PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Good evening everyone.

What a lovely birthday today has been. Even though I have been slaving over a hot issue of PlaneBusiness Banter all day. Tomorrow I shall celebrate properly.

In this week’s issue we talk about what may be the next big deal in the U.S. airline industry. No, I’m not talking about the anticipated merger between US Airways and bankrupt American Airlines. (Although we obviously talk about that again this week as usual!)

No, I’m talking about the reports that say a deal that would see Delta Air Lines purchase Singapore Airlines’ stake in Virgin Atlantic is …back on.

Astute observers of the industry may recall that rumors about this same deal were hot and heavy about two years ago. But from all reports at the time, Sir Richard had an overly inflated idea of how much his prized possession was worth in terms of a “branding” fee.

Yes, well, times change.

As long as Delta doesn’t overpay for the stake, I have no problem with the deal. It would give Delta a much better presence at Heathrow, which it needs to keep its top tier corporate travel clients happy.

The big news closer to home is the pilot contract vote at American Airlines. On Friday, it will all be over, except for the expected screaming and yelling that we anticipate will occur no matter which way the vote goes. And yes, I still say it is too close to call. We’ll see.

Voting is now underway on the United Airlines’ ALPA tentative agreement as well.

I’m sure you all saw that AMR has asked to extend its exclusivity period during which it can present its restructuring plan to the bankruptcy court. No surprise. Considering that not much can be done in December anyway, and considering that the UCC, American, and US Airways are clearly working to put together a merger proposal — this is nothing to get excited about. It does, however, mean that a “merger announcement” has probably been pushed back a bit from what I had originally estimated.

So no hostile bids on the horizon. At least not yet.

Lufthansa finally decided it had best look for a partner to expand its Asian access. Guess who it is?

A merger between Qatar and Emirates? According to Qatar’s CEO, it almost happened.

The situation at Iberia is a mess. IAG has sued the pilot union. British Airways probably wishes it had never gotten involved with Iberia in the first place. Iberia has said it needs to cut 4500 jobs. Meanwhile, employees at Iberia vote to hold a series of strikes later this month.

Merry Friggin’ Christmas!

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