PlaneBusiness Banter is Now Posted!

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Good evening Earthlings.

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

The last week has been brutal. I’m not kidding. First, we had two airlines report earnings last week, and we have the full review of the earnings call this week from Southwest Airlines and Alaska Air Group.

Our short take? Alaska turned in a respectable quarter — especially considering the airline used to simply assume it would post a loss in the first quarter. Not anymore.

This was also Alaska CEO Bill Ayer’s last earnings call. Ayer, one of the best CEOs in the business — will remain as Chairman. Should investors be worried about this change at the top of one of the most well-run (and profitable) U.S. airlines? No. I’ll tell you why.

As for Southwest, the airline has us totally confused.

It keeps pushing back dates for various merger-related integrations with AirTran. That we get. The airline clearly, as many of us said at the time the deal was announced, did not and still does not have the technology underfoot to make this deal work.

That includes the technology necessary to enable Southwest to fly internationally. Or to merge fully with AirTran. And then there are the fees that AirTran charges as part of their operation. An operation that, in a number of ways, performed better than Southwest in the first quarter.

Now they say they are going to keep all fees that are currently a part of the AirTran model in place. For at least 2-3 years.

Say what?

So now the “we’re going to migrate the AirTran operation into that of Southwest as quickly as possible” mantra has changed.

But why? The airline could switch off the fees at AirTran overnight.

Could it be Southwest is finally beginning to understand the value of “the upsell?”

No. Otherwise they wouldn’t be putting more seats in its 737-700s.

See what I mean about confusing?

About the best news out of Denton Drive last week was the news that the airline has finally made a decision about upgrading at least some of its IT incapability.

The airline announced it was going with Amadeus — and will use that company’s res product to enable it to start international operations. But not until 2014.

(Actually I think we’ll see Amadeus take both the international and the domestic PSS projects on at Southwest before this is all over.)

But clearly the major news last week was the announcement Friday that the three major unions at American Airlines had signed term sheets with US Airways — in effect telling management at AMR they want no part of a standalone airline — and pretty much throwing out a vote of “No Confidence” towards the current AMR management.

Needless to say, the fact the pilots did this pretty much confirms what we had said here last week — that the “Hale Memo” was a farce. Clearly Mr. Hale just signed his name to something that had no truth attached to it whatsoever.

And then the powers that be at AMR wonder why it is that their employees don’t trust them. Funny how that works.

We talk a lot about what happened last week, tell you what you can expect to see happen in the next weeks and months, and why you shouldn’t think that things have stopped happening just because they aren’t happening in public.

No question about it — the actions of the three union leaders and their boards last week was amazing. Something we’ve certainly never seen in this industry before.

No surprise — shares of US Airways climbed sharply last week on the news of the union agreements.

In addition, did you hear about the lawsuit that AIG, parent of ILFC has filed against Steve Hazy, the founder of ILFC, and currently the CEO of Air Lease Corp.?

The really bizarre part of the story — all the major players were in New York at the Plaza Hotel for the Air Finance Conference this week when the news hit.

I would think that might have made things just a tad uncomfortable.

As always, we have all of this and more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.