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Tuesday Jan. 4 travel inbound to CES
Including some Network Planning observations; plus update on surprise Mid Atlantic snowstorm
Welcome to any new readers — we're grateful that you're here! We're building deep learning algorithms to democratize flight delay predictions; until we launch, we're eager to synthesize things manually in our outlooks. These feature several recurring themes that we recognize may be unfamiliar or intimidating, so we’ve written explainers that tackle airport arrival rates, queuing delays in the airspace and different tools to distribute those delays. If there’s a topic or mechanism you’d like to see unpacked, please let us know (same goes for special travel occasions).
This outlook will be a bit different. For starters, it’ll be mostly focused on just Las Vegas (LAS), which is still set to host the Consumer Electronic Show later this week. We’ll also detour into some discussion that Network Planners might most appreciate.
Before we jump into LAS, we do want to update readers on the short-fuse snowstorm forecast to impact the Mid Atlantic region tomorrow. Remarkably, this storm was not forecast when many readers probably turned in Saturday evening; by this morning, 7” was possible for Washington.
Forecasted snowfall amounts have continued to trend up today, with a 1 in 10 chance for 12” by recent estimates. Particularly intense bands could drop 1-3” of snow per hour during the morning. For their part, American, Delta and United have issued travel alerts to waive any fare difference during rebooking. As of 8 p.m. ET, the airlines have also canceled nearly 25% of departures at BWI and DCA (IAD lags by this measure, with 12% of departures canceled).
Some Network Planning observations
CES is back in-person this year and takes place from January 5-7. A number of prominent companies have withdrawn their in-person plans in recent weeks, though exhibitors still numbered over 2,200 as of December 31. Airlines have responded to this influx of [high-yield] travelers by adding capacity in some interesting ways. Because low-cost carriers don’t participate in this exercise, the net increase in scheduled arrivals isn’t particularly impressive (up 1.1% or 5 flights). Larger gauge yields a slightly more noticeable increase in scheduled seats (up 3.4% or about 2,600 seats). These aggregate statistics belie some fascinating market-level stories, however. Unsurprisingly, much of this added capacity is anchored by tech centers on the other end:
Internationally, Seoul-Incheon, South Korea (ICN) and Paris-Charles de Gaulle, France (CDG) receive LAS service just for this week. In the case of ICN, both Korean Air (KE is twice per day on some days) and Asiana ply the route for a few days with a combination of Boeing 777-300’s and Airbus A359-900. American Airlines also adds LAS-YYZ (Toronto) to their route map for a couple days.
United briefly enters LAS from Boston (BOS) and JetBlue adds a trip to BOS-LAS. Tuesday seats are up 63% week-over-week.
While United normally serves LAS from Los Angeles (LAX) and Newark (EWR), they’ll add wide-bodies to these routes for CES.
United briefly adds LAS from Orlando (MCO), helping to push MCO-LAS seats up by 57%.
Seats from San Francisco (SFO) to LAS more than double (to more than 4,100), mostly on the back of United, who more than triples the number of trips they operate (from 4 to 13).
San Jose, CA (SJC) may be the biggest winner, adding service from American, Alaska and United to LAS. Seats are up by 53%.
Weather system passing to north could bring increasing winds
Alright—let’s get back to some more regular content. A largely benign weather pattern appears to be in store for LAS this week, with a storm moving out of the Pacific Northwest into the Central Plains the only feature to mention. Should that storm’s track edge south, winds may become breezy. Otherwise, no operationally significant cloud coverage is forecast.
These weather conditions should buoy airport capacity and we’d put the arrival rate floor at 52 (less than 1 in 10 chance for lower rates). Scheduled arrival demand peaks at 41 (in the noon hour), so no capacity/demand imbalance is apparent at first glance.
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Cargo airlines and private jets are not included in scheduled demand, which introduces the risk that an unforeseen demand overage exists. Moreover, CES figures to drive above-average business jet activity: unscheduled arrivals were in the 94th percentile on the day before CES 2020 opened.
Putting it all together
We took a deeper look at private jet traffic inbound to CES 2020, which revealed an hourly peak of 9 unscheduled arrivals. While there is some uncertainty owing to how cargo airline and private jet patterns may have changed, we struggle to manufacture a demand overage. Provided that our 52 arrival rate floor holds, it seems reasonably safe to assume total demand stays at least 2 aircraft beneath capacity (41 scheduled plus 9 unscheduled arrivals, if peaks overlap). If you’re in search of delay, your best bet would be to look around 3 p.m., when there’s some bunching of scheduled arrivals. Such a scenario would require that private jet arrivals also cluster around 3:00 p.m. and, even then, delays should not exceed 15 minutes.
With year-end holiday travel wrapping up, we’re on the lookout for travel occasions to write about. Please drop any suggestions in the comments—we’re quite happy to analyze travel associated with more localized events (we were planning to cover Jet City Star’s SEA Aerospace BBQ later this week until it was postponed). If you’re on Twitter, we’re also sketching out some more tweet-size outlooks.
Other “special events” that garner added capacity typically center around sporting events, e.g. Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby
Southwest and Allegiant look to have transitioned to their January flight schedules, which are considerably relaxed relative to their peak holiday schedules. Combined LAS arrivals are down 34 (vs. last Tuesday) between these two carriers.
Demand attributable to cargo airlines and private jets becomes visible only when the operator files a flight plan, which is generally day-of.
Our efforts are aimed at diagnosing air traffic delays. Though not the focus of our efforts (yet), delays owing to aircraft servicing, airline staffing, network effects, etc. are always lurking.