Look out! Your airline is cutting capacity

You may have noticed that your favorite airline just announced that it’s cutting capacity. American Airlines parent company AMR and Spirit Airlines announced it last week. Continental and United did the same this week. They’re all doing it. In times of increased stress on the airline, lower demand and higher costs, they have to do it to save the bottom line.

But what does this mean for the lay traveler?

Well, several things. While the airline of your choice will be cutting routes, they’re most often going to be cutting routes that are in low demand. The moneymakers — routes that most of us take the most often will stick around because they’re actually generating cash. So if you fly from New York to Detroit every third Friday to see your boyfriend on the 7PM flight, that will probably stick around because it’s a popular flight at a popular time on a popular day.

The 2PM Saturday flight from New Orleans to Springfield, MO, however may not.

If you’re in the minority that do take that Orleans-Springfield flight, fear not. You’ll still be able to connect through one of the hubs. Also make sure that another carrier hasn’t swooped into replace your former favorite route. Often times, multiple carriers have competing prices on routes (resulting in lower demand across them). Two of AA’s routes that they canceled July 02, for example, Dallas – Austin and Dallas – Kansas City, are also covered by Southwest.

Particularly on the few routes that are heavy hitters (ie, BostonSan Diego, AA cuts Sep 03), expect a modest increase in prices as demand evens out across the other flights over the course of the day.

These cuts and increases in prices are part of the natural evolution in a tight market — cut out the poorly performing routes, trim back staff and tighten the belt while money is scarce. While it’s unfortunate for passengers and terribly unfortunate for employees, it’s a necessary step to ensuring that America has strong airlines in the future. Buckle down for a tough summer and I promise things will be better in the fall.