of people feel the same way so casual flying is down. It would be interesting to find out if worldwide flying is down or just in the U.S.