Wanna get away in January? There should be plenty of capacity at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
In fact, Reagan National will see slightly more originating passenger flights for the first month of 2022 than it saw during the same month of 2019, before the pandemic, according to new data from the Airlines for America trade group.
Reagan National is expected to be up 2 percent in passenger flights in January, compared to a national dropoff of 12 percent, according to figures compiled by Cirium.
Of course, it’s not that airlines necessarily want to be providing all that service to Reagan National, given that passenger counts to and from the nation’s capital continue to be well below pre-pandemic levels. But the federal government is requiring airlines to either use their allotted take-off and landing privileges (“slots”) at the airport, or risk losing them.
From the onset of the pandemic until November 2021, that rule had been waived, allowing airlines to significantly cut back on flights to Reagan National.
Airlines for America each month looks at travel data (backward-looking and forward-looking) on a state-by-state basis. While Reagan National arguably is located in Virginia, it is counted as its own island for reporting purposes.
Four states – Colorado, Wyoming, South Carolina and Idaho – are expected to show increases in flights between January 2019 and January 2022, while Florida and Hawaii are expected to have effectively the same level of service. For the rest of the nation, however, it is a series of declines, ranging from 2 percent (Montana) to 28 percent (Pennsylvania).
Virginia (minus Reagan National) is expected to see a flight decline of 10 percent compared to January 2019, while Maryland’s dropoff is expected to be twice that much.
For the first quarter of 2022, it is leisure-focused airlines that are adding capacity, according to Airlines for America data.
Allegiant expects its capacity to be up 34 percent from two years ago, with Frontier rising 29 percent and Spirit up 27 percent. All are relatively low-cost, leisure-travel carries with primarily or exclusively domestic footprints.
JetBlue expects capacity to be up 6 percent over two years before, but the nation’s four largest carriers are anticipating restricted capacity: American down 6.3 percent, Southwest down 7.1 percent, United down 10.4 percent and Delta down 15.3 percent.
But as recent weeks have shown, airline network planning is one thing, but whether airlines can operate all their flights largely will depend on the path of COVID.