Tag Archives: ALPA

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we wrap up our Q2 earnings coverage with a look at Air Canada and WestJet. Bottomline? WestJet turned in a terrific performance. For Air Canada, the airline has made good progress wading through the swamps of its myriad of labor contracts that came up this year, but the airline was close-mouthed about its efforts at pension restructuring it is trying to incorporate in the new contracts.

Meanwhile, RASM performance at Air Canada lagged, the airline still has that large overhang of debt, and oh yeah, there are those pension obligations.

Meanwhile, the airline still sounds as though it intends to go through with its idea for a new low cost carrier.

I still say that is a mistake.

In other news, we look at the DOT Air Travel Consumer Report for July. Yes, the rather obvious decline in the on-time stats of US Airways continued in July, as did the abysmal showing for American Eagle in three out of four categories.

Lots of labor follow-up this week including; Southwest pilots; AirTran pilots, United baggage handlers, mechanics at American Airlines; and Delta Air Lines‘ pilots.

How about this effort on the part of a group of Delta Air Lines‘ pilots to start their own independent union? They claim they have more than 3300 pilot members and their hot-button issue is …scope.

Meanwhile, we’ll update you on the latest in the AirTran/Southwest pilot contract activity. Last week some Southwest Airlines‘ pilots were upset after SWAPA sent out a letter detailing some of the terms of the proposed deal. Meanwhile, AIrTran pilots have yet to see anything, as their MEC still hasn’t decided if they are even going to a copy of the deal.

[Insert the voice of the old commercial for that silly game "Operation!" Only insert "Arbitration!" instead.]

And — then there was the ALPA representational election at JetBlue. JetBlue pilots voted no.

American put out more details about how it plans to “spin-off” Eagle last week. Apparently there are no third parties involved at this point in time.

Oh, we talk about crack spreads this week, Ryanair buying airport buildings, Tiger Airways taking to the skies again, Gol’s abysmal second quarter earnings, why Spirit Airlines is sizzling hot, and more.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. It’s that time again. Time for this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. This week we take our in-depth view at the recent earnings calls and results from Hawaiian Holdings, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, and the newest member of the U.S. publicly traded airline community — Spirit Airlines.

Spirit easily blew past analyst expectations for the quarter, and I must admit, it was fun to listen to a call from an airline that has such a very different business plan. Reminds me of when Allegiant first came on the scene. And years before that, Southwest Airlines was the airline that was pushing its lower costs, its “different” business model of simply low fares, and its low cost structure. Now — the new kid on the low cost, high-growth block is Spirit Airlines.

In addition to our earnings coverage, we spend a lot of time talking about pilots and pilot unions this week. From pilots calling in sick at Continental to ALPA severing a mutually beneficial deal with the Allied Pilots Association that had included the services of a well-respected union negotiator Seth Rosen, as a result of APA hot heads sending out anti-ALPA missives to American pilots — it has been a very “labor-intensive” week you might say.

But all of this angst pales in comparison to the paperwork that accompanied US Airways’ request for a preliminary injunction against its pilot union, USAPA, and the union’s President, Michael Cleary.

The suit, which was filed last Friday accuses the pilot union of of “directly instigating the illegal slowdown by encouraging pilots to delay flight departures, not complete certain training requirements, decline to fly on the basis of fatigue, increase maintenance write-ups, and generally slow down in the performance of their duties — and also by threatening to expose and retaliate against those pilots who do not participate in the slowdown. Although USAPA is encouraging pilots to change their behavior under the guise of “safety,” USAPA’s own communications confirm the true purpose of its campaign is illegally to slowdown US Airways’ operation in order to gain leverage in contract negotiations.”

But it’s not all unions and earnings.

Oh no.

Then there is the latest from Washington.

While the people who were elected to Congress finally managed to cobble together some kind of debt ceiling/budget compromise and both the Senate and the House managed to sign off on it, one thing that was not taken care of before both the House and Senate shut down work for the rest of the month was — a funding authorization bill for the FAA.

That’s right.

The bad news is that this means FAA-funded projects across the country will remain stopped in their tracks, more than 4000 FAA employees will remain laid off, and other FAA workers will continue to work more or less on an emergency basis.

But — on the plus side — (at least if you are an airline CEO or CFO) this could mean an additional $1.5 billion in revenues for the U.S. carriers — as a result of the ticket tax not being collected. That is, unless they begin to start rolling out a series of off-the-wall fare wars.  

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Is Now Posted!

Hello everyone.

This week in PlaneBusiness Banter I sit down for a PBB Lounge Lizard Interview with one of my favorite people — Dave Hilfman. Dave is the SVP of Global Sales at the “new” United Airlines. Prior to his current gig, Dave held the same position at Continental Airlines.

We talk corporate sales, red Mazda RX-7 convertibles, Eastern Airlines, Gordon Bethune, Larry Kellner, why some corporate clients are not happy about sharing contract performance information, the United/Continental merger, and you’ll meet Dave’s son Marshall too.

Tonight, we’re waiting to hear the news from AMR in regard to 1) American Eagle and 2) new aircraft. The pilots at American Eagle and AMR came to terms on some sticking points regarding how the pilots would be treated if there was a change of ownership at the airline today. That points to an announcement tomorrow about what AMR intends to do with its regional subsidiary.

The AMR board of directors was meeting today in advance of the airline’s second quarter earnings roll out tomorrow. If we were betting, we’d bet that Airbus/Boeing decision was probably made today at that same board meeting.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, it was announced that the Southwest Airlines and AirTran pilots had come to terms on a new seniority agreement. Still have not seen an “official” summary of that agreement. Clearly this is a big deal for the airline. More after we see the fine print.

Airline stocks? Horrible week for them last week.

In the government fun and games division, the DOT rolled out a list of 16 fees it thinks the airlines need to keep track of and report to the government last week. Of course they did this under the guise of it being “passenger friendly.” Hogwash. It’s so the DOT can force the airlines to account for ancillary revenues in a more clear and concise manner. The easier to tax those revenues — down the road.

Then we had the bipolar fare increase/fare sale activity over the last couple of days. First United and Delta began an attempt to raise fares last week. It continued through the weekend — and then Southwest balked.

Then this week Southwest and its new subsidiary AirTran rolled out a new fare sale!

Just another wacky week in the industry we all know and love.

All this and more — in this week’s PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Good evening earthlings! This week’s last mega-earnings issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we dig our way through the recent earnings results and calls from Pinnacle, SkyWest and Republic Holdings. Let me put it this way. This is not an easy time for regional airline operators. Three different stories, three losses.

In other news, we talk a lot this week about why it is I am concerned about the negotiations between the United Airlines and Continental Airlines pilots. This situation has gone on far too long. These negotiations should have been wrapped up in no more than 60 days.

But now negotiations have become centered around the big “S” word. Union squabbling, turf wars, and intra-union power struggles that all go back to ….seniority.

These two groups had a choice going into these negotiations: follow the blueprint set at Delta/Northwest or the blueprint set with America West/US Airways. Every day that passes — it appears both groups are following the wrong set of plans.

I tell subscribers this week why I believe these negotiations are now at the tipping point.

In other news, we talk this week about two analysts and their respective research reports. First, we talk about Avondale Partners analyst Bob McAdoo’s research note on AMR. It was, without a doubt, the most scathing review of the inability of management at the airline to do what it needs to do that I have read from any Wall Street analyst. As he points out — the airline continues to lose at least $1 billion in revenues as a result of bad decisions.

So — what are they going to do about it?

Gary Chase, analyst with Barclays, issued a nice preliminary review of what he thinks the Southwest/AirTran deal is going to mean to Southwest. Both short-term and longer-term. We’ve admired Chase’s take on Southwest for years — and his piece last week was no exception. Opportunity? Yes. But with risks.

We’ve got the March DOT Air Travel Consumer Report, we’ll go over how the airline sector did last week (I’ll give you a clue — jet fuel rose again) and we talk a bit about the upcoming IPO from Spirit Airlines, as well as the results issued Monday from Steve Hazy’s new Air Lease Corp.

And more!

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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It’s that time again. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we talk about WestJet’s great first quarter results, and Air Canada’s forever flawed business model. We also take a look at Allegiant Travel Company’s first quarter numbers, along with the “maintenance hairball” it coughed up.

My thanks to analyst Dan McKenzie with Rodman and Renshaw who came up with that great visualization.

Meanwhile, the market did not respond well to Republic’s first quarter numbers — and for good reason. Pinnacle and SkyWest? They are fully in the throes of regional airline hell. 2011 is not going to be a great year for either airline.

We also talk a lot about airline passenger security this week as the TSA now seems to be pushing forward with a modified “trusted traveler” plan. As outlined last week by the TSA administrator, it would use airline frequent flyer databases to check passenger identity.

All well and good — but remember — Mohammed Atta was an American Airlines AAdvantage Gold member.

That being said, we’re all for revamping the current TSA Theater of the Absurd.
Airline stocks had a reasonably good week last week — thanks to the sharp drop in oil prices. Nothing inherently connected with the ability of the denizens to generate the revenues necessary to offset higher oil prices.

An interesting tidibit crossed our desk late this afternoon that could provide a marker for the health of the airline leasing business. ILFC reported to the SEC that the number of delinquent aircraft lessees doubled in the first quarter. We have more information on this filing. Have to wonder about this. I’m somewhat surprised at this news, given all the glad-handing that was going on at this year’s ISTAT Conference, and the over-subscription of the recent Air Lease Corp. IPO.

It’s another jam-packed earnings season issue. Subscribers can access it here. Now.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week’s issue is one of those “kitchen sink” issues. First we peer into the financial reports of the four largest airline pilot unions — ALPA, APA, SWAPA and USAPA — spurred by my wonderings about just how much the US Airways’ pilot union, USAPA, is paying out in legal fees. Boy, did I open a nice big Pandora’s box. Who says we only have to dissect the financial statements of the airlines?

Then there is American Airlines. No, the airline is apparently not in talks to do a deal with Mexicana, even though press reports south of the border indicated otherwise over the weekend.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is not only the day that American Airlines announces its first quarter loss. It is also protest day for American employees. Concurrent with the airline’s executive level bonus allocations, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants are going to be protesting — and I would bet there will be some other airline employees contributing to the effort.

On the corporate travel front, American filed suit against Travelport and Orbitz last week. They even dropped the “Sherman” antitrust bomb in their filing. Yep, American thinks there is some anti-trust issues here. Travelport and Orbitz, not surprisingly, think this is merely a play for leverage.

Speaking of earnings, we have a line-up of heavyweights on Thursday, followed by another heavy day next Tuesday. We get you up to date on analyst expectations and reporting dates.

If it is time for first quarter earnings, then Proxy Statements are also in the mix. Those are those horribly confusing and hard-to-figure out SEC filings that tell us just how much the top executives at the airlines took home in compensation during 2010.

Southwest Airlines filed their proxy statement last week, and, well, let’s just put it this way. Remember when the airline used to have the lowest top-tier compensation levels in the industry — and they made a big deal about the fact this was the case? And they were proud of the fact? It’s not the case anymore.

Oh, we talk about that, we talk about how airline stocks did last week, we talk about the TSA’s patdown of the six-year-old, we alert you to a museum collection of air sickness bags, and we talk about a lot 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 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!

Mega-Earnings Issue of PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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This week’s 130-plus page issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now, finally, posted!

This week we take a full in-depth look at the third quarter earnings and the recent earnings calls from American Airlines, US Airways, Southwest Airlines, United/Continental, and Delta Air Lines.

Whew.

We also have earnings summaries for JetBlue, AirTran, and Alaska Air Group. (We’ll take our more in-depth look at both JetBlue and Alaska in next week’s issue of PBB.)

Our general take on what we heard in the calls from the five airlines we talk about this week?

First of all, the fact that the airlines that have reported so far have reported such strong numbers should not have come as a surprise. I was somewhat “shocked” myself to see someone referenced in a story about the results last week talking about the “shock and awe” of the profits reported.

Hog wash.

We all knew it was going to be a great quarter. And there is no reason why the fourth quarter is not going to be a good one either.

Anyway, so much for people who don’t know that much about the industry, eh?

Speaking of, I liked some comments that US Airways CEO Doug Parker made on the topic of consolidation in that airline’s call last week. As he correctly pointed out, it’s probably time to stop asking the question of when or if. “Consolidation has happened.” Yes, it has.

And, as he pointed out, that is one reason the industry in the U.S. is doing as well as it is. With fewer players out there, it is finally allowing the players who are there to pick up some pricing power. Yes, less capacity doesn’t hurt either.

But as Avondale analyst Bob McAdoo said in a research note recently, by eliminating duplicate flying and creating new traffic flows, the United/Continental merger reminds him of why he likes mergers. He then went on to list a slew of route changes that the new combined airline has already loaded in his note.

Listening to the Delta Air Lines call, one would have to be a total dufus not to see how the merging of those two airlines has created one airline that is doing a lot of things a whole lot better. The airline especially shone on the revenue side.

As for Southwest, there’s no question the airline posted nice profit numbers for the quarter, but I talk more this week about why the airline continues to frustrate those of us who have been waiting for the airline to move forward on several key infrastructure or product items. CEO Gary Kelly and Avondale analyst Bob McAdoo had an interesting back and forth on this topic at the end of that airline’s call.

And then there is American Airlines. The good news? The airline finally posted a quarterly profit. The not-so-good news? It wasn’t that big of a profit. The airline’s earnings call was not the best in the world either this quarter. We talk more about all that this week as well.

As for the folks at US Airways — the airline posted a very strong quarter. A record-breaking quarter, as was the case with more than one of the airlines last week. While the outlook for revenue upticks is going to slow down as the airline moves into 2011 (tougher comps coming up), that is basically true for most airlines, so I don’t see that as a major deal breaker here. Operationally, the airline is running one of the most efficient airlines out there these days.

As always, all this and more, including some feedback from my column last week on the change in command at ALPA national, a brief rundown on the AirTran results, and other miscellaneous dribs and drabs.

Subscribers can access the issue here. (Just a warning. If you print this issue out, it’s going to run very, very, long.)

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello all. It’s that time again. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. Yes, this is the pre-earnings issue. Before the madness begins later today as Hawaiian Airlines starts off the third quarter earnings parade with its earnings release. By the time the week is over, we will have heard from all the major U.S. domestic players.

It’s going to be a strong quarter for the industry. We could even see some record profits posted by a number of denizens. And, yes, for the first time in two years, American Airlines will, finally, post a quarterly profit, although most analysts don’t expect the profit to be much more than $110 million.

On the other side of the cha-ching-o-meter Delta Air Lines is forecast to post the largest profit for the major airline group, as it should post a profit in excess of $730 million dollars for the quarter. Not bad. Not bad at all.

But before all those big numbers start to roll in later this week, we are talking this week about the recent ALPA national election of officers. To say that the largest pilot union in the U.S. just made a rather notable change in its leadership would be an understatement. We talk this week about why I like the fact that Lee Moak is the organization’s new President and why his outlook and approach to labor/management negotiations is so different from what we have seen historically from other labor leaders, not just at ALPA.

And yes, we think this is a good thing.

For those of you who are not familiar with Lee, you can catch a public posting of a PBB Lounge Lizard interview we did with him last January over on our Planebusiness.com site.

The DOT issued its latest Airline Consumer Travel Report numbers last week. Which airlines performed well and which ones didn’t? We talk about all that, and we take another look at the number of reported tarmac delays and cancellations. Is there a discernible trend here or not? It depends on how you interpret the numbers.

We also talk about the situation in France this week. To put it simply, if you don’t have to fly there, don’t. Why? Unhappy French workers. Everywhere. Including airports and air traffic control towers.

We had two new airline marketing campaigns hit the airwaves last week. What do we think of those? We’ll let you know.

Lots of mail in this week’s email bag too.

All this and more in this week’s edition of PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access the issue here.

Spirit Pilots Go on Strike

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The deadline at midnight came and went.

The negotiations continued into the night.

But, at 5 a.m this morning, both sides called it quits and the pilots at Spirit Airlines, who are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, left the negotiation table. And their cockpits.

Spirt Airlines President and CEO Ben Baldanza said in a statement, “We are frustrated and disappointed that our pilots have turned down an over 30 percent increase at a cost of over $70 million over five years while disrupting thousands of our customers and jeopardizing the livelihoods of our over 2,000 employees.”

Spirit is not publicly traded. It is owned by Indigo Partners LLC and Oaktree Capital Management, LLC.

Indigo is the private investment firm that is headed by former American West CEO Bill Franke. Howard Marks is Chairman of Oaktree, which tends to invest in high risk-high yield investments. To put it another way, Marks is known for being one of the most well-known “vulture investors.”

The strike marks the first time in five years that an employee group has struck a U.S. airline.

Baldanza told the WSJ this morning that his goal is to get the airline flying again as soon as possible, but he said he couldn’t say at this point what will happen, even Sunday. “He said Spirit has some management pilots who could operate flights, but it remains to be seen if some of the striking aviators would cross picket lines and return to work.”

Ah, well, yes, I could see where that might be a problem.

He also admitted that the airline had been trying to get charter carriers to fly on its behalf — in anticipation of a potential strike — but that “ALPA had pressured those companies, even those whose pilots aren’t represented by ALPA, and some dropped out.”

He also told the WSJ that the airline has purposely made sure all of its aircraft were back in the U.S. “where we want them to be” in anticipation of the job action.

As for the airline’s pilots? He said it was “their problem as to how they get home.”

That’s what I love about this industry. It’s just so damn warm and fuzzy. Can’t you just feel the love?

On a serious note — Spirit is not the most cash-flush operation in the world, and if the pilots are as successful in shutting the airline down as I suspect they are going to be, this could get very nasty, very quickly.

Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but I’ve seen managements use a lot less motivation to justify shutting down an airline. And who knows? Maybe someone might like to snap up some of the airline’s assets for a decent price.

I don’t say the pilots were not justified in what they did. It is their right to strike. And, in a weird way, it’s good to see the process still works.

But on the flip side, Spirit is not a major carrier. There is going to be no urgency for the administration to create a PEB. And like I said, the airline is not sitting on a lot of cash, nor do the guys who own this thing feel inclined to throw any more cash at it. In addition, while the airline has posted a profit for the last three years, a big reason that has been the case is because of the rock-bottom labor rates at the airline.

Should be an interesting weekend. Especially at the Ft. Lauderdale -Hollywood International Airport. Spirit handles 20% of the traffic out of there on a daily basis.