The Brancatelli File



March 25, 1999 -- I admit it: I am obsessed with the minutiae of business travel. I collect odd little statistics and facts, stuff them in a file folder, trade them with other flyers while we're sitting in airline clubs and throw out the nuggets of information as dinner-party conversation.

I'm thinking you might like to share these stats, if for no other reason than you'll learn a little bit more about your life on the road. So here goes: More business-travel minutiae than you can shake a metaphoric stick at.

THE BUSIEST ROUTES More travelers fly between New York and Los Angeles than any other route in the country. On an average day, about 7,300 people fly between the Left and Right Coasts. American carries about 35 percent of those passengers and United carries about 21 percent of the flyers. Feeling smug because you knew that one? Okay, name the second-busiest route in the nation. I'll bet you didn't guess Honolulu-Kahului, Maui, which generates about 6,800 passengers a day. Aloha (57 percent) and Hawaiian (41 percent) dominate that route.

THE COSTLIEST ROUTES Of the nation's 25 busiest routes, airlines make the most money off us (about 60 cents per mile) on flights between Boston and New York. By the way, with about 6,500 daily passengers, Boston-New York is the third-busiest route. The airlines' second most-profitable route? The nation's other on-demand air-shuttle route: New York-Washington, which generates about 56 cents a mile. Airlines earn the least (just 9.2 cents) on the nation's 15th busiest route, New York-San Juan.

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE Gate-to-gate travel times increased during the last decade at most of the nation's 28 largest airports. Of 2,115 domestic routes canvassed by the Inspector General of the Transportation Department, travel time increased on about 75 percent of them. The worst offender: Atlanta-San Diego, where gate-to-gate travel time is 20.1 minutes longer than in 1987. The four other routes with the most additional travel time in the last decade all involve a New York-area airport: Philadelphia-Kennedy (20 minutes); Newark-Los Angeles (19 minutes); Newark-San Juan (17.5 minutes); and LaGuardia-Louisville (17.4 minutes).

PLANE TALK The average age of a plane in the fleet of the 10 major U.S. carriers is 12.1 years. Planes in European fleets average 8.8 years, while equipment operated by Asia/Pacific airlines average 6.6 years. The average U.S. major airline operated 362 aircraft, compared to 199 planes for a European carrier and 70 for an Asian carrier.

OLD FRIENDS The average age of Northwest's fleet of 413 jets was 20 years, the oldest among 29 large airlines studied by Salomon Smith Barney. Alaska Airlines' fleet is the youngest in the United States, averaging 7.6 years. Swissair has Europe's youngest fleet (averaging 5.1 years). Iberia (12.9 years) has the continent's oldest.

THE ELECTRONIC RUBICON United Airlines sold more electronic tickets than traditional paper tickets for the first time ever last October. In that month, 53 percent of United's domestic traffic flew with E-tix.

ESCAPE HATCHES When frequent flyers hit the road, what are we running from? According to a survey of 1,250 business travelers by Residence Inn, 34.7 percent of us say they enjoy escaping from cleaning our homes. As for work-related escapes, 34.5 percent of us enjoy the simple fact that we're not in our office. And what are we doing with our downtime on the road? Party animals, we're not. About 29 percent of us watch television or movies in our room, 16 percent read books and 10 percent of us take a bubble bath.

THAT EXPLAINS IT… Wonder why we're such coach potatoes on the road? Ninety percent of the 250 business travelers surveyed by Runzheimer International say they associate road stress with their symptoms of fatigue.

THE GANG'S ALL HERE About 29 million people used the Internet for travel-related purposes in 1996, according to the Travel Industry Association, a trade group. By last year, that number had grown to 70 million.

DÉJÀ VU For all the change we've lived through during the last five years, some things, like market concentration, last forever. In 1994, United was the nation's largest carrier with 21.9 percent of the market. In 1998, United's market share was 21.4 percent. While No. 2 American slipped from a 20 percent share in 1994 to 18.8 percent in 1998, No. 3 Delta was virtually even (17.4 to 17.8 percent), as was No. 4 Northwest (11.8 to 11.7 percent).

This column originally appeared at

Copyright © 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.