Milwaukee Milestone: Three New Carriers Set To Arrive

Milwaukee has bucked the trend in recent months. Three new airlines are due to begin service, with eight routes in all. Meanwhile, multiple new services have been launched from three incumbent carriers, with seven more routes to come. To see what is happening and where could be served next, we chat with Brian Dranzik, Milwaukee’s Airport Director.

Spirit is one of three new airlines for Milwaukee. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Three new airlines are coming

JetBlue, Spirit, and Sun Country are all to begin service at Milwaukee. While JetBlue will launch Boston and New York JFK, they won’t start until the second quarter of 2022, although ticket sales will begin this summer.

This means that JFK, which remains the US’ leading international airport, will once again be connected non-stop to the Wisconsin airport after a period of nearly nine years. And Boston will have a second non-stop carrier once more.

While Delta will resume Boston from this September, the market has lost Southwest, the largest operator in this market in 2019. Speaking to Simple Flying, Dranzik said:

“Airlines are changing their business models to serve more leisure travelers. This is significant for Milwaukee because we are gaining non-stop service to many markets that have never been served before.

The fact that three new airlines have announced service is testament to the strength of the Milwaukee travel market, which has more than six million people in its catchment.”

JetBlue will link Boston and JFK to Milwaukee. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia.

Spirit and Sun Country add eight routes

Spirit and Sun Country will add eight routes between them, as follows. Ultra-low-cost-carrier Spirit will launch daily services, as it tends to do, while Sun Country will operate on a low-frequency basis. Fort Myers, which Sun Country will start in December, was the US’ fastest-growing airport this summer.

Spirit:

  • Las Vegas: seven-weekly from June 24th
  • Los Angeles: seven-weekly from June 25th
  • Orlando: seven-weekly from June 24th

Sun Country

  • Cancun: once-weekly from December 18th
  • Fort Myers: twice-weekly from December 15th
  • Las Vegas: once-weekly from August 26th
  • Minneapolis: once-weekly from August 29th
  • Phoenix: twice-weekly from December 16th
Sun Country has added five routes from Milwaukee. Photo: Sun Country.

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Big route growth

Incumbents, meanwhile, have added large numbers of new leisure-focused routes in the past half-a-year, including American to Miami, United to Tampa and Fort Myers, and Southwest to Sarasota. The following are still to begin this year.

United:

  • Charleston: twice-weekly from May 29th
  • Myrtle Beach: twice-weekly from May 29th
  • Pensacola: twice-weekly from May 29th
  • Portland (Maine): twice-weekly from May 28th
  • Savannah: twice-weekly from May 28th

Southwest:

Southwest is the largest airline at Milwaukee, although Delta is not that far behind this year. Photo:

Will these routes remain?

Dranzik said that he expects all of Milwaukee’s carriers to grow at the airport as the pandemic wanes. Focusing on Spirit, Sun Country, and JetBlue, he believes their choice of markets – large, unserved or underserved, and with significant leisure demand – will be crucial in their sustainability.

“Spirit and Sun Country will be successful because of the markets they chose to serve. For example, Los Angeles on Spirit and Cancun on Sun Country.

Los Angeles is Milwaukee’s highest-demand unserved market, with passengers daily each way (PDEW) of 663, including leakage to Chicago.

These are popular destinations that don’t currently have nonstop scheduled service from any airport in Wisconsin.

JetBlue has also identified underserved markets with high demand that will continue to grow during the travel recovery in 2022.”

The A319, shown here, will mainly be used by Spirit for its coming Los Angeles service. Southwest last operated the route until early 2020. Photo: Getty Images.

Where could be next?

As Milwaukee is located some 73 miles from Chicago O’Hare and 96 miles from Midway, it naturally suffers from significant leakage, in other words, passengers lost to other airports. This means that many underestimate Milwaukee’s true demand. Dranzik provided Simple Flying with the following figure which highlights the airport’s leading unserved markets.

Data based on pre-pandemic 2019. Source: Milwaukee Airport.

With PDEW of 467, the San Francisco Bay area is by far Milwaukee’s leading unserved market. Southwest served San Francisco itself until 2019.

San Diego, meanwhile, is Milwaukee’s second-largest unserved market, with 279; both Frontier and Southwest served it non-stop until 2019. Despite the fast growth of Austin, the Texas airport has been served for only one year in the past decade: in 2018 with Frontier.

Where do you think will be next from Milwaukee? Let us know in the comments.

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