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Consolidation's impact on US airline market


How has US airlines' consolidation push of recent years changed the makeup of the world's largest air transport market?

Not nearly as much as one might think. At least in terms of domestic passenger market share, the US remains a relatively fractured market.

Eric Amel, formerly the chief economist for both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines and now a vice president with the Compass Lexecon consulting firm, provided a breakdown at the recent FAA Aviation Forecast Conference of US airlines' domestic market share post-consolidation compared to 2007 (before the Delta/Northwest, United/Continental and Southwest/AirTran mergers).

Pre-consolidation, here's how things broke down in terms of US carriers' domestic O&D passenger market share (circa 2007): Southwest (19.8%), American (13.2%), Delta (11.5%), United (10.9%), US Airways (10.8%), Northwest (7.3%), Continental (7.2%), JetBlue (4.2%), AirTran (4.2%), Alaska (3.1%) and others (7.9%).

Here's how the domestic market breaks down now: Southwest (25.9%), Delta (18.9%), United (15.6%), American (11.5%), US Airways (10.6%), JetBlue (5.1%), Alaska (3.4%), Frontier (2.6%), Hawaiian (1.5%), Spirit (1.4%) and others (3.5%).

Even after consolidation, no airline controls more than a quarter of the domestic market and only three carriers have a market share of 15% or more. In 2007, the top 10 carriers controlled 92.5% of the domestic market; now they control 96.5%. The top five US carriers went from controlling 66.2% pre-consolidation to 82.5% post-consolidation.

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