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.