JetBlue Pilots Vote for ALPA Representation

Hi there everyone!

Since I essentially finished up last week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter in the wee hours, fell into bed, and was never heard from again, I figured everyone out there in non-subscriber land was due at least some kind of blog post. (Oh and thanks for all the “get better” emails. I, as you can tell, have been working hard on doing just that! Sleep and drugs. Hey, they work! I’m better!)

So instead of talking about all the great things we talked about in last week’s issue of PBB, let’s talk about the airline hot news flash from Tuesday.

As we had predicted, it was announced today that pilots at JetBlue voted heavily in favor of representation with the Air Line Pilots Association. (ALPA) The vote was announced earlier this afternoon.  The final “yes” vote was, according to tweeted comments we saw from ALPA, a “little over 71%” in favor. A press conference is scheduled for this afternoon. May be happening as I type.

There are somewhere between 2500-2700 pilots that are affected.

This is not the worst thing in the world to happen to JetBlue, although the stock took the expected hit when the news hit the wires, and management had been acting, and making comments to the effect that it would be a highly negative turn of events if their “direct” relationship with their employees was tampered with.

It’s not a highly negative turn of events. Things going forward will simply be….different.



April 19, 2014

home-typewriter copy 1Hello everyone. This week’s edition of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

There is obviously a lot more to say about this week’s issue, but I have a confession to make. I need to go to bed. Yours truly has been fighting a rather serious respiratory infection for almost two weeks, and well, my energy today has finally left the building.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more dish.

In the meantime, go hard boil some eggs or work on your Easter bonnet.

Talk to you tomorrow!


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Good evening everyone! It is that time again. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

Alas, I was supposed to be in Dublin this week, attending the CAPA “Airlines in Transition” Conference, but I came down with a rather nasty respiratory ailment before leaving Phoenix last weekend, and well, here I am. Sitting in the DFW Metromess. Today was day seven of my bout with whatever it is I have (had) and I am happy to report that I finally feel like I have turned the corner.

But in the meantime, my hot date with one of American’s new 777-300s to Heathrow had to bite the dust. Shame. Just a damn shame.

However, this is good news for subscribers, as it gave me plenty of time to write. And it was a busy week.

First, we had more updated guidance from the airlines re: 1Q14 results. We had no real changes this week, but American will come in a bit lower than expected, while Alaska upped its guidance. JetBlue will post a weak quarter, but it still appears that United Airlines will be the only U.S airline to post a loss for 1Q14. The size of the loss is the question, as there is a wide range of analyst estimates out there — even today.

We talk about the significance of the resounding “NO” vote on the proposed pilot contract at Republic Holdings this week.  Meanwhile, both SkyWest and Mesa Air Group got nice shiny new Embraer E-175s last week — the first E-175s for each airline. Mesa will be flying 30 for  United Airlines as United Express; SkyWest will be flying 40.

Meanwhile, out at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airline Symposium last week, American Airlines President Scott Kirby said that American should make a decision on who will get the rest of its E-175 flying “shortly.”

I tend to think that means Republic is going to be out of the running, given the resounding “no” vote on the pilot contract.

We talk a lot this week about the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airline Symposium. And I’ll talk about it even more in next week’s issue.

Here in the Metromess, American Airlines more or less evicted American Eagle, aka Envoy this week. Envoy will be moving its headquarters to an office building in Irving, on the Northeast side of DFW International.

American also announced a series of changes to its product offerings, and some tweaks to its frequent flyer program this week as it seeks to harmonize the operations of American and US Airways.  Actually I thought some of the changes were quite positive, but hard core Flyer Talk types were up in arms over the fact the airline had not given enough notice on some of the changes, and had not been up front about changes to some little used programs that are essentially going away.

In other news, the DOT issued its February Air Travel Consumer Report this week. United once again lagged its peers; Delta pretty much led the major group of four (except in one category) and Southwest/AIrTran continue to struggle. Alaska also turned in a very good month. And no, we won’t talk about the number of cancellations that ExpressJet endured. Or rather, that passengers on ExpressJet endured.

It’s been a cruel, cruel winter.

One airline analyst published a note last Friday in which he makes the case that it’s only a matter of time before the major airlines begin to charge for overhead bin space, as does Frontier Airlines. In this scenario, customers who purchase tickets through an OTA would be forced to pay a fee ($25) to take a rollerboard, or other overhead bin-sized carryall on board. If you purchased a ticket on an airline’s website, you would not be dinged. And of course, top tier flyers wouldn’t have to pay at all.

Is Wolfe Research analyst Hunter Keay nuts or brilliant? Or both?

We give you our take.

It was a wacky week for airline stocks for the week ending April 4 — as shares of Air Canada gained more than 40% — merely because the airline guided to better than expected 1Q14 results. Who says the concept of the airline sector being a trading sector is dead?


Finally, my thanks to Deb McElroy, VP with Airports Council International: North America. She was kind enough to invite me to present the keynote address at the organization’s yearly conference which was held this week here in Dallas. Was very cool to meet the Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, (who used to be an old advertising man, probably why I liked him) and the new head of ACI, Kevin Burke. Also always nice to see some subscribers in the crowd! (And no one complained about my “Barry White” voice!)

Anyway, you get the picture. We have a lot to talk about in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.




April 2, 2014

home-typewriter copy 1Hello earthlings. We’re coming to you a bit earlier than usual this week. Yes, yours truly is on the road. All good. Just wreaks havoc with the PlaneBusiness Banter  publishing schedule.

After I finish this, I will make my way over to the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale where this year’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airline Symposium opens up. Yours truly is moderating a panel this year, so I need to visit with my panel members tonight and make sure we know what the heck we’re going to talk about. Always a good thing.

All kidding aside, I am honored to have been asked to moderate this year. This is always a great industry conference.

Meanwhile, this week’s issue of PBB is now posted. What are we talking about this week? 1Q14 stock performance first and foremost.

It as a very strong quarter for the airline sector — but particularly the U.S. major airlines. We review how everyone did, and then we’ll take a look at some revisions in 1Q14 earnings estimates, and we take a look at Buckingham Research analyst Dan McKenzie’s latest competitive capacity analysis.

For those of you who are due proceeds from the final equity distribution of AAMRQ shares, that will take place on April 8. This last distribution will be the largest of the four — so shareholders of AAL shouldn’t get nervous if the stock price bobbles around a bit after this last distribution.

Meanwhile, we still don’t have one verifiable piece of wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Of course that has not stopped CNN from continuing its shameless, pitiful, and at times, embarrassing coverage of the missing aircraft.

We have the latest example of that for you as well. We couldn’t resist.

This week Asiana filed a response to the NTSB in regard to its fatal crash at SFO last year. Was interesting to read the airline’s attempt to blame the software in the Boeing 777 jet for the accident. I don’t think so. While it may be the case that use of auto throttle and the auto pilot in the aircraft can be a little confusing, pilots should know how the system works. They should also know when not to land, i.e., when an approach is not stabilized.

But we all know how the official NTSB investigation process works. At this point everyone is trying to jockey for position to minimize potential liability issues.

One accident we have not heard much about from the NTSB is the Southwest Airlines accident at LaGuardia last July. In fact, unlike the Asiana crash, the NTSB has not held a hearing on the accident yet. Emails sent to a press contact at the NTSB this week went unresponded to, in regard to a potential hearing date.

Hey, all this, and much, much, more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. 


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Hello all great friends and fans of the airline industry. It’s that time again. That’s right. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

This week we pick up where we left off last week with our take on this year’s ISTAT Americas Conference.  Factoid of the week: Bet you didn’t know there is an airline leasing company that only leases one kind of airplane — Airbus A380s. But there is.

Speaking of Airbus, is the manufacturer going to build an A330neo? We’ll tell you what Air Lease founder and CEO Steve Hazy had to say about this. Among other topics.

Meanwhile, it was a busy week in terms of labor pains.

First, pilots at American Eagle voted down the proposed tentative agreement with American Airlines.  We can now all watch as Eagle, aka Envoy, ends up becoming a very stagnant entity as the airline will in all probability move forward with the RFP process involving third party providers regarding new E-Jet flying.

Interestingly, we had been hearing that the vote on the TA between Republic Holdings and its pilots had been trending negatively as well. Both groups were scheduled to announce the results of the votes today.

Eagle did, but the Teamsters, who represent the pilots at Republic posted a note on their website after the Eagle vote went public, saying that voting had been extended until next Friday, as a result of a “high number of replacement ballot requests.”


Meanwhile, strikes by airport workers in Germany are making travel in that country difficult this week and pilots at Lufthansa announced they plan to hold a three day strike against the airline next week — after negotiations between the airline and the pilots union broke down. These negotiations have been going on for more than 2 years.

We have two earnings reports this week to talk about — GOL and Virgin America. GOL posted a loss for 4Q13 and Virgin America posted a profit. How ’bout that?

Look for a Virgin IPO this year.

And what about Etihad? The airline is to failing airlines what Emelda Marcos was to shoes. The airline looks like it may be writing big checks for a stake in both in Air Berlin and maybe…maybe….Alitalia? 

Meanwhile, yours truly was hanging with the big boys in New York last week as I spoke at a meeting of Tzell Travel Group. I shared the platform with Tom Klein, CEO of Sabre, and Ed Bastian, President of Delta Air Lines. Had a blast. Met some great people. Thanks to Jerry Behrens at Tzell for the invite.

Oh, and no, we don’t talk about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 this week. If you want more speculation, you can watch CNN. 

But while we don’t talk about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, we do talk about lots of other things in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter! 


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. I know. We need to stop doing this in the middle of the night.

What can I say? Had a very compressed writing schedule this week, as I was in San Diego earlier this week attending the ISTAT Americas 2014 Conference. I’ll tell you about some of the juicy tidbits we heard earlier this week. Next week — even more.

In other news, the DOT issued its January Air Travel Consumer Report this week. Horrid. We’ll tell you which airlines posted the best of the worst, and which airlines simply fell apart.

Meanwhile, pilots at American Eagle continue to vote on the TA in front of them. We talk a lot about the proposed contract in this week’s issue and tell you what we think the Eagle pilots should do.

In other news, will someone please just turn off CNN now? We talk about the positively awful continued joke that seems to be the norm now in terms of covering anything aviation related on cable news.  Especially when no one knows what really happened — but they still have to talk. About something. Even if they don’t know what in the hell they are talking about.

There were some intriguing tidbits that came from the ongoing legal fight between US Airways and Sabre this week. Thanks to our friends at TheBeat, we let you in on what those arguments were that made us perk up our ears. Or rather open our eyes. Or is it perk up our eyes and open our ears?

All of this and much, much more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter!




PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Hello everyone. Wow. What a day. Just as we posted this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter, new important information has been published concerning the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  No surprise that the latest news comes yet again from Jon Ostrower and Andy Pasztor at The Wall Street Journal

Jon and Andy, who have been the ones to break the story on this situation almost all week, just did it again as we published PBB. They have gone with a story in which they report,

“Officials suspect two different systems were shut off after the plane took off last weekend, one shortly after the other, people familiar with the investigation said. About an hour into the flight, the plane’s transponders stopped functioning, making it much more difficult for air-traffic control personnel to track or identify it via radar.

In the ensuing minutes, a second system sent a routine aircraft-monitoring message to a satellite indicating that someone made a manual change in the plane’s heading, veering sharply to the west. Such a turn wouldn’t have been part of the original authorized route programmed in the flight-management computer that controls the autopilot. Those system-monitoring messages are suspected to have been disabled shortly afterward, according to some of these people.”

This news comes after it was Jon and Andy who broke the story that there was evidence the aircraft had deviated from its original course and veered sharply west, after communications ended with civilian authorities.

I’m proud to call Jon a friend.

That’s a long way of saying — if you really want to know what is going on with this situation listen to Jon and Andy when they are on television being interviewed or read their stories. They are working the story like stories should be worked.

Okay, I’ll shut up now.

Speaking of stories, this week a lot of airline CEOs were in New York telling their stories to investors as JP Morgan held their annual airline, transportation, and industrials conference. Unlike years ago, however, they were anything but sob stories.

The biggest news for us out of the conference? No other major airline is guiding to a substantial reduction in revenues as a result of the winter weather cancellations. Except for the one we already knew about — United Airlines. 

Delta Air Lines, in fact, upped some of their guidance. American Airlines says RASM should come in between 2% and 4% as they had already guided.  Southwest said their quarter is still on track.

So the question remains — what’s the problem with United?

Speaking of, this week we welcome back contributing editor Brett Snyder, who returns with yet another Cranky Analysis. This week he looks at the Denver market. We know that Southwest now has the largest market share in the market, but have they been able to snatch any of United’s higher yielding revenue? The answer, and our look at a number of routes out of Denver surprised us.

All this, and much, much, more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. 

If you will excuse me now, I am off to San Diego for this year’s ISTAT Conference. Can’t wait to see some of our subscribers there. Have a great weekend everyone!


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Good evening everyone. Long day here today, made even longer by the distressing news this evening concerning the Malaysian Airlines 777-200 that has simply disappeared somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. Not a good sign when an aircraft such as the 777 is at cruising altitude and just drops off the radar screen. No call for help. No more transponder. No nothing.

Thirty minutes ago Malaysia Airlines Vice President of Operations Control Fuad Sharuji said on CNN’s “AC360″, “At the moment we have no idea where this aircraft is right now.”

I’m sure we’ll know more tomorrow. Er, rather, later today. (It’s already Saturday.)

In the meantime, we have lots to talk about in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.  This week we go in-depth to look at the 4Q13 earnings of Republic Holdings. Interesting call. But no surprise that a lot of the call dealt with larger industry issues — not the airline’s results.

Related to the future options for Republic’s regional operations, Friday the American Eagle ALPA MEC did a 180 degree turn and decided it was going to send out the last proposal that was made by American Airlines to the pilots directly — so that they can vote on the proposed deal.

Smart move.

Especially considering the airline, as it said it was going to do, had already sent out RFP’s to a group of regional carriers, including Republic, to operate the 60 Embraer jets promised to the American Eagle pilots if they accepted the proposal presented by the airline.  As you may recall, the ALPA MEC decided not to accept the proposal. Now, American Eagle pilots will have an opportunity to vote on the proposal. As it should be.

The boys at USAPA were up to their old tricks again this week — filing law suits and denying jumpseats to American Airlines‘ pilots. It’s that Real Men of Genius gene. Can’t be altered.

We talk about all of that, and the joint letter that the president of APA and USAPA sent out on Friday in regard to both the seniority squabble and the unfortunate jumpseat incidents.

Boeing apparently has another problem with its problem child — the 787. Jon Ostrower had the story first Friday in the Wall Street Journal. Wings. Cracks. We’ll update you on all that.

We also review a lot of earnings this week — not just Republic. We talk about the recent results from IAG, parent of British Airways; Travelport; Amadeus; Embraer, and Volaris. 

Oh, and how could we forget Delta Air Lines. The airline rolled out its new award chart this week for its revised SkyMiles program it announced the week before. You may recall the airline said it was going to do this “later this year.” Yes, well, that didn’t sit well with a lot of people. I have to say, I agree. The airline should have rolled out everything at once.

But the award chart really doesn’t answer a lot of questions, including those dealing with international travel. In addition, the airline has not said how it is going to increase or decrease award availability in each tier of the new program.

So — still very much a work in progress.

All of this and much, much more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. 


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Hello earthlings. How was your week this week? It was a fairly comfortable one here in the Metromess weather-wise, although Verizon FIOS pushed me to the limits of my patience until late Wednesday, after a Verizon networking failure prevented me from accessing a lot of sites — including! 

I just love IT failures.

Anyway, enough of my chit-chat.

This week we have a good issue. First, we take an in-depth look at the earnings reported last week by Spirit Airlines. Short and sweet? The airline posted great numbers, and 2014 is looking mighty fine. Wall Street obviously agreed, as shares of the airline that everyone claims to hate, picked up a nice double-digit gain last week.

Republic Holdings reported earnings this week. We give you the basics from their earnings report, while next week we’ll do our usual in-depth dive into the earnings call.

With that, the U.S. airline industry earnings season will officially be over.

This week we talk a lot about three hot topics — the pilot situation here in the U.S., Delta’s announcement about its new frequent flyer program that is based on amount spent, not miles; and United Airlines’ guidance bombshell the airline dropped after the close of trading Thursday.

Needless to say, we’ll give you our take on all three.

In other news, we give you a sneak peek at the fabulous new ad campaign for American Airlines’ new transcon service. We like it. A lot. As a retro fan that believes a company’s heritage and how it got to where it is is incredibly valuable — from a marketing standpoint — I think the blend of old and new used in the campaign is brilliant. It almost, ALMOST, makes me not hate the tail so much.

It was a good week for airline stocks last week, but this week is not going to end on such a positive note. As we talk about in this week’s issue, it remains to be seen how much of United’s bigger-than-expected revenue drop in January was due solely to weather, or if the airline is still having revenue management issues. We’ll begin to put the pieces together as other airlines begin to give better guidance for the quarter in the next two weeks.

All of this, and more, in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. 


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Hello everyone. This week’s edition of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted!

This week we talk again about the regional/major airline business model and why it’s broken. Meanwhile, after the American Eagle pilots said no to the proposed TA with American Airlines, pilots at Republic Holdings finally came to terms on a tentative agreement.  A coincidence? We think not.

Then there is SkyWest. We talk at length this week about the airline’s recent 4Q13 earnings release and analyze the airline’s earnings call. Long and short? I think the excuses for the  ExpressJet operation have run their course. As analyst Helane Becker suggested last week, perhaps it is finally time to pull the plug on the ExpressJet operation which has never been profitable since SkyWest acquired it.

We take a long in-depth look at the 4Q13 results from Air Canada this week as well. What a mess those were. We didn’t see the improvements in CASM and RASM the airline promised last quarter, and the margin performance we saw in 3Q13 evaporated in 4Q13. Meanwhile, WestJet, as we talked about last week, continues to make what we believe are strategically beneficial tweaks to their original LCC model.

Meanwhile, the Real Men of Genius are back. Yep. The union that represents the fractured group of pilots at US Airways, USAPA, is back and up to stupid tricks again. We get you up to speed on their latest antics this week — although our patience for such things has about run its course.

It was a decent week for airline stocks last week, although shares of both Air Canada and Bombardier fell off the cliff. Meanwhile, we share the latest “Question of the Week” results from Morgan Stanley’s latest institutional investor poll concerning United Airlines. 

A little bit of this. A little bit of that. And more. All in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.