Monthly Archives: January 2011

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Good evening everyone.

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. Subscribers can access this week’s 80-plus page issue here.

It’s that time of year. Yep. Earnings time.

This week we have our in-depth look at the earnings calls and our PlaneBusiness Earnings Summaries for Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.

If you are wondering why it was that airline stocks took a header last week — it was not because of higher oil prices. It was because Wall Street was not overly impressed by the earnings posted by Delta, or Southwest — much less American Airlines.

American, once again, is slated to be the only major airline which will not post a profit for the quarter — much less the year.

In the case of Delta, analysts were disappointed by the airline’s revenues, and by the fact the airline says, at least for now, that it intends to keep its existing plans for capacity growth intact.

Southwest Airlines also warned that revenue “head winds” are going to be tough in the first quarter and a profit for that airline for the first quarter is “iffy” if you look across the sector analysts’ current estimates. The airline also forecast a rather sharp increase in costs for the first quarter.

As for American, I don’t know where to start. As I tell my subscribers in more detail, I think the AMR earnings call was an embarrassment. Add that to the fact that the airline continues to lose money and we heard nothing whatsoever in the airline’s call in regards to a specific plan to turn the airline around and …..it’s pretty ugly.

Meanwhile, on the American/GDS War frontline, American and Sabre called a truce Monday. Not unexpected. I was surprised when Sabre threw its hissy fit and pulled American’s fares from its GDS. No way Sabre’s customers were going to let this situation remain in effect.

Truce is officially until June 1 — we’ll see something negotiated between the two before then.

American also announced a new deal with Priceline, which allows Priceline to use the airline’s new “Direct Connect” product. (And yes, this deal was announced before the truce with Sabre, which leads me to believe it was done to push Sabre back to the table — which is what happened.)

US Airways also announced a new deal with another OTA, Expedia, but that deal uses the more traditional GDS method of delivery. It will allow Expedia to market “seat choice” options and other goodies though.

Meanwhile, we did our own little test today of what showed up and at what price when I Iooked up fares between Dallas and LGA on both Expedia and Priceline. That was a fun experiment.

Our new “Retro” feature this week takes us back to 1994, and British Airways. And the billion dollars plus it invested in airlines such as USAir, TAT, and Deutsche BA. That strategy really didn’t work out too well for the airline, did it?

But enough of all this fun and frivolity. This week the emphasis is on earnings. Next week, we’ll be taking a gimlet-eyed view of United/Continental, US Airways, Alaska, and JetBlue -- all of whom report this week.

Speaking of Alaska Airlines — did they not blow the doors off in the fourth quarter or what? I remain tremendously impressed with the airline. I like the decision to de-brand Horizon as well.

But that’s for next week.

Meanwhile, all the rest — and more! — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1.jpg

Hello everyone.

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. Subscribers can access it here.

This week we have a pretty good issue. Always takes us a week to get back in the groove after the holidays, and this week I think we have a little bit of something for everybody.

No question that the thrill of new metal hung over the industry last week as Delta Air Lines told its employees it is looking at new aircraft options. While Continental/United did not tell its employees that it too has been checking its bank balances and kicking some tires, industry sources confirm that yes, this is also the case.

Then there was that obscene order placed by IndiGo Airlines — based in India. It was, according to Airbus, the largest commercial aircraft order ever place. A whole slew of A320s, including a nice stable of the new “neo” flavor A320. You know, the ones with the more efficient engine.

But Airbus didn’t stop there. Oh no, they are clearly in their “Let’s Hammer The Boys at Boeing” mode as they also announced a new A320 order from Virgin America. One that also, conveniently, was signed at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 29. (I’m making up the part about the stroke of midnight, but I’m probably not that far off.)

The result of all this? Airbus looks to now have a nice solid start to its “neo” program, and oh yes, the Virgin order pushed Airbus past Boeing in the all-important testosterone-fueled exercise called, “Who sold more airplanes in “________.” Fill in the year.

For 2010, it looks like Airbus nosed out Boeing, 644 to 625.

Not surprisingly, given all this hoopla about new metal, Steve Hazy’s Air Lease Corp. filed its S-1 with the SEC last week. Translation: They are going to do an IPO.

Of course the American Airlines/GDS cat fight continued last week, with one very interesting new tidbit. In last week’s PlaneBusiness Banter I talked with subscribers about how I wondered if there was not more going on between American and ITA than met the eye.

Well, looks like I was right, as American announced a new deal with ITA (American is already a client) for a nice chunk of work with American’s new IT overhaul — which is being spearheaded by HP.

We update subscribers on all the latest GDS related news, and we also share a guest column this week from Montie Brewer, ex-Air Canada CEO. He gives us his take on the GDS/airline situation. (Yeah, I know. Bet you can’t guess which side of the fence he’s on.)

We also have a longish Market Review this week. We bring subscribers up to speed with the latest research reports from three analysts — Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter with JP Morgan; Glenn Engel with Bank of America and Dan McKenzie with Hudson Securities.

All three have different takes — and different things to say — and in the case of Glenn, he gives us part three of his ongoing research series in which he compares airlines on the basis of revenue and cost per plane. None of the usual RASM, CASM stuff. His first two reports last year covered revenues of the major and regional carriers. This latest report covers the costs of the major carriers.

Interesting way to look at the same numbers.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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We’re baaack!

Hello everyone. It’s that time again. Time for the first issue of PlaneBusiness Banter in 2011.

What topics are front and center for our first issue of the year?

Airline stocks.

Which airline stocks outperformed the group for 2010? I’ll say this — it was a great year for those who took the plunge and invested in the sector. We had four stocks we cover post gains of more than 100%, with one almost hitting a 200% return mark. The vast majority of stocks we track posted double-digit gains for the year. Only a handful ended up in the negative category.

We also talk about fourth quarter stock performance. Looking at the quarter, we had a somewhat different picture — as lo and behold — a US regional airline took top honors for the quarter. Which airline pulled off that feat?

But we are not just talking stocks.

No, we are talking a lot about American Airlines and its efforts to single-handedly dismantle the distribution system that the airlines have used since, well, American Airlines and its then subsidiary Sabre, developed the first GDS system. Many years ago.

Over the Christmas holidays, there were a number of happenings on this front. We’ll update you on those, and give you our take on what is eventually going to happen, and why we also think the timing of American’s push to put its Direct Connect system in place might have been, well, ill-timed.

Then again, throw in the planned merger of Google and ITA — and maybe it isn’t that badly timed.

I know. It’s confusing. That’s what makes it so interesting to talk about. There are way too many angles to consider — depending on whether you are an airline, a passenger, or a travel agent.

But make no mistake about it — airlines want more control over their inventory, they want to know who is buying its inventory, and they don’t want to pay a third party to facilitate the sale of that inventory.

American Airlines got its hand slapped last week by the NTSB, after someone in Tulsa apparently downloaded the contents of the flight recorder that was on the Boeing 757 that slid off the runway in Jackson Hole.

The NTSB was not happy.

Meanwhile, the airline and its flight attendants met last week with the NMB — in an attempt to get contract negotiations back on track. Both sides left unhappy.

I don’t think this union is going to be happy unless they go to a strike.

And then — there is the weather. Airlines are already putting out estimates of how much the rotten weather in December cost them. This week? Another winter storm is causing mayhem across the South and in the Northeast.

Oh, you know. We talk about all this — and more — in this week’s issue.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.