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Flight cut could be due to seat capacity rise

The withdrawal of a midday flight by American Airlines could be because of a “significant” increase in seat capacity by rival carriers Delta and JetBlue, the president of Skyport said yesterday.

Aaron Adderley said that airlines “periodically recalibrate their seat capacity in response to demand, costs and other route performance factors by either adjusting the frequency of flights or the size of aircraft”.

He was unable to say if the flight had been permanently withdrawn.

The Royal Gazette understands, however, that the flight will not be brought back in the summer but that Skyport is in talks with the airline about another potential service to Bermuda.

Mr Adderley also highlighted that JetBlue scheduled a 69 per cent increase in seat capacity from Boston and a 10 per cent increase from JFK last year.

He was speaking after Zane DeSilva, the tourism minister, told the House of Assembly on Monday that there could be problems with retention of the present level of flights to Bermuda.

Mr DeSilva told Michael Dunkley, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, that the midday American Airlines flight to New York City's JFK airport had been withdrawn.

He warned there could be “a few more” if Skyport did not support marketing drives to increase the number of flights.

A Bermuda Tourism Authority forum was told last month that the American Airlines cutback represented a four per cent decrease in total airline capacity, or the number of flights, but total airline seat capacity is up by 21 per cent.

American Airlines has run two flights per day from Bermuda since June 2016.

A spokeswoman for the airline told The Royal Gazette that the decision was part of the airline's “continuous evaluation of markets where we operate”.

She added: “We are happy with our current level of service to Bermuda and don't have any plans for additional service.”

The spokeswoman declined to say if the two-flights-a-day schedule would restart in the peak season.

But a check of the American Airlines website showed just one direct AA flight to JFK, at 8.30am, this summer.

American Airlines reduced the frequency of its flights from JFK in August from two flights a day during the busier summer period to one flight a day.

Mr Adderley said: “Notwithstanding the adjustments made by these carriers, total air visitor arrivals were up out of JFK, Boston and across all markets in 2018.

“This is a testament to the efforts of the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the close collaboration they, Skyport, the Bermuda Airport Authority and Government have when it comes to air service development.

“Each of us share in the common goal of increasing the number of air visitors and to that end, Skyport has always, and shall continue to, invest its resources into realising that important goal by supporting air service initiatives.”

Mr DeSilva said on Monday that because Mr Dunkley, when premier, “signed off our airport for the next 30 years”, there were “challenges now with the current airlines”. He added: “Let's hope we don't lose more because of that agreement.”

Kevin Dallas, chief executive for the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said the decrease in capacity was discussed at its 2019 Tourism Outlook Forum last month and a summary was sent to the BTA's industry partners on Wednesday.

A Government spokesman said last night that the BTA was responsible for boosting tourism and Skyport handled operational flight matters, so the Ministry of Tourism and Transport “typically” does not announce changes in flight traffic.

He added: “As such, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport can confirm that CEO Kevin Dallas of the BTA, in August of last year announced that based on demand, American Airlines was switching to its fall schedule earlier than expected.

“This resulted in the airline cutting flights back from two a day, to one a day out of New York.”

Aaron Adderley, president of Skyport

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Published March 09, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated March 09, 2019 at 7:09 am)

Flight cut could be due to seat capacity rise

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