US Airlines Optimistic: JetBlu, Delta add extra seats to their flights

increased number of airplane seatsThe mostly optimistic outlook the travel industry has benefited from for the greater part of 2010 has encouraged airlines to add seats and flights, while still remaining cautious.

This month, the 10 largest airlines in the U.S have scheduled 2.7% more seats on average then last year’s total for the month November, according to USA TODAY. JetBlue and Delta Air Lines lead with 7.6% and 5% extra seats.

Economy improvements yield the rise in demand for air travel, especially for business flights, thus companies are increasing flight capacity. The trend is even stronger for international routes, where seats are added more quickly then to domestic ones.

For travelers, the bottom line is fares will rise if demand continues to outpace the new supply.

“It won’t rise by leaps and bounds,” says Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com. “It’ll be more incremental and will reflect both capacity and oil (prices).” Seaney says the airlines have “gotten smarter” about managing their business so as not to lose money.

“We’re growing in profitable markets. We’re not flooding the seats with low (fares) to manufacture a competitive situation,” JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin says. “The overall supply and demand is in good ratio.”

Higher demand for flights to the Caribbean and in the Boston Market has encouraged JetBlue to increase it’s capacity.

Delta has expanded its spring schedule to Asia and Europe, and has included flights to China, London’s Heathrow, Paris and Amsterdam. They have boosted available seat miles by 9.5% as their traffic rose by 8.6 %. Their capacity for international flights grew 13%, almost twice as it domestic capacity which grew only 7%.

American Airlines reported a traffic increase of 5.2% and a load factor increase of 83.6%. In terms of international vs. domestic, the numbers are 10.9% and 0.7%.

US Airways started adding seats in October, increasing its seat capacity by 5.6%, including 51.3% for Latin America and 13.4% for European flights.

The high increase in international airfair (30% to 50% up from last year) also explains the US airlines move. By comparison, the increase in domestic fares is moderate – 15% higher than in 2009.





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