Airlines reduce September schedule—what can we expect ahead?

Posted in: Air Service, Aviation


The U.S. airline industry has undoubtedly been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, up until about mid-July, the road to recovery had been relatively steady.

As you can see from the chart below, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) throughput increased from the bottom in mid-April through about mid-July.

TSA total US throughput chart

Recently a surge in cases throughout various areas of the country have led more locales to institute or reinstitute restrictions. As the recovery was largely driven by leisure travelers, this increase in restrictions, combined with the start of the school year, has dampened recovery for the airline industry.

In a normal year, air travel tends to begin falling in mid-August through September as schools start back up. This year doesn’t look to be much different. However, due to COVID-19, airlines have already made significant changes to their September schedules. We will likely see additional changes in October.

In fact, this past weekend, U.S. airlines reduced September 2020 seat capacity by approximately 25%. This leaves current planned capacity down 41.3% compared to September last year. Although most carriers have loaded their most significant reductions for September, other reductions not reflected over the weekend are likely to occur on carriers such as Southwest Airlines.

Here is a snapshot of the year-over-year scheduled seat changes for September 2020 for the largest U.S. carriers:

Airline seat change chart

These changes, while not entirely unexpected for this time of year, have certainly been exacerbated by current circumstances. As Aviation professionals, we will keep up-to-date on any new developments that may affect our clients, so that we can continue to provide solutions that make sense for our new normal.


Brach Crider

About the Author

As a Senior Air Service Development Consultant, Brach Crider brings hands-on experience in all facets of airline planning and a keen understanding of how airline planners distill information to make decisions to assist Mead & Hunt clients in developing and implementing successful air service strategies. Brach has more than 10 years of airline industry experience and expertise including network planning, revenue management, marketing and finance at Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Outside of helping airports attain their strategic goals, Brach is an avid outdoorsman, spending his free time beekeeping and operating a USDA-certified organic blackberry/blueberry farm in Kentucky.

Read more posts by Brach Crider

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