Tag Archives: airline unions

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we talk a lot about what all the folks from the airlines were talking about last week as they made their way up to New York and the JP Morgan Transportation Conference.

All the usual suspects were there, including United/Continental, US Airways, JetBlue, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

It was a little preview of sorts of first quarter earnings, which are, in case you haven’t kept up, are right around the corner. In fact, the first quarter ends Thursday.

I know. Where did it go?

It was fun to listen to Jeff Smisek talk about the “new” United. As I tell subscribers, the more he talked, the more it simply sounded like the “old” Continental to me. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Gary Kelly talked a lot about what Southwest has been trying to do for the last five years, and what it hopes to accomplish in the next two years. He also uttered that positively horrible phrase when talking about the AirTran deal. Yes…he talked about “harvesting those synergies.”

Aaaaaccccck!

Meanwhile the folks at Delta Air Lines were reassuring investors that yes the revenues have been a little on the low side (speaking of those elusive synergies) but that the airline was going to concentrate this year on improving them.

As for American, the airline didn’t announce any further capacity cuts at the conference — an omission that had one Wall Street analyst fuming last week.

Then there was US Airways’ President Scott Kirby. He said in New York that he saw revenue strength during the first quarter that was stronger than he has ever seen during his career.

That’s saying something.

Aside from the presentations in New York, we take a good look this week at the cash/revenues ratio for the major US airlines we track on a regular basis. It’s interesting to see who ends up above the average line and who ends up below. And what is more remarkable is the wide variance between the airline with the worst cash/revenue performance and the airline that posted the best for 2010.

Airline stocks also had a pretty good week last week. Except for shares of Air Canada, which took the Goat of the Week award.

In other news we talk about the FAA reauthorization bill that is now set for a House vote this week, and the latest critical analysis that looks at the DOT’s three-hour rule and why it isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Alaska Airlines suffered a nasty computer outage Saturday. That was not good. But as we discuss at length, the airline dealt with the problem in a superb manner. Kudos to the airline for a great job in terms of keeping customers informed and in the loop.

As usual, there is all this and more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello to all on what is a drop-dead gorgeous Tuesday morning here in the DFW Metromess.

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

So what are we talking about this week? Well, considering we are headquartered in that hotbed of aviation, Dallas Ft. Worth, we talk a lot this week about the recent British invasion. Oh, that’s right. Virgin America is, er, an American company.

It was easy to forget that last week as Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin marketing machine touched down in DFW.

Yes, Virgin America launched its new service to DFW. We give you our take on the festivities.

In addition, in my column this week I take a long look at two similar and intertwined airlines — JetBlue and Virgin America.

In other news, we have a copy of the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau’s preliminary report on the Rolls-Royce uncontained engine failure on Qantas Flight 32. Let me put it this way — if there were any doubts before, it’s pretty clear Rolls-Royce has a big problem with the Trent 900 engine. Particularly the version Qantas is using on its aircraft. And yes, that particular flavor of 900 is a different configuration than the one Singapore and Lufthansa uses.

We include two of the photos from the report in this week’s issue. Not a pretty sight.

In other news, the International Air Transport Association announced that Cathay’s CEO will be taking over the helm there next year. This means we’ll have two new mouthpieces at the helm of the two biggest airline trade groups in 2011.

Fallout from the national election continues to trickle down through the industry. This week we saw shares of FedEx lead the group as analysts upgraded shares. Granted, one of the reasons shares were upgraded is an increase in industrial productivity — but the fact that proposed legislation that would have made it easier for FedEx drivers to unionize is now probably toast — a result of the changes in Washington — certainly is at play here as well.

Speaking of Wall Street, oil prices hit their highest point in more than two years on Friday. Monday, they were up again.

Not good news for those things with wings that drink millions of gallons of jet fuel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And what about those Spanish Air Traffic controllers? Did you folks see how much these guys make on average? Trust me. It’s more than 99% of what airline pilots make.

It’s hell when the gravy train stops.

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

Enjoy!

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello all.

Here’s hoping that all of you had a wonderful Turkey Week. I did. Although I didn’t end up with enough left-over turkey. I may have to roast another one here shortly, just so I can have leftovers to make turkey hash with.

This post-Turkey Week issue we talk about a lot of things. First, our column this week looks at Orbitz and how it got to where it is today — and why American Airlines is trying to pull its inventory from its website. I take a look at the history of the company — and how it has evolved from its humble beginnings. Ahem. You all remember those beginnings. The company was set up as the “Travelocity Terminator” — the first attempt to set up a “direct connect” OTA for the airlines that created it.

My how things change.

Of course we talk about the as-yet-to-be-announced delay for the Boeing 787, the update from Qantas on its A380 operations, and yes, we even talk about how Air France is going to once again undertake recovery operations to find the black boxes and anything else it can find from its lost Airbus in the Atlantic Ocean this coming spring.

Union talk? Of course. We follow up our issue last week with a great letter to the editor from one of our subscribers in which he touches on both the Continental/united scope “problem” and the flight attendant situation at American Airlines. In a very astute manner I might add.

Airline stocks? This week we talk about the latest from Morgan Stanley analyst Bill Greene. Mr. Greene happens to believe that there is opportunity in them there shares. Airline shares that is. Right now.

Virgin America lands in Dallas this week. Yee haw! In anticipation of Virgin’s arrival, American is offering their customers the usual heavy dose of frequent flier points on DFW flights to LA and SFO, but as I talk about this week — is this tired and true tactic still relevant?

I’m not sure. At least not in this case. The Virgin product is a nice one. And there are a whole lot of folks for whom accumulating more AAdvantage miles is not nearly as important as a nice comfy seat, cool onboard entertainment and food options, and well….that whole Virgin Vibe thing.

Oh, we talk about a lot more this week — but I need to get this posted.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here! Now!

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1.jpg We may be a little late, but hey, we made it.

I know. I can’t wait to get my tarmac rule violation bill in the mail this week from the DOT.

Hello all ;-)

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now, finally, posted. If you read my previous post here you’ll get the skinny on why we are posting on Wednesday night. An addendum to that post: while all the other problems were apparently fixed, now I cannot send email on my planebusiness.com account using Verizon.

At this point, I don’t care. I can take up that battle tomorrow.

In the meantime, a head’s up for PBB subscribers. We will be posting another issue of PBB either later this week or the first of next week. Yes, I was supposed to go on vacation yesterday, but because of all this Verizon mess, we were unable to complete all the material we wanted to include in this final issue for the summer.

So — the mojitos have been put on hold. The box of mint is still in the refrigerator.

We’ll be back for one more issue before we formally depart.

In the meantime however, we have a lot to talk about in this issue, including in-depth earnings reports on Republic, Hawaiian, and SkyWest. We talk a lot about the SkyWest/ExpressJet deal, and there were also more details given about SkyWest’s involvement with Air Mekong in the airline’s earnings call. We’ll update you on all that as well.

Cathay Pacific also reported earnings last week — and the airline did very, very well. More on those, in addition to the scoop on the newest low fare Asian airline — a JV between Thai and Tiger.

DAE has apparently told Airbus and Boeing that it is canceling 50 aircraft that had been included as part of the company’s eye-popping $27 billion order spending spree at the Dubai Air Show two years ago. Reality has apparently come to the Middle East. Or at least one part of it. There are still all those mind-numbing Emirates aircraft orders out there.

We give you the rundown on which airlines shone in the second quarter in terms of break even load factor and operating margins. And we’ll talk about those that posted rather worrisome numbers.

One hint: The same two airlines finished last and next to last in both metrics. Who were those two airlines?

And what about the Canadian airline Jazz? Why does it think it’s okay to report its quarterly numbers — absent any mention of RPMs?

We have a pretty good idea why — do you?

As always, this is just a part of this week’s issue. All this and more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

Mega Earnings Issue of PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted! — United Airlines Tague and Mikells To Leave

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Hello everyone.

This week we have a 100-plus page earnings issue of PlaneBusiness Banter for you to peruse at your leisure. And yes, at that length, it should more than take up all of your leisure time for the week. Have no fear. Next week we’ll give you another one!

This week we take in-depth looks at the recent earnings results posted by American Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

This coming week the PlaneBusiness microscope will be trained on the 2Q results of JetBlue, Alaska, AirTran, Allegiant and Southwest Airlines — which is scheduled to report its second quarter numbers on Thursday.

A couple of quick observations from the group we took a look at this week.

One, even before the formal announcement was issued this morning, it had been clear for some time that United Airlines President John Tague was not a member of the executive transition team that was going to stay with the “new” United. That fact was also crystal clear as you listened to the airline’s earnings call last week.

This morning, the airline formally announced that John, Kathryn Mikells, Graham Atkinson, and Rosemary Moore would not be staying with the “new” United.

Zane Rowe, current CFO at Continental will remain, but Pete McDonald will come over from United as COO. As for the rest of the top tier execs, including those heading up marketing, communications and HR, all will come from Continental. And of course, Jeff Smisek will be CEO.

We told you so. From the beginning.

Back to earnings.

Of this group, there was clearly one airline that posted earnings above and beyond — that airline was US Airways. In fact, while the airline’s numbers were great as they were, the airline would have seen their EPS figure come in 8 cents higher — had the airline chosen to classify a refund from the TSA as regular income — not a special item. (As some airlines chose to do, including United Airlines.)

The airline posted one great quarter. On a number of fronts. It managed to stash a nice chunk of cash as well.

As for United and Continental, it’s really kind of pointless to talk about them as viable standalones at this point because the merger looms in the background. In terms of potential stock investments — I’d say all bets are off here until after the actual merger is much further along.

Delta Air Lines, which was the subject of our last non-PBB post here in PlaneBuzz had a nice quarter, and yes, the comments it made about guidance and its fourth quarter increase in capacity were way overblown.

All of that capacity hysteria was so yesterday.

Good quarter for the folks in Atlanta.

And finally, American Airlines trudged out its loss for the quarter last week as well.

We are once again putting American Airlines on the official PlaneBusiness Titanic Watch this week. The airline announced a number of executive changes this last week — but I’m not sure they are going to be enough to get the airline out of its self-created sinkhole.

More on all that in this week’s issue.

We also wrap up the news from Farnborough, and we talk about the legal move US Airways announced Monday, as they try to attempt to break the seniority fight log jam that exists between its pilots.

And finally — yes, we talk about the ongoing Tarmac Tales. Consulting studies, DOT rants, and all.

All this, and more — including a shot of the new Virgin Atlantic livery. Woo hoo! (We have to do something to celebrate Sir Richard’s 60th birthday.)

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello earthlings.

Subscribers to PlaneBusiness Banter can access this week’s issue here.

What are we talking about in this — our last mega-earnings issue for the quarter?

Well, obviously we’re talking about earnings. This week I grouped the three remaining regional carriers together — SkyWest, Pinnacle and ExpressJet.

While institutional investor interest in the regional sector is understandably less than enthusiastic, I still found it interesting to listen to the calls from the three airlines. Clearly SkyWest is obviously the dominant carrier of these three, and the airline ended the first quarter with more than $700 million of cash in the bank. Gotta love it.

But even SkyWest has had to become creative over the last several years — as the major airlines keep trying to cut, cut, and cut some more costs from their regional airline contracts.

Regional airlines, in turn, have been forced to get creative.

Nowhere have those efforts been more obvious in this group than with ExpressJet. The airline has dabbled in the corporate charter business, it started its own branded operation, and now it’s struggling to keep the doors open while saddled with a big chunk of convertible debt that is coming due. The airline also paid some nice fees to United Airlines — in return for United throwing some business in its direction.

As for Pinnacle, it didn’t have a particularly good quarter. CEO Phil Trenary said that it was one of the worst he had ever experienced — in terms of the weather-related costs to the airline.

Mekong Air? Heard of it? Apparently Jesup & Lamont analyst Helane Becker has as she grilled SkyWest CFO Brad Rich about the airline’s potential involvement with it.

While Brad was not forthcoming with much information, other reports suggest that SkyWest is, in fact, behind the new start-up.

In other news we talk about a lot of labor issues this week — and of course that includes the situations at British Airways, American, AirTran, and Spirit.

A reminder: The 30-day cooling off period for the pilots at Spirit ends on June 12. A strike here could be nasty — as Spirit does not have the deepest pockets on the planet.

On Wall Street it was ugly for airline stocks last week. This week hasn’t started off all that well either — although a bullish JP Morgan analyst note this morning seems to have lifted the sector. Shares of US Airways seem to be enjoying the nicest ride today — a result of both a positive comment from JP Morgan and because of a note from Avondale Partners in which analyst Bob McAdoo discusses the reasons why an American/US Airways deal would make sense.

Which reminds me. I’ll be talking a lot about mergers. And potential mergers — in next week’s issue.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

Hi guys. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

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This week we talk about round two of the British Airways strike — and about how we think Unite’s efforts are — or are not having — an effect on the airline’s operations.

Meanwhile, there is a pilot strike now scheduled against Lufthansa in two weeks. Not only are the pilots there picking up verbal support from other pilots groups worldwide, but now another airline employee group may join them on the picket line.

Did we just have an outbreak of Norovirus on an airline flight? Yuck.

WestJet’s new CEO dropped a bomb in an interview Friday with the Financial Post. Looks like WestJet isn’t going to wait on Southwest to get it’s IT act together. It’s apparently considering a codesharing agreement with Delta. Is this a good move for WestJet? We talk about it — as well as one of our subscribers who has been taking a closer look at the airline and its market opportunities.

Then there is the slot swap deal involving US Airways and Delta Air Lines. The two airlines don’t think the FAA should be involved in the deal at all. Or the DOT.

Want to take a guess as to who they think should make the decision on this proposed deal?

We have a guest columnist this week in PBB. I’m not tellin.’

Airline stocks had a great week again this week, we have the latest “Airline Question of the Week” from Morgan Stanley, and we talk about why it is Barclays is bullish on JetBlue in Beantown.

All this and more – as we all eagerly await the arrival of the Easter Bunny here at the PlaneBusiness Worldwide Headquarters later this week.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

AMR, Parent of American Airlines, Posts $375 Million Loss

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Today AMR, parent of American Airlines reported their first quarter results.

What is it they say — it’s all about managing expectations.

And in the case of American’s first quarter numbers that were released today, that is exactly what management did — as the airline had just recently warned Wall Street that its first quarter numbers might not be as strong as first expected.

As a result of that guidance, analyst forecasts were then lowered.

Previous to the airline’s announcement today, the analysts’ consensus forecast a loss of $1.62 a share.

So today, when the airline reported a loss of $375 million or $1.35 a share — the shares of the airline took a nice bounce, gaining 19% on the day, closing at $5.01.

The reason for the better-than-expected numbers? Operating costs were down a bit more than forecast and RASM declines were not as sharp as previously indicated.

American’s stock was not the only airline stock that picked up some ground today — comments the airline made in its earnings call helped push up other airline stocks as well, as CEO Gerard Arpey indicated that the airline is not seeing any “further deterioration” as those in the revenue world like to put it. But, just as Alaska Airlines indicated in an SEC filing last week, Arpey said that American is also looking at May and June bookings that are off noticeably from this same time last year. He said that May and June bookings are off by about 2 percentage points.

This percentage drop is more or less in line with what Alaska reported last week.

AMR ended the quarter with $3.3 billion in cash and short- term investments, including $462 million that is restricted.

Last Holdout to ASAP Program Participation Rejoins the Fold: APA and American Bury Their Differences

More good news today on the airline union front.

It was announced this afternoon that the pilots at American have come to terms with the company on a new Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) participation agreement.

As readers know, this issue has been a burr in my side. The ASAP program, which encourages pilots to self-report safety problems without fear of retaliation, knowledge of which can benefit pilots from all airlines, had become a “leverage” tool used by a number of airline pilot unions over the last couple of years.

As a result, pilots at American, Delta, and US Airways had stopped participating in their respective programs, citing a fear of lack of confidentiality — or potential efforts to “get back” at those employees who participated in the program.

But after pilots at Delta Air Lines rejoined the program earlier this year, following the lead of the pilots at Northwest Airlines, the FAA took a hard line stand — telling airlines and their pilot unions that were still not participating that they needed to rejoin the program, sooner rather than later.

With this news, all the major airline pilot groups are now once again participating in what is, no question, an excellent safety program that is run in conjunction with the FAA.

The pilots at US Airways had already agreed to participate in their company’s program again about two weeks ago.

Looks Like Southwest Airlines’ Pilots and the Airline Have a New Tentative Agreement

We hear from one of our Southwest Airlines‘ friends that the pilots at Southwest, who are represented by their own independent union, SWAPA, and the airline, have come to terms on a new tentative agreement.

Here is an excerpt from Carl Kuwitzky’s blog that was blasted to pilots this afternoon. Carl is the President of SWAPA.


“Last night SWAPA agreed in principle on a new five year contract with the Company through August 31, 2011. This new contract includes the following: stronger scope language as well as codeshare restrictions not previously released including no domestic codeshare, increase in pay rates including retroactive pay, increase in 401K match, improved disability program and streamlined/improved scheduling and work rule language. Additionally we have retained the Lance Captain program and ELITT albeit with changes to current language. Our Negotiating Committee (NC) is continuing to negotiate final language and when that work is completed will present a Tentative Agreement to the BoD for approval. If the BoD approves the new contract it will be sent to the membership for final ratification. I anticipate a BoD meeting in late February or early March to review the TA.”

This news comes as it was announced today that the mechanics at the airline approved their proposed TA with the airline by a 61% majority.