Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Goodbye Nonstops, Hello Layovers!

The recent surge of nonstop flights from Austin started rolling backwards yesterday with the announcement that American Airlines is cutting its nonstops to Seattle, Orange County, Calif. and Raleigh/Durham, N.C. as of Sept. 3.

With the Wright Amendment dust-up more or less settled, American is also ending its spite-driven nonstops to Dallas Love Field on July 3. If that weren’t enough, Aeromexico is ending its Mexico City service on June 13.

Usual suspects for the rollback include soaring fuel prices and economic uncertainty. Plane size is another possible factor. Keeping an American MD-80 full and profitable on a long, thin route like Austin/Seattle is no small feat. It wouldn’t surprise me to see JetBlue expand upon its Austin "mini-hub" strategy by adding a Seattle run with a smaller E-190, but since that airline is also cutting flights, it probably wouldn’t happen anytime soon.

As for Aeromexico, I think they saw the writing on the wall with this month's much-heralded arrival of VivaAerobus. The low-cost Mexican carrier is advertising introductory fares from Austin to its Monterrey hub and CancĂșn for as little as $10 plus taxes and fees.

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