Tag Archives: TSA

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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Hello everyone. It’s that time again. This week’s mega 100-plus page issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we take an in-depth look at first quarter earnings and earnings calls from Delta Air Lines, US Airways, JetBlue and Hawaiian Holdings.

Best quote from the earnings calls this week came from Delta CEO Richard Anderson, as he tried to stress to analyst Dan McKenzie with Rodman and Renshaw that the airline is not interested, as are some competitors, in chasing market share. (Wonder who he was talking about?)

No, the airline is very serious about “keeping our capital commitments in check, generating free cash flow, putting that cash flow back on the balance sheet and keeping our capacity in line with what will produce an operating margin.”

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Richard’s follow-up comment: “This isn’t a hobby.”

Love it.

US Airways posted a good first quarter — even though the airline has no fuel hedges in place. That’s right. None. I love that as well. I think the airline is onto something, i.e., screw fuel hedging. If you run an airline as a well-managed business, you should be able to manage your expenses and revenue through capacity changes.

That goes back to the Delta mantra they kept emphasizing throughout its call as well. Essentially, if a route is not making money — it’s going to go away. Chasing market share is stupid. Managing for profits and margins is smart.

We also take an extended look at the recent results from both JetBlue and Hawaiian Holdings. Two very different airlines — two very different business plans. JetBlue continues to grow — and its dominant-carrier Boston presence speaks to that point. Hawaiian has decided to grow long-haul to the West, including new routes to Japan. How are the new routes faring? Hint: The airline will probably post a loss in the second quarter.

We talk about all of this, we muse about whether or not the death of Osama Bin Laden will eventually let us walk away from TSA Security Theatre, and well, of course we talk about Kate’s dress as well!

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

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Okay all you hungry people. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

Whew.

This is the last earnings issue for the quarter, and that is a good thing.

Next week we can get back to our normal format and usual publishing schedule. Right before we embark on our Turkey day extravaganza.

But — before then — this week we have our hand’s full.

First, we have an update on the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine failure involving the Qantas A380. All the Qantas A380s remain grounded. Rolls still isn’t saying a lot. But everyone else sure is. Engines are apparently being taken off the A380 production line, Singapore Airlines has swapped out three engines already, and, well, this is a very serious situation.

It is going to make for a very serious dent in Rolls-Royce’s net profits as well, as you can bet all these airlines are keeping tabs on their expenses incurred and Rolls is going to receive the final bill.

Not to be left out, Boeing had its own problem last week with one of its 787s — as it was forced to land after a fire broke out in an aft electrical panel.

When we’re not talking aircraft and engines, we’re talking TSA.

As someone who is now faced with the prospect of having to go through an “extended pat down” every time I fly as a result of having a big piece of titanium in my hip, I am not happy about the new “group and grab” procedures.

Funny thing though — we received a number of notes this week from airline crew members. It appears that the TSA has pulled back on insisting on either the AIT scanner or the “extended pat down” for crew members. Not in all locations though.

No, the TSA has not issued an official backdown. But I’ve received enough notes to tell me that there has been a relaxation in the previous directives.

We also wrap up third quarter earnings coverage this week with our own “extended” look at Republic and Pinnacle.

If you took a look at the stocks of either airline and how they performed for the last week — you might have some questions.

In the case of Pinnacle, shares soared.

In the case of Republic, they did just the opposite.

We’ll tell you why.

We also go over the September DOT Airline Consumer Travel Report. And the September tarmac and cancellation numbers. Very interesting “rounding” of numbers going on here. We talk about all that as well.

There was a rather bizarre Airbus A380 order announced last week, the DOT and FAA sought to assure air travelers that they are working to make sure older aircraft are safe — only problem is that the efforts won’t take effect for years — and hey, the future King of England’s wife-to-be has two parents who met while working for British Airways.

We only talk about the important things here at PlaneBusiness Banter.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

Update on TSA Idiocy: Subpoenas Pulled

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I am very happy to report that the braintrust at the TSA (is that an accurate assumption?) decided that perhaps slapping subpoenas on travel-site bloggers who posted revised TSA passenger security guidelines that were pretty readily available all over the web anyway was a big waste of time.

But not before some damage was done. Specifically to blogger Steve Frischling’s hard drive.

But before I get into the details — a mea culpa. I forgot to note the address of Steve’s blog in my earlier post on this debacle. Steve, who is a photographer when not posting to one of his blogs, writes FlyingWithFish. I had previously only mentioned his work involving the KLM blog.

On New Year’s Eve the TSA apparently notified both Steve and Chris Elliott that the previously served subpoenas on both were being dropped in their entirety.

What has not been determined yet is whether or not the TSA is going to repair or replace Steve’s MacBook which they confiscated earlier in the week in their quest to find “the truth.”

Apparently the machine’s hard drive is toast. And of course, everything that was on it. I only hope Steve had backed up all his photographs recently.

Ugh.

Thank you to whomever it was at the TSA who did the right thing — finally — and dropped the subpoenas.

A Not-So-Quiet Holiday Season for the Airline Industry; TSA Goes After Bloggers Who Posted TSA Changes in Directives

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Hello everyone.

Alas, the holidays are almost over. Sigh. That means it’s time for yours truly to get back to work. And back here in PlaneBuzz.

You know, most holiday periods are relatively quiet in the airline industry. For the most part, Wall Street analysts are not cranking out research notes. All that fourth quarter “pre-announcement” Wall Street stuff has already been disseminated prior to Christmas. Airline CEOs are rarely squawking. It’s not usually a time for any “big time” announcements concerning mergers or other nefarious activities.

This is not the case on the front lines of any given airline’s operations, of course, where airline employees are faced with huge crowds of passengers who are sometimes not in the best of holiday spirits. Especially when flights are cancelled, packed to the gills, or weather rears its ugly head.

But I think it would be safe to say that this particular holiday season has been, well, how can I say this? Just a little bit too newsworthy.

Obviously the biggest topic on your minds, as judged by the contents of my email folder, is the continuing actions of the TSA, following the failed attempt by a passenger to detonate an explosive device on Delta Air Lines/Northwest Airlines flight 253 which operated between Amsterdam and Detroit Christmas day.

By now you all know the basics.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year old Nigerian, successfully passed through a security check at the gate in Amsterdam. This check included a hand baggage scan and a metal detector.

Officials say that Abdulmutallab then apparently assembled the explosive device, which included 80 grams of Pentrite, or PETN, in the aircraft lavatory — after which he returned to his seat where he attempted to detonate the device using a syringe of chemicals.

Passengers and aircraft crew members intervened, and the plane landed safely.

To say that things have been a bit confusing and frustrating for both airline passengers and airline employees since then would be a gross understatement.

Information being given passengers concerning what they can and cannot do while onboard aircraft has seemed to change every hour this week. In some cases it depends on just what particular flight you are on, apparently. One industry veteran we know told us that on his long-haul trans-Pacific flight home this week he was told by the Purser that no, there was no ban on passengers getting up from their seat in the last hour of the flight. This had been the case, however, when this same person flew in the opposite direction earlier in the week. According to the Purser, “All of that is up to the discretion of the Captain.”

Huh?

I somehow don’t think that is the case.

Meanwhile, our email bag is packed with emails from airline employees, many of whom are flight attendants and pilots — checking in with their take on how ridiculous the TSA has been in the last week.

But as bad, frustrating, and confusing as things have been at U.S. airports, I don’t think they are nearly as bad as they are in Canada, where TSA-mandated emergency rule changes to boarding procedures for U.S. bound flights there have made it a wonder any passengers are flying to the U.S. at all.

As of this writing, if you are in Canada and trying to fly in the U.S, you can only bring “small” purses, laptops, and a very small list of items, including some medical supplies, onboard an aircraft. That’s it.

We talked to one subscriber who works with Air Canada yesterday and he was so upset he could hardly keep the words in the email. WestJet passengers are facing the same new “rules.”

We are told that U.S. custom agents are telling U.S. bound passengers who have purses they consider to be “too large” that they cannot get on a flight unless those purses are checked.

It got so ugly this week that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called in to help with the process. This, after lines snaking out of Toronto’s Pearson International had passengers standing for three hours or more and hundreds of flights had to be cancelled as a part of the collateral damage.

But draconian rules regarding onboard carry-ons is not the only problem. U.S.-bound passengers out of Canada must also now pass through three levels of security: regular pre-flight passenger screening, U.S. Customs, and additional screening that can include physical pat-downs.

And if all of this wasn’t enough — and clearly this next situation hits close to home for me — TSA special agents went after travel bloggers Chris Elliott and Steve Frischling this week for writing about changes in security procedures put in place by the TSA after the bombing attempt.

Frischling writes a blog for KLM. Chris writes the blog Elliott.

According to Chris’s blog,

“We had just put the kids in the bathtub when [TSA] Special Agent Robert Flaherty knocked on my front door with a subpoena. He was very polite, and used “sir” a lot, and he said he just wanted a name: Who sent me the security directive?

I invited Flaherty to sit down in the living room and introduced him to my cats, who seemed to take a liking to him. The kids came by to say hello, too.

‘A subpoena?’ I asked the special agent. ‘Is that really necessary?’

‘Sir,’ he repeated. ‘You’ve been served.’”

Being the good blogger that he is, Chris advised him that he would call his attorney and be back in touch.

According to a New York Times article this morning,

“Frischling said he met with two TSA special agents Tuesday night at his Connecticut home for about three hours and again on Wednesday morning when he was forced to hand over his lap top computer. Frischling said the agents threatened to interfere with his contract to write a blog for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines if he didn’t cooperate and provide the name of the person who leaked the memo.

”It literally showed up in my box,” Frischling told The Associated Press. ”I do not know who it came from.” He said he provided the agents a signed statement to that effect.

I can certainly relate to that. That is exactly how it goes. Something shows up in our email box. Sometimes we know who sent it. Sometimes we don’t.
It’s then our call as to whether to go with the information or not.

Clearly these two went with the information.

But hey, you J. Edgar Hoover types with the TSA — back off. The information was “out there.”

I can state, flatly, that there were discussions of parts of the new rules included in emails to me. Not the entire documents. But let’s just put it this way — when these directives came down on the heads of the airlines — it was to be expected that the gist of them would be “out there” in no short order.

Chris and Steve did not obtain this information “illegally,” nor was the fact they posted the information going to interfere with any “security” measures contained in the documents. After all — thousands of airline employees received the same information. Or are all airline employees who received the information required to sign confidentiality statements? I don’t think so.

Ridiculous. Just friggin’ ridiculous.

Just like most everything else we’ve seen and heard from the TSA over the last week as the government tries, once again, to cover its rear as once again, the futility of taking our shoes off and removing our clothes every time we fly is exposed, once again, to be the transparent exercise in futility that it has always been.

Yes, there’s clearly a lot more to be said about all this.

But for now — I’ll close today with a short and sweet admonition.

Happy New Year everyone!