Tag Archives: airline pilots

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everybody!

This week’s insanely long and informative earnings issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted! At last!

This week we take an in-depth look at the recent 3Q earnings results from: Delta Air Lines, US Airways, United Airlines, Alaska Air Group and JetBlue. We also have earnings summaries for Hawaiian, Allegiant and Spirit. We’ll get caught up with those in our next issue. Meanwhile, Republic Holdings announced earnings today.

Is it five-o-clock somewhere? Please?

Overall, it was a great quarter for the U.S. airline industry, although two of the big boys definitely came in with results that underperformed their peers — United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Here’s a riddle for you. Which airline posted an unbelievable 21.3% EBIT margin for the quarter? (FYI: That is four times what Southwest posted for the quarter.)

PlaneBusiness Banter Subscribers, your massive issue awaits. Along with the answer to that question.

Speaking of Southwest — we noted last week the airline had not mentioned Atlanta at all in its last two earnings calls. But Delta Air Lines had no problem responding to a question about Southwest and Atlanta in its earnings call this quarter. The response seems to confirm what we had suspected: Delta is seeing an uptick in market share out of Atlanta at the expense of AirTran/Southwest.

US Airways had a great record-breaking quarter, as did Alaska Air Group.

The laggard of the bunch this week? United Airlines.

We’ll also tell you about the latest strategic moves by Virgin Australia, we have great industry Halloween pics for you to peruse, we wonder why Boeing was late in delivering the second 787 to United, and we have some pics of our awesome flight on Row 44’s Grumann Albatross last week off the coast of California. We went to play with the company’s new streaming video product. We left in love with a very unusual airplane.

Like I say, a huge, huge issue this week.

Subscribers can access the monster here.

American Airlines Bankruptcy Proceeding Begins


It’s a packed house in Manhattan this morning as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane opens up the airline’s Section 1113c hearing.

Apparently the crowd is so large, they have opened up two “overflow” rooms.

I am not in New York. I am in the lovely confines of Slidell, LA, just outside of New Orleans, where my Dad is now in the hospital, awaiting transfer into a physical rehabilitation program, after suffering three falls in one week.

But fear not.

The intrepid Terry Maxon, reporter for the Dallas Morning News is on the ground there, as is Scott Mayerowitz with the Associated Press.

Scott is the more prolific tweeter of the two. Terry — he’s still getting used to the Tweetie thing.

Scott can be followed at @globetrotScott

But I would strongly recommend you follow Terry’s blog posts. You can find them here.

We also have a couple of folks on the scene (our stellar cast of PlaneBusiness undercover correspondents) and if we hear any particular tidbits of note, we will tweet them. If you don’t follow us on the Tweetie yet, our account is @planebusiness.

Speaking of, what do you think Captain Dave Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, thought, when he realized Terry was on the same plane to New York as he was on Sunday?


You can read Terry’s comments about their short “leaving the aircraft” interview here.

Good read. I continue to be impressed with Dave Bates and the way in which the APA has handled themselves over the last few weeks. No histrionics. No union/management posturing. No “looking toward the past.” Just a very methodical and business-like way of approaching the options in front of them.

What a refreshing and, I would add, much needed change.

Captain Bates and I spent some time together when we were both at the recent Phoenix Sky Harbor Airline Symposium . I came away impressed with his take on the situation then. I remain impressed.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. It’s that time once again. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

This week we take an in-depth look at the recent earnings reported by both WestJet and Air Canada. On the surface, WestJet easily bested its Canadian competitor in terms of its fourth quarter performance, but WestJet is now in the process of starting a new regional airline. We talk a lot this week about my concerns about this new “WestJet Express” operation.

Meanwhile, how is Air Canada going to increase its revenues? The airline’s problems in that department overshadowed the airline’s cost reduction performance in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, cost forecasts for the first quarter are daunting.

We also update subscribers on the latest from the American Airlines bankruptcy, and we take a look at what happened to airline stocks last week. Hint: The frenzy of the last few weeks finally came to a screeching halt.

Pinnacle Airlines got some good news last week however — and that news sent its shares soaring. We’ll update you on all that news as well.

All this and much, much more, including a very active mailbag — this week in PlaneBusiness Banter.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Good evening everyone.

This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we’re talking a lot about the two airlines that call Dallas-Ft.Worth home — American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Last week Southwest Airlines rolled out its fourth quarter earnings results — making the airline the first to report for the quarter. Overall the airline posted numbers that were just a bit better than expected, although the “noise” from the airline’s merger with AirTran will continue into 2012. The airline also updated its list of AirTran cities it is keeping and those it is putting on the “Don’t fly there no mo” list.

Were there any surprises here? Yep. On both sides.

Meanwhile, the bankruptcy continues at American Airlines. Monday Human Resources SVP Jeff Brundage sent out a letter to employees trying to reassure them that even if their pensions were terminated or frozen, they would still get almost the same payment from the PGBC. Only problem — that is not true if you are a pilot. Or a member of upper management. Why? The pension payouts for those two groups are higher — and the payouts would exceed the maximum levels allowed by the PBGC.

Brundage’s letter was issued, I believe, as a result of the airline’s failure to pay the roughly $100 million it was scheduled to pay into its pension plans last week. News of the airline’s minimal payment it did make was not received well with labor leaders of the airline’s employee groups. The move, coupled with the publicly vocal sparring between the airline and PBGC over the last several weeks succeeded in raising the angst level of employees considerably.

Brundage’s letter was followed by a missive to the troops from CEO Tom Horton. But all Horton’s note said was that the airline was going to make changes in its executive ranks, its management “layers” and that it was going to be the airline it used to be — again.

Again — no details.

Meanwhile, out in Phoenix, US Airways’ President Scott Kirby and his revenue management team are hard at work putting together a network restructuring plan for American Airlines. Or so said a report in Bloomberg last week.

Say what?

Let’s just say the obvious!

Of course US Airways’ President Scott Kirby has his minions working on a plan that will increase American’s revenue performance.

We may not get to hear the details until much later in the year — after American has had its chance to impress the bankruptcy court and the unsecured creditor’s committee with its restructuring plan. But I assure you — yes, US Airways is working on a proposal.

Oh my gosh. And this is just the start of this week’s issue.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter is Back!

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Hello everyone. It’s time once again to jump into the fray. Our Holiday Hiatus is over. Time to close out the story on 2011 and start the story of 2012.

The first issue of PlaneBusiness Banter for 2012 is now posted.

This week we talk a lot about airline stocks. We look at how they performed for the last week, the last month, the last quarter and the last year.

The good news? The sector posted a huge fourth quarter. Not so good news — yearly stock performance numbers were horrible. But hey, the quarterly numbers are much more important.

In addition, contrary to a number of wire service and financial news site headlined “end of year” airline stock stories that are floating about the Internet — we tell you which airline stock really posted the best return to investors in 2011.

And no, it’s not Alaska Air Group — as many stories say was the case.

We also update subscribers this week on the American Airlines bankruptcy. The airline is starting to announce route changes, and has announced some fleet news. But, as Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linenberg reminded investors in a note last week, timing for the airline’s Section 1110 filing the end of this month means that we should hear a lot more from the airline in the next 2 1/2 weeks concerning which aircraft the airline wants to keep, which ones it wants to walk away from, and which ones it wants to renegotiate with lessors.

On the traffic front, December RASM estimates from those airlines that supply such things are coming in mixed. We tell you who has reported better than expected RASM performance, and who has disappointed.

Following up on traffic — a reminder. Airline earnings reports for the fourth quarter and year-end will begin to roll out in a little over a week.

Both JAL and Hong Kong Airlines are talking about potential IPOs in 2012, while Lufthansa was apparently just pulling Virgin Atlantic’s strings over bmi. The German airline finalized a deal with IAG, parent of British Airways for the airline, er, slots over the Christmas holiday. Not surprisingly Sir Richard says he is going to continue the fight to keep BA from getting its hands on bmi’s slots.

Unfortunately I don’t think his screams are going to matter to UK regulators.

On this side of the Atlantic, flight attendants for AirTran and Southwest announced a seniority agreement right before Christmas — good news for the airline.

Did Boeing meet its 2011 delivery goal? No.

How many more aircraft did Airbus deliver in 2011 than Boeing?

Are those “tiny” hairline cracks that have been found in the wing assembly of the A380s really a safety issue?

All of this, and a lot more in our first issue of the year.

If you aren’t yet a subscriber to PlaneBusiness Banter — why not? Find out how you can become one here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week we feel like we’ve been trapped on a tarmac for 7 hours. Or maybe 36 hours. Or maybe longer.

Yes, it’s the biggest earnings issue of the quarter, as we take the microscope to the third quarter earnings calls this week from Delta Air Lines, US Airways, United Continental, Spirit Airlines, and JetBlue.

How long is this week’s issue. Oh, I don’t know. 150 pages more or less.

Needless to say, there is certainly not a lack of things to talk about in this week’s issue, and some of the topics are not even earnings related.

Take for instance, last weekend’s freak snowstorm in the Northeast. I’m sure the folks at JetBlue would love to give it to you.

Once again, the airline found itself the brunt of headlines far and wide after passengers on a number of the airline’s aircraft were forced to sit on said aircraft for hours, and hours, and hours after landing in Hartford.  American Airlines also saw one of its international flights diverted there, and all in all, a horrible time was had by all.

Although the governor of Connecticut seemed to think passengers weren’t looking at the situation in the right light. He reminded those who finally did make it inside Bradley International that hey, they landed safely, didn’t they?

We also talk a lot this week about the subject of fuel hedging.

I am convinced that airlines need to stop doing it.


Because it’s not necessary.

Airlines now have the resources and the planning tools they need to weather the ups and downs of fuel prices. Hedging has become a complicated unnecessary expense.

At least that’s how I see it.

And hey, how ’bout the management team at Qantas? CEO Alan Joyce finally had it last week with the ongoing “mini strikes” and other various efforts by three different employee groups to disrupt the airline’s operations. Saturday, the airline simply shut down.

Brilliant move on the part of Joyce in my opinion.

He knew if he did it, the Australian government would be forced to step in, which it did, and the arbitration court in Australia on Sunday ordered the employees at Qantas back to work — but only after it was made clear that employees were forbidden to participate in any more “mini-strike” job actions.

I can’t recall any airline ever doing anything like this. Ever.

As usual, this is just the tip of the iceberg. This week’s issue is huge, and we’re talking about a lotta stuff.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week in PlaneBusiness Banter we are talking earnings. And more earnings. And more earnings.

This week’s 150-plus page issue contains our earnings call reviews for American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Air Group and Southwest Airlines.

To sum up? We now know American has no more unencumbered aircraft (all the furniture has now, officially, been burned), one analyst believes the company is pushing pilots to agree to an expanded domestic codesharing agreement so that American can enter into such an agreement with US Airways, and yet another analyst thinks the airline’s liquidity situation is inevitably going to lead to a bankruptcy filing — probably in 2012.

Meanwhile, American Eagle and its pilots came to terms on a new eight-year tentative agreement last week.

Southwest Airlines‘ earnings call was …long. The airline’s financial results are…confusing. They are going to be that way for probably another couple of quarters — until the merger with AirTran passes the year-over-year comp mark. Meanwhile the airline’s costs are higher than we’d like to see but revenues were good.

Many of you still appear to be confused as to whether the airline lost money or made money. We explain all of that, and we give you CFO Laura Wright’s dissertation on the airline’s hedge situation. In full.

Laura deserves a medal for that performance.

Alaska Air Group had another strong quarter. The airline now does appear to be that very rare breed. Quarter in, quarter out, the airline continues to produce exceptional margins while running a very well managed operation.

Pinch me. Is this company really operating an airline?

Hawaiian Airlines also had a very good third quarter. The airline has taken a number of risks over the last couple of years, in an attempt to diversify its flying mix. This quarter’s results prove the airline’s strategic plan is working.

A heads up for institutional investors — management members from both Alaska Air Group and Hawaiian Airlines will be in New York in November for investor days. I’d recommend you go and talk to the teams from both airlines.

All this and much more in this week’s lengthy issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

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PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. Just a short note this week to let you know that this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

PBB is posted a bit earlier than usual this week, as yours truly is headed out to Las Vegas in a couple of hours, where I will attend The BeatLive Conference.

This will mark the fourth year I’ve attended this corporate travel get-together of industry heavyweights, and I look forward once again to getting my corporate travel gossip fix for the year.

Jay Campbell, the founder of The Beat, has challenged all attendees of the conference to join him in a SkyJump off the Stratosphere. (You freefall from 108 stories up.) Think I should do it? I’ll keep you posted.

This week we’re talking more about the great third quarter guidance we keep hearing from all the US airlines (although one major airline will still post a loss…guess who?) and of course we’re talking about Boeing’s 747-8 launch debacle involving Cargolux. What a mess that is.

In other news, we also break down the second quarter earnings news from Virgin America, which was released Friday by the airline. (As Virgin is not publicly traded, they report their numbers to the DOT and they are not released until much later than the rest of the sector.)

You know what they say about companies that issue press releases on Friday. That’s right. It’s usually an indication they’d prefer the information was somewhat ignored.

Looking at the numbers posted by Virgin, I can understand why.

How did they stack up compared to the recent second quarter results posted by the rest of the North American airline group? We’ll fill you in.

Meanwhile it sounds like the mothership of the Virgin empire, Virgin Atlantic is set to announce an alliance hook-up. If it’s not Star, I’ll be very, very, very, surprised.

We’ve got the latest on jet fuel, and more importantly we tell you how well the US airline sector fared on Wall Street last week — after all those bullish comments the various airline execs made at the Deutsche Bank Transportation Conference.

Oh, and Shoshana Hebshi? We talk about her experience flying on 9/11 as well. If you have not read her blog post in which she details what happened to her — including being strip-searched — after being taken off a Frontier Airlines flight in handcuffs on September 11, it’s a must read.

Fear. It’s not a good thing.

Meanwhile, in our column this week, I give props to the current crop of airline CEOs. You know why? They deserve it. I’ll tell you why it’s a good thing the industry now appears to be led by a group of adults rather than a bunch of flamboyant “characters.”

All this and more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

On that note, I don’t want to miss my flight to Vegas. Gotta go. Talk to you guys later!

THIS part of the AirTran/Southwest Pilot Seniority Agreement Is Apparently Accurate

According to a representative of SWAPA, the union that represents the Southwest Airlines’ pilot union, the top half of the letter that was posted earlier this afternoon is authentic. The bottom part that was posted earlier with supposed agreement “details” was not. Therefore I have removed the post entirely to prevent any further misinformation from being distributed.

Thank goodness. I was trying to figure out how in the world Southwest Airlines was going to order that many planes.

I have asked the SWAPA union representative who contacted me to please forward me an accurate summary of the tentative agreement.


July 16, 2011

Fellow Pilots,

This afternoon, the AirTran Merger Committee (MC) reached an agreement-in-principle with SWAPA and Southwest Airlines on a seniority list integration and transition agreement.

This agreement will be presented to the ATN ALPA Master Executive Council for their consideration in the near future. If this agreement is approved by the MEC, it will be presented to the membership for ratification.

The MC will be working in the coming days to translate the current agreement into a full-language document. This will require a great deal of work, and your patience is appreciated as they develop a comprehensive presentation for the MEC and the pilots of AirTran Airways.

The Merger Committee believes that this a fair agreement that provides career protection for AirTran pilots, as well as significant economic gains.

In unity,

Your ATN Master Executive Council


PlaneBusiness Banter Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week in PlaneBusiness Banter we’re talking about the second quarter earnings season that begins next week. We also give you the complete rundown of the current airline stock target prices — compliments of the usual airline industry analyst contingent.

We also look at the most recent DOT Airline Consumer Travel Report for May. This month was a real grab bag of results — with airlines the usually doing well not doing well in certain measures, other doing better than expected — and then there was American Airlines. And American Eagle. The not-so-dynamic duo were clearly the worst performing airlines of the group. We were so impressed, we were moved to unanimously award the two airlines a tandem “Goat” award for their industry-lagging performance.

That reminds me. You know how airline executives always pepper their comments about how their particular airline has such “industry-leading” performance in this and that? When was the last time you heard someone say their airline is an industry laggard?

The EU is convinced that all the airlines of the rest of the world need to participate in its Emissions Trading Scheme. Needless to say the Air Transport Association, the IATA, and U.S. airlines don’t agree. The shrill cry against adding airlines to the list of ETS participating companies rose sharply last week — along with threats of an all-out trade war.

Last week airline analysts lined up to initiate coverage on shares of Spirit Airlines. Without exception they were all bullish on the shares. Their enthusiasm helped push shares of Spirit up 11% for the week.

Speaking of Wall Street, jet fuel posted a sharp uptick of more than 6% last week, even though the price of crude oil was only up a little more than 1%.

United Airlines pulled out the stops last week as it feted its most traveled frequent flyer. They even named a 747 after him.

On the merger front the proposed LAN/TAM deal is on hold as government regulators take more time to look at possible antitrust implications. I find this rather amusing, since LAN basically owns the Chilean market.

Pinnacle’s new CFO used to work for Pinnacle’s CEO when he was CEO at Frontier Airlines, Lufthansa is going to start flying passengers on biofuel on Friday, and more.

All in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter .