Forgive me, Blogosphere, for I have sinned.
I’ve been so wrapped up in a few other issues this past week that I completely neglected—well, actually, forgot—to prepare a blog post about our January, 2009 schedule, which went out for sale last Thursday. There are a lot of changes incorporated into that schedule, both frequency changes as well as changes to methodology (love that word—sounds so “consultant-ish”!). So, let’s dive right in!
As lots of people have already noticed—and I have to admit, you media types and all of you guys on on FlyerTalk.com and airliners.net are incredibly observant!—we have a lot of changes in the January ‘09 schedule. The number of departures change in a whopping 98 roundtrip markets (including three, which get one MORE flight each!) compared to the November ’08 schedule. Still, I wouldn’t characterize any of these as huge strategic “statements” as only three markets have been completely discontinued (Birmingham-Phoenix, Nashville-Oakland, and Nashville-Seattle), and neither are there any completely new markets. We have made these changes to better align our flying schedule with our Passenger demand.
The more interesting, schedule-geeky details are about how, and why, these reductions have been accomplished. From a scheduler’s standpoint, two things happen in every January Schedule. One, we go into winter weather, and flying times—the time it takes to get from point “A” to “B”—take the largest increase of the year. Two, we move into a traditionally slower traffic period (and January and February are two really sluggish months from an airline traffic standpoint), and that really kills flights that depart really early or really late. And you guys have told us—by your flying habits!—that you don’t like flights before 7:00 a.m., nor ones after 8:00 p.m. Our new schedule optimization “algorithm” (again, LOVE that word—sounds so educated!) allows us to move departure times around within individual markets with nearly surgical precision. We tell it we know about the earliest and latest desired flights in each market—literally, we tell the optimizer what departure times you guys want—and the resulting schedule is one that mirrors more closely than ever what you, our Customers, want.
For the January ‘09 schedule we really took advantage of this new capability and made the earliest flights later and the latest flights earlier. The result: the vast majority of the flights that are trimmed in the January schedule would have departed in the 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. time frames. A hidden dynamic that’s driving this whole early/late thing is the fact that we’re not adding any new aircraft in the January schedule, so had we not slightly reduced our schedule, the longer winter flying times would have had the effect of spreading the first and last flights of the day into those time frames that we already know y’all don’t like.
Yes, I may have “sinned” in my failure to communicate, but hopefully I can come up with suitable penance to make up for it. Maybe I’ll share my grandmother’s home-made Banana Pudding recipe with you….Nanny might roll over in her grave but trust me, it’ll win me your forgiveness (even if it will blow your diet for the entire last half of 2008)!!!