United Airlines: This is YOUR Problem. Own It.

For my peeps at United Airlines: the only way you are going to make a positive out of a negative on this f’ed up mess is by using Oscar. He is the airline’s strongest PR weapon, and folks, the power of this video making the rounds is off the charts. He has to get out there and apologize like he has never apologized before. He will be delivering a message to ALL United customers. (Not to mention ALL U.S. airline customers.)

Obviously United also has to find out why the boarding was so screwed up and the passengers were not bought off in advance before getting on the plane. If $800 is not enough, as the airline had reportedly previously offered passengers on this flight prior to boarding, according to some reports — offer them more. It’s that simple. Delta was handing out money over the last five days like a drunken sailor. Small price to pay to maintain positive customer relations in the face of a horrid ops situation that seemed, for whatever reason, to not be able to right itself.

But what if boarding has been completed and now you need seats on the plane for crew? Fine. Get on the plane and start the auction. Don’t pull this “random computer selection” bullshit to pull four people off the airplane. Get on the plane. Start the offer at $1000. Go to $1500 if you have to. I guarantee you’ll get four willing participants.  Everyone wins. Airline gets seats, customers get cash, airline employees get to Louisville.

In this case, you HAVE to pay up. Or pay later. And as those who deal with sleazy-easy lending companies know all too well, the “pay later” option rarely works out well.

As for the airline’s reported refusal to give more information to reporters, instead telling them they had to “talk to the authorities” — SHAME ON YOU. No, that is not how this works. This was YOUR passenger. YOUR screw up. YOUR customers who witnessed what happened on that airplane. And now, everyone in the world has witnessed it.

You created it. You own it.

P.S. I just read the tweet from Oscar. A tweet? A tweet is not nearly enough. United, you just made it worse.

P.P.S Someone sent me a note and reminded me that this particular flight was a regional flight operated by Republic Holdings. That would explain the rather pathetic comms response from United re: the incident. And it would help explain the less-than-adequate tweet (supposedly from Oscar) that was released this morning. But you live by the codeshare, you die by the codeshare. The vast majority of those who will read about this incident know only this: It was a United Airlines passenger who was forcibly removed from that airplane. Doesn’t matter what company was operating the aircraft.

Musings on A Wednesday Evening

home-typewriter copy 1Hello everyone. As I assume most of you who have checked here from time to time in the recent couple of months have come to realize, we no longer do marketing blurbs trumpeting the publishing of the  latest issue of PlaneBusiness Banter every week. We found that the great majority of our subscribers rely on the email that is sent to them, letting them know it has been posted  and/or our Tweet announcing its arrival.

As a result, we have asked some of our subscribers if there is a need for us to keep this blog active. I’m not sure there is, as Twitter has more or less taken the place of using a blog to post important newsy items.

Then again, as one subscriber suggested, perhaps we could use the blog to post particular columns that were published in PlaneBusiness Banter after they are published. Or if we wanted to comment on something timely we could link a post to a Tweet.

Both are good suggestions and were echoed, more or less by a number of other folks as well.

What say you?

I realize by asking this here that I will be generating responses from non-subscribers. That’s okay. Your opinion counts as well. I’m curious as to what you think.



Monday: PlaneBusiness Banter Returns!


Hello everyone! I hope all of you had a wonderful summer, and a great Labor Day holiday.

After our usual three-week hiatus from publishing, PlaneBusiness Banter returns Monday morning.  I have to say, there is certainly no shortage of material to work with — especially considering the events of the last week concerning United Airlines and the resignation of its Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Smisek and two of his top executives.

We’ll dissect this turn of events and let you know our take and how we see this affecting the airline going forward. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a bad thing for the airline. At all.

But we also have the continuing drama at Republic Holdings. Will they go into bankruptcy? Clearly now we see the “last best offer” from management was not the last best offer. So what credibility does that give management from a negotiating standpoint?

These are just two of the many stories we will be talking about in this week’s issue, along with the latest DOT operational performance statistics, stock performance, and more.

Just a reminder. If you are not a subscriber to PlaneBusiness Banter, you can drop a note to PBsubs@PlaneBusiness.com to find out how you become one.


In Remembrance: September 11, 2001

candleIt is that day once again. Once again the Sun has come back to remind us, as she does every year.  She has that way of gently reminding us of both the things we’d rather not remember, as well as the sweet things we choose and want to keep alive in our memories.

I’m not going to recount what my life was like that day. Or where I was. Or how it felt. As I have done every year since that awful day, I will simply ask that you pause for a moment to remember and honor those airline employees who got up that day, put on their uniform, and went to work. But never came home.

Yes, there were thousands of people who lost their lives that day. But for those of us who follow this industry, work in this industry, or simply continue to be fascinated by its endearing dysfunctionality, the loss of four airline crews that day hit us hard. And it still hurts.

This is our corner of the world. And as I see it, the courage and bravery of these crewmembers deserve our heartfelt acknowledgment. And remembrance.

American Airlines Flight 11, Boston to Los Angeles, crashed into the World Trade Center.

CREW: John Ogonowski, Dracut, Mass., Captain; Thomas McGuinness, Portsmouth, N.H., First Officer; Barbara Arestegui, flight attendant; Jeffrey Collman, flight attendant; Sara Low, flight attendant; Karen Martin, flight attendant; Kathleen Nicosia, flight attendant; Betty Ong, flight attendant; Jean Roger, flight attendant; Dianne Snyder, flight attendant; Madeline Sweeney, flight attendant.

United Airlines Flight 175, Boston to Los Angeles, crashed into the World Trade Center.

CREW: Victor J. Saracini, Lower Makefield Township, Pa., Captain; Michael Horrocks, First Officer; Amy Jarret, flight attendant; Al Marchand, flight attendant; Amy King, flight attendant; Kathryn Laborie, flight attendant; Michael Tarrou, flight attendant; Alicia Titus, flight attendant.

American Airlines Flight 77, Washington to Los Angeles, crashed into the Pentagon.

CREW: Charles Burlingame, Captain; David Charlebois, First Officer; Michele Heidenberger, flight attendant; Jennifer Lewis, flight attendant; Kenneth Lewis, flight attendant; and Renee May, flight attendant.

United Airlines Flight 93, Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, crashed in Shanksville, Pa.

CREW: Jason Dahl, Colorado, Captain; Leroy Homer, Marlton, N.J., First Officer; Sandy Bradshaw, flight attendant; CeeCee Lyles, flight attendant; Lorraine Bay, flight attendant; Wanda Green, flight attendant; Deborah Welsh, flight attendant.

May they all be at peace in a much better place

PlaneBusiness Banter Is Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Hello everyone! While I still haven’t decided what to do with our PlaneBuzz blog, this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is just too ripe with goodies not to talk about. So if you are a subscriber, that is a good thing, if you are not, you need to be.

This week we take our in-depth look at the recent earnings reported by United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Alaska Air Group. 

Or as I like to say, three of the big four, and the best managed, most financially stable airline in the U.S. Yes, that would be Alaska Airlines. 

How much debt do you think Alaska is carrying on its balance sheet? Just take a guess. No, you’re way off.

A grand total of $750 million. The airline is not only a great airline for passengers, it’s not only one of the best in terms of operational performance, but it is a financial treasure — certainly worthy of investment grade status by the rating agencies. The problem the airline has? What is it going to do with its cash?

Nice problem to have.

As for the other three — they all made a lot of money in 2Q15. We will attempt to sort out the differences we see with what each airline reported.

We also run down the recent results from Lufthansa, IAG, parent of British Airways, and Ryanair. 

Yes, everybody made money. That’s what happens when the price of oil is between $40 and $50 a barrel.

Oh, and yes, we have PlaneBusiness Earnings Summaries posted for all the remaining U.S. and Canadian airlines that have reported earnings as of today.

What also happens is that PRASM levels fall. And for whatever reason, airline investors (and some analysts) seem fixated on this — as though it is akin to the end of the world. It’s not. I wrote a column in PlaneBusiness Banter last week that took a longer look at this. We use the recent earnings results to follow-up this week.

I spent six days in Orlando last week between the Global Business Travel Association and the Women In Travel Summit, where I was honored to present onstage along with Delta Air Lines’ SVP of New York, Gail Grimmett, and Amex’s Global Business Travel’s Christine Ourmieres. 

GBTA. What can I say? For those of you who are a member, and who attended the conference, you know what I mean. It is a grueling mix of business, parties, light lunches, more parties, and more business. I was fortunate to be asked to present on a panel there as well. I’ll be talking more about GBTA, the conference, and the organization’s political problems, in our next issue of PBB. 

Oh, and what the hell happened to shares of Republic Holdings last week? We talk about that situation in-depth this week as well. That is not a good situation.

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

It’s July. And Other Astounding Facts…

Hello all. As 2Q15 earnings season started today with Delta Air Lines posting a strong earnings report,  I figured it was time to come back and make an appearance. The plan last month was to stop posting weekly updates, which are nothing more than marketing blurbs and teasers for the current week’s edition of PlaneBusiness Banter

But we are still working on a new site overhaul, and so for now, I am not sure what to do with PlaneBuzz.

Looking at our web metrics, it’s clear that we receive a lot of new eyes from Google every week, and some of you do become subscribers to PlaneBusiness Banter. Thank you!

But others simply read the Cliff Notes sneak peak at what we are talking about and go on about your business.

Stay tuned. Later this week I may post a copy of a recent column I wrote in PlaneBusiness Banter on the latest Department of Justice attempt to prove there is collusion in the airline industry. It has received a ton of feedback email from my subscriber base, so perhaps all of you would like to read as well.

For now, I am off to finish this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. If you are a subscriber, I’ll be talking to you soon!

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Good evening everyone. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

This week we’re talking a lot about Southwest Airlines and the follow-up to the recent comments made by CFO Tammy Romo at the Wolfe Research Transportation Conference that sent shares of U.S. airline stocks tumbling.

For those of you who missed the excitement, Tammy indicated in her comments there that the airline was going to see capacity up between 7% and 8% for the year. This was above what the airline had said was the case in its 1Q15 call, (the airline had said a flat 7%), and given the backdrop at the time, i.e., American Airlines management was sounding alarm bells over the possibility of the industry pushing out too much capacity, that is all it took.

Investors shed shares of airline stocks like crazy two weeks ago as a result.

Last week, the madness slowed, but U.S. airline stocks were still struggling.

This week we go in-depth about what the airline told institutional investors at a Credit Suisse meeting in Dallas last Friday,  followed up by an additional interview with Bloomberg that broke earlier today. (Monday.)

Long and the short? Southwest went on the offensive. To the extent that the airline said it was now capping growth at 7% and it will announce an increase to its ROIC shortly.

Wrap it up and what do we have? We had, over the last two weeks, a perfect time to buy shares of U.S. airline stocks. Particularly the big four.

Perception. It’s the name of the game.

This week we also talk about the recent “all-women” delivery flight involving United Airlines and Boeing; we look at the deal that the Irish government gave the okay to this week — allowing IAG Holdings to purchase Aer Lingus;  we give you the latest scoop on why oil prices continue to inch up;  we talk about a couple of new executive appointments;  we talk about the recent forum in Seattle where Alaska Airlines’ CEO Brad Tilden admits the airline was  “shocked” at the actions of Delta Air Lines over the last few years, and a whole lot more.

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


PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

DONHello everyone. Yes, I am a “Mad Men” fan. And yes, I am going to be glued to the television this evening for the series finale.

Oh, airlines? Did someone say something about airlines?

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. It’s got something for everyone. First, we have in-depth analysis of the earnings call and results from both Republic Holdings and SkyWest Airlines. In a nutshell, I’d rather be CEO of SkyWest, as the pilot situation at Republic remains grim. In addition, the airline has to get a contract with its pilots before the new contract kicks in with American. I thought after the last pilot contract was voted down, we’d have to see a change in management before we’d see a contract.

We’ll see. But overall, not a very pleasant situation.

We also talk about a topic that I think is very serious. Last month we talked in PBB about a Wired story in which a cyber researcher claimed that he knew how to hack an airline’s avionics by going in through its onboard IFE system.

The story did not get that much traction, which surprised me.

But last week, the second shoe fell, and now more people are paying attention.

What changed? A Canadian news source published the search warrant that the FBI filed when they requested permission to search Chris Robert’s computer equipment, after he landed on a United flight to Syracuse.

Anyway, we update you with the latest — which seems to indicate that Roberts did, in fact, manage to hack into the avionics of a real life airplane. Not just during a “simulated” run.

Dave Siegel is no longer CEO at Frontier Airlines. We told subscribers last year when Barry Biffle was brought on as President of Frontier that there was no room for both of them. Chairman Bill Franke and Biffle are co-running the airline for now.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg of this week’s issue. We’re talking Open Skies, airline executive sock choices, GBTA presentations, Air Canada’s sneaky way of reporting earnings, (okay, let’s say, “less than transparent”), an AvGeek’s trip to the “Pan Am Experience” and a whole lot more, including the next airline Azul’s CEO David Neeleman seems to be enamored of.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here. 

For those of you who don’t subscribe, the obvious question is …why not?


Mega-Earnings Issue of PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Hello everyone! Yes, it’s circus time here at PlaneBusiness Banter. That’s when yours truly is tied up at an industry conference for three days and has five in-depth earnings reports to do, two new earnings reviews to finish, and well all the rest of the stuff!

This week, we take an in-depth look at the recent 1Q15 earnings reported by: JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Holdings; Spirit Airlines; Allegiant Travel Co. and Virgin America. 

We also have PlaneBusiness Earnings Summaries posted for WestJet and Republic Holdings. 

Other than our lengthy earnings call analysis this week, I also share some juicy tidbits from this year’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airline Symposium. While attendance at the event seemed to be down, as a result of the CAPA Americas Summit having been held just two weeks prior, it is still a great event to meet and mingle with some of the best industry leaders and insiders around.

Next week, I’ll go into more detail about the Open Skies panel, er, brawl, that took place. This week I share some of the comments that were made on the executive panel, as well as a few other tidbits from other panels.

You get a prize if you can tell me which successful airline investor and executive called fuel hedging a “scam.”

I agree.

This week we’re also talking about the Airbus A380, which is in the news for a variety of reasons. Oh, and yes, American Airlines did successfully launch commercial service on its new Boeing 787 aircraft last week as well.

Shares of COPA took a dive last week after the airline announced earnings. All in all it was a rather so-so week for the sector.

We talk a bit about Allegiant and its recent public to and fro with its pilots. The judge did come back late on May 1 with a ruling in favor of the airline, but like I say this week, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The pilots were successful in generating a great deal of negative press about the airline, the stock dropped, and the Federal Aviation Administration put restraints on the airline’s operations.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the Teamsters and the airline on a new contract continue later this month with the National Mediation Board. 

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Hello everyone. It’s that time of year…..EARNINGS TIME!

Last week in PlaneBusiness Banter we took an in-depth look at the results posted by Delta AIr Lines. This week — our mega-earnings issue tackles the 1Q15 results from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Air Group. We’ve also got earnings summaries for JetBlue, Spirit, Virgin America and SkyWest — all of whom reported this week.

Volaris also reported last week and the Mexican ULCC did very well — which was reflected in the uptick in its share price.

But there was much more going on besides earnings the last week or so. First, it looks like the IAG-Aer Lingus deal is going to go down. Reports this week listed a number of conditions that it appears British Airways and IAG are willing to make. Looks like we could hear something definite on this in less than a month.

Meanwhile, in the Open Skies  dispute involving the three major U.S. airlines and their argument that the agreements between the U.S. and the UAE and Qatar are being violated because of illegal subsidies being given the airlines in those countries by their respective governments, over 260 members of Congress signed a letter this week supporting the U.S. carriers’ argument.

Remember, all the U.S. carriers are asking for is for the U.S. to open up “consultations” on the agreements — a legal right the U.S. has — if it believes countries are not acting in good faith per the agreements.

We had a ton of letters this week from subscribers. I always like it when this happens. We’re talking about everything from wide-bodies landing at LGA to goats clearing airport grounds to an alternative view of the Open Skies argument to a study that looks at what happens in countries that turn over ATC functions to third parties. And more.

It’s a huge issue this week. Come in, pour yourself a large cup of coffee, and enjoy.