The Strange Way Some Airlines Decide To Add New Routes.. Telephone Records

During the Airlines Confidential podcast, former Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza told an interesting story about trying to figure out whether a new route would be profitable.

In normal times airlines have great data – required and reported by the federal government – on a sample of US ticket purchases that show the number of people flying a given route and what price. While the data is available from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, it can be really easily parsed with tools like Cirium Diio.

Right now though historical demand on a route doesn’t tell us very much because today’s passengers don’t look like passengers in 2019, and aren’t going where people went in 2019. So there’s a lot of airline experimentation. And fortunately for the airlines, route planning and scheduling have gotten good at adding routes and pulling down capacity quickly when things don’t work out.

  • There’s relatively more traffic on leisure routes than business routes
  • There has been relatively more traffic to states that have been open than those that have been closed as a result of Covid restrictions

When Spirit Airlines was considering service to Armenia, Colombia there hadn’t ever been a U.S. carrier flying into the airport so there wasn’t available traffic data they could access.

Instead they looked at telephone data and remittance data to get a sense for ties between the U.S. and the Latin American city. They wanted to know how frequently people were calling, and how much money and how often was being sent overseas.

El Edén International Airport only has service to Bogota, Medellín, and… Fort Lauderdale. And this 1515 mile flight is one of the international routes that Spirit restored in the fall.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting tactic – this kind of tactic shouldn’t be new though…

    Brand new routes unserved by any carrier don’t have any fare data

    And those are the most interesting stories as this Spirit one is

  2. All these ideas are great. At some extend it favors the passengers. Also generates such a pretty good idea for the economy. The bottom line is the idea is superb!!

  3. And maybe Copa piggybacked on this decision? I was surprised when I saw Copa add this route. But now researching a little more I found that Air Panama (a much smaller carrier, mostly domestic, which was the only carrier covering that route) doesn’t fly to AXM anymore. It makes more sense now.

  4. I’m retired from Amtrak, but when I was working there many of our reservation agents thought we should find some way of taking down information from passengers who asked about traveling to places or on routes where we did not go, in order to get a sense of interest in possible future service there.

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