Announcing London to Austin Non-Stop. . . Say what?

September 4, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Fleets, Airline News, Airline Service | 2 Comments

British Airways has announced its intentions to start a London (Heathrow) to Austin, TX flight initially flying 5x a week (all but SAT and WED) going to daily later in 2014.  This new flight will start early next year and I’m pretty sure it marks the very first trans-Atlantic flight for Austin.

No, this won’t be using a 777 or a 747.  It will be done with a 787-8 and it is a perfect example of what the 787 allows an airline to do. If British Airways can make this route successful at all, it will yield more revenue than asking American Airlines to bring the passenger to Dallas or United Airlines to bring the passenger to Houston.

But there are implications for the vaunted alliances and, in this case, Oneworld.

Why is it in an airline’s best interest to remain in an alliance and even a trans-Atlantic joint venture if it can simply deploy the right sized aircraft to the route and pick off all the low hanging fruit.

There are also implications for airlines who have not adopted the 787 in any great numbers.  Some airlines continue to view the 787 as a 767 when, in fact, it isn’t.  If all you ever needed was a 767, you would probably be better off buying a 767 from Boeing new (they still offer them).  The 787 can do 767 missions but the genius of owning one is that it can also provide exceptional flexibility and provide more opportunities for profit than the 767 ever had a hope of providing.

Flexibility, we’re learning, is a key component to earning profits at airlines.

I believe that Delta Airlines has shown great restraint and excellent analysis in how it has so far managed its fleet in almost every respect.  The one area I did not believe to be smart was their deferral of 787 aircraft. Tying their fortunes to continued use of their 767s will impact their ability to be flexible and entreprenurial on a global scale.

Likewise, I believe that we’ll see United Airlines start to truly exploit the possibilities of their 787 aircraft in the near future and that will provide competitive intensity to Delta Airlines that we have not yet seen so far.

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One Simple Solution

September 1, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service, Airports | No Comments

A big part of the Department of Justice’s complaint about mergers is the concentration of airlines at major hubs and, most particularly, at slot controlled airports.

Well, even more specifically, they don’t want to see US Airways stranglehold on Reagan National Airport to change.

Wait.  What’s that you say?  DoJ wants them to give up slots?  Well, no, not exactly.

The DoJ approved US Airways getting their stranglehold.  The DoJ likes the stranglehold that US Airways provides.  It just doesn’t want that stranglehold changing.

This is the crazy that slots produce.  And it’s why I continue to believe that slot controlled airports need to periodically put all the slots up for auction for use for a set period of time.  Yes, I want an auction to lease those slots on at least an annual basis.

Why?  Because it does improve competition.  Airlines who wish to gain access can, at the right price.  At the same time, no airline will have an incentive to buy a slot and then use it inefficiently.

Right now, airlines are serving these airports with slots they are considered to “own” and use these slots to serve routes to hold control of an airport instead of, you know, earning an appropriate ROI on the route.

When a commuter flight between Charleston, WV and Reagan National provides 30 fares vs using that same slot for a flight between Reagan National and Dallas which has maybe as much as 130 fares being charged, you start to see the inefficiency.

But for some reason, no one wants smaller communities to lose those flights to the seat of power.  I do.  Those flights can’t yield enough to be efficient and should be relegated to flying to Washington Dulles airport instead.

It’s the idea of slots being owned by airlines that I object to.  I think they have to exist but I also think that the government should be earning money from them and they should be regularly available for re-allocation according to what someone is willing to pay for them.

I don’t wish harm to small communities but it’s time to recognize that there needs to be more cost efficient ways to serve these destinations as well.  Providing these cities with high frequency non stop flights each day is inefficient.  It’s time to allow the market(s) to find other, better ways to serve these cities.

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What’s it all mean for Southwest?

August 8, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service | 1 Comment

Southwest Airlines is becoming bracketed by two very different parts of the US airline industry.  On one side, they have the SuperLegacy airlines who have all gone through bankruptcy (at least once) and each of these SuperLegacy airlines not only have workrules that approximate more closely to what Southwest has, so do the overall salaries.

Even employees of these SuperLegacy airlines seem to be seeing their morale improve slowly and steadily and more closely approximate that of Southwest.

Very soon, we’ll have The Big 4 in the airline industry.  Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

In the middle, we have 2 airlines who are doing very lackluster business in jetBlue and Virgin America airlines.

Down at the bottom, Southwest is again bracketed by Ultra Low Cost Carriers.  These are, today, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air with Frontier Airlines coming online presently.  These carriers are the scavengers of the industry but have some tendencies to bring a Southwest Effect with them in some markets.

They are flying most routes infrequently but . . . that’s changing.  Spirit Airlines has found the industry landscape in the Dallas / Fort Worth area very inviting fare-wise and has started more and more regular flights on “dominated” routes.

Southwest is perceived as a “Low Cost Carrier” when . . . it really isn’t.  Not anymore.  The service level of Southwest is at or above that of the other SuperLegacy economy offerings today.  But people expect a lower price from Southwest because of that perception.

And they don’t get it very often.

Southwest is the low price option in the last 3 weeks leading up to a departure quite often.  Prior to that, they are often the overwhelmingly expensive option.

They are more full service than the full service airlines in that they offer free checked baggage and modern aircraft and a smile upon boarding.

But where do they go?  If they transform themselves into Just Another Airline, the other airlines will compete against them with an advantage. They have more differentiated service levels and more usable frequent flier programs and fleets that are being renewed as we speak.

If they try to be Really Low Cost Airline, the Ultra Low Cost Carriers will outbid them for passengers who are buying on price alone.

Southwest has the recipe for success in this area but it does not seem to recognize it.  By being Southwest instead of Just Another Airline or a Really Low Cost Airline, they beat both sides handily.  But that combination of being a people business acting in the interest of serving people and their needs seems to be getting in the way of leadership at Southwest succeeding.

Or, rather, making names for themselves.

Southwest has finally become a teenager and what’s worse, it doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.  I expect this airline to grow rockier with time.

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Delta fires a shot at United and Southwest in . . . California

August 5, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service | 1 Comment

Delta Airlines has announced an hourly shuttle between Los Angeles and San Francisco with 14 hourly flights per day using the Embraer E-175 aircraft with 76 seats from partner Compass Airlines.

United Airlines owns that route presently and Southwest is exceptionally strong on that route as well.  Both airlines are popular with businessmen and Delta is proposing to step on the toes of both airlines with its own shuttle.

Calling it a shuttle is good marketing. It makes it sound like something that is easier, more friendly to the business traveler.

Will they succeed?  Lots have tried to do such things in that market and failed.  Delta is big enough and strong enough and settled enough to buy the business.  It’s clear that Delta does not respect its competitors in this area and that puts both United and Southwest in a tough spot.

War got declared and now both of those airlines have to respond or likely lose significant market share and, most importantly, significant revenue.   The truth is that 5 years ago, I would have predicted success at defending the market by both incumbents.  Today, I’m not sure United has the focus to go to work to defend itself and I’m not sure that Southwest has the fire in its belly to defend itself.  Southwest is getting complacent.

Only time will tell but it should be interesting to watch.

 

 

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Lost Luggage

July 10, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service | 2 Comments

So, Southwest lost my luggage.  Actually, I believe they got lazy with my luggage.   My flight into Love Field arrived a few minutes before midnight and we all trudged through the old section of the terminal to get to the makeshift baggage claim where we all waited for our bags.

Until several of us discovered our bags weren’t there.  Curiously, it appeared that among us, most missing bags had come from the East Coast.

There was a section of baggage being supervised by SWA staff between the two makeshift baggage claims.  I went over there to check on the location of my bag because I thought there might be a chance my bag went ahead of me.  You see, when I got to St. Louis that night, I noticed that an earlier flight to Dallas (Flight 110) was leaving late and I wondered if the bright purple transfer tag with DAL on it wouldn’t have caused my bag to transfer quicker than myself.

But when I handed my claim ticket over and asked the staffer to check around for my bag, I got “You need to go to the office and file a claim.  That bag ain’t here.”

I was fascinated by the fact that she knew this despite there being 100 bags give or take in the area.  This woman had all the bag claim checks memorized for those bags.

Next I went to the bag claim office and when it was my turn, I was asked what they could do for me.  Again, I handed over my claim ticket and asked that they find my bag.  This staffer, without saying anything else just started typing.  Then she asked for my driver’s license.  Now, I’m kind of weird about handing over stuff just because someone asks for it.  Particularly identification and credit cards.

“Why do you need my license?”  I asked.

“Do you want us to find your bags?”  She responded harshly.

So, I don’t do snippy very well when I am  overtired and I have been patient for the day.   I explained (firmly) to the staffer that I did want my bags found and that my question as to her purpose for my driver’s license was not inappropriate whatsoever.  She responded that she wanted to get my information for getting the bag back to me in slightly less snippy tones and I gave it to her.

Then I asked:  ”So, is my bag lost?”

She looked at me blankly and I repeated:  ”Is my bag lost?  Does Southwest not know the location of my bag?”

“Yes, it’s lost”, she replied.

“Then tell me it’s lost before acting as if I should just blindly follow your lead.  It would also be nice to hear an apology for misplacing it.”  I stated.

“Do you even want me to find your bag sir?” said the staffer.

I really don’t do snippy well when your company has lost my bag and then behaves as if I am the inconvenience.  That’s when I asked for her supervisor.  Her supervisor sent her to get a can of water and curiously 2 police officers showed up.  As soon as they did, I hit “record” on my iPhone.

Before any of you attempt to lecture me on privacy laws, recording that conversation is absolutely legal in the state of Texas and most anywhere else.  It’s a public conversation.  However, Texas also has one party consent.  It was legal so don’t send me messages about this.

The agent finished her work on getting my info, printed a one page form and then kind of blew me off.  At this point, it’s worth explaining something:  I was not upset in the least about my bag having got lost.  Well, maybe a tiny bit but not really much at all.  Bags get lost.  In almost all situations, they are returned in a very timely manner.  There was nothing in mine that was essential or valuable.  I was highly confident that it would be found early the next day at the worst.

But I do not like to be treated as an inconvenience when an airline has made the mistake.  There is a culture among airlines that has them pushing off the problems created by the airline onto customers.  I don’t buy into that and I very much do hold the airline responsible for its part.  They are getting paid hundreds of dollars for a service.  Airlines have a particularly bad habit of turning lost baggage customers into ugly stepchildren in the process.

I was really not worried about this issue at first because it was, after all, Southwest Airlines.  A business that is, first and foremost, customer centered.

Except when they lose a bag these days.  In that case, they are a defensive legacy airline acting hostile towards its customer.

I waited to speak to the agent’s supervisor and I explained that I was disappointed about how I was treated but that I was not particularly concerned about the bag.  I told her that it is very important to simply say “We lost your bag and we’re very sorry about that.  We will do all that we can to reunite it with you as soon as possible.”

They say the first step to fixing things is admitting you have a problem.

In the supervisor’s case, she wasn’t quite ready to admit a problem.  I find it disappointing that at the end of a long day, my chosen airline had staff acting like American Airlines instead of Southwest.  It does point to a trend I’ve seen with Southwest over the past 2 years and I do wonder if Southwest is losing its customer-centric culture.

Now, I did get a phone call at 8:10am the next morning from Southwest saying they had my bag in Dallas and offering to deliver it immediately or in the evening.  That person was acting like she was all over the problem and very motivated to make something happen.  And she did.  My bag was delivered that night by 9pm by my choice and I was plenty happy.

My bag did not even get on my plane in Newark.  I find that particularly sad since I arrived at the Newark airport about 90 minutes before my scheduled departure and checked it at the curb when I arrived at the airport.  Southwest had about 85 minutes to get that bag on the aircraft and by all appearances, they may not have even tried hard.

Instead, they sent it on a late night flight from Newark to New Orleans.  The bag was then transferred to an extremely early flight from New Orleans to Dallas arriving at 7:25am the next morning.  Clearly someone had thought this through in terms of routing.  This was a “least impact” route.

I strongly suspect that some bags were kept off my airplane for weight purposes.  After all, it was a 737-700 with 143 seats that were crammed full with a full complement of overhead luggage and a full complement of checked bags.  If so, double shame on Southwest.  If not, then Southwest was just lazy.

Some time ago, American Airlines used to weight restrict its flights from Chicago to Dallas and vice versa on their MD-80′s.  If you flew from Chicago to Dallas mid-day, your luggage didn’t show up with you quite often.  It came about 4 or 5 flights later on a flight that wasn’t full.  American Airlines did this because their aircraft were weight restricted with the heat and full loads of fuel required.

I hated that behavior then and I would hate it now.  But I will never know for sure what happened.  That’s OK.

As for Southwest . . . well, if they were to challenge my account of my interaction with their agents, I would welcome them to come over to my home and listen to my recording.  It would save them from a very embarrassing moment.  It would not be wise to issue some announcement saying the had investigated and the passenger was treated appropriately.  Calling those cops over was overkill and certainly not due to me yelling or screaming.  I did neither.   The police officers were curious about SWA’s behavior too.  They were in a good mood and one of them followed me out to the curb where I waited for a parking van to pick me up.  We had a short and pleasant conversation.  He was genuinely curious to know what had SWA so worked up.  That makes me wonder why the baggage agents were so afraid.

Was it because they had done this to way too many people already that day and they knew that many were very angry over missing bags?

That recording will stay private unless necessary to refute the airline.

It was not a happy experience that night at Love Field.  It wasn’t exactly a one-off experience.  It didn’t feel like a one-off experience because I did not encounter one cranky agent.  I encountered 4 of them.  It used to be that if an agent did such a thing at Southwest, the other agents would pull them aside and tell them to get it together.  That definitely didn’t happen that night.

Would I recommend against checking your bags now?  Nope.  I think you are a fool if you’re carrying luggage onboard with you.  If you want to be a fool, go be a fool.  But in over 3 million miles flown, that was just the 2nd time I’ve had a bag misplaced.  Both times the bags were located and effectively in the right city in 8 hours or less.

Would I recommend against Southwest?  Nope.  But they go on the watchlist now.

I would point out to Southwest one very important thing:  They were not the cheap flight when I booked that trip.  United Airlines was the cheaper flight and it was non-stop.  But I chose Southwest for the superior customer service experience.  A few more incidents like that and it won’t make sense to book Southwest.  I can move on to another airline or just go with the cheapest.  If I’m going to be abused, I may as well be saving money while I’m being abused.

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Taking Southwest

July 9, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service, Travel Hints | No Comments

I advocate using Southwest quite a bit on this blog and my trip to New Jersey last week was an excellent example of why.  No muss, no fuss.  Check in was fast (I use Early Bird Check In) and the new terminal at Love Field is fantastic.

My flight to St. Louis was fast and uneventful and ditto from St. Louis to Newark.  It was efficient and pleasant and I was reminded twice just how nice the seats are on SWA compared to other airlines.

My trip home had some issues.  In the grand scheme of delays in Newark, mine wasn’t bad.  Some thoughts on that experience.

When a tarmac delay is absolutely, positively unavoidable, keep those window shades closed.   We pulled over into a waiting area and as soon as the captain announced we would be sitting for an hour or more, window shades snapped upwards.  I got up and met the flight attendant in mid-aisle and explained that I wasn’t looking for trouble but that I wrote the Flying Colors blog and recommended that she ask passengers to close those blinds again to avoid heat.  To her credit, she responded that it was a good idea and immediately did so.  As a result, by the time we did taxi, I was actually a bit chilly rather than over heated.  But I do wonder why that wouldn’t be a flight attendant’s first move anyway.

It’s clear to me that SWA is becoming more corporate and less people and that struck home when I sat in a cabin for 1+ hours with nary a peep from flight attendants or pilots on what was going on.  Even if you announce that it will be an hour wait, keep talking.  It helps.  It really does help.  People don’t feel forgotten.

Be very careful about your reasons for sitting.  The captains announced that they were told to hold.  Then they sat in a hold area for about 75 minutes or more not including taxi time (which can be considerable at Newark Liberty airport) and then took off on a new flight plan that had us ducking north considerably to avoid storms. See, right there, I know that the dispatchers loaded a lot of extra fuel and knew there would be a hold.  What if someone like me figures out the truth and calls y0u on it?  Just tell the truth SWA.  Tell your passengers that you had to board everyone and move out of the way and that you’ll be doing everything necessary to make people comfortable during the wait.  Don’t get caught in fibs.

I still know of no airline that can move planes into and out of gates as well as Southwest can.  While I watched their ops in St. Louis, I saw some old school SWA moves on the airplane dance that even today manage to impress me.  They had one flight depart for Baltimore and another came into the gate all in about 90 seconds.  Very well done.

All the nice business select seats with USB ports for charging?  Not a one that I tried actually would charge.  Not a single one.  I tried 4 rows of 3 seats each without any luck.  That’s just poor form.

I think that some people are taking advantage of Southwest’s bending over backwards to be accommodating.  I watched 4 people board in Newark from wheelchairs.  A husband and wife proved to be exceptionally able bodied in St. Louis and a third man miraculously found his ability to walk from the vicinity of gate 20 all the way down to around gate 5 and back.  I’m not saying for sure there was fraud going on but I will say that it is possible I witnessed a healing if some kind of fraud wasn’t going on.

Row 44:  One More Time I must say that Southwest has *got* to get on the ball and get this onto all of its aircraft.  This is a killer app that they should be using to their advantage and I observed . . . nothing.  No one even invited me to use it in the pre-departure briefing.  Hey Southwest!  I’ll endorse your Row 44 Wifi any day you want but you’ve got to get moving on that product.  You’ve had more than enough time to get it out there into the fleet.  There is money being left on the table here.

I tried the new seating that SWA is deploying onto its aircraft.  It’s not horrible.  It’s superior still to AA seating that I’ve experienced.  It is thinner and it is a touch less comfortable for that reason.  It’s also ever so slightly more narrow and that bothered me.  It wasn’t quite tight but it was pretty snug.  The seats also sit lower than the old ones and I suspect that’s to create the illusion of the seat pitch not changing.  Well, it didn’t change.  It’s not bad but it’s a bit of a downgrade and that makes me sad.

That said, it’s also the best “thin” seating I’ve experienced.  Thin seating is the new reality so I’ll still prefer SWA seats but not quite as much as I used to.

Southwest flight attendants continue to deliver a pretty consistent experience.  I find myself sympathizing with them a lot because they have to spend a great deal of the boarding time explaining to people why their Whopper Bag can’t go up into the overhead compartment and will have to be gate checked.

I watched at least 14 bags get gate checked on my return home and I think Southwest would be wise to start telling people at check in and prior to boarding that if they’re in the “C” group, they would be very wise to check their bag. Chances are, it isn’t going to fit and they’ll have to make the Walk of Shame up to the front of the aircraft to send it down below.

In the last few years, all but one flight I’ve taken was 100% full.  Most of those flights are on Southwest.  When I say 100% full, I mean just that.  100% full is actually not desirable and I think that Southwest needs to move more 737-800 aircraft into the system pronto.  I also think that Southwest needs to work a touch harder at earning a profit in light of the exceptional load factors being experienced.

Tomorrow, a story about Southwest that isn’t quite as positive.  I’m waiting because I want to see how Southwest performs today right to the end.  I’ll give you a hint though.

It involves me, 4 baggage agents, 2 police officers and about 22 minutes of recorded interaction with those people over a behavior.

 

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SWA Row 44

July 8, 2013 on 12:00 am | In Airline Service | No Comments

SWA’s Row 44 Wifi is shockingly good. This is my first time using it and I find it way, way better than GoGo.

Now I wonder why this is still not on all aircraft because this is literally the first time I’ve been able to try it out.

SWA is likely not pushing it much since availability still remains iffy. But they should be deploying this rapidly and shouting about it often.

It’s a superior experience and I think businessmen would listen.

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Stuck On A Plane V

July 7, 2013 on 7:40 pm | In Airline Service | No Comments

My connection is chasing me out of Boston. This should be fun. I wonder if DAL has a curfew. I can’t remember.

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Stuck On A Plane IV

July 7, 2013 on 7:05 pm | In Airline Service | No Comments

We took off about 17 minutes ago. Not the worst experience but I hate that fibs got told.

This airline is losing its advantage in giving up its honesty and clarity. It is hiding just like the others.

But I’m on my way and let’s hope I have a connecting flight in STL to get home on.

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Stuck On A Plane III

July 7, 2013 on 6:22 pm | In Airline Service | 2 Comments

The announcement ignored the fact that you pushed this plane with enough fuel to sit on the Tarmac for hours.

You pushed from the gate knowing what was going on. You wouldn’t have the taxi fuel otherwise. You wanted that gate.

And for that, I lose respect for you SWA. You became AA with that move.

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Stuck On A Plane II

July 7, 2013 on 6:14 pm | In Airline Service | No Comments

1 hour and not a peep from our cockpit. It’s not hot. Actually, it cool now. But it is long past time for an update.

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Stuck On A Plane

July 7, 2013 on 5:42 pm | In Airline Service | No Comments

When you are stuck on Tarmac with an announcement that it will be an hour or more, urge the flight attendant to request that the window shades be pulled down so people stay cool.

If you are lucky, they’ll listen.

I’ll deal with your fib later, Southwest. It was a bad one.

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Neeleman and jetBlue

July 2, 2013 on 10:41 am | In Airline Service | No Comments

Businessweek has a story about former jetBlue CEO David Neeleman being interested in perhaps purchasing jetBlue in the near future.  Neeleman denies interest in purchasing jetBlue but it does bring up a subject that I find interesting.

jetBlue is the airline that could and did but no longer does.  After 6 years, I cannot point to this airline as entity that shows much opportunity for growth and which  certainly seems to put in rather poor results for such a young entity with nominally good partnerships. It isn’t that the airline performs at a loss.  It’s that the airline just kind of coasts on what is arguably very good times for airlines.

Growth continues to be focused on the congested cities of the north and the Caribbean and when they do add the odd midwestern city, they do so very timidly.  It’s not as if this airline is proceeding at its own pace and with deliberate design.  It’s as if it is creeping around the United States looking for the odd piece of low hanging fruit desperate not to be noticed by a Big Bad Legacy Airline.

That’s no way to run an airline and particularly not in the upper Northeast Corridor.

I think it would be great to see David Neeleman buy jetBlue and do something bold with it again.  I also think that David Neeleman could do better by starting another airline in the US and allowing jetBlue to muddle along.  Neeleman seems to correctly sense that the airline has a sickness that won’t be easy to cure.

 

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Oh The Horror: TurboProps in Fairbanks

June 19, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service | No Comments

Alaska Airlines is being excoriated by Alaska residents primarily in Fairbanks for switching their flights between their fair city and Anchorage over to Bombardier Q400 turboprops.   No more jet service.

I have a few words for Fairbanks residents:  Alaska Airlines just did you a big favor.

Fairbanks is likely to get more frequency on flight segments where it will take absolutely no longer to fly the segment.  The Q400 is made for such service and it can provide it reliably and, most importantly, at lower cost than the 737.

Flight durations won’t change.  Dispatch reliability won’t change.  Frequencies will go up.  How is that bad?

Fairbanks will retain jet service to Seattle and Portland, Oregon and it will keep jet service on one 747-400 Combi flight between Fairbanks and Anchorage.

There appears to be a perception that these aircraft are dramatically noisier than the 737.  They are not.  There is also a perception that they cannot climb very high.  They can climb quite high.  Each aircraft can climb as high as one would ordinarily want to climb on a flight segment that short.

There is a perception that the Q400 isn’t good in mountain turbulence.  Those in Fairbanks should observe that all the flights between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington are in the Q400 directly over mountain ranges.

There is a perception that weather will be a real issue for passengers.  Possibly for a small number.  Possibly and depending on whether or not Alaska Airlines makes accomodations for its passengers (I think they’ll handle special circumstances just fine.)   Let me also point out that the climates in both Anchorage and Fairbanks aren’t exactly North Pole-like.   It can get very cold there during storms and winter months.  About the same as what is seen in International Falls, Minnesota where they fly turboprops in and out of all year round.

There is a perception that turboprops are more prone to icing.  They are not.  The altitudes in which icing occur are altitudes that both the 737 and the Q400 spend about the same amount of time in.  Both have anti-icing features and they work well.

And I want to point out one more thing:  Fairbanks city population is 31,000 people.  The entire metropolitan area is 97,500 people.  Waco, TX has 125,000 city population and 235,000 metropolitan population.  Waco doesn’t get 737 aircraft either.  In fact, Fairbanks is roughly equivalent to Sherman, TX in population sizes and Sherman, TX doesn’t even get commercial air service.  Take a minute to go lookup Sherman, TX and we’ll wait until you’re done.

Anchorage – Fairbanks sees about 11 flights a day in aircraft ranging in size from a small 30 seat turboprop to a large 737-400 with 144 seats.  ERA Aviation is flying the same class of turboprop between the two cities multiple times per day with zero problems.

So, basically, there is no problem here.  Just pride over issues that don’t exist.

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The airline really blew it.

May 21, 2013 on 10:27 am | In Airline Service | No Comments

A couple boarded an airline flight on Turkish Airlines to fly from Los Angeles to Dakar, Senegal via Istanbul.  Instead of arriving in Dakar (which uses the airport code DKR), they arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh (which uses the airport code DAC).

Turkish Airlines issued tickets/boarding passes for Dhaka.  Yes, the passengers did board the wrong flight but I’ll throw them a bone in that Dhaka and Dakar are too simlar to be easily distinguished verbally or even in written form when traveling internationally.

The passengers were taken to Dakar and their luggage caught up with them 2 days later but . . . this just shouldn’t have happened.  Their passenger reservation record should have indicated their destination adequately and the only thing I can think happened was that a gate agent just blew it.  I suspect I may know where, too.

I think the original mistake happened in Los Angeles when these people were checking in for their flight.  It’s just the kind of mistake that could be made in the United States.

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Alaska Airlines goes to its partners

May 9, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline News, Airline Service | No Comments

Alaska Airlines is adding flights to hubs of its major partners from Portland, Oregon and I think this is long overdue.

Seattle has been Alaska Airlines’ “hub” but Portland, Oregon has always contributed a major portion of traffic to Alaska.

Since Delta’s pull back from Dallas / Fort Worth, there have been no non-stop flights between Portland and Dallas / Fort Worth.  That is American Airlines’ domain.

In addition, Delta “owns” all the flights between Portland and Atlanta.

Alaska Airlines will be able to provide the Alaska Airlines experience both to its own passengers as well as both AA and DL who codeshare with Alaska Airlines.  It’s a good fit all around and Portland has missed having such flights for a long time.

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Southwest’s CMO muddies the picture

May 6, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline News, Airline Service, Frequent Flier | No Comments

In a Forbes online story, Southwest Airlines Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Krone finally tried to answer the question many of us have been wondering:

What’s up with the generic TV commercials?

Apparently it is about being Southwest Airlines but not the old Southwest Airlines but, actually, connected to the old Southwest Airlines while remembering that they’re different now but, in fact, they aren’t because they’re still being a disruptor even if they aren’t trying to win leisure passengers but, rather business passengers now despite that being their business model 40 years ago.

Yeah, I’m confused too.

I have seen this over and over and over again:  Change for change’s sake.

Southwest isn’t trying to win.  It’s newly minted Vice President Whiz Bangs are trying to find a way to make a name for themselves instead of being stewards in running one of the most successful airlines in aviation history.

Since when is Southwest not interested in that incremental passenger called the leisure traveler?  It’s those incremental passengers that often earn the profit on a flight.

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International Bright Young Thing

May 5, 2013 on 1:00 am | In Airline Service, Airports, Mergers and Bankruptcy | No Comments

100 points if you know the title reference.

Southwest Airlines is making incremental progress towards going international with steps like instituting flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico and rebuilding Houston Hobby Airport into an international gateway.

Some think that San Juan is international travel.  Not so much.  It’s a US Territory but, hey, it’s in the Caribbean and many of its residents speak Spanish.

Southwest will embark on travel to Caribbean and Mexican destinations over the next 2 years as it replaces Airtran flights with its own.  To add density to those destinations, Southwest is eyeing other destinations in Central and South America that are within range of its 737-800 ETOPS aircraft and which could be served well from Houston, TX.

It’s got some things to do before that happens.  First, it needs to build that international terminal fast.  Second, it needs to build an international reservations system and it’s got Amadeus working on that part.  Sabre is working with SWA on its domestic system and while many think that Amadeus might take over SWA, I do not.

The bottleneck isn’t going to be that terminal, however.  It will be the IT systems . . . again.  Southwest still hasn’t gotten things kicked into a gear with a Big Boy reservations system that will permit it to interface with other airlines or travel systems.

More importantly, it’s time SWA rework its own website which certainly met the needs of its travelers in 1999 but it really does not now.  It’s time to build a travel site that shows the opportunities for travelers instead of being a place that continues to look “temporary” when it comes to booking a flight.

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Frontier is running

April 10, 2013 on 2:50 pm | In Airline News, Airline Service | 2 Comments

Frontier Airlines has been trying some rather weird destinations over the last year.  Weird for this airline and weird for any airline.

The airline has started flights into Trenton, NJ for instance.  Now it’s just announced Wilmington, Delaware as an alternative to Philadelphia and Baltimore’s main airports.

When a company is running around and trying very hard to go head to head with competitors, there is a problem.  Frontier has been killed in Milwaukee and has been roughed up badly in Denver, it’s home base.  Other focus cities have been discontinued but there is something more going on here.

I don’t know what this airline does anymore.

I don’t know what service level it offers, I can’t identify a market it has aligned itself with and it is getting hard to figure out where the airline flies to.  These airport choices defy explanation to me.  Wilmington, DE might seem like a decent alternative to Philadelphia until you realize that those 30 miles separating the two airports represents a significant inconvenience to most in the Philadelphia area.  It’s a matter of traffic and logistcs.  30 miles isn’t 30 minutes of travel.  It’s not even 60 minutes of travel in many cases.  It’s considerably more and people in that city don’t need more complications.

More importantly, the people of Philadelphia aren’t screaming for low fares either.  Nor is Baltimore.

How this airline is hanging on at this point defies my imagination.  The fact that Republic can’t even sell this airline says something.

I honestly believe that if David Neeleman were still running JetBlue, he would have bought both Frontier and Virgin America and merged them into a national domestic airline.  But Neeleman isn’t around and no other airline executive exists with enough vision and courage to make something like that work.

As much as I want regional mainline airlines to exist, I can’t find a good argument for Frontier at this point.  Who flies them and why do they bother?

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Turkish Airlines vs Alitialia and Aer Lingus

April 9, 2013 on 12:37 pm | In Airline Service, Deregulation, Mergers and Bankruptcy | No Comments

I like how Turkish Airlines has operated its business.  Over the past decade, the airline has transformed itself from a primarily government owned entity to a primarily private owned entity that is earning an impressive profit. Turkey has focused itself on supporting its airline business by promoting growth through the development of new airports that could serve as “Middle Eastern Hubs”.

The Turkish government has managed itself well in these economic times and considering their strong desire to enter the European Union, you have to give them credit for being aggressive.  It’s notable that they are not suffering economic crisis despite the fact that their mediterranean neighbors largely are bankrupt and in smoking heaps presently.

Turkey committed itself to modernizing how it interacted with its airlines and realized that by making themselves an attractive country for international hub operations, it would attract investment into other segments of the nation’s economy.

Contrast that to how Italy has behaved with Alitalia or Ireland with Aer Lingus.  Both of these supposedly more modern, more liberal and more free nations have worked exclusively towards protecting the employees of those airlines by propping up those airlines with support.

As a consequence, the airlines operate poorly (Aer Lingus is OK on the long haul front but that amounts to 7 aircraft presently) and are shoved around by their own unionized employees.  If someone suggests selling the airline, particularly to an aggressive company, or doing anything to improve productivity, the unions call a strike to teach the government and airline managers a lesson.

Why would anyone do business within such a framework?  The answer is that no one does.  Many may have disapproved of Ryanair taking over Aer Lingus but there would have been some pretty strong benefits to Ireland.

Alitalia is simply once again on the path to a merger with a larger, better run European airline.  Unless the Italian parliament can find a way to preserve domestic ownership without running afoul of EU regulations.

I can’t think of a government run airline or airline industry today that is running successfully.  I can think of many which are jobs programs but that’s it.  What’s crazy about this is that the countries suffer massively as a result.

Countries like Ireland, Italy, India or Argentina all suffer far worse economic impacts overall from a failure to address the “airline problem” within their countries than they benefit from providing a jobs program.  Those jobs programs are heavy concrete shoes for those nations economies and they signal that those countries aren’t prepared to do business in a fair and equitable manner.

Yet the supposedly backward and inferior Turkey and its airline get out front and decide to make something of itself.  The contrast is remarkable.

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