Nevada-based Allegiant Air has won the prize for the most cancelations in April. US Department of Transportation statistics released last week shows the airline canceled 84.7% of its flights that month. Allegiant Air also had the lowest on-time arrival rates of 10.4% across all major US carriers in April.
Cancelation rates more than double previous records
Across all major US carriers, 41.3% of scheduled domestic flights were canceled in April. That is the highest monthly cancelation rate on record and more than double the previous record. In September 2001, following 9/11, 20.2% of flights were canceled. In April 2019, just 2.4% of flights were canceled.
As COVID-19 began to bite in March, US carriers began slashing flights and reducing capacity. By mid-April, scheduled flights across the United Staters were down by about 58% compared to the same time in 2019. Loads were running at 5% to 15%.
At Allegiant, passenger loads were running at 19.3% in April. That month, there were just 1,089 scheduled departures, only 15.3% of what was originally timetabled. Allegiant Air’s April cancelation rate easily beat the second-placed prize winner. Southwest Airlines canceled 51.6% of its flights in April. In third place was Frontier Airlines. It canceled 47.7% of its flights.
Hawaiian Airlines had the lowest cancelation rate
The airlines with the lowest cancelation rates in April were Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines canceled just 17.6% of its flights. Spirit Airlines canceled 19.8% of its flights, and Alaska Airlines canceled 20.3% of the scheduled flights.
The US Department of Transportation attributes the spike in cancelations to COVID-19 and the subsequent downturn in travel demand.
In April 2019, major US carriers operated 668,259 flights. Before COVID-19 struck, the airlines were increasing capacity. In March 2020, before the first round of cancelations, major US carriers had 701,278 flights scheduled. In contrast, in April this year, just 331,238 flights were scheduled across the US domestic networks.
But nearly half of those scheduled 331,238 flights in April were canceled. Just 194,390 flights were operated in April. Allegiant Air operated just over 0.56% of those April flights. The previous low was in February 1994 when 370,027 domestic flights operated.
In addition to the high cancelation rates in April, the US Department of Transport notes that on-time arrival rates in April were the lowest since records began in 1987. Across the major US carriers, the April on-time arrival rate was just 55.7%.
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A more positive outlook at Allegiant Air
Off their April lows, the outlook is now more positive at Allegiant Air. In May, there were 4,654 total scheduled departures, and 362,528 passengers carried. While still way down on regular numbers, this was a significant increase on the April numbers.
“We are continuing to see a material improvement in demand from the April lows,” said Gregory Anderson, CFO at Allegiant Air.
In June, capacity continued to increase as did loads. In early June, Allegiant Air was operating at about 70% of its usual capacity and carrying average passenger loads of around 50%. The airline expects these improvements to continue.
That will see the April cancelation rate consigned to history. While cancelation rates are still high, they are improving. What will be interesting to watch, and harder to predict, is the issue of on-time arrivals.