Airline schedule reductions are continuing to take a toll on air travel to and from Fresno Yosemite International Airport, as figures for the first nine months of this year show slippage of about 4.4 percent from last year’s record pace of passenger departures.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that as airlines serving Fresno convert to larger, more efficient aircraft, the resulting paring of their schedules means that the companies provided about 20 percent fewer flights from January through September than the same period of 2014. About 7,700 scheduled flights took off from FYI, compared to more than 9,620 flights a year ago.
The data reveal that bigger aircraft are only partially making up for the reduced schedules, even though flights are fuller than last year. Between all of the flights to all of the locations served by airlines from Fresno, the number of available seat-miles through September added up to about 295 million – down about 9.5 percent from the nine-month total of almost 326 million seat-miles in 2014. The load factors this year – the percentage of those seat-miles that are filled with passengers’ rear ends – are up slightly, at 88.2 percent, compared to 85.2 percent in 2014.
Credit – or blame – the conversion from turboprops to jets by airlines such as SkyWest, which serves Fresno under contracts with United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines and provides the lion’s share of flights to and from Fresno.
Earlier this year, SkyWest completed the transition of aircraft to an all-jet fleet, doing away with its smaller turboprop flights that had represented the majority of its daily flights under the American and United brands to and from San Francisco and Los Angeles. That enabled SkyWest to pare its schedule to the two cities, creating a tradeoff for passengers: fewer options on the schedule but faster, more comfortable aircraft.
-4.4 percent Decline in passenger departures from last year’s record pace
Between those changes and the airline’s move last year to discontinue its five daily United Express turboprop flights between Fresno and Las Vegas, the number of flights offered by the Utah-based carrier fell by more than 27 percent, from 7,500 in the first nine months of 2014 to 5,435 this year.
This week, Allegiant Air began providing two weekly flights to Mesa, Ariz. – flights that won’t be reflected in the Department of Transportation figures until early 2016.
Alaska Airlines also transitioned its flights between Fresno and San Diego from turboprops to jets earlier this year, and reportedly is adding flights to its Fresno schedule, with additional daily flights from Fresno to Portland and San Diego.
But that won’t be enough to make up for the reductions by SkyWest and others.
Among other changes cutting into the flight numbers were Frontier Airlines’ withdrawal from the Fresno market and dropping its four weekly flights to and from Denver earlier this year, and Allegiant Air discontinuing its seasonal nonstop flights between Fresno and Honolulu last year.
Fresno air travel shrinks
Fewer flights and available seat-miles by airlines this year are putting Fresno Yosemite International Airport behind last year’s record air travel pace.
No. of passengers departing
No. of passengers arriving
Number of flights departing
Number of available seat-miles
Load factor (% of seat-miles sold)
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics