LUTON, UK - The past decade has seen international flights increase their share of total U.S. airline movements, according to OAG, the market leader in aviation intelligence.
OAG’s FACTS (Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics) report for October 2013 reveals a 13% increase in international frequencies to and from the U.S. compared to October 2004. In contrast, domestic movements show a decline of 18% over the same period. Total U.S. frequencies for October 2013 are 814,034, down 15% from October 2004.
In consequence, international routes now represent 14% of all U.S. flights, up from 10% a decade ago, while domestic movements now comprise 86%, down from 90% in 2004.
John Grant, executive vice president, OAG, says: “The U.S. domestic market has reduced considerably in size over the past decade, although the rate of decline has slowed in recent years. The number of domestic flights in October 2013 is only 1% below October 2012, but U.S. international frequencies continue to grow, rising 1% in the same period.”
Total U.S. seat capacity in October 2013 shows a 1% year-on-year increase, which follows a similar 1% rise between October 2011 and October 2012. The growth in October 2013 reflects an increase in international seat numbers, while domestic seat capacity remains static. International routes now account for 21% of total seat capacity (versus 14% of total frequencies), reflecting the use of typically larger aircraft in international operations.
A decade of aircraft growth
In the past decade, average aircraft sizes (as determined by the ratio of seats to frequencies) have increased for both international and domestic U.S. markets. The average number of seats per movement for domestic flights is now 99, versus 92 in 2004, whereas the average seat capacity in international movements is now 165, compared to 158 in 2004.
U.S. market consolidation and the rise of oneworld
OAG’s Schedules Analyser shows the impact of recent consolidation in the U.S. market. In October 2013, 58 airlines will operate domestic services and 111 carriers will provide international services, with some overlap between the two groups. In contrast, just two years earlier, in October 2011, 66 airlines provided domestic air services while 120 carriers operated international routes.
The past two years have seen a strengthening of the top three carriers in both domestic and international U.S. markets. In October 2011, American, Delta and Continental – the top three U.S. carriers with international operations – provided 34% of U.S. international seat capacity. In October 2013, following the merger of United and Continental, the top three carriers’ share of international seats has risen to 40%. Similarly, the top three carriers have increased their market share of domestic U.S. seat capacity to 58%, up from 54% in October 2011.
Grant says: “The impact of consolidation is set to continue with the planned merger of American Airlines and US Airways. Not only will this deal create the world’s largest airline, it will also see US Airways’ capacity shift from Star Alliance to oneworld. As a result, oneworld will leapfrog its rivals, growing from the smallest airline alliance in the U.S. to becoming the market leader. Based on October 2013 schedules, oneworld will see its market share rise from 15% to 25%, Skyteam will continue to hold 22% and Star Alliance will see its share fall from 31% to 20%.”
Despite the consolidation among airlines, the fastest-growing airports in the U.S. do not appear to be correlated with dominant airline positions. Twenty airports in the U.S. will handle more than 3m departing and arriving seats in October 2013. Those airports with the largest increases in seat capacity versus October 2012 are Los Angeles (LAX), Charlotte (CLT) and Seattle/Tacoma (SEA), with growth of 6.5%, 5.9% and 5.1% respectively. Of these airports, only Charlotte-Douglas Airport has a dominant hub carrier, where U.S. Airways will operate 89% of seat capacity.