Saturday, July 07, 2012

And the temper tantrum continues

United is suspending its non-stop flights between Houston and Paris. L'horreur!
United Airlines is cutting nonstop service from George Bush Intercontinental Airport to Paris and several other cities, as it begins to make good on its threat to cut service after the city approved Southwest Airlines' proposal to open Hobby Airport for international commercial flights.
Beginning in September when the Chicago-based carrier moves to its fall schedule, it will suspend the daily non-stop flight from Houston to Paris that Continental Airlines began offering in 1992. United became the world's largest airline when it merged with Houston-based Continental in 2010.
Earlier this year, United fought Southwest's Hobby proposal, arguing it would reduce connecting traffic at Bush Intercontinental and thus harm the big airport's growth as a hub.
Besides Paris, United will cut other destinations it now serves from IAH, its largest hub: Waco; Greensboro and Asheville, N.C.; Toluca, Mazatlán and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico; and Aruba. Service to those locations is a mixture of United and United Express regional service.
No more flights to scenic Waco or - wait for a moment while I try to find it on a map - Greensboro, North Carolina? Oh, United, you cruel bastards!

But seriously: United obviously plans to milk the "we have to cut service because City Council let Southwest fly internationally" excuse for as much as it is worth, even though the the money-losing airline is probably just cutting routes that have been unprofitable for awhile. As the Centre for Aviation notes:
United’s latest round of domestic cuts from Houston are unsurprising given those small markets do not bring a lot of connecting traffic to IAH. It is not clear whether those services were on the chopping block before the City of Houston ruled against United’s wishes in keeping international flights limited to IAH, but it is difficult to draw a connection in Southwest’s planned international service from Hobby, scheduled to begin three years from now, affecting the viability of markets that have likely been marginal performers in United’s network for quite some time.
As for the service to Paris, the United spokesperson in the Chronicle article says that the route hadn't been profitable for over two years. Which is probably true, considering that was about the time when what was then Continental Airlines left the SkyTeam alliance, which included Air France, to join United's Star Alliance. That meant no more code-shares on Air France flights connecting out of Paris, thus reducing the route's desirability for travelers out of Houston.

Air France will continue to fly nonstop service between Bush Intercontinental and Charles De Gaulle.
Jack Stelzer, a Houston-based independent airline consultant, said he believes United officials are "cutting off their nose to spite their face" by choosing to blame otherwise normal seasonal changes to their flight schedule on the Hobby project.

"Next spring, it'll be back," Stelzer said of the Paris route.
As will the Mazatlán and Aruba routes, perhaps. If not, maybe Southwest could consider flying to those destinations out of Hobby.

United has threatened to cut ten percent of their capacity at Bush, so their temper tantrum still may not be over. Their petulant behavior, however, might be one of the reasons they are the fifth-most-hated company in the United States. Seth at has more.

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