Monthly Archives: January 2009

US Airways: My Next Airplane is Going to be a ChrisCraft

Yours truly was minding her own business this afternoon, driving back home from Ft. Worth at 75 miles an hour, when all of a sudden I start getting messages about a US Airways plane that had ditched in the Hudson on my phone.

Now, being the card-carrying airline geek that I am — you can only imagine that it was a miracle I got home and did not run into anyone while I drove and tried to 1) get my emails 2) get online and/or 3) find out what had happened.

According to reports, US Airways’ Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia to Charlotte at 3:03 PM Eastern time. Reports say that the pilot reported a “double bird strike” and apparently the crew felt it necessary to put the aircraft down in the Hudson.

Listening to NPR just now, the reporter there interviewed one of the passengers who said the plane essentially “glided in” on the water. As you can see in this photo, the aircraft remained floating, and passengers were rescued from the wings and the top of the aircraft.

What is unbelievable is that all reports say that all passengers and crew were rescued.

We can only hope that this is the case.

If so — well done and kudos to the flight crew.

I’m sure we’ll all know more as the evening goes on.



Ned Walker Beefs Up the Communications At Delta Air Lines: Nabs Ed Stewart


Whoa. Who is this handsome man?

We knew Delta Air Lines was serious about creating a real honest-to-god communications department when they hired away veteran Ned Walker from Continental Airlines.

Today that fact was made apparent once again as the airline announced that Ed Stewart has been named head of external communications for the airline.

Ed, who is currently a senior vice president at Fleishman-Hillard in Dallas, is most well-known for his 16-year stint at Southwest Airlines.

Having personally dealt with Ed many times during his time at Southwest, I can say, without question, that he was one of the best PR spokespersons any company could have asked for. Notice I said any company. Not any airline.

In terms of airline PR, he was so far ahead of the pack it wasn’t even close.

Nice move. Both for Ed and for Ned and ….Delta Air Lines.

Don’t let a German Dessert Beat Cranky Flier

Okay loyal readers. I have a task for you to do today.

Today is the last day you can vote in this year’s “Weblog Awards.”

Brett Snyder’s blog Cranky Flier, has been nominated for best travel blog. As of this posting, he trails “My Kugelhopf” by a little more than 100 votes.

As you all know, Brett is a friend of the PlaneBusiness empire, and well, even though the whole concept behind the Weblog awards is nothing more than a glorifed beauty contest — there’s no question that if you win, it can give your site some nice added attention. And in the case of Brett, who does not have a subscriber publication to pay the rent — but just the blog — added attention is about the best thing you can ask for.

Go vote.

I would say vote now, vote often. But each IP is limited to one vote a day. And today is the last day.

So one vote will suffice.

But if you want to run around your office and vote from every computer, that would be fine too.

Yes, that’s me and that’s Brett at last fall’s Southwest Airlines’ Halloween festivities. Brett dressed as a Canadian Mountie, in honor of Southwest’s link-up with Canadian wunderkind WestJet. He also awarded free Molsons from his backpack to deserving Halloween skit participants. A truly selfless act.


Good Morning!


How is everyone today? I can tell that life is almost back to normal this week. The holidays, I think, are finally behind us all.

How can I tell? Because I have already received a raft of emails from readers of this week’s PBB.

Last week our email total was good, but it took awhile.

Today, the email bag is busy right off the bat.

I’ve also received a number of interesting non-airline related emails this morning.

Such as?

One reader wants to know if I am going to be in New Orleans this upcoming weekend for Pardi-Gras.

If you are a Parrothead, you know what Pardi-Gras is. It’s an excuse for Parrotheads to get together in New Orleans, drink heavily, and hope that Jimmy Buffett decides to show up.

No, not really. Everyone has a good time whether he shows up or not.

Sounds like a winner to me.

Unfortunately no, I am going to be in the DFW metroplex this weekend. No margaritas for me.

Another reader writes to ask when the official party is going to be — to celebrate the official opening of the PlaneBusiness branch office.

I think you guys have one thing on the brain today.

Good question. It certainly can’t be at the branch office. That would severely curtail the number of potential guests.

I’ll have to work on this. But, as our one subscriber commented this morning, “It would be unairline-like not to have a party.”

How true.

US Airways’ December Traffic Numbers: Very Good


Oops. Members of the US Airways’ fan club sent me notes last night asking me why it was I hadn’t talked about their traffic numbers in yesterday’s post.

Okay, okay. Nothing intentional. I simply forgot. Quiet down!

Actually US Airways posted pretty darn good traffic numbers for December.

US Airways said Wednesday that its mainline RPMs were down 1.1% for the month, against a capacity shrinkage of 6.4%. Ding, ding, ding. You know what that means.

Yep. It means that load factor went up. And by a healthy 4.4 points to 80.3% — which set a new record for the airline.

Closer Than We Want to Be to Continental Airlines’s Flight 1404 Wreckage


One of the more unfortunate news items while we were on holiday hiatus was the crash of Continental Airlines‘ Flight 1404, which apparently tried to take off from Denver International, but instead found itself careening off the runway, ending up in a ravine on the edge of the airport. Minus one engine and its landing gear. And on fire.

While we all saw photos of the wreckage in the days after the mishap on Dec. 20, and while I think most of us were amazed that everyone onboard had escaped — when you look at this slide show posted by Denver Channel 7 News, you’ll be even more amazed that there were not more casualties.

Warning: These are powerful images.


Airline Traffic Reports Roll Out for December


If it’s the first week of the month, that means it’s time for airline traffic reports.

And it’s time for all of us who look at them with a jaundiced eye to try and figure out what they mean. Actually all they mean is that for the month of December a particular airline did this.

In this environment, the question of whether they portend any kind of trend or not is a rather risky assumption.

The good news overall is that demand held up fairly well in December for the most part. However, one caveat. Remember that for the purposes of the reporting month, the backend of Thanksgiving travel fell into the “December” reporting month this year.

In addition to the usual traffic reports, Continental Airlines also issued its RASM estimates for the month. On that front, the news was not bad either.

Commenting on both topics, JP Morgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote this week,

Demand weak but steady, for now. November was a noisy month, requiring yr/yr adjustments for the portion of Thanksgiving travel falling in December and a higher November weekend-to-weekday ratio (weekend revenue production is typically penalized by lower business travel). Additionally, disproportionate leisure demand in the final two weeks likely resulted in higher revenue retention as weather deteriorated across much of the country (vacationers are more apt to push on, whereas business travelers give up more easily – as did this analyst in the week before Christmas). So while December offers no assurances as to F2009’s demand outcome, the aforementioned adjustments do suggest that while weak, December does not appear to have gotten any weaker than November for Continental. Furthermore, given Continental’s recent relative RASM outperformance, our ATA December mainline RASM forecast of 2.5% does not appear to be in jeopardy.”

In terms of Continental’s RASM performance, Jamie added, “December better than feared. Continental December mainline and consolidated RASM rose 4.5% and 4%, respectively, a respectable outcome versus our more dire +1% consolidated forecast. Based on the midpoints of this guidance, consolidated revenue fell 4.5%, while yield rose 2.4%. Additionally, November’s initial 1.5% consolidated RASM midpoint was slightly lowered to +1.2%.”

As for the basics, Continental reported that consolidated RPMs were down 6.7% while capacity was down 8.1%, resulting in a 79.9% load factor, up 1.2 points from December of 2007.

United Airlines

RPMs were down 11.5% in December, as the airline slashed capacity by some 12.7%. This resulted in a load factor of 79.9%, an increase of 1.1 points from December 2007.

Note for you trend watchers: The airline reported that traffic fell faster on its Pacific and Atlantic routes. (More ammunition for the idea that the glory days of continued international growth are coming to a screeching halt.)

Southwest Airlines

RPMs were up 1.1%, while capacity declined 1%. This resulted in 1.5% increase in load factor.

This was a nice rebound from Southwest’s rather anemic November numbers.

Allegiant Airlines

RPMs were up 9.6% while capacity was down 2.6%. Ah….now here are some healthy numbers.

This resulted in the airline posing an 88.7% load factor, up from 78.9% last year. That’s a 10.2 point increase – the largest posted so far by a U.S. carrier.

Delta AIr Lines

Delta reported that RPMs were up 0.7% for the month, while capacity was down 2.4%. This resulted in a load factor increase of 2.4 points over December 2007 numbers.

Again, however, as we saw with the United numbers, the international numbers were not too pretty. The airline reported that international RPMs were up 9.2%, but capacity was up 13.7%. This resulted in a decline in load factor of 3.2 points.

American Airlines

American reported that both domestic and international traffic declined in December, unlike United and Delta, which both posted increases in their domestic traffic.

This makes sense, in that American is taking a bigger hit because of its previous heavy investment banking/Wall Street trans-Atlantic business. A fact the airline supported by its comment that its sharpest decline in international traffic was on the trans-Atlantic segment, which was down 8%.

The airline reported that domestic RPMs were down 9.6% while capacity was down 11.8%. Meanwhile international traffic was down 5.7% on a capacity reduction of only 3.2%.

Overall, the airline ended the month with a 79.2% load factor, up 0.4 points from December 2007.


AirTran saw RPMs up 2.3% in December, while capacity was down 6.9%. This resulted in a very nice increase in load factor for the month — up 7.1 points to 79.8%.

What the Heck Happened To Allegiant (ALGT) Shares?

I received a handful of notes today from readers asking me about the sharp drop off in the price of Allegiant Travel Company shares.

As you can see by the chart the stock took a beating today on the street.

So what gives?

Nothing to worry about as far as I can tell.

This stock is proving itself to be a classic airline “trading” stock, and as such whenever the folks who have ridden the stock get the feeling that the good times may be over for the time being — it’s time to sell.

And with all the press the stock received over the weekend in regard to its stellar 2008 performance, that is a classic signal for traders to sell. And sell they did.

It’s not, as far as I can tell, a fundamental issue of any kind.

Nor have we heard rumors of CEO Maury Gallagher suffering from any kind of “hormonal imbalance.”