As airlines struggle to satisfy the conditions of the CARES Act, which requires airlines fly to almost every airport they served before the COVID-19 crisis, some airlines are adding circuitous routing to their schedules for the next couple of months. If they don’t meet the standards defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation, they will lose their share of $25 billion in grants. These routes are referred to as tag and circle flights, or milk-runs and are similar to patterns flown pre-deregulation. A tag flight is beneficial to airlines because it makes more efficient use of resources and reduces costs, and allows them to serve more destinations during this season of low demand.
Alaska Airlines is one of those airlines operating several tag routes, one of which is OKC-ICT-SEA. In May, flights from OKC to Seattle will stop in Wichita before flying nonstop to Seattle. Passengers from/to OKC will stay on the plane. Wichita’s flights to Seattle will remain nonstop. The OKC flights are in our schedule May 3 – 10. So if anyone wants to fly to OKC, they can for a limited time.
The May schedule is changing almost on a daily basis. As it looks now, there will be an average of 14 daily flights scheduled during the week. This compares to 35 last May. Until attractions in Florida and Las Vegas open, most flights to Las Vegas, Orlando-Sanford and Destin have cancelled. However, the beaches in Destin will open May 1 and hopefully Allegiant will have passengers to fly to that nonstop destination. Delta has suspended service to Minneapolis. Southwest has suspended service to Phoenix and Las Vegas. As of this writing, May flights are down 58% and seats are down 60% from last May. Capacity starts to increase in June and in July the airlines have increased seats and flights over July 2019. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that travel will rebound in June – August and if not, we will likely see some drastic changes in the airline industry.