There is the prospect of new found competition in the Dallas area when we see Southwest able to fly where it wants domestically starting October 13 of this year.
The problem is, the more I think these developments through, the more I think that we won’t see much of that competition in 2014.
Right now, Southwest is selling itself on convenience and doing well with that story. I think they will sell their new routes as convenience based options and I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice that their route announcements are focused on the business traveler.
Repeat after me: Business travelers value convenience over price.
Delta is also focused on the idea of serving Love Field by connecting to Delta’s hubs. Frankly, I don’t see that being a very good strategy because . . . do you want to fly to Atlanta to connect somewhere else or do you want to fly Southwest or American Airlines and just get there. Delta, I think, may well not even fly their intended routes.
American Airlines is in an odd place as well. The airline must focus on integration intensively and can’t afford to pick a fight in Dallas right now. While they exited bankruptcy in pretty good shape, there are some fences to mend in Dallas over service. I think that 2014 and, possibly, 2015 will be spent on getting the airline’s act together.
Airlines have figured out that fighting for marketshare is a losing proposition for everyone involved. Each CEO has made his mark (Gary Kelly, Richard Anderson and Doug Parker) by showing restraint. That trend should continue for some time.
However, if Southwest is able to lure away the business traveler from the SuperLegacy airlines in the Dallas area on its new routes, I think all bets are off. That is a target market worth fighting for.
But it will take time for Southwest to make its case to the traveler that it’s a worthwhile choice to fly from Dallas to Atlanta, New York, Baltimore, Chicago and elsewhere. You have to get a passenger to try the service and Southwest cannot afford to make a mis-step with those passengers. Service must be excellent and comfort must be of high value. It will take time to get travelers to try them out on the new routes and Southwest has to figure out how to do that while its local competitor (American Airlines) deploys fresh new aircraft and fixes it service issues at its home hub at DFW.
Look for late 2015 to be the real moment of competition if there is any.