Tag Archives: airline pilots

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week’s holiday week issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. Since yesterday was July 4th, you know what that means. That’s right –this week’s issue includes the legendary 2011 “Ode to a Hot Dog” column.

Aside from our usual July 4th fun and frivolity, we do have some serious business to talk about this week in addition to our yearly review of weenies.

Four major U.S. airlines are now talking to aircraft manufacturers about potential new aircraft orders. We look at what some of the industry’s more knowledgeable observers think we could see in terms of new orders.

In Australia, aviation regulators grounded Tiger Airways Australia last week. We talk at length about the reasons for the ruling, the fact that most of the major investors in the airline have essentially cashed out, and why the move by CASA should not have come as a surprise to the airline.

Another week, news of another low-cost airline in Asia. Last week Qantas and Japan Airlines announced that they are forming a joint venture — the purpose of which is to start a new low-cost Asian airline.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Flybe and Finnair have combined forces purchasing Finnish regional carrier, Finnish Commuter Airlines.

On the labor front, we had two major union representational votes last week. The flight attendants at United Airlines and Continental Airlines went to the ballot box to pick a union representative for their combined group in June. Last week the National Mediation Board announced that the Association of Flight Attendants won the election — but by a closer vote than I think the AFA had expected.

While over at Republic Holdings, pilots for all of the holding company member airlines voted in favor of one union representative. And which union was that?

In terms of airline stocks, last Thursday marked the end of the second quarter. Which airline stocks performed like champs during the second quarter — and which ones lagged behind?

We also take a look at the current mean estimates for the usual suspects heading into the second quarter. How has analyst sentiment changed since the end of the first quarter?

Lots of letters to the editor this week, including one of the most unusual notes I’ve ever received. Hint: It has nothing to do with airlines.

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

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello all. Is everyone ready for the Fourth of July Weekend? Not before you read this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

This week we are talking a lot about what happens when airlines have to deal with stories that go viral with a vengeance.

Last week three airlines had to face situations that forced them to call upon every piece of social media/internet knowledge and expertise they had. US Airways, Southwest, and Delta Air Lines all handled difficult situations differently. What did they do right, what could they have done better?

AMR, UAL, and Delta filed updated second quarter guidance with the SEC. Looks like Delta Air Lines will meet its 10% RASM goal for the quarter, but maintenance costs are running higher than anticipated. Both UAL and AMR said that RASM numbers will come in lower than expected. AMR looks like it will have another sub-peer quarter — or so says Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst Glenn Engel.

The decision by the U.S. and key allies to release 60 million gallons of crude oil announced last week had a huge effect on oil prices and jet fuel last week. That news was responsible for a huge uptick in airline stocks on Thursday. But Friday the second quarter updated guidance sent stocks plummeting. Up down, up down.

It’s always something, isn’t it?

There was an Air Show last week. In Paris. We’ll take a look at the final tallies….but more importantly, has Boeing received the message yet? You know. The message that says, “Airlines want to fly aircraft that save them money.”

We talk about Air France/KLM flights that will fly using biofuel this fall, Sir Richard Branson’s personal letter to his pilots in which he essentially begs them not to strike, and we wonder whether all the flak concerning American Airlines’ new boarding policy is on target or not.

All this and more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. It’s Tuesday night. That means two things. One — this week’s issue of PBB is now posted. Two — the Mavericks and the Heat are on television. Now. Consequently my summary comments about this week’s issue are going to be mercifully brief!

In this week’s issue we talk a great deal about lawsuits. Yes, that means we are talking about American Airlines and its escalating legal fight(s) involving Sabre, Travelport, and Orbitz.

Speaking of Orbitz, American Airlines got a rude awakening last week when a court informed the airline that it once again had to provide fare inventory to Orbitz. I somehow don’t think American Airlines expected this — especially considering the airline had just rolled out a new television advertising campaign in which the airline touted the fact that AA.com had American Airlines fares — and Orbitz did not.

BZZZZT. Surprise!

Another surprise last week? The mechanics at United Airlines turned thumbs down on their highly touted tentative agreement. When I say “highly touted,” both the Teamsters and the airline had publicly lauded the deal in March.

So much for that.

We talk about why the deal failed. And why we think the Teamsters probably shoulder a lot of the blame. We also check in with the ongoing pilot negotiations at United.

Airline stocks had another rough week last week, as both employment and housing numbers released last week were nothing short of grim.

Oil prices remained flat last week, as did jet fuel, but fears the U.S. economy could be slowing down took their toll on the sector.

In the good news department, the traffic reports from May that have rolled across the transom already have, for the most part, looked good. Looks like May was a good month overall — just as those wily airline executives had indicated at the recent Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference.

We have a lot of subscriber letters this week, and we also take a retro look back at the offer Donald Trump made for American Airlines in 1989.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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It’s that time again. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we talk about WestJet’s great first quarter results, and Air Canada’s forever flawed business model. We also take a look at Allegiant Travel Company’s first quarter numbers, along with the “maintenance hairball” it coughed up.

My thanks to analyst Dan McKenzie with Rodman and Renshaw who came up with that great visualization.

Meanwhile, the market did not respond well to Republic’s first quarter numbers — and for good reason. Pinnacle and SkyWest? They are fully in the throes of regional airline hell. 2011 is not going to be a great year for either airline.

We also talk a lot about airline passenger security this week as the TSA now seems to be pushing forward with a modified “trusted traveler” plan. As outlined last week by the TSA administrator, it would use airline frequent flyer databases to check passenger identity.

All well and good — but remember — Mohammed Atta was an American Airlines AAdvantage Gold member.

That being said, we’re all for revamping the current TSA Theater of the Absurd.
Airline stocks had a reasonably good week last week — thanks to the sharp drop in oil prices. Nothing inherently connected with the ability of the denizens to generate the revenues necessary to offset higher oil prices.

An interesting tidibit crossed our desk late this afternoon that could provide a marker for the health of the airline leasing business. ILFC reported to the SEC that the number of delinquent aircraft lessees doubled in the first quarter. We have more information on this filing. Have to wonder about this. I’m somewhat surprised at this news, given all the glad-handing that was going on at this year’s ISTAT Conference, and the over-subscription of the recent Air Lease Corp. IPO.

It’s another jam-packed earnings season issue. Subscribers can access it here. Now.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. It’s that time again. This week’s mega 100-plus page issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we take an in-depth look at first quarter earnings and earnings calls from Delta Air Lines, US Airways, JetBlue and Hawaiian Holdings.

Best quote from the earnings calls this week came from Delta CEO Richard Anderson, as he tried to stress to analyst Dan McKenzie with Rodman and Renshaw that the airline is not interested, as are some competitors, in chasing market share. (Wonder who he was talking about?)

No, the airline is very serious about “keeping our capital commitments in check, generating free cash flow, putting that cash flow back on the balance sheet and keeping our capacity in line with what will produce an operating margin.”


Richard’s follow-up comment: “This isn’t a hobby.”

Love it.

US Airways posted a good first quarter — even though the airline has no fuel hedges in place. That’s right. None. I love that as well. I think the airline is onto something, i.e., screw fuel hedging. If you run an airline as a well-managed business, you should be able to manage your expenses and revenue through capacity changes.

That goes back to the Delta mantra they kept emphasizing throughout its call as well. Essentially, if a route is not making money — it’s going to go away. Chasing market share is stupid. Managing for profits and margins is smart.

We also take an extended look at the recent results from both JetBlue and Hawaiian Holdings. Two very different airlines — two very different business plans. JetBlue continues to grow — and its dominant-carrier Boston presence speaks to that point. Hawaiian has decided to grow long-haul to the West, including new routes to Japan. How are the new routes faring? Hint: The airline will probably post a loss in the second quarter.

We talk about all of this, we muse about whether or not the death of Osama Bin Laden will eventually let us walk away from TSA Security Theatre, and well, of course we talk about Kate’s dress as well!

All this and more — in this week’s jam-packed issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week’s issue is one of those “kitchen sink” issues. First we peer into the financial reports of the four largest airline pilot unions — ALPA, APA, SWAPA and USAPA — spurred by my wonderings about just how much the US Airways’ pilot union, USAPA, is paying out in legal fees. Boy, did I open a nice big Pandora’s box. Who says we only have to dissect the financial statements of the airlines?

Then there is American Airlines. No, the airline is apparently not in talks to do a deal with Mexicana, even though press reports south of the border indicated otherwise over the weekend.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is not only the day that American Airlines announces its first quarter loss. It is also protest day for American employees. Concurrent with the airline’s executive level bonus allocations, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants are going to be protesting — and I would bet there will be some other airline employees contributing to the effort.

On the corporate travel front, American filed suit against Travelport and Orbitz last week. They even dropped the “Sherman” antitrust bomb in their filing. Yep, American thinks there is some anti-trust issues here. Travelport and Orbitz, not surprisingly, think this is merely a play for leverage.

Speaking of earnings, we have a line-up of heavyweights on Thursday, followed by another heavy day next Tuesday. We get you up to date on analyst expectations and reporting dates.

If it is time for first quarter earnings, then Proxy Statements are also in the mix. Those are those horribly confusing and hard-to-figure out SEC filings that tell us just how much the top executives at the airlines took home in compensation during 2010.

Southwest Airlines filed their proxy statement last week, and, well, let’s just put it this way. Remember when the airline used to have the lowest top-tier compensation levels in the industry — and they made a big deal about the fact this was the case? And they were proud of the fact? It’s not the case anymore.

Oh, we talk about that, we talk about how airline stocks did last week, we talk about the TSA’s patdown of the six-year-old, we alert you to a museum collection of air sickness bags, and we talk about a lot more — in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Good evening earthlings! This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted.

This week I talk a lot about US Airways. For good reason. I attended the airline’s “Unplugged” Media Day last week. The airline used the occasion to announce it is upgrading its regional airline fleet with first class cabins. But that was not the only news to come out of Tempe. We’ll give you the low down.

That doesn’t mean we’re done talking about Southwest Airlines and its recent fuselage problem. Nor have the late night talk show hosts.

Last week Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly and American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey both sat down with Terry Maxon from the Dallas Morning News at the SABEW Conference in Dallas. Gary talked about the Southwest incident and Gerard talked about the recent bogus offer to buy the airline from that outfit in Florida. Yes, as we assumed, the SEC is looking into it.

Speaking of Dallas, the DOT reported its February Air Travel Consumer Report last week. As expected, it was not a good month for airlines based in Dallas. (February ….ice…snow…Superbowl on ice.)

Expedia and American Airlines kissed and made up this week. But this news leaves a lot of very ragged and messy things to clean up on the corporate travel terrain. We like TheBeat’s Jay Campbell’s take on the news. We’ll share his take with you.

While pilots for United and Continental Airlines keep working on a new contract, all is not apparently warm and fuzzy on the United Airlines pilot side of the house. Reports say that there was a recall vote originally scheduled for Monday’s UAL ALPA MEC meeting. The intended victim? The pilot’s current MEC Chairwoman, Captain Wendy Morse.

Meanwhile the flight attendants at American Airlines offered up a deal for the airline. An immediate 6% raise for its members — and the rest of the contract details would be tabled for 18 months. The airline said no.

Speaking of American — April 20 is just around the corner. That’s the day you can expect to see protests from airline employees over the airline’s latest PUP bonus distributions.

We talk also take a look this week at just how much additional revenue and/or capacity cuts the airlines would need to make — in order to cover the current price of fuel for the remainder of the year. That’s a sobering chart. Thanks to Dahlman Rose analyst Helane Becker for the analysis.

As always, all this, and more in this week’s issue.

Subscribers can access the issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello everyone. This week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. This week we talk a lot about what all the folks from the airlines were talking about last week as they made their way up to New York and the JP Morgan Transportation Conference.

All the usual suspects were there, including United/Continental, US Airways, JetBlue, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

It was a little preview of sorts of first quarter earnings, which are, in case you haven’t kept up, are right around the corner. In fact, the first quarter ends Thursday.

I know. Where did it go?

It was fun to listen to Jeff Smisek talk about the “new” United. As I tell subscribers, the more he talked, the more it simply sounded like the “old” Continental to me. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Gary Kelly talked a lot about what Southwest has been trying to do for the last five years, and what it hopes to accomplish in the next two years. He also uttered that positively horrible phrase when talking about the AirTran deal. Yes…he talked about “harvesting those synergies.”


Meanwhile the folks at Delta Air Lines were reassuring investors that yes the revenues have been a little on the low side (speaking of those elusive synergies) but that the airline was going to concentrate this year on improving them.

As for American, the airline didn’t announce any further capacity cuts at the conference — an omission that had one Wall Street analyst fuming last week.

Then there was US Airways’ President Scott Kirby. He said in New York that he saw revenue strength during the first quarter that was stronger than he has ever seen during his career.

That’s saying something.

Aside from the presentations in New York, we take a good look this week at the cash/revenues ratio for the major US airlines we track on a regular basis. It’s interesting to see who ends up above the average line and who ends up below. And what is more remarkable is the wide variance between the airline with the worst cash/revenue performance and the airline that posted the best for 2010.

Airline stocks also had a pretty good week last week. Except for shares of Air Canada, which took the Goat of the Week award.

In other news we talk about the FAA reauthorization bill that is now set for a House vote this week, and the latest critical analysis that looks at the DOT’s three-hour rule and why it isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Alaska Airlines suffered a nasty computer outage Saturday. That was not good. But as we discuss at length, the airline dealt with the problem in a superb manner. Kudos to the airline for a great job in terms of keeping customers informed and in the loop.

As usual, there is all this and more in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter. Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello to all on what is a rare dark and rainy night here in what is usually the Valley of the Sun.

Yes, yours truly is back in Phoenix this week, having come out for the 28th Annual ISTAT Conference last week which was held at the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale.

No surprise then that this week we are talking a lot about airlines, airplanes, how to finance those airplanes, the people who finance those airplanes, the people who sell the airplanes, and the people who lease airplanes.

You want a primer on airline EETCs and why they are one of the best investments on the planet? We sit down and talk to JP Morgan’s Mark Streeter — who gives us the skinny on why airline EETCs deserve more respect. (Especially from rating agencies.)

But we also update you on the industry impact from the situation in Japan. There has been a lot of news since last time we updated subscribers, including updated impact statistics from IATA.

No surprise either that with all that was going on last week, jet fuel prices continued to rise.

In the midst of Japanese angst and aircraft design drama, Phil Trenary, CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, announced his departure from the airline last week — effective the end of this week. Hello?

In this week’s Market Review, we update you on the short interest situation with the airline stocks. We give you a snapshot look as well as a trailing 12 month view. Doesn’t matter how you slice and dice it though, one airline stock continues to get hammered by the shorts.

Know which one it is?

As many of you know, the level of stock shorting is what we call a “sentiment indicator.” While it’s nothing official, an airline CFO or CEO certainly doesn’t like it when the investor community begins to increase their short positions in your stock. Kind of like being tracked by the grim reaper. “Who are these guys and what do they know?”

As I said, we’ll update you on all that in this week’s issue as well as a whole lot more.

Subscribers can access this week’s issue here.

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

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Hello to all on this rather sunny Sunday here at the Worldwide Headquarters.

PlaneBusiness Banter is posted a bit early this week, as yours truly is headed West to the Valley of the Sun later today. It’s time for the 28th Annual ISTAT Conference and this year it is being held in Scottsdale, AZ. What is ISTAT you ask? It is the trade association for those who make their living leasing, buying, and selling airplanes. You know, those metal things we voluntarily put ourselves into from time to time.

I heard last week that there were already 1600+ attendees registered for the event this year. Amazing. I remember when I was on a panel discussion at the event in 1998 and they thought it was good when they had about 400 folks show up in Boca Raton.

It’s always one of our favorite industry events to attend. I’m looking forward to it.

Yes, there was an earthquake that hit Japan last week. We talk this week a bit about how that has affected not only the Japanese airline industry, but how major international airlines who fly to Japan have been affected as well.

We’re also talking about the latest DOT Air Travel Consumer numbers. January was a very good month for the airlines — and their passengers. Except for one glaring category. Guess which one that was. And yes, it’s directly related to the DOT’s Three-Hour Rule.

Airline stocks had a very good week last week, as investors shrugged off concerns over higher fuel prices — but yet another fare increase that American Airlines tried to put into place failed as the week ended.

Spirit Airlines is up to no good again — as the airline rolled out a “Charlie Sheen” inspired ad. Meanwhile Allegiant Air is proposing a “variable rate” fare which would be finalized on the day of departure — based on that day’s fuel cost.

We talk a lot about airplanes and Wi-Fi this week. Will Boeing announce a new twin-aisle narrow body at the Paris Air Show this year? Is Wi-Fi making some Honeywell instruments go haywire in Boeing 737s? Did Aircell just blow up Row 44’s chance at long-term survival?

Never a dull moment around here.

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