All in the Family

I downloaded the DOT application for Family Airlines yesterday and although it is a 355 page document, beyond the pro forma stuff required for the application and the numerous resumes, I don’t see the case being made as to why the world (or at least Las Vegas) would be better off with Family Airlines. The concept isn’t new, the strategy isn’t real clear, and there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to locate in Las Vegas except that some of the principals live there.
One of the confusing things about the application was that the facts listed on their website don’t always jive with what is listed in the DOT application. In the first paragraph of the Company Information page they list the seating configuration of their 747-400 aircraft as 539 in Coach and 42 in their version of business class (called Office Class) in the upper deck. In the DOT application the configuration is listed as 482 in Coach and 42 in the upper deck business class. The web site also lists the pitch in Coach as 31-32 inches. Not being an expert in the 747-400 I will defer to those who are, but I’d be interested to learn if it is possible for a 31″ pitch with 539 seats.
Another interesting feature is that Family Airlines forecasts that 50% of its revenue will come from things like selling food, entertainment, and internet access onboard. They will also take every opportunity to sell consumer ads on, in, and around their airplanes. The CEO Barry Michaels is quoted on the web site “I’m a believer that everything you see or touch should be paid for by advertisers.”
Family Airlines says it will start with two airplanes flying JFK-LAX-MIA (reminiscent of another and defunct 747 operator – Tower Air) with fares ranging from $19 to $69. Apparently the inflight personnel will also be entertainers, at least according to their promotional information.
Where do I start.
First, the airplane. Four engines. Four HUNGRY engines. Second, the “hub”. Remember National Airlines? They flew 2 engine B757’s and they got killed on the short legs from LAS (LAS-PHX, LAS-LAX, etc.), and that was at $50/barrel oil. I have no idea of the operating efficiencies of a B747-400 but I would guess that on anything less than 1,000 miles it is pretty ugly.
Third – multiple profit centers. At $19 per passenger on the (proposed) LAS-LAX leg you better be selling dinner at $50 a plate and rowing a banner begind the airplane if you want to make a profit on that sector.
There is more, but it’s like clubbing a baby seal. This is just a bad idea and nobody I have talked to thinks it is a good idea. I understand the excitement of building a new airline and trying to do something different. But this ain’t it. There is nothing here that hasn’t already failed before.
You need more than low fares to be successful in this business.

2 thoughts on “All in the Family

  1. Chuck

    Just to clarify…National never flew LAS-PHX except on occasional sports charters for the Diamondbacks. They did fly LAS-LAX and SFO, though, as well as DFW and SEA. Perhaps with a smaller plane (737-800, maybe) and better management, their strategy might have been more successful.

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