A330NEO: Good Choice?

April 10, 2014 on 1:06 pm | In Aircraft Development, Airline Fleets | 2 Comments

Airbus may be embracing the idea of creating an A330NEO offering for customers and it would appear to have some acceptance from some customers.  To date, Airbus’ official approach has been to discount the A330 and show it as a cost conscious solution for airlines when balanced against the Boeing 787 offerings.

While airlines such as Delta seem to embrace the idea, one wonders if the investment in an re-engined widebody really is wise at this point.   Airbus doesn’t have the answer to the 787 and it appears the A350-800 won’t be a future answer either.  A lower cost development of an A330NEO would appear to offering something that slots in between the A321 and the A350.

I honestly do not think so.

The 787 clearly was the right size in the -8 variant as many, many airlines adopted this aircraft right from the beginning.  The -9 variant is similarly widely accepted.  Those two, together, are what Airbus has to compete against with the A330 or an A330NEO.  In some missions, it may do OK but it won’t be the long term answer that an investment in a widebody asks for.

It would be foolish for Delta to drive a multi-billion dollar investment in an aircraft that Boeing has a better and just as tested answer for when such an airplane would be available.

It’s become clear that a certain generation of airliners are nearing their end now.  The 767/757 is clearly on a rapid decline with passenger airlines and the A330 will begin that decline shortly.  It’s not a new airliner and the A350 series should have been slotted to replace it better.

Instead, Airbus made the mistake of Bigger is Better.  It’s made that mistake twice now.  Upgauging its offerings made the -800 less attractive to airlines because of performance, not because it was the wrong size.  The truth is that Airbus needed an range that spanned probably 4 aircraft and that’s hard to do.

In the competitive lineup, Airbus needed:

  • A350-700 | 787-8
  • A350-800 | 787-9
  • A350-900 | 787-10
  • A350-1000 | 777-200ER
  • A350-1100 | 777-300ER

There is no -700 or -1100 and the -800 is a bit heavy for the mission and no one wants it.  That leaves Airbus with (2) attractive medium sized widebody aircraft for customers and the A380.

That isn’t enough.  The A330 could be stop gap but it has to compete against a much more modern, efficient product lineup that Boeing will offer.  Look at Boeing’s potential now and over the next 10 years:

  • 787-8
  • 787-9
  • 787-10 / 777-200ER/LR
  • 777-300ER / 777-8
  • 777-9

Boeing wins.  It’s got the right sized aircraft with the right efficiency for a 20+ year investment that ranges the entire sweet spot for widebody aircraft.  Even the “older” 777 models in that line-up purportedly “beat” the corresponding A350 models on the “total” package of performance.  At worst, they hold their own against the A350 and that’s still pretty good.

Airbus needed 2 widebody families.  It has one and I think cobbling together a stop-gap measure for one of those in a A330NEO model is unwise.  The widebody technologies are here and they are useful now.  To not use them in an airliner would be folly, in my opinion.  They are maturing every day in the 787-A350-777 developments being done and that means that airlines in general will want those technologies rather than designs that date back to the late 1980′s.

 

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Who can you sue?

April 8, 2014 on 2:00 am | In Airline Service, Deregulation, Trivia | No Comments

It might come as a surprise that you really can’t sue an airline in a state court.  For just about anything.

Instead, you have to file your lawsuit in Federal court which means you have to have a basis of your lawsuit that is founded on Federal law.  Since Federal law generally doesn’t address nuances (that’s generally left to states) and sets a high bar (because a lower bar is what States are for), lawsuits against airlines generally lose.

Oh, it’s quite possible to do a personal injury suit against an airline in Federal court when there is a crash.  But that has as much to do with the bad publicity as it does the law.

You see, airlines managed to have most issues against them (for all practical purposes, all issues) moved to Federal court by an act of Congress back when Deregulation was occurring.

This sets the bar very, very high for winning a lawsuit against an airline.  It is a very protected place to sit as an industry.

And unfair. You can sue Exxon wherever you want but you can’t sue American Airlines wherever you want.

As a result, airlines are able to write egregious contract terms and abuse passengers on a daily basis with the clear knowledge that virtually all passengers can’t sue them.  Imagine the change in attitude and service an airline might experience when it has to face a jury of its peers in East Texas after losing luggage, holding people hostage in an airplane and then arbitrarily cancelling their flight.

I honestly struggle to find the justification for airlines to have such a protected status in 2014.  Virtually all other service oriented industries manage to do just fine without such protections.

We shouldn’t forget the purpose of a civil lawsuit:  It’s to correct a wrong *and* take punitive action against an entity when it intentionally does that harm.  By design, this is to give incentive to companies (and individuals) to Be Nice and Behave.

Wouldn’t that be a near revolution in the airline industry?

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The A380 in Dallas

April 7, 2014 on 8:47 am | In Airline News | No Comments

Emirates has announced it plans to serve Dallas with its flagship A380 on October 1st of this year.  The aircraft will replace a Boeing 777-200LR and will offer 223 more seats than the current 777.

Why?  Houston has service to the Middle East because of the oil business.  Dallas has it because of the IT business.

The Middle Eastern carriers are the airlines of choice for entire families from India and Pakistan when traveling between the United States and the Indian sub-continent.  Currently, many going to India actually travel down to Houston to fly home because the seat availability is better and the prices are cheaper.

Emirates knows it can reliably fill the A380 by lowering prices.

Quite frankly, I think this is being put into place today rather than next year or the following to ensure that a base of travelers is built up before American Airlines can deploy its 787 aircraft on a direct route to India.  (American’s 777 aircraft don’t quite have the range for the trip but the 787 will).

I think this is a powerful pre-emptive action on Emirates part to subdue QATAR, Etihad and American Airlines and it will likely work very well for them.

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MH370: Is Malaysia responsible?

March 30, 2014 on 2:23 pm | In Airline News | No Comments

I am disturbed by the rather harsh criticism laid upon Malaysia by China and Chinese families with respect to MH370.  I can certainly make allowances for people in distress and I have both empathy and compassion for those people.

But for China to imply that Malaysia has been irresponsible or incompetent is just grossly unfair.

For Chinese citizens to insist that the aircraft is intact and its passengers alive but hidden by Malaysia is . . . stupid. No matter how much grief you feel.

A person or person(s) commandeered an aircraft over a sea, artfully steered it past two nations and then steered a course into one of the most remote oceans in the world.

My point is that this wouldn’t be easy for anyone.  There have been up to 12 aircraft from at least 5 nations assisting in the search.   Nations with satellite imaging capability have scoured the seas over and over trying to sense wreckage and debris.  The United Kingdom and IMMARSAT went to great lengths to establish where this aircraft went and have continued supporting the search.

Many, many nations have lent support in a variety of meaningful ways.  If this airplane has not been found, it’s not because anyone is behaving slow, without care or without a sense of urgency.

It’s because this is a very hard thing to do.  Before anyone criticizes, we should remember that it tooks years to find Air France 447 in the middle of the Atlantic.  We knew far more about that flight and it was far easier to access the area and search.  Yet it was considered one of the toughest searches for an airplane done to that date.

What they’re doing in the Indian Ocean is nearly an order of magnitude more difficult.  The searches know next to nothing about flight path, motive or even the ocean area in which it went down.  But many nations continue going out day after day trying to find answers and doing so with utmost professional behavior.

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Eastern Air Lines is not coming back

March 28, 2014 on 12:48 pm | In Airline News | No Comments

There has been some news now and in the recent past about a group of people (some originally from Eastern Airlines) forming a new startup in the Miami area (in the old Eastern building).  Most recently there have been reports about an RFP (request for proposal) for up to 10 used aircraft that this new company can purchase.

The company is to start as a charter and use either Boeing or Airbus equipment to start.  This would mean Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 aircraft.

Need I remind anyone how the charter world typically does for any new business?  Or how badly charter companies do when they attempt to transition to a scheduled carrier?

While these people may have some money and opportunity to get started as an airline, I’m extremely uncomfortable with the trade on the Eastern Airlines name to start with.  First of all, if anyone thinks that Eastern Airlines left people with great memories of travel, they would be wrong.  The airline left most people with a bad taste in their mouth and there is a reason why the airline went bankrupt.

That reason wasn’t Frank Lorenzo despite how many want it to be.  It had a lot to do with a bloated operation that didn’t focus on customer experience.  People didn’t fly the airline and didn’t like the airline.  There was no legend of greatness in that airline.  It never was known for that even when Eddie Rickenbacker led the airline.

New airlines can be great things to watch and I get excited by them too.  But this isn’t the one to get worked up over.

When someone like David Neeleman comes into the marketplace and starts using an innovative strategy focused on customer experience using the right aircraft, then we can talk.  That person hasn’t shown up yet.

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I have a problem with the picture being painted

March 26, 2014 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service | No Comments

There is an opinion piece written by former Captain Les Abend on CNN’s website opining that the best explanation for what happened to MH370 is that there was a catastrophic event aboard the airliner that disabled all comms and then the pilots and that the plane simply flew itself until fuel exhaustion crashed the airliner.  You can read this opinion HERE.

Let’s review the ideas one by one:

1)  The airliner had a fire or similar event that disabled all radios and communications.

An event disabling all 5 radios would almost have to involve the cockpit being removed from the airliner.  We know this didn’t happen.  Boeing has built redundancy into these aircraft but has also gone to fair trouble to ensure that a problem in one part of the plane doesn’t take out all of a system.  Antennas are separated.  Power sources are different.  You really cannot lose all the radios simultaneously without something literally destroying the aircraft.  Could they go out one by one?  Yes.

2)  He suggests that the callout of 35,000 feet is what pilots do to remind ATC to give them a higher clearance.  Well, that’s true but what Mr. Abend neglects to mention is that 35,000 feet is a fairly high altitude and to go much higher so early in the flight wasn’t necessarily practical.  To make the callout several times when already at a very high altitude and when there was no weather to clear, is suspect.

3)  It’s suggested that a smoldering fire began to insidiously take out comms slowly, one by one.  What this ignores is the fact that the electronics bay doesn’t just provide communications.  It houses systems for the instrumentation of the entire aircraft.  A “smoldering fire” would have been taking out other systems that would have caused alerts left and right.  This aircraft is also a “fly by wire” system and those electronics reside, in part, in the electronics bay as well.   Fires aren’t selective in what they impact.  And electronics bays are heavily monitored for fire and smoke.

4)  A degraded autopilot maintains course to the next waypoint and then remains in “heading mode” at high altitude.  Pilots to do not stay at 35,000 feet in an emergency that they have to get an airplane onto the ground.  To the contrary, they descend, work the checklists and start communicating their descent so that they don’t collide with other aircraft.  Furthermore, the “nearest airport” wasn’t actually southwest and on the other side of the island.  One with a really long runway was in that direction.  Other commercial airports with sufficient runway length for landing existed.

Navigation of the airliner is dependent on many systems that include the autopilot and instrumentation such as GPS and other nav aids.  Absent these aids, that airliner will become lost.  A smoldering fire that disables pilots, doesn’t continue to smolder without affecting the airframe for 6 to 7 more hours.
I realize that its hard for commercial pilots to accept that a fellow pilot would do something nefarious.  Yet. . . . we know that that has happened many times over the course of commercial aviation history.  It happens.  it’s ugly and it’s terrible.  But it happens.

I also realize that it’s nice to make pilots out to be heros who die in action.  Yet, we also know that not every pilot is a hero.  There are limits to every person.

We don’t know what happened.  And we won’t know what happened over the Gulf of Thailand ever.  Not in the cockpit.  The voice recorder doesn’t record that long.  We will have some record of what was programmed, what the flight control inputs were and what was alarming and what wasn’t.  It will tell a story but it won’t tell the whole story.  It will tell the “what” but not the “why”.

And only if we find the aircraft.  But suggesting that this airliner was a ghost ship that crashed is foolish and fantastical does no one any good in looking at this event.

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MH370 and the data

March 25, 2014 on 8:44 am | In Airline News | 1 Comment

What I’m about to write could be seen as harsh but it needs to be written.

When people talk about their being no data about this flight, we have nothing but data.  In fact, we are in the unusual position of being able to only talk about the facts that we have rather than speculating on emotions and personalities.

Emotions and personalities will come later and actually be an important part of the conversation and investigations.

But today, when people say that there is no evidence. . .

You are wrong.  There is nothing but evidence.  And the evidence says this aircraft was commandeered, flown by programmed waypoints at high altitude (30,000 or more) to  a point in the southern Indian Ocean approximately 1200 to 1800 miles west of Australia where it ended flight.

Because it is impossible, not merely improbable, for an aircraft such as the Boeing 777 to land on an ocean and keep afloat, all passengers must be presumed as dead.  The southern Indian Ocean is no place for human beings without protectioin, shelter and sturdy watercraft, they would not survive.  They would not survive even on a life raft.  Hurricanes have passed over this area already during this search.  This is not a hospitable place even for United States naval vessels.

For those who think the 777 can survive a water landing such as the A320 that landed in the Hudson River:  there couldn’t be a greater difference in the circumstances between two such events.  Civil commercial aircraft are not designed and are not capable of surviving a landing in the seas and weather offered by the southern Indian Ocean.  This area is considered one of the most dangerous areas of ocean in our world.

For those of you who believe this must be a hijacking and that this aircraft and its passengers are being kept hostage somewhere. . . you only do a disservice to the loved ones of those passengers to promote hope with this theory.

The science and mathematics used to track down this airplane are irrefutable.  Even if we did not have such information, hostage takers don’t take 230+ people and hold them incommunicado for 2+ weeks.  In fact, you really can’t hold a 777 without it being seen for 2+ weeks.

This aircraft went into the southern Indian Ocean.  All lives were lost and it’s a very sad moment for their families and friends.

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Pittsburgh is likely to be pi$$ed

January 28, 2014 on 2:00 am | In Mergers and Bankruptcy | No Comments

American Airlines is going to close the flight operations center that US Airways maintained in the Pittsburgh area in favor of the larger, more robust center in Fort Worth.  It’s a sensible move on the part of American Airlines but I fully expect Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania based politicians to, once again, decry mergers and their effects.

It is a loss for the Pittsburgh area.  The center employs about 600 people and while those people will in most cases be offered jobs in Forth Worth, that doesn’t do the Pittsburgh area any good.

There will be other impacts to other areas as well.  I fully expect Phoenix to get hit pretty good, for instance.  The reality is that American Airlines (Old) had a great deal of capacity and infrastructure in place.  There is little good reason to adopt a system from US Airways in the integration because in almost every case the AA system will be more robust.  This will lead to more displacement on the US Airways side.

The area where I think AA takes a hit is in servicing the aircraft.  Operations will see US Airways people come in and re-acquaint AA employees with how to run an ontime operation.  I suspect we’ll see the care and feeding of the A320 fleet be tasked over to US Airways stations in many cases as well.  There will be an integration and it won’t be just AA taking over US routes.  But it won’t be delightful for some operations centers such as Pittsburgh.

 

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Going International

January 27, 2014 on 1:04 pm | In Airline Service | 1 Comment

Southwest Airlines has announced its intentions to start flying international routes for the first time in its history.  Starting on July 1st, Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando will have daily (or near daily) flights to Jamaica, Aruba and The Bahamas.  For those of you paying attention, I think this could actually be construed as Southwest Airlines announcing its intention to keep Airtran destinations with a bit of Southwest flair.

This makes sense because it fits within infrastructure that Southwest has today at those destinations.  Southwest can “learn” how to be an international carrier and ensure its new reservations system which is debuting in international form with these additions.

Consider this:  Southwest has been trying to have some form of international flight via partners or itself since 2008.  It’s 2014 now.  Wow, that took a long time.

These are the first announcements, I expect many more international announcements this year and next.  I think Southwest will seek to cover the Airtran destinations it wants to keep first and then will start exploring flights to new destinations both across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea as well as to Mexico and Canada.

What this most defnitely is not is a move to a need for a different aircraft.  Southwest’s current fleet plans can handle these flights just fine.  It’s possible that additional foreign destinations may drive more 737-800/-8Max purchases but we expected that anyway.

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Batteries and the 787

January 14, 2014 on 1:52 pm | In Airline News | No Comments

There is a news report that the 787 has experienced another battery incident in Japan.

And when we digest the sensational reporting, we find that . . . not so much.

A single battery cell “vented” as designed when a 787 was undergoing scheduled maintenance.  The 787 was owned by JAL and US authorities have not decided to investigate.

Which brings me to another, related issue:  The 787 battery fix.

This is a fix that by all appearances has done exactly what it was designed to do which is to inhibit the problem from occurring but also protect the airliner if it does occur.  That single cell venting mentioned up above?  That’s a design working as it is supposed to.  A cell may destruct but now it can’t induce a runaway event in the battery itself.

I think quite a few people owe Boeing an apology for their rather strong criticisms of the battery fix design and what it would mean.  One of those people would be Elon Musk who famous tried to tell the chief engineer at Boeing how to fix the problem.  It’s notable that the Tesla S car is now the focus of . . . wait for it . . . batteries catching fire after accidents.

New technologies bring about new problems.  Sometimes those problems aren’t fully uncovered until something goes into service and that doesn’t mean aircraft (or cars) shouldn’t go into service.  We also shouldn’t be quite so quick to condemn an aircraft for a problem related to that new technology.  When the battery grounding was going on, there were several Talking Head experts opining that this aircraft is a failure and should possibly be permanently grounded.

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American Eagle: Losing a name

January 5, 2014 on 2:00 am | In Airline News | No Comments

American Eagle Airlines is going to be changing its name.

Why?  Because American Airlines wants that name for all of its connector services and American Eagle will be operating connection services with several other airlines for American Airlines.

Put another way, it’s American Airlines’ name to do what it wants with it.  Given what a strong brand it is, I would want to use it for all my connection services too.

What will it be?  You can bet it will be something fairly meaningless and without inspiration.  Because American Eagle will have to become a stand alone airline and operate among all the other regional airlines.

American Eagle is going to have some hard times ahead of it.  It will have to compete for AA’s business as well as business from other airlines and that is a cutthroat business.  Its pilots are going to have to swallow hard on contract changes that will see them go from being an arm of American Airlines when it comes to pay and benefits to becoming “one of the other guys”.

That will be hard for everyone under the American Eagle name today.

But American Airlines is not losing a name.  It will keep the American Eagle name but it will simply apply it to all flights being performed by regional airlines under its umbrella.

And that’s probably as it should be.

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Happy New Year: What’s your brand?

January 4, 2014 on 1:26 pm | In Airline Fleets | No Comments

It’s been a busy holiday season for me and a good one. I hope it has been for you and yours as well.

The Flag Stays! It’s decided, by a pretty narrow margin, that the Blazing Flag tail design that American Airlines released about a year ago will stay. The vote was roughly 49% for the old “AA” tail vs 51% for the new design. Most of us pundits felt that given that choice, the flag would stay.

Doug Parker believes, or says he believes, that livery doesn’t influence a passenger much at the end of the day. He’s the CEO of the largest airline in the world, he may know more than I do.

I think that livery and branding make a huge difference in an airlines fortunes. But I also come from the school of thought that says that a business should stake out a stand on things. I like companies that aren’t all things to all people in their branding but, rather, a company that sets a vision with its branding.

I greatly prefer a company such as Apple who brand and styles itself to be polarizing as opposed to a company such as United Airlines whose branding and styles leave me wondering what they stand for at this point.

American’s is polarizing and that may be good enough.  The one thing AA’s livery is not is boring.  I still think the flag is wrong and I think the flag could be redesigned.  And it may well be redesigned one day but for now, I concede the decision and wish American success.

No offense US Airways people but your livery is actually worse.  You’re getting an upgrade, in my opinion.

It has been tradition for me to make predictions for the new year but I don’t want to do that this year.  I think we’ll keep doing what we do best:  advocating for better companies in the industry and criticizing the worst of the mistakes.

Happy New Year

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Buh-Bye DC-9

December 27, 2013 on 4:30 pm | In Airline Fleets | 7 Comments
Delta Airlines DC-9-50

Delta Airlines DC-9-50

Delta Airlines is retiring the remainder of its DC-9 fleet in January and the -9′s replacement is coming online in the form of 737s and 717s and even larger regional jets.

Delta actually wasn’t a DC-9 customer. Not exactly anyway.  The DC-9 came over in the merger with Northwest Airlines who was a big DC-9 customer.  Northwest got many of its DC-9s from the Republic merger.  Delta kept the aircraft on for several years because the capital costs were low and the aircraft are built so sturdy that their maintenance still wasn’t that expensive.  The remainder of the DC-9s are DC-9-50 aircraft with 120 seats.

This marks, as best as I can tell, the end of the DC-9 in the United States.  To all the DC-9 fans out there, I know you’ll hate me but I say good riddance.

It’s not that I hate the aircraft, it’s that I hate that the aircraft was around doing daily service even today.  This is one of the only places in the entire world where you will see a 35 year old aircraft still doing passenger work and its representative of the service levels that airlines deliver in the United States.

And the old DC-9s used to give me a headache from the cabin pressure.

It’s a sturdy airliner and they’ll never build them like that again and let’s just admit that we don’t want them to built like that again.  They were sturdy but they were also overbuilt and heavy for the service they performed.

They live on anyways.  The MD-80/90 series aircraft are just DC-9s by another model name.  In fact, their type certificates call them out as DC-9-8X’s and DC-9-9X’s.  So the DC-9 isn’t really gone.  Even the truly old aircraft aren’t gone because there are still a lot of MD-82/83 aircraft with steam gauge cockpits out there.

And the Boeing 717 aka the MD-95 aka the DC-9-95 not only still flies but flies efficiently.  I liked that aircraft and still do.  I would like the MD-82/83 aircraft of American Airlines if they had simply put a newer, more comfortable seat on it.  I always liked that you had only a 1 in 5 chance of getting a middle seat too.

But it is time for them to go and let’s pause and reflect on the fact that those aircraft were born mostly before airline deregulation and are only just now going to pasture in an era that doesn’t remotely resemble the industry they were originally built for.  That ain’t nothing.

 

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Hubs! American Style

December 26, 2013 on 2:00 am | In Airline Service | No Comments

It’s been announced by new American Airlines President Scott Kirby that American Airlines will no longer have kinder, gentler hubs in the near future.  Some time ago, American Airlines de-hubbed its hubs some.  Instead of hard peaks and valleys of activity at airports, it allowed flights to spread out more on arrivals and departure.  Labor was more steadily occupied but it also gave passengers less connecting opportunities.  US Airways doesn’t operate this way and Scott Kirby doesn’t want American Airlines operating this way.

So, we’ll see hubs more concentrated with flights at various times.  Why?  Because it earns more money and it’s all about the Benjamins.  Is this bad for anybody?  Nope, not really.  Not a single person is necessarily impacted in a bad way.  It’s just a different style that earns more money.  Do you see a theme here?

Since hubs got mentioned by AA, I thought I would look at their new hubs.

AAL_Map

Everyone always suspects airlines are going to de-hub a location.  Every airline always promises that won’t happen.  It always happens but in the case of American Airlines, it won’t happen for at least 3 years at most locations.  Which, coincidentally, is about the time it usually starts happening.

I’m going to make some predictions on the AA hubs that are going to annoy some people.  First off, I think there are really 3 kinds of hubs today.  They are true network hubs, focus cities and gateway cities.  The first is the traditional major network hub that offers something for everyone.  The second is similar but more “regional” in flavor.  The third is a city where international and domestic flights interchange in large numbers.  It can also be a network hub.

Here is what I think will happen in the case of American Airlines hubs:

Dallas / Fort Worth:  Largely unchanged.  Seriously.  Nothing much to see here except, possibly, a few more flights to a few more destinations.  DFW is both a major network hub and increasingly becoming a gateway hub again.

Chicago:  The same as Dallas.  Exactly the same as DFW.  Nothing more here.

Charlotte:  The same as Dallas and Chicago.  Exactly the same.  There is no reason to change this location and it won’t be taking the place of Miami.

Phoenix:  The same as Dallas, Chicago and Charlotte.  It will remain a major network hub but probably with less focus on international destinations.

Los Angeles:  A gateway city that will become more gateway.  I think we’ll see an increase of international flights here to South America, across the Pacific and to Europe.  It will be the West Coast Gateway for American Airlines.  But it won’t be similar to Phoenix.  The two are not redundant.  Phoenix will feed Los Angeles and vice-versa but they won’t take each other’s place.

New York City:  This will be the East Coast Gateway, a version of Los Angeles.  I think we’ll see increased flying to destinations in the Middle East, Asia and India.  Europe flights will remain largely the same but possibly see aircraft upgauged to large sizes.

Miami:  A gateway city to South America that will be reduced in importance.  I don’t see opportunities growing much here and I don’t see Miami serving the area as a focus city or network hub.  It’s expensive and inefficient to operate that way in Miami.  We will probably see a few regional flights reduced to this city and maybe a few increased flights to South America.  Possibly we’ll see some flights to Africa.

Washington D.C.  This will remain a major regional focus city.  Nothing changes here at all.  A major presence at Washington National, a minor presence at Washington Dulles.

Philadelphia:  I think Philadelphia will be a focus city with international tendencies.  It’s possible that Philadelphia will become similar to Chicago but I think it will be more regional with some international flights.  Not quite a major network hub, not quite a gateway city.  I think there will be some reduction in flights to and from this city over a very long period on a net basis with possibly some European flights increased.

And then there is the gap.  The Pacific North West.  I think that American Airlines will look to establish a second West Coast Gateway city and I think it will be Seattle.  Alaska Airlines is about 3 years away from having an ulcer, in my opinion.  It’s possible they may choose to focus on Portland and that wouldn’t be the worse choice but I think that Seattle has more “name” to it.  Portland, on the other hand, has more available capacity, better weather and is just as close to destinations across the Pacific as Seattle.  Portland is the more “logical” choice but Seattle is the better brand choice.

Either way, a new Gateway City will be focused in that area sometime between Year 3 and Year 5, in my opinion, and it will be a battleground between both Delta and American Airlines with Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines suffering as a result.

 

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Twas The Night Before Christmas – December 24th 2013

December 24, 2013 on 2:00 am | In Trivia | No Comments
Braniff 707-227

Braniff’s 707-227 was commonly referred to as Rudolph (as in the Red Nosed Reindeer)

 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the gates
Not a creature was stirring, not even FAs
The stockings were hung by the air bridge with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The passengers were nestled all snug in their cots,
While visions of ontime flights disturbed their thoughts.
And Momma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled onto our luggage for a long winters nap.

When out on the tarmac there arose such clatter,
I sprang from the cockpit to see what was the matter,
Away to the door I flew like a flash,
I lowered the airbridge and looked for the crash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Gave lustre to the fuselages below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a quaint biplane and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old pilot, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than turboprops his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name!

”Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the gate! to the top of the terminal!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash-8 away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild 757 fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the terminal the coursers they flew,
With the biplane full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the concourse St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with oil and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a frequent flyer, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a widebody face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the airbridge he rose!

He sprang to his biplane, to his team gave a ring,
And away they all flew like the fastest of Boeing.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he banked out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

This version copyright 2011 by Gregory V Robinson

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Love not War

December 23, 2013 on 2:00 am | In Airline News, Mergers and Bankruptcy | 2 Comments

The flight attendant unions of American Airlines have decided to make love, not war, again.  There is a deal in place for the APFA (Association of Professional Flight Attendants) to represent the flight attendants of the merged airlines of US Airways and American Airlines.  The Association of Flight Attendants (US Airways) is leading its members to the APFA to get a new “industry leading” contract in place.

The AFA (US) gets to have some voice in their destiny in the process.

It’s great that they want to move forward and I have no doubt that working in unity would yield a better outcome than otherwise expected.

But I’m not sure these groups are really going to get along well.  It remains to be seen and I would love to hear from a US Airways flight attendant about their views on working together with the APFA and Laura Glading.

On the one hand, the APFA does very well in marshaling their membership to speak with one voice.  But they do tend to keep talking about 20 years ago and restoring things to the way they once were.

If I were in either union, I would want a union leadership that got me a good deal for today’s conditions in airlines.  And that doesn’t mean a bad deal or a concessionary deal.  It means a deal structured around how the airline industry is working today.  If I were a leader, I would make these my goals:

  1. Workplace flexibility:  The ability to work my job, earn my salary at a living wage and still be able to cope with a modern set of challenges in my family.  How about flight scheduling that is a win-win for both the airline (in terms of productivity) and the flight attendant.
  2. A salary rate based the hours I work rather than the size of aircraft I fly or the distance I fly.   Re-think how salaries should be paid so that the actual effort expended is in sync with the pay earned.
  3. The ability to actually take charge and deliver great customer service to my passengers without fear of retribution for daring to use my mind.
  4. Managers who empower rather than punish.  This is very, very important.  Give the flight attendants a chance to show what they can bring to the company and its financial performance.  They might possibly be the most important part to a turnaround.
  5. A retirement plan based on a modern model (401K) designed to minimize risk to my retirement but also reward my service time.  AA has some of the best financial managers in the world, ask them to go to work at finding a way for my union to experience real growth in my retirement.

And it’s time to realize for everyone, management, all unions and all other employees are all One Team.

Live by each others efforts and die by each other efforts.  Anyone who wants to go to “us vs them” should be sidelined.  This isn’t about just making the airline successful someday.  This is about making the airline successful as fast as possible and sharing the rewards of that success among all the members of the company.  The faster a real, consistent profit is earned, the faster everyone can start sharing in that.

I would want to get to that point quickly because earning more money in 2015 is a whole lot better than earning more money in 2018.

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TSA Happy Holidays

December 22, 2013 on 1:25 pm | In Trivia | No Comments

gary-markstein-11-24-2010

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The Livery aka The Paint Job

December 17, 2013 on 11:19 am | In Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, has instituted a rather quick vote by the employees of the newly combined airline to decide the fate of the new American Airlines livery.   All employees of the new company (AA and US Airways) get to vote on whether to keep it as it is or to go back to the previous logo on the tail.

There will be no entirely new paint job.  The fuselage and new airline logo being used on the fuselage with billboard titles will remain the same.  The only change up for vote is to retain the new tail or to revert to the old tail.

Reverting to the old tail and in combination with the new fuselage actually has some very real appeal for me and that is coming from someone who never liked the old logo that much either.  But I agree with many who are already saying that the new logo will win.  I think it will too.  I don’t think it will last very long but I think it will be retained.

But let’s see what happens and you can’t fault Parker for not addressing things head-on.  He wants a consensus and this is a good place to start with his team.

The best news, in my opinion, is that there will be some legacy liveries done to celebrate the airlines that make up this new American Airlines.  That’s a lot of airlines and it appears that it will include homage to TWA, an airline that I think got lost as  a legacy when purchased by American Airlines.

 

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Delta wants some Love

December 16, 2013 on 3:14 pm | In Airline Service, Airports | No Comments

According to the Dallas Morning News, Delta Airlines has released a schedule that now includes October 2014 and apparently Delta expects to fly a massive number of flights from Love Field to its own hubs.  By massive, it would appear that Delta has 22 flights to its hubs in Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York La Guardia and Los Angeles.  The only two cities missing are Salt Lake City and Seattle.

Delta wants to use the American Airlines gates at Love Field that it rents today for those flights.  22 flights from 2 gates seems a touch optimistic so I do wonder if Delta has something else up its sleeve.

Southwest has 16 gates and no one is entirely sure if they can have more than that.  American Airlines has 2 gates and United has 2 gates.  According to restrictions put in place in winding down the Wright Amendment, no more gates are supposed to be built.  The real shame of that is that there are several gates across the tarmac from the main terminal originally built for Legend Airlines that would be exceptional for use in a Delta operation.

The City of Dallas and the airport authorities don’t want to allow expansion at Love Field.  They want traffic to be focused on DFW airport but . . . DFW airport is actually pretty full at this point.  There will be a few gates at DFW available for use once Terminal E is renovated but not many and they’ll go quickly.

So why not open up Love Field even more?  I wonder if Delta isn’t planning to sue for more access myself.

In the meantime, let’s ponder for a minute the chance to fly Delta to its hubs from Love Field airport in less than a year.

That’s what I meant by Change, It’s coming.

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Change, it’s coming

December 15, 2013 on 11:37 am | In Airline News, Airline Service, Airports, Mergers and Bankruptcy | No Comments

With the US Airways / American Airlines merger done this past week, everyone is speculating on change we can expect but in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, I think we can expect change in at least 4 different areas and it’s all good for those in this metropolitan area.

1)  American Airlines will slowly return to being the on-time, service oriented airline that it once was.  Parker & Company know how to fix operational issues and get planes going where they need to go.  I also think we’ll see the benefit of code-share flights through the system to destinations that might well yield lower prices.

2)  Southwest Airlines will be unchained on October 13, 2014.  On that day, Southwest can fly where it wants to from Dallas Love Field as long as it is in the domestic 48 states.  This will not only offer us opportunities to fly non-stop to major cities in the US but it will also put some competitive pressure on American Airlines (and other airlines) on routes to and from the DFW area.

3)  Ultra Low Cost Carriers will move quickly to find their toehold at DFW.  There is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had in this area and Spirit Airlines has figured that out.  I expect Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier to all try to get gate space and establish operations in this area.  Those ULCC airlines will put some competitive pressure on both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines who both could use it in this area.

4)  While I think United has missed a huge opportunity in the DFW area over the past 2 years, I have noticed that Delta hasn’t.  I expect Delta to work itself more and more into the DFW area and I think they will do this both at DFW and Love Field airports.  Delta has been doing very well at establishing point to point flights and encroaching on its competitors territory.  They pursue a modest push into markets with the resources that only an airline such as Delta has.

Most airlines know that there is a limited time left to encroach in this market and if you think that airlines executives aren’t worried about Doug Parker, you are only kidding yourself.  They know what Parker and his team can do with the resources that AA has and that is a big reason why many attempted to sabotage this particular merger.  Parker was never a great threat with US Airways because of the limitations it imposed on him and his team.

I said it two years ago and I’ll say it now:  As soon as American Airlines declared bankruptcy, that was the time to move hard into the DFW area.  Several airlines missed that opportunity to become entrenched (Virgin America and jetBlue) and some saw the opportunity and grabbed it solidly in their fists (Spirit and Delta).

It’s all good for those living in this area or those wanting to fly to this area.  In one year, I believe we will see much better services and air fares that remain competitive.  Don’t kid yourself, however, those air fares won’t be predatory.  They just won’t be exorbitant.  So if you’re waiting for an uber-bargain of the early 2000′s, your wait will be fruitless.

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