A frequent topic here has been about how expensive it can be to fly out of Fresno. Specifically, how the lack of lower-cost airlines (especially Southwest) has kept prices high. Even though the city was the birthplace of Allegiant Air, that company is now based in Las Vegas and only flies from Fresno to Vegas (although they have previously flown to Honolulu and Mesa/Phoenix as well). Frontier is low cost, but their flights to Denver come and go based on airport incentives. On the nicer end, Jetblue is nowhere to be found, nor is Spirit at the low end.
In comparison, Boise (metro population of 709,845, less than Fresno’s 972,297) has low cost flights to 15 different cities through Southwest, Allegiant, and Frontier. A couple of years ago, I looked at some peer cities and found this:
There have been some changes since, but nothing too drastic. Frontier came back to Fresno, for example, and Reno gained an additional Jetblue destination.
Personally, I’d love for Jetblue to add Fresno, but it seems incredibly doubtful. I was hoping that they would buy new planes and shift their older Embraer 190s to smaller markets like Fresno. Instead, they simply committed to replace their existing Embraer fleet with a larger Bombardier model and retire the older planes. That makes Fresno even less likely in their future, since each flight has more seats to fill.
The airline said it hasn’t yet decided how many seats it will put on the A220-300, which can hold as many as 160 passengers. It also has the right to convert some orders to the smaller A220-100 plane, which can take as many as 135 seats. The Embraer E190s being replaced carry 100.
However, there may be some hope.
The guy who created Jetblue – and other airlines around the world such as WestJet in Canada and Azul in Brazil – is back to start a brand new airline. Unlike Jetblue, which began by focusing on major airports like JFK, Boston, and Fort Lauderdale, this new airlines is aiming for undeserved airports. This isn’t just an idea, he’s already signed up to buy 60 brand new airplanes.
David Neeleman is raising funds to launch a new low-cost airline, called Moxy, Airline Weekly reports. Moxy could launch as soon as 2020, as soon it takes delivery of its first aircraft.
Moxy has big plans for thinking small. The airline will use Bombardier CS5300 aircraft to shuttle passengers between smaller airports, like Providence, Rhode Island; Hollywood Burbank Airport in Los Angeles; and Chicago’s Gary International Airport.
Moxy has placed an order for 60 Bombardier CS5300 aircraft, according to Bloomberg. Capable of carrying 130 passengers, the lightweight carbon fiber plane was designed to service smaller airports. It offers “over 15% cash operating cost advantage, over 20% fuel burn advantage, exceptional operational flexibility, widebody comfort and an unmatched environmental and noise footprint,” according to the manufacturer.
Travel and Leisure
I can think of a smaller airport that can support planes seating 160 passengers.
Looking at smaller airports isn’t a new strategy. That’s what Spirit and Allegiant do, but they primarily try to connect isolated people to vacation destinations like Florida or Las Vegas. They do this by using low-fares, zero amenities, and high fees. Since Fresno people can drive to the beach, or Vegas, there’s less of a market to fly to Florida than, say from upstate New York or Montana.
This new airline doesn’t appear to be going after that vacation strategy. Instead, they seem to be copying what Southwest did, which was to connect mid-size cities with direct flights that are more attractive than forcing a connection at a major hub.
On one hand, doesn’t that mean Fresno is out? After all, if Southwest never came, why would these guys? The main difference is the airplane that they will be using. Southwest is all about the 737, which sits 3-3. These guys are aiming for a brand new, smaller plane, that seats 2-3 and is more cost efficient. While Southwest had a smaller plane for a minute after buying AirTran (the 717), they sent those away real fast so that they only had to maintain a single airplane type.
I do not expect Fresno to be in the starting lineup for this new airline. What makes most sense is for them to begin by looking at secondary airports already located in highly populated metro areas – think Burbank near LA, Providence, near Boston, or Trenton, between NYC and Philly.
But once the initial bread and butter routes are in place, they’re going to be looking for under-served markets where large populations are hungry for lower fares.