Flying to LV a breeze

If it seems as if more tourists are blowing into Las Vegas it’s because they are — literally.

Number crunchers at Southwest Airlines are taking advantage of soft summer breezes to fly more passengers in and out of McCarran International Airport.

The airline uses sophisticated software to consolidate and distribute time saved when the westerly jet stream winds shift north toward the arctic and shorten flight durations, especially on longer trips between the East Coast and Las Vegas.

The result is expected to be fewer delays at McCarran and other airports, more flights in and out of Southern Nevada and the opportunity for the airline to add enough trips to fill four Boeing 737s without buying new planes at a cost of about $46 million each, at least until winter wind patterns return to slow traffic during cold months.

"It is kind of a Mother Nature type of thing. In the summer it takes less time to fly the exact same schedule than in the winter time," said Lonny Hurwitz, the airline’s network schedules manager. "As the (flight) time shrunk, we were able to collect all that time in 10 and 15 minute chunks and aggregate it."

Collecting time in busy airports makes it easier for Southwest to use it as a buffer against unexpected operational hiccups that would otherwise mushroom into longer delays.

It can also be consolidated and leveraged into additional revenue time in the air in the form of extra routes that make money for the airline and increase flight options for passengers.

The time savings have already produced additional round- trip routes between Las Vegas and Sacramento, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; and Albuquerque, N.M.; and an extra eight hours and 45 minutes in recovery time on the ground at McCarran every day from March through October.

Airlines have long known summer weather patterns can make flights go quicker. A flight from Baltimore to Las Vegas, for example, takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes in the dead of winter but clocks in 20 minutes shorter during August, according to Southwest.

In short, the upper atmosphere wind pattern called the jet stream shifts northward during the summer and with it goes strong headwinds that prolong east-to-west flights.

What’s different this year is Southwest used in-house scheduling software to quantify the time saved and consolidated it at busy airports by shifting the way it moves its 737s — a fleet totaling nearly 500 — through a network that accommodates 3,300 flights daily, including 462 to and from McCarran, Southwest’s busiest airport.

The scheduling software has been in use for years, but Southwest hadn’t used it to quantify the difference between summer and winter flight times and redistribute it, said Hurwitz.

"For years and years, we have been doing it by hand," said Hurwitz, describing stacks of paper listing thousands of flights with billions of potential combinations. "Human beings can’t dig through all the combinations."

Nationally, the extra time totals 50 hours of revenue flying and 30 hours for on-the-ground recovery every day, Hurwitz stated.

The time and money are important because Southwest — despite its reputation as one of America’s most functional airlines — faces challenges similar to lumbering "legacy carriers" that make headlines for bankruptcy filings and operational glitches, albeit to a lesser degree, said Terry Trippler, a airline travel observer.

"They are the ones who are not doing as well as everyone thinks they are," Trippler said.

Historically, Southwest has had significantly lower average load factors, the percentage of full seats on a given flight, than most large carriers. The airline overcame the problem in part by hedging fuel. That is, it bought fuel when oil prices were lower and gained competitive advantage over other airlines when prices went up.

But the airline’s hedged fuel supplies are running low, which adds urgency to any effort to cut costs or increase revenue elsewhere. The airline recorded more than $2 billion in revenue during the first quarter, but profit was down nearly 50 percent to $33 million due in large part to higher fuel costs, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show.

"This is the year it will start to catch up," Trippler said. "They are looking at revenue sources like everyone else."

Michael Boyd, an airline industry consultant in Evergreen, Colo., said increasing route efficiency with technology could be as vital as hedging fuel when it comes to keeping Southwest’s cash flow moving in the right direction.

He said the since the airline outgrew its humble beginnings as a regional, point-to-point carrier to become the largest domestic airline in the United States, operating efficiency became crucial. That’s because in a network as large as Southwest’s seemingly minor inefficiencies can add up to millions of dollars in cost.

Boyd said it can cost $1,500 to fly a 737 for 15 minutes, roughly the amount of time the airline saves during a summertime round trip between Baltimore and Las Vegas.

"This is probably every bit as important as having a fuel contract," Boyd said of the network optimization software that catalogued the weather time savings. "The margins are so thin, if you can squeeze in another 2 percent that might be a difference next quarter between profit and loss."

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like