I subscribe to the Daily Airline Filings feed (can’t link to the post; the site is password protected but the feed is not), and an interesting item came through today. Virgin America has filed for confidentiality for its Form 41 filings of operations, traffic, and financial data with the Department of Transportation. Why?
Public release . . . would cause Virgin America to suffer substantial competitive harm because the local nature of traffic in its point-to-point markets and the limited number of aircraft types operated will permit Virgin America’s competitors to: (1) obtain commercially sensitive competitive infonnation on Virgin America’s service in these markets; and (2) accurately calculate a variety of market-specific information, including cost per available seat mile, yield, revenue per available seat mile and profit margins.
But other airlines have to release this data, right? New airlines often seek to keep this information private while they’re establishing themselves. If JetBlue or United sees that Virgin America is doing well on a particular route, they can dive in with bargain fares and try to drive the upstart competitor out of a particular route. Virgin America claims that it will still be supporting the department’s intent of maintaining detailed data on airlines, but it won’t be providing its competitive edge free to other airlines.
ExpressJet tried this for its independently branded flights, and they were eventually forced to release the data. The Cranky Flier analyzed ExpressJet’s performance and their struggle to keep the data confidential here. (Cranky is also the go-to blog for Virgin America’s toils and troubles.)
(For once,) I don’t have a strong opinion on this issue. Feel free to sound off in the comments with pros and cons of requiring start-up airlines to release these data. Does it give the newbies a competitive edge over the entrenched carriers, or vice versa? Should anyone’s traffic data be released, or is that proprietary? Let me know what you think.
Very cool photo credit: Flickr user Kaptain Krispy Kreme. Used through a Creative Commons license.