Monthly Archives: May 2007

PBB Now Posted

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Okay, anyone else out there see LeBron James’ performance tonight in the NBA playoffs? Wow. 109-107 double-overtime — and one of the most spectacular personal performances I’ve seen in a long time.

Oh, that’s right. We have an issue to post.

It’s done!

PlaneBusiness Banter subscribers can now access this week’s issue here.

PBB Posted Later Today

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It’s Thursday. Do you know where Holly is? Yep, that’s right. She’s writing. Look for this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter to be posted as usual, later today.

Free, Free, Northwest is Free At Last

Free of bankruptcy shackles, that is.

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Today the management team of Northwest had the honor of ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange — in celebration of the fact the airline has now officially left the shackles of bankruptcy protection.

Shares of the airline opened at 24.97, and ended the day at 25.15.

Ticker: (NYSE:NWA)

Why Is This A Good Thing?

Just had a note sent to me asking me why it is that I think it is a good thing for Southwest to make more of a public effort at courting the gay traveler. I have to assume that either he is questioning the decision based on personal issues, or he is not aware of just how valuable the gay travel market segment is.

Ah, but the answer is an easy one. The gay travel market is one of the highest disposable income travel markets. As a demographic group gay men and women tend to travel more often (what Southwest is interested in) and when they do travel, they tend to spend more money than most other demographic groups (what hotels and restaurants are interested in.)


Or to put it another way, this is not the “Winnebago and hot dog” crowd we used to see roll into New Orleans for certain Sugar Bowl contests. (I’m going to be nice and not mention any football affiliations directly.) You know — the type who come into town and raid the A&P for toilet paper, Miller Lite,  and luncheon meat. Or hot dogs. Then, when they finally do “eat out,” they don’t leave a tip.

Bad. Bad tourists.

Northwest Airlines’ Flight Attendants Okay Contract in a Squeaker

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What do they say — the third time’s the charm? Yes, but just barely.

It was announced today that flight attendants at Northwest Airlines have voted to ratify their latest tentative contract with the airline.

This was the third attempt at a contract, and the flight attendants last chance to get lump sum payments from the airline. Northwest is scheduled to emerge from bankruptcy Thursday, and had agreed to give the flight attendants an unsecured bankruptcy claim of $182 million if the contract was ratified. This amount comes to about  $15,000 per flight attendant. But if the contract had been turned down — the claim would have become null and void.

The contract was approved by only 104 votes, 50.9% to 49.1% of the total votes cast. The union said 6,442 flight attendants were eligible to vote, and 484 ballots were voided.

Interesting tidbit buried in the information released about the vote in a piece by the Associated Press: According to the AFA, only 6442 flight attendants were eligible to vote. But there are about 8100 current Northwest flight attendants. According to the AP, “Some flight attendants could not vote because their union dues were not current.”

I’d say almost 2000 flight attendants is a bit more than “some.”

I said in last week’s PBB I thought this one was too close to call. Even with the bankruptcy claim “sweetener” I was not sure it was a sure thing.

Ticker: (NYSE:NWA)

Southwest Airlines Unveils New Gay Travel Page on Website

A good friend and longtime PBB subscriber, who also just happens to be gay, and who also just happens to be  a flight attendant for Southwest, sent me a note last night with a rather short and eye-catching subject line. It read, “OMIGOD!”

The thing that caused him to utter such a profound comment?


The fact that Southwest Airlines has debuted a new Gay Travel section of its website. Complete with pictures of Southwest employees celebrating  at the DC Pride event in 2006.

While American Airlines has been a consistent corporate donor to gay events and AIDS-related causes — this marks the first time that a U.S. carrier has been so “open” in its support of the gay community and its travel needs that I know of.  And, I might say, of their own gay employees.

Kudos to Southwest.

Too bad the Rev. Jerry Falwell is no longer with us. I’m sure he could have easily linked the airline’s falling fuel hedge advantage, or Prudential analyst Bob McAdoo’s recent downgrade of the airline’s stock  to the fact it has now put a gay travel section on its website.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I would have liked to have seen an arm-wrestling match between Jerry and Herb over the issue.

Now, you have to admit.  That would have been great theater.

Ticker: (NYSE:LUV), (NYSE:AMR)

I’m Clairvoyant: AirTran Responds


Heh. Trebor Banstetter from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram sent me a note this morning saying, “You called it.”

He then explained that perhaps I needed to send a consulting bill to AirTran’s Joe Leonard.

In case you guys missed the AirTran response to Midwest’s innovative news yesterday, here is a short clip:

“AirTran to Midwest: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

AirTran Airways, Inc., a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AAI), today announced that the company is flattered by Midwest Air Group’s (Amex: MEH) latest move to put multiple seating classes on all of its aircraft by the end of 2008.  The proposed seating configuration for Midwest Airlines is the very same approach that AirTran Airways has employed for ten years.

“At AirTran Airways, we’ve always believed in offering our customers choice,” said Joe Leonard, AirTran’s chairman and chief executive officer.  “Midwest’s announcement today is an endorsement of AirTran Airways’ business model, but without the efficiencies, cost structure or market strength of a larger, more dynamic route network.”

Tickers: (NYSE: AAI), (AMEX:MEH)

I Stand Corrected

Jonathan, our web editor and frequent Midwest flier, is right. Midwest serves fresh-baked cookies on both Saver and Signature flights. So, no problem with the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting out towards the unwashed masses in the back of the plane. They will still get cookies too.

However, as he also told me in a note,

They are definitely diluting their product, but only on the 717s and only for 59 passengers. They are actually enhancing the MD-80 product by adding Signature seats back in to these planes — that were removed in 2003 (I think that was the year). Their Saver seats will have more leg room than anything in AirTran’s fleet, akin to JetBlue and American’s “More Room” seating.

I think the overall change is questionable, but if it means there is increased revenue, decreased cost, and an increase in keeping the Midwest name and number of flights in Milwaukee and Kansas City, how can anyone really be against that?

I’d say that having a conference call to explain it all was probably more than they needed, but these guys are not one of the big boys with a huge marketing staff or budget.

AirTran will probably be all over this like a buzzard circling, but they still don’t offer anywhere near the same product, so they continue to have no leg to stand on.”

The “Big” Innovative Midwest Announcement Causing Stir With Readers

Hot from the PlaneBuzz Mailbag:

Did you see Midwest’s “big announcement”? They’re putting two classes on their aircraft.  An “innovative” approach.

Gee, can you think of another US airline flying 717s with two-class service?  Oh yeah, AirTran. If I was AirTran I’d have a press-release out in minutes entitled “Midwest Airlines validates AirTran strategy…”

These fricking morons have just destroyed the one thing that really did separate themselves from the rest of the industry. It’s an admission that their previous strategy didn’t work, and that what AirTran wants to do is correct.

Ah, yes. I did note the use of the word “innovative” in their press release. That was a bit of a stretch. Yes.

And yes, now they are basically changing their business model to that of AirTran’s.

If I were Joe Leonard, I wouldn’t put it past him to put out a release that said something like, “Thank you to the management at Midwest. Not only have they come to their senses in regard to what they should be doing in terms of their business model, but the conversion costs to a two-class onboard configuration will already have been borne by Midwest before we take over the airline.”

Midwest Goes to Two-Class Seating on All Flights


Midwest Airlines announced this afternoon that it is going to modify all of its aircraft to a rather sharply defined set of choices – Signature or Saver. Cookies or no cookies. (Which begs the question of what those poor slobs in the back with their cramped seats are supposed to do when they smell the cookies baking in the front of the aircraft for the pampered Signature flyers, but I digress…)

The dual-seating option will  be  available  this  fall  on the  airline’s MD-80 aircraft and in mid-2008 on its Boeing 717 fleet.

According to the airline,

“In  current  Saver  markets,  the  company  expects  to generate additional revenue from the sale of higher-value Signature seats. In current Signature markets,  added  revenue  generation  is  expected to result from capturing market  share  currently  lost  due to lack of capacity in high load factor markets  or  those  that are slot-constrained, like Washington, D.C. Reagan National  and New York La Guardia. The added capacity will also provide the seating  needed  to  accommodate  passengers  connecting from other Midwest Airlines flights, Midwest Connect flights and the new codeshare partnership with  Northwest  Airlines,  as  well as additional demand stimulated by the added  low-fare  Saver  seating.  Overall,  the  implementation  of seating choices is projected to generate $30-35 million in annualized revenue.”

Wonder what AirTran’s Joe Leonard thinks about all this? I’m sure we’ll find out shortly.