While not the focus of this blog, I’ve talked a few times about air service from Fresno Air Terminal (FAT). A couple of years ago, I compared air service in Fresno to a group of peer cities, which confirmed that Fresno is under-served.
One big question has been: what destination is missing from Fresno? United answered that question in part last year by adding trial service to Chicago on an Embraer 175 operated by Skywest. This route was somewhat noticeable because it became one of the longest flights in the US operated by a small regional jet. Well, the test proved successful, and United will again operate flights to Chicago in 2019, but this time with a full-sized plane (A319). However, service will still be summer-only. In 2017, United also increased their service to Fresno by upgrading San Francisco to a mainline jet.
What’s next? I was recently made aware of a DOT dataset that catalogs which destination people are flying to. That’s different from route-ridership data, because many people flying from Fresno are connecting to somewhere else. For example, we know that the busiest route from Fresno is to LAX, but these aren’t commuters, simply folks trying to get elsewhere. Most people who are going to LA drive.
This dataset is great because it shows the final destination, so we can pinpoint which flight is missing. The data is from the 2nd quarter of 2018, and is US-only (that’s why we don’t see Guadalajara here). It takes the total passengers from the quarter and then divides it by the number of days to find the number of people travelling between the two cities every day. To be clear, this is the number of people coming OR going, so if the data says 300, it might means 160 left Fresno and 140 arrived on an average day.
Disclaimer: Airlines don’t operate the same schedule all year. For example, in January, Alaska operates one of their San Diego flights only on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. In the summer, it operates every day except Saturday. I have done my best to reflect their schedule during the second quarter, but I’ve probably made a mistake or two.
Without further ado, here are where people are going to or coming from at FAT:
I didn’t expect it to be number one, but on an average day 301 people go to or from Seattle. This market is served with 3 direct flights on Alaska, and they have 84% of the market share.
#2: San Diego
Another market served directly by Alaska! 283 people make this trip every day on average, and they have 88% of the market. This is a somewhat recent addition (within the last decade), and Alaska went from 1 to 2 to 3 flights daily (see disclaimer above).
#3: Las Vegas
It makes sense. It’s a 6 hour drive, which is doable, but as a vacation destination, who wants to spend 12 hours of their weekend on the road? 202 people come or go from Vegas every day. What is surprising is that only Allegiant Air offers this route, and as such, they have 88% of the market. United and US Air used to, but they dropped it.
Phoenix is the number two market from Fresno is terms of raw passengers, but many are connecting. Surprisingly, Phoenix is number four in overall destinations. What is there to do in Phoenix? Beats me. American is the number one carrier here, with 93% of the market. I see now why Allegiant Air tried to enter this route, with flights to Mesa Airport, as AA charges an average of $212 for this short trek. Unfortunately, that flight didn’t stick. I blame a lack of marketing. What’s a Mesa?
Another Alaska destination, with two flights daily. Sounds like they know what they’re doing! 159 people are on this route every day, and Alaska has 71% of the market.
153 folks are coming or going to Denver every day, mostly on United (62%). Frontier has come and gone from serving this route multiple times, but at least in this dataset, they had 25% of the market, and charged significantly less money than United.
It’s a big connecting route for American Airlines, and they fly to Dallas 1-2 times a day on a large 737 (used to be an MD-80). For people starting or ending their trip in Dallas, they have 82% of the market, moving 138 folks every day. Dallas, of course, is also known as the home to Southwest Airlines, although they fly to a different airport. Their smallest planes carry 143 people, which is more than what demand is showing. However, their low prices can stimulate demand and of course people would connect as well. One can dream.
#8: Washington DC
This is the first market on the list currently not served by a direct flight from Fresno, but it does include three different airports. 127 people are coming or going there every day, most on United (44%). At 2,334 miles, it is over 1,000 miles further away from Fresno than Dallas, and 600 miles further than Chicago, which is the current furthest destination. As such, it can’t be tested with a smaller regional jet like Chicago was. Due to this limitation, I don’t foresee this opening up any time soon. One ray of hope: A new airline is starting up in a couple of years using the brand new Airbus A220, and aiming to serve smaller markets. This new plane will have the range to serve this route, and with 2-3 seating, is smaller than the average mainline jet with 130 seats. Delta is also buying this new plane, but does not focus on Washington. Either way, don’t hold your breath on this destination.
#9: Los Angeles
114 people are flying between LA and Fresno every day, although this includes multiple airports. They’re paying a pretty penny to do so, at around $264 for this short jump. Once HSR is finished, expect this number to go to zero. American Airlines carries 65%, and United does this route as well. Once again, this does not include people flying into LAX and transferring elsewhere. In that measure, LAX is the most popular flight from Fresno.
There she is, the newest destination from Fresno! 109 folks were going to and from this city, and the number will likely increase with the new flight. United carried 48%, which will also increase if they pick a good price for their direct flights.
#11: Salt Lake City
I’ve never been, but I hear it’s nice. I should ask the 106 people flying there, mostly on Delta (88%). I didn’t realize it was only 501 miles away, just 8 miles further than Phoenix.
#12: New York City
Another market with no flights from Fresno, and also one that’s far away at 2,503 miles – further than Washington DC. American carries 44% of the 98 people making this trek, a bit more than United which carries 39%. This route is extremely unlikely as a future addition to FAT. Besides the distance, NYC has congested airspace and pricey airports. Airlines aren’t going to try and woo budget-minded people from Fresno when they can sell expensive tickets to Europe and Asia.
#13: Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
What kind of list goes past the top 10? One trying to find the next market from Fresno. Minneapolis is a major Delta hub, as they carry 60% of the people who go through that airport. And yet of the 79 people currently travelling to and from there, 42% are doing it on American. Additionally, there’s an opportunity to get many more folks using Delta to connect to Europe (or NYC and DC). At 1,489 miles, it’s closer than Chicago, so it can be done on a Skywest regional jets (70 pax) or on one of their ninety-one Boeing 717 jets that hold 110 people. Delta has never shown Fresno love, although they were rumored to be looking into an Atlanta flight a decade ago. However, Atlanta only has 62 people flying that route, and is further away.
So Minneapolis is now on the top of my list of future NEW domestic destinations from Fresno. (I can see Allegiant trying Phoenix again). And that would be great, because they are a much better airline than United and American.