Tag Archives: AMR

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1Good evening earthlings. Our last summer “kitchen sink” issue of PlaneBusiness Banter is now posted. Alas. We were supposed to already be on vacation. But then the Department of Justice decided to sue American Airlines and US Airways last week.

So we bumped our three remaining 2Q13 earnings call reviews to this week. We also had a feeling that we’d hear more important information in regard to the DOJ’s machinations — which we did on Thursday.

So this week we wrap up 2Q13 earnings, including a look at break-even load factors and operating margins, we update you on the latest between the DOJ and American and US Airways, we take a sneak peek at how the bigger players are doing in terms of on-time performance in August, we muse about whether or not an airline should be named “Vanilla” and we go through a lot of mail.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1.jpg

Good evening everyone.

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

We are a bit late in posting this week — the result of PlaneDad move-related duties. I am happy to report that he is now in his new home in Texas, but the whole process took more time this week and last than I had anticipated.

Hopefully we’ve gotten the most time-consuming issues behind us.

Meanwhile, this week in PlaneBusiness Banter, there are two main stories we’re talking about. One — the reaction of United Airlines to the city of Houston’s decision to allow Houston Hobby to expand — allowing Southwest Airlines and other airlines to fly internationally from Hobby. While we knew this was going to be the city’s decision, even we were somewhat taken aback with some comments made by the airline and its CEO, Jeff Smisek after the city council vote took place.

We talk about what the airline could have done — as opposed to what it did do – in this week’s issue.

We have a new edition of AMR Bankruptcy Follies this week. This week’s we’re talking about Chinese food and mystery meat. I’ll let you guys figure it out.

We also heard from a number of our subscribers about the “Town Hall” meeting AMR CEO Tom Horton conducted last week at the airline’s headquarters. Funny. The entire presentation, particularly the Q&A session contents are not all on the official “Scrubbed” version of the session that the airline has posted for public consumption.

But essentially, I think Mr. Horton needs to be reminded that he is not the one who is going to decide whether American merges with another airline or not, or who that airline may be. That responsibility lies with the bankruptcy court, particularly the Unsecured Creditors Committee.

Etihad broke out the checkbook again last week, while David Neeleman’s Azul bought out rival Brazilian airline TRIP. This also means that SkyWest, which had invested in TRIP will get a payout. Over time.

Will Pinnacle Airlines move back to Minneapolis? Yes — if the folks in Minneapolis have anything to do with it. I also tend to think it will probably happen, as Delta continues to downsize its presence in Memphis.

Oh, and that big sell-off in airline stocks Monday? Don’t pay any attention to it. If you are a savvy investor you saw it for what it was — an overreaction to the Delta May PRASM estimate numbers. But Delta is an exception to the rule. We’ll tell you what two analysts had to say about the situation.

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

PlaneBusiness Banter Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1.jpg

Good day everyone!

My thanks to all for your patience. PlaneDad duty once again took me away from our normal perch here at the Worldwide Headquarters this week.

The good news? PlaneDad is finally making the move to Texas. And he has a place to live when he gets here!

Thank you again for your patience with our nebulous publishing times of late. Just something that can’t be avoided, given what else is going on. We’ll get through it.

So — having said all that, what are we talking about in this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter ? A lot.

Easily the biggest news is the fact that Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines finally confirmed that yes, Delta Air Lines will be leasing the entire 717 AirTran fleet from Southwest.

This move is a big one — in more ways than one. There are winners, and there are losers. We talk about some of them in this week’s issue.

Last week the usual suspects were all in Boston, presenting at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference. We let you in on some of the more interesting comments including those by Ed Bastian, President of Delta Air Lines, Scott Kirby, President of US Airways, Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines and Mark Powers, CFO of JetBlue.

We also have a guest column this week by a PlaneBusiness Banter subscriber. His opinion is that airlines need stop the “silo” thinking that pervades so much of the industry and mover more towards what he terms an “Intersilotic” approach. Being the “big picture” person I am, I’m all for it. While some aspects of the industry certainly can benefit from a vertical approach — much more of it should take into consideration the entire team effort — not just the actions of one part of the team.

Of course no PlaneBusiness Banter would be complete these days without the AMR Bankruptcy Follies column. This week we have a short one-act play for you to read, and we update you on the 1113 process.

We also have Scott Kirby’s comments from the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference, in which, or the first time I’ve heard publicly, he clearly and concisely explains why it is that a merger between AMR and US Airways would be beneficial to both pilot groups — USAPA and APA. While his comments dovetail with what we have assumed would be the case — this is the first time I’ve heard someone from the airline put it out there for public consumption.

Oh and yes, we also offer our condolences to American management employees, who are being subjected to a flood of obnoxious communications from the airline. If it isn’t the latest “design and layer” update, it’s superficially happy missives concerning how to handle this new “opportunity in your life!” Yes, they are talking to those employees who are going to be laid off.

We also have the 1Q Break-Even and Operating Margin run down, a look at how the market treated the airline sector last week, and much, much more. As usual.

PlaneBusiness Banter is Now Posted!

home-typewriter copy 1.jpg

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.

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!

home-typewriter copy 1.jpg

Hello everyone.

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

This week we are talking a lot about — what else? American Airlines and whether the airline should continue in its attempt to come out of bankruptcy as a standalone carrier. Or if, perhaps, it should listen to what many Wall Street analysts are saying, what we are saying, and what a lot of employees believe — that a merged entity would provide a better opportunity for the airline.

Not only that, but an agreement pertaining to a merged entity would then allow the airline to use bankruptcy to tailor the airline more effectively. And efficiently — taking into account the much larger airline that would be created.

This last week the airline and its handlers definitely went on the offensive as it attempted to sway opinion using old-school PR tactics. The attempts didn’t gain much traction, and we talk about why they didn’t. Short reason: you just can’t do that kind of stuff today and expect it to hold up. Times have changed.

In addition, the unions at American came out with their own missives last week, including one in which it implored politicians who don’t know what they are talking about to not comment on anything to do with the bankruptcy. Until all the facts are known.

I have never seen all three major unions at a bankrupt airline appear to be so in synch in a situation like this. Not a good thing if you are Tom Horton. I don’t think his recent exhortations to the pilots to “put the war paint on” had its intended result. In fact, I think it backfired.

Monday, all interested parties will be in bankruptcy court in Manhattan. From that point on, the timing is a bit nebulous, but if I were to guess, I would guess that US Airways will need to come forth in some fashion next week, if it is indeed serious in making an attempt at a merger.

American is slated to open up the hearing Monday with their side of the story, followed by presentations from the airline’s three unions. But that schedule may not be followed. Stay tuned.

But there was a lot of other news last week, including a standing-room only crowd down in Houston, where the Houston City Council took their first stab at a decision on whether or not Southwest Airlines should be allowed to fly internationally out of Hobby Airport.

As I say in this week’s issue, you rarely see consultants’ work so publicly ripped to pieces as members of the Council did this week. But that’s exactly what happened. They’ll be a rematch in about two weeks, at which time United Airlines will present its side of the story, and its study.

Speaking of Southwest Airlines, we hear that the airline should announce a new IT deal on Thursday. Or as one of our SWA friends put it in an email, “The ranking of the airline’s priorities has apparently changed.”

PBB subscribers will get the joke.

We had news this last week of yet another CFO departure, and late today, we heard that there will be another CEO departure in the next couple of months.

We also had an analyst change addresses.

Change, change, and more change.

That was certainly true with this month’s DOT Air Travel Consumer Report. The March numbers had a brand new denizen at the top of the on-time departure and lost bags rankings — Virgin America.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, airline stocks were a bit down for the week, as was the market as a whole. Jet fuel rose modestly for the week.

Finally, my apologies for the delay in publishing this week, but we had an incident involving PlaneDad that kept us more or less occupied all day Monday and somewhat on Tuesday. He fell. No phone was accessible. He lives alone. He’s 92. Seventeen hours on the floor. He’s now in the hospital. Yours truly will be returning to New Orleans later tomorrow. You get the picture.

And yeah, it’s not a particularly pretty one.


On that note — go read this week’s issue of PBB. And if you are not a subscriber — why not?

The Earnings Just Keep on Coming…


During weeks like this, I’m not really sure if I should even get out of bed in the morning.

Considering we are enjoying a nice gentle Fall rain here in the DFW Metroplex this morning, that’s even more incentive not to get up.

Alas — duty calls.

Two days, and we have now had six airlines have report earnings so far this week — with more to come. The rundown goes like this: Continental, UAL, parent of United Airlines, AirTran, Allegiant, Hawaiian, and AMR, parent of American Airlines.

Any surprises in the results that have rolled out so far this week?

No real “surprises” but a few things that do warrant some discussion.

One — United Airlines posted pretty good numbers for the quarter. Excluding special items, the airline posted a loss of $0.43 a share. This was much better than the consensus forecast of loss of $0.94. The airline posted better than expected results both on the revenue and the cost side. The airline posted a 2.8% operating margin. Granted, that kind of margin would make people in other industries weep. But in this industry, it might end up being one of the better performances for the quarter — compared to its peers.

AirTran? No real surprises here. The airline posted a good quarter. Forecast was for the airline to post a profit of 8 cents a share. That’s what the airline did. It also posted a very nice 5.1% operating margin — 13.5 points better than third quarter 2008.

Dovetailing with the upgrade note on AirTran issued by JP Morgan analysts Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter late Sunday, the airline did, in fact, post a better operating margin than Southwest this quarter. Southwest posted a 4.8 operating margin (excluding special items.)

Allegiant? Another great quarter by the airline. The airline reported a profit of $0.68, which was better than the Street estimate of $0.63. The best news from the airline’s call to me was the fact that the airline’s new service in Los Angeles seems to be off to a tremendous start. The airline said that July operating margins for the new service, which just started in May, were already pretty much up to the airline’s system average. This compares to other markets, which have usually taken as long as two years to hit the same levels.

Continental reported this morning, as did AMR.

Continental reported a net loss of $18 million or $0.14. Excluding $20 million in special charges, the airline posted a profit of 2 cents a share.

Analysts had expected the airline to post a loss of 6 cents a share.

As for AMR, parent of American Airlines — the news wasn’t nearly as positive. The airline didn’t come anywhere near a profit for the third quarter.

The airline posted a net loss this morning of $359 million or $1.26. Excluding special items, the airline posted a loss of $265 million or $0.93. Consensus had the airline expected to post a loss of $0.95. Operating margin? Excluding special items, a negative 2.5%.

We’re off to listen to the calls from both CAL and AMR. Behave yourself while I’m gone.

Here’s Why AMR Shares Sank Today…


The future does not bode well on the cost side.

We wrote earlier today that while we thought United Airline’s numbers today were worse at first blush, that investors were punishing shares of AMR much more severely.

Here’s why.

The airline gave what could at best be called less than encouraging cost guidance for 2009.

Analysts Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter with JP Morgan issued a note today concerning the results in which they said,

Unlike UAUA, We’re Discouraged By AMR Cost Guidance – Pension expense appears to lie at the heart of what we consider to be discouraging 2009 ex-fuel cost guidance from AMR, a phenomenon that may have implications for CAL & DAL, though not LCC or JBLU. Specifically, AMR is guiding to a 2009, consolidated ex-fuel CASM increase of 7.6%, materially higher than our ambitious +4.1% forecast and representing over an untaxed dollar in negative earnings variance – holding other inputs constant. On the fuel side, Q109 $2.04/gallon all-in guidance is consistent with our $2.10, as is AMR’s full-year $2.06 all-in (identical to our forecast).”

And while United Airlines has garnered the most negative publicity over the last month or so concerning the high cost of its ill-placed fourth quarter fuel hedges, AMR got hit in the fourth quarter as well.

As Jamie explained,

“Similar to UAUA’s release this morning (and to what we expect to hear from those who have yet to report), AMR’s liquidity was clearly hurt by incremental cash collateral deposits posted with fuel hedging counterparties. AMR ended 4Q08 with an unrestricted cash balance of $3.1 billion, compared to $4.6 billion as of 3Q08. The implied $1.5 billion sequential net cash burn was driven by the company’s cash collateral postings on under-water fuel hedges ($575 million in cash collateral with counterparties at the end of 4Q08), debt and capital lease principal payments, capital expenditures, and changes in working capital (exact figures for debt amortization, capex, and change in working capital were not disclosed in the press release). At the end of 3Q08, AMR held $240 million in cash deposits from fuel hedge counterparties, but with falling oil prices during 4Q08, the company saw a reversal of approximately $815 million, resulting in the $575 million figure mentioned above. The worse than expected pension cost guidance is worth monitoring. Nevertheless, we expect AMR’s liquidity profile to improve significantly in 2009 as under-water hedges roll-off and the airline is able to benefit from much lower y/y oil prices.”

American Airlines and United Spill the Fourth Quarter Beans


It’s that time once again dear friends. That time when we get the straight scoop on just how bad, or how good, the previous quarter was for our friends, The Things With Wings.

This morning both AMR, parent of American Airlines, and UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines, reported their fourth quarter 2008 earnings.

Top line assessment? Both airlines reported numbers that came in comfortably within previously anticipated analyst forecasts.

That does not mean, however, that the numbers were overly pleasant to digest.

Especially in the case of United, which reported a net loss of $1.3 billion or $9.91, compared with a loss of $53 million or $0.47 a share the previous year. Excluding non-cash, net mark-to- market hedge losses and certain accounting charges, the airline reported a pre-tax loss of $547 million for the quarter. This figure compares to an adjusted pre-tax loss of $105 million in the fourth quarter of 2007.

A huge contributing factor here was the fact the airline got caught on the wrong side of some very expensive hedge positions during the fourth quarter. The effect of this wrong-way bet was clearly seen in the sharp drop in the airline’s cash balance for the quarter.

At the end of the quarter, United was sitting on only $2 billion in unrestricted cash, a restricted cash balance of $272 million, and $965 million in cash deposits held by its fuel hedge counterparties. The airline saw $989 million in cash go out the door during the fourth quarter in operating cash flow and it posted a negative $1.1 billion in free cash flow during the quarter.

Excluding one-time items, the airline said it lost $4.22 per share compared with Wall Street analyst consensus forecast of $4.42.

In the case of American, the airline reported a loss of $340 million or $0.77 a share, excluding special items. This performance was more or less in line with expectations as well.

A year ago the airline reported a loss of $184 million or $0.74 a share, without special items.

The full American Airlines’ release has yet to hit the wires.

We’ll also learn more about the results from both airlines later today, after their respective earnings calls.

In the meantime, go have some more coffee.