Tag Archives: pilots

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Good evening sports fans, airline fans, and Boeing 787 meltdown fans.

No, it has not been a good evening for the 787, as both Japan Air Lines and ANA have now grounded their 787 fleets after yet another “battery” incident that necessitated an emergency landing by an ANA aircraft earlier this evening in Japan.

Before this latest development, we had already devoted a fair amount of ink this week to the Boeing 787 problems — including the investigation into the systems and design of the aircraft, which was announced Friday by the FAA.

We also update readers on the NTSB investigation of the fire last week on the Japan Airlines 787 in Boston. And no, those pictures of the burned out Lithium battery are enough to scare the you-know-what out of you. Especially when you factor in the news that it apparently took 40 minutes for fire fighters to finally put out the fire.

Other than continued scary moments with the 787, we also talk a bit this week about the American/US Airways merger — which seems to be inching forward, although we hear the diehards at AMR refuse to give up on the misguided idea that a standalone deal would be preferable, so an announcement may not be as close as we had estimated.
Some people just refuse to accept the fact the world has changed.


Meanwhile we all know how this works. Giving up valuable turf is never easy.
Just ask the guys at APA who are obsessed with what their seniority number is going to be. Nothing else matters.

On the international front, Alitalia needs money again, and Kingfisher continues to operate. Kind of.

Meanwhile, German authorities say that Ryanair has been cheating it out of lots of money, by under-reporting landing weights. This one should be interesting to see how it plays out.

We have the November DOT Air Travel Consumer Report this week, plus December traffic and RASM estimates (what the hell happened to Spirit in the fourth quarter, speaking of RASM) and we tell you why we think 2013 is going to be one heck of a good year for the industry.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Good evening everyone. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

We’re almost done with 3Q earnings reports. This week we take an in-depth look at the recent earnings reported by two regional holding companies — Republic and Skywest.

We also have earnings summaries for WestJet and Air Canada. We’ll finish up the 3Q earnings parade in our next issue when we take a longer look at the results that both Canadian carriers posted.

In other news, the finalized tentative agreement between United Airlines and its two pilot groups hit the streets this week — and it is a monster. 500 pages long. I do believe this is a new record page length for tentative agreements.

We have not spent that much time with the TA, but at first blush it looks like a rather rich contract. Translation: This thing needs to pass.

On the other side of the universe, meanwhile, the negotiators at the Allied Pilots Association and American Airlines have come to terms on what is called an “Agreement in Principle.” The APA Board will meet Friday to vote on whether to send the proposal out as a TA to the rank and file.

But the biggest news this week concerns New York. Tuesday US Airways presented its argument as to why a merger with it is the best alternative to the AMR Unsecured Creditors Committee. Wednesday, American had its turn to convince the UCC why its “stand-alone” plan is the best alternative.

I find it extremely telling that the UCC would push forward with this — with no pilot contract in hand. It says to me we may hear something sooner than later from the UCC in regard to which proposal it favors.

You know where my money is on all this.

We have other earnings that we discuss this week including those from Emirates, LATAM, and Ryanair.

We also take a look at the sad state of affairs at SAS. The airline has given employees until Sunday to agree to draconian cuts in pay and pension benefits. Otherwise, a credit line that has been promised to the airline will not be forthcoming.

All this, DOT results from September (Delta kicked some ass, American fell apart and United managed to pick up a little ground) and much, much more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Good evening everyone!


Tonight we publish our second issue in four days — as we try and work our way through the recent compressed pile of 3Q airline industry earnings reports.

In this issue we take an in-depth look at the recent earnings calls from Hawaiian Holdings, parent of Hawaiian Airlines; Spirit Airlines; and Allegiant Travel Company, parent of Allegiant Airlines.

All three airlines made money, but all three made profits in very different ways.

In addition, one analyst, Hunter Keay with Wolfe Trahan, brought up a very interesting idea for the folks at Hawaiian Airlines. He thinks, as I do, that the airline’s stock is very undervalued. In fact, the airline has enough cash in the bank today to buy itself, the market cap of the airline is so small. Of course the airline would need more capital than that to pull off an LBO, but I found Hunter’s argument very persuasive.

Aside from that, looking at the airline’s earnings results for the third quarter — while the airline is clearly grappling with some capacity/demand learning curves, the airline’s decision several years ago to look west to Asia for expansion — as opposed to putting more effort in the U.S. trans-Pacific routes looks like it has been, without question, the right decision.

We also talk about the 3Q earnings announced by Spirit Airlines. Spirit had a very nice profitable quarter, but the airline is spending a bit of money these days both to support its current growth spurt, and to make sure its operations run more smoothly.

I have no problem with either of these. The underlying business plan of Spirit is solid.

Our third in-depth earnings report looks at Allegiant. The airline has flopped around a bit the last couple of years as it decided to go with another fleet type, it had to get ETOPS certification for those 757s, the airline’s IT infrastructure had to be totally reconstructed and upgraded, it switched its position on how to deal with engine overhauls. You know — the usual. Growing pains.

But the airline seems to have weathered all of this fairly well. In addition, the airline’s move to put 166 seats in its MD-80s (no, I am not about to fly on one of those airplanes anytime soon!) is moving along and the airline is now getting a better read on the revenue payback from the additional seat installs. The news? Good.

All in all a very good quarter for all three airlines — but in very different ways.

In other news we talk about the latest tidbits from American, although there aren’t many, and we celebrate today — United Airlines 787 Day. Today the airline put its first 787 into regular commercial service. A fun time was had by all — as best we can tell. We had both friends and subscribers onboard at least one, if not more of the inaugural flights. Nothing like some good plane porn to make us all forget about the everyday trials and tribulations of life.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. We’re back from our August hiatus. Perfect timing too, as today airline execs took their turns talking to investors at the Deutsche Bank Aviation Conference. And what did most of them say? Demand has not slowed.

In addition, remember that the airlines were the beneficiary of that nice FAA tax collection snafu in August, which fattened their bank accounts with a little unexpected spending money. Tuesday a number of airlines gave more precise guidance as to just how much their bank balances were fattened, as a result of Congress being unable to act like adults.

All of this positive news caused the markets to reward the flailing airline sector with a huge turnaround today.

The depth and strength of airline exec comments today really did seem to be in direct opposition to how we, and everyone else on the planet, perceive the macro economic landscape. I was surprised at some of the PRASM estimates for September that were floated today. Much better than I had anticipated.

This week is also “catch-up” week as we update subscribers on what went down with the Southwest Airlines/AirTran pilot seniority list integration proposal in August. Essentially the AirTran ALPA MEC refused to send the proposal to the AirTran pilot rank and file for a vote.

As of now, both sides are supposedly “talking” but there is already a “drop-dead” date established with the negotiations. If nothing is resolved by that date — the matter will be arbitrated.

We also talk this week about the situation at American Airlines. The airline had 111 pilots opt for retirement on Sept. 1. This is an abnormally high number, (the average monthly total is 11) and it appears the airline may have a similar number, if not more, opt to retire the beginning of October.

We talk about whether this is an “insider sentiment” that indicates the pilot group believes a bankruptcy is around the corner — or if it is simply a reflection of the sharp downturn in the value of AMR shares over the last quarter. (There is a look-back period in terms of what date and stock price is used in calculating benefits.)

Of course, we talk about how the airline sector performed both last week and while we were on vacation. We also go over the July DOT Air Travel Consumer report.

Then there is the usual hodge podge of goodies including an update on Stelios and his latest attack on the EasyJet board of directors, Moody’s cut in Travelport’s debt rating, the update in the case between American and Sabre, the skinny on the person who bit the Alaska Airlines first officer, and much, much more.

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


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.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello all.

Live and direct from the PlaneBusiness Worldwide Steaming Hot Headquarters, we bring you a 150 plus-page issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

Yes, this is, without a doubt, the mother of all earnings issues.

We have full transcripts and PlaneBusiness Banter earnings summaries for Southwest Airlines, AirTran, JetBlue, Alaska Air Group and Allegiant Travel this week.

Not only that but we give you the numbers that were just reported from Air France/KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, ANA and Singapore Airlines.


All of this plus our take on the more “newsworthy” topics from the past week including the meltdown at Mexicana (and no, we’re not talking about the FAA’s downgrade of the Mexican aviation safety rating) and the showdown between the pilots and management at Philippine Airlines.

So what do you think? Do you think the pilots and flight attendants at Mexicana should have taken up management’s offer to buy the airline?

Or — should they have cut their pay and benefits essentially in half?

As we were posting this issue, the news came down: Mexicana has filed for bankruptcy.

One thing that will do — it will stop airline leasing companies from taking their aircraft back. Apparently at least three of the airline’s aircraft had already been snatched back by their owners.

Aside from all this turmoil, we then have the latest attempt by the U.S. government to “make the airline industry a better and safer place.”

Yes, from the same folks who brought us the Three-Hour Tarmac rule, the Senate and the House passed a bill last week that will see the minimum number of flight hours required for a regional airline pilot position jump to 1500.

Needless to say, I can understand why members of Congress want to look like they are making the industry a safer place — but is a 1500 hour flight time minimum the way to do it?

One of our regular contributors gives us his take on the potential ramifications of this legislation in this week’s issue.

One thing that is a constant in this industry is that it always has a lot of debt.

But while most of the airline’s debt ratings are in the “junk” category, shrewd investors know that investing in airline debt can be quite profitable.

This week I assemble the latest credit and debt comments on the major airlines from Mark Streeter — the man who does this for a living for JPMorgan Chase. I think Mark is the sharpest guy on the Street when it comes to airline debt.

As for airline stocks — a Foreign Flyer took the first place nod last week in terms of gains. Overall, it was a good strong week for the sector.

All of this — and much, much, 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 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!

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This week’s mega-earnings issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

What is on the agenda this week? First, we have in-depth reviews of the earnings calls from AirTran, Allegiant, and WestJet.

But that is just the start.

Our first column from this year’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airline Symposium discusses a presentation that was made at this year’s event by Adrian Slywotzky, economist, author, and partner with Oliver Wyman – the consulting firm that works with the airport to put on the Symposium.

The subject of his presentation? The airline industry is not the only “no-profit” industry out there. And yes, there are competitors in other “no-profit” industries who have figured out ways to improve profitability. Are there lessons here for the airlines? Yes.

Our second column this week is our first take from the recent US Airways Media Day. Coming just a day after the airline’s earnings call and just a couple of days after the airline said it wasn’t talking to the powers-that-be in Chicago anymore — the airline still managed to give us some information we’d never seen before.

All that plus the manic moves on Wall Street last week, the NMB’s news from today, the DOT’s decision on the proposed slot swap, American’s decision to hold its annual meeting away from the madding crowds, and more. In this week’s issue 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.