Stuff: December 2008 Archives
.We were puzzled when Delta made the announcement back in November, saying it would fly nonstop to Paris from (drum roll) both Pittsburgh and Raleigh/Durham. It perplexed us in that none of the three end points was a Delta stronghold, even though the Paris end, at Charles de Gaulle, had plenty of SkyTeam feed from alliance pal Air France. But we figured they knew what they were doing and anyway these US cities really were hungry for overseas service. Pittsburgh in particular had not had a transatlantic link since British Airways and then US Airways pulled out in 2004, and RDU had only one, a daily nonstop on American to Heathrow. And we figured that RDU, based in the sunny South and certainly home to a stronger economy, could perhaps support a flight. Nope.
Suddenly, Boston is back on airline route maps. The city, also known as the Hub of the Universe, among other modest titles, has never been humble, but no one airline has ever been able to dominate service to and from its Logan International Airport. Its traffic, long split between American and US Airways, now has a third major player, JetBlue, with the largest market share, 17%. American has 15%, Airways 15%, and the rest is divided up among others, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. So we were interested when a flurry of announcements put Logan way up on the list of happening places.
Left Field just came back from a two-trip week, and saw the downturn first hand. On a quartet of AirTran flights, we saw empty seats up front in business class on three of the four segments, and quite a few empty seats in the back on one flight; on United, we saw one plane at at least a 100% load factor - and another at much less, with only half the seats up front taken - and some by so-called 'non-revs' or freeloaders. All of which is a thoroughly unscientific, totally anecdotal way of saying things could be a lot better. But don't take just our word for it. Read on for some far more precise predictions that will leave your Christmas outlook a bit bleak.
It might just be true. We may have been too glum in predicting really sharply higher fares for the holidays. It seems that weakening demand has produced some deals for flights around the big travel days to the big travel spots. We keep hearing stories and have even seen a little bit of evidence. Priceline, which compiles lots of fares, says some fares have fallen nicely in just the past week, while Amy Ziff, who writes an in-house blog for Travelocity, says that the on-line travel agency's "most recent data shows a steady decline in airfares over the last five weeks, with an average price drop of $53. Softening travel demand is translating into lower prices for travellers." Those are the magic words: softening demand.
And we'd note that the contest sponsor is a company that makes screens to cover your laptop's screen so that people sitting near you cannot see what you're working on on the screen. A look at the entries so far is not encouraging: one lady says she likes the hustle and bustle of Washington's Reagan National in the main terminal.