Tuesday, April 29, 2008
First Continental told United it would not be seen dead in its company, thank you very much. That was mean. Now the pilots at United Airlines are saying they think US Airways is a big looooser.
Here's what the United Airlines council of the Air Line Pilots Association says today. Really, they are making no effort whatsoever to be nice.
Just yesterday, the entire Air Line Pilots Association, representing 56,000 pilots at 41 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, put out a separate mean statement quoting the United union leader saying the United boss, Glenn Tilton, is a big loooooser making a "shameful grab" for his "obscene compensation" ($10.3 million) while producing "abysmal numbers and operational deficiencies" at United.
Kids, kids! Can't we just "slip the surly bonds of earth" and just keep raising fares and GET ALONG, gosh darn it all?!
Delta and United slapped in still another price hike yesterday, in the form of fuel surcharges.
Can the rest of the
unindicted co-conspirators major airlines be far behind?
Here’s last night’s report, and running update on the fare increases (including fare increases and fuel-charge increases) this year, by Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com:
By Rick Seaney:
“Tonight at 8:00pm EDT, United Airlines matched the Delta Air Lines initiated airfare hike early in the day on the bulk of its route system – the hike – in the form of a fuel surcharge – is either an additional $10 or $40 roundtrip depending on the type of airfare and city pair.
“This leaves four remaining legacy airlines yet to match , including American, Continental, Northwest and US Airways.
“I have been asked to update our airfare increase timeline, noting whether the hike was base airfare or fuel surcharge related which I have done below. Effectively to an end-consumer there is not difference a hike of the base airfare or fuel surcharge as the two are combined and sales tax applied (not broken out separately on domestic airline tickets). That said there is a not so subtle difference for corporations that have negotiated airfare discounts – these discounts are only applied to the base airfare and not the fuel surcharge which reduces the overall effectiveness of these contracts.
“Our updated 2008 Increase Timeline follows:
1. January 3rd, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, base airfare hike, successful (sticky)
2. January 11th, initiated by United, $30 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, unsuccessful
3. January 17th, initiated by American, $20 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, unsuccessful
4. January 24th, initiated by Continental, $20 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, successful (sticky)
5. February 22nd, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, base airfare hike, successful (sticky)
6. February 28th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, base airfare hike, successful (sticky)
7. March 7th, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, successful (sticky)
8. March 14th, initiated by United, $4-$50 roundtrip, base airfare hike, successful (sticky)
9. March 19th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, unsuccessful
10. March 27th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, unsuccessful
11. April 9th, initiated by United, $4-$30 roundtrip, base airfare hike, successful (sticky)
12. April 15th, initiated by United, $10-$20 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, successful (sticky)
13. April 24th, initiated by United, $4-$70 roundtrip, base airfare hike, successful (sticky)
14. April 28th, initiated by Delta, $10 and $40 roundtrip, fuel surcharge hike, pending
“Note that I have closed out the 13th hike of last week with a notation that it was widely successful.”
Monday, April 28, 2008
Yikes, another week, another fare hike is in place! This time, the
unindicted co-conspirators six network airlines didn't even bother to build in a few days before they all fell into lockstep.
Not that the airlines are colluding or anything as they
fix match fares. That would be wrong.
Tom Parsons of BestFares.com has the latest information on the 10th airline price -
heist hike this year:
From Tom Parsons:
"On Thursday, April 24, United Airlines raised domestic airfares by 3 to 5 percent, primarily on markets where they do not compete with low-cost carriers. The majority of routes saw a 5 percent increase.
"On Friday, American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines quickly matched the United airfare hike. Saturday, Northwest and US Airways, the final two holdouts among the major legacy airlines, matched the airfare increase.
"'This is the tenth airfare hike we have seen from the major airlines since December 20, 2007, and the ninth increase since January 7, 2008' - says Tom Parsons, CEO and founder of Bestfares.com, an internet travel website that tracks airfare changes and travel industry trends.
"Today, the average fuel surcharge, which has been raised four times since December 20, is $70 roundtrip. This fuel surcharge applies to both short haul and long haul flights. The major airlines have also raised leisure airfares six times since January 7, 2008.
"Of the recent airfare hikes, the first five were by flat dollar amounts, such as $10 or $20 roundtrip. On March 14, United raised airfares as little as $10 roundtrip on short haul flights of 500 miles or less one way to as much as $50 roundtrip for long haul flights that exceeded 1,500 miles one way.
"The new airfare hike that took place this past weekend added a new twist by raising some airfares by 3 percent, but the majority of increases were by 5 percent on the base airfare. The ten airfare hikes that have taken place since December 20, 2007, have primarily affected routes not served by a low-cost airline.
"'In just four short months, leisure travelers purchasing roundtrip tickets, especially on flights over 1,500 air miles one way, could be paying as much as $220 roundtrip more than they did between the same two destinations back in December' - states Parsons. One example is Newark to Fresno (CA), a cross-country route not served by a low-cost carrier. On December 18, 2007, the lowest published leisure airfare on this route on Continental was $760 roundtrip. Today, Continental charges $973 roundtrip for this route, an increase of $213 roundtrip.
"Another example is Savannah (GA) to Portland (OR). On December 18, 2007, the lowest published airfare was $650 roundtrip on Delta. Today, the lowest published airfare on this route is $878 roundtrip, an increase of $228 roundtrip.
"One of the highest airfares in America on a non-competitive route based on cost-per-mile is from San Francisco to Sacramento, which is a distance of 86 air miles each way or 172 air miles roundtrip. The lowest leisure airfare on both United and US Airways for this route is a whopping $686 roundtrip. That's $3.98 per mile. The walk-up fare (Y class) on this route is $1,510 roundtrip, or a cost of $8.77 per mile flown.
"One of the lowest airfares in America on a cost-per-mile basis is also from San Francisco. San Francisco to Las Vegas, where United and US Airways must compete with low-cost carriers Virgin America and Southwest Airlines, is a distance of 830 air miles roundtrip. On this route, all four airlines offer a roundtrip leisure airfare of $88 roundtrip, or a cost of 10.6 cents per mile. Southwest's walk-up fare (Y class) is $153 one-way or $306 roundtrip, or 36.9 cents per mile.
"'As major airlines continue to lose billions of dollars and as the cost of fuel continues to climb, leisure and business travelers should expect to see even more airfare hikes in the very near future, especially on non-competitive routes' - adds Parsons.
"Since December 20, 2007, the major airlines have now attempted to raise airfares and fuel surcharges 14 different times. Ten have stuck so far."
Was the well-run Continental basically telling the not-so-well run United that they stink?
Anyway, United has sucked it up and is looking for somebody else to take to the prom, specifically US Air, according to this report from Reuters -- which, by the way, has become this country's most reliable and heads-up wire service in my opinion.
Meanwhile, United CEO Glenn Tilton issued this statement: "Our strategy is consistent. Consolidation is underway -- ensuring you have the right partner is everything. We will pursue all options to ensure a strong, sustainable future for our airline and will not shy away from the tough choices necessary to create value for our shareholders and benefit our employees and customers."
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Continental also said it is "considering alternatives to SkyTeam" and evaluating other global airline alliances.
Here's the statement Continental sent to its workers and released publicly.
Continental is now weighing some kind of a new alliance with British Airways and/or American Airlines, under the kind of anti-trust immunity on certain markets that the government has handed out freely to Delta-Air France KLM and Northwest-Air France KLM. These arrangements are a kind of quasi-merger on certain select (read: intrernational and international-feed) markets.
The statement obviously means that Continental's hot-and-heavy negotiations with United Airlines have collapsed -- and is evidence that Continental did the collapsing, once they had a good look at what a mess United is in.
Now United needs to find someone else to take to the dance. Yoo-hoo! US Airways? Anyone?
Oil prices and the credit crunch take out another one: Eos Airlines is abruptly shutting down today. Here's the announcement.
Eos operated at the top end of the all-business-class niche, using 757s configured with just 48 lie-flat seats to fly between Kennedy airport in New York and London Stansted Airport.
It's the second of the all-business-class startups to go out of business. MaxJet ceased operations last December.
On Dec. 24, when MaxJet folded, Eos issued a statement saying it was doing very well. "Industry failures, rising oil prices, a weakened economy and planned reductions in corporate travel have neither diminished travelers' enthusiasm for Eos ... nor hindered the company's march toward becoming an unqualified business success," that statement said.
Eos had 44 weekly flights between Kennedy and London Stansted, and was planning an ambitious expansion.
As part of that expansion, Eos had announced an additional daily route between Stansted and Newark that was scheduled to start May 5. Eos had also announced a new route between London and Dubai starting July 6.
Here’s the bankruptcy court filing Eos made yesterday.
The bankruptcy filing also notes that there are between 1,000 and 5,000 (unsecured) creditors.
But at the very end of the filing, after all those "whereas's" and "resolved's," the top 20 unsecured creditors are listed. The biggest unsecured claim in the top 20 is $744,000 and the smallest is $127,594 -- for a total of about $5.7 million. So there's a long way to go to get to the $34.8 million in debts claimed. My guess is that somehow, some people who bought tickets and hadn't flown yet are being counted as unsecured creditors -- though that still couldn't add up to anywhere near $34.8 million. And it would seem that the ticket dough in hand could also be regarded as an asset.
It's a curiosity, having twice the claimed assets as debts and filing for bankruptcy -- while at the same time maintaining, as Eos does, that it has no intention of continuing operations. (Or at least, commercial airline operations).
As usual, there is a need to look hard at airline numbers.
Anyway, here's some Wikipedia background on Eos.
Meanwhile, Silverjet, the all-business-class startup that flies 767s between Newark and London Luton airport, is offering to accommodate some Eos passengers.
Silverjet's own status is uncertain, although the airline insists its passenger loads are satisfactory.
Silverjet founder and CEO Lawrence Hunt tells me today that a "fundamental problem" Eos had was that it wasn't able to offer a "price advantage," once major-airline competitors like Delta, American and Continental brought transatlantic business class discounts down to Eos's level in the $3,500 to $4,000 round-trip range. Silverjet's roundtrip fares average around $2,000, he said.
The famously aggressively competitive American Airlines also hit Eos hard when it started a New York flight to and from Stansted last October, and added a second one last month, at negotiated fares that were undercutting Eos prices.
Hunt said that Silverjet has been in talks with several buyout "investment companies," none of whom are airlines.
"We get approaches all the time. A couple of them are quite serious in the last couple of months, but there's nothing to announce yet," he said. "Since the markets turned last year we've been looking for a long-term strategic investor who would continue to finance our expansion."
He added, "The fuel price obviously is hurting everybody, including us, and the general economic climate is not great" on the hotly competitive transatlantic routes. The Dubai route, he said, continues to do well.
Among Silverjet's current investors are the Reuben brothers, the billionaire London entrepreneurs, who have lent the airline over $20 million.
Everything you need to know about the profoundly embarrassing spectacle that is the annual White House Correspondents Dinner -- and the related Tragic Decline of Our Republic -- is embodied in this red-carpet photo of arrivals to the dinner in Washington last night.
In the above photo, that's General James Conway, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, looking like he's dashing off to a drum & bugle corps competition, accompanied by what appear to be an amazingly spry Jayne Mansfield, along with Gidget's mom.
And yes, I did say Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.
And cut out that damn giggling. Don't you know there's a war on?
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Last night, the always-nimble Associated Press reports, "more than 30" flights were canceled at O'Hare because of thunderstorms.
Wait. Let me put on my reading specs for a minute. Hmmmm. It says here at FlightStats.com that there were 421 flights canceled yesterday during the afternoon and evening at O'Hare. As usual, the AP has got the scoop, because 421 canceled flights is definitely "more than 30."
By dinnertime yesterday, O'Hare flights were running at an on-time rate of less than 10 percent. And O'Hare is still messed up today, though it's merely partly cloudy in Chicago.
And showing that some airlines simply cannot issue a statement without obfuscation, Northwest said: "The fare increase comes on the heels of this weeks’ [sic] 1Q earnings report, showing Northwest Airlines lost $4.1 billion."
In fact, Northwest "lost" $191 million in the first quarter, if by "lost" you mean "no longer actually has this specific sum of money in its wallet."
The rest of the alleged dough, adding up to that $4.1 billion, comes from an airy accounting adjustment that reflects what Northwest says is a decline in its perceived value. The $191 million is real money on anybody's block. But the rest of the $3.9 billion-and-change is basically Monopoly money, a red-ink herring to make the plight of the airline -- certainly bad enough -- look even worse.
Delta Air Lines, Northwest's soon-to-be acquirer, used the same tactic -- and in fact the identical language about a "non-cash goodwill-impairment" charge -- in its first-quarter earnings report this week, claiming a "loss" of $6.4 billion on an actual operating loss of $274 million.
I'm happy to see the serious media have not let this accounting ploy settle into the record, and are using the operating losses as the appropriate figure.As I keep saying, we all need to look hard at the real numbers as the airline industry wails and moans and falls to its knees begging and pleading for relief in Washington. Yes, they are having a very rough time of it. But let's keep the math in perspective as the industry consolidates, as it is rapidly doing.
Meanwhile, I see in the Times today that Continental -- which in my opinion is the best of the lot among the major airlines -- is using its Web site to prepare its customers for a merger announcement with United that is expected within a week. I like the fact that Continental isn't being coy. I don't like the fact that my meager but valued and long-held elite-status toehold in OnePass is about to be subsumed into a mega-airline. This cannot be good, I think.
Friday, April 25, 2008
—Encouraged, no doubt, by incessant media stories that accept at face value the proposition floated by airline executives that substantial fare hikes are necessary for survival, the
unindicted co-conspirators major airlines are falling into lockstep on the latest round of fare increases.
Not that they’re colluding of course. That would be illegal, and we all know how sternly the current Justice Department looks upon shady corporate behavior.
Anyway, Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com, sends an update this morning on the new round of fare hikes initiated yesterday by United Airlines. Last night, both American and Delta matched it, raising fares by 2 to 5 percent “across the bulk” of their routes, Rick says.
The new fare-hike will be the ninth successive fare increase (not counting increases in fuel surcharges) this year — once all of the competitors match it, as they probably will later today.
[Update 3 p.m.]: From Rick Seaney: "Continental Airlines matched the United initiated increase of 2% to 5% ($6 to $80 roundtrip) across the bulk of its route system.
—The latest mass hysteria: Food Hoarding by People Who Have No Conceivable Reason to Stockpile Food, Encouraged by the Media. And I was planning to go to Costco today. No way now. I’ll gnaw on that old celery rather than have agita facing that marauding horde.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
From Rick Seaney, the CEO of FareCompare.com (and please note his advice about locking in fares for summer travel now, if you possibly can):
"At noon today United Airlines initiated the thirteenth attempted domestic airfare hike of 2008 – eight of the previous twelve had been widely successful.
United raised airfares across the bulk of its domestic route system in a laddered fashion from $4-$60 round-trip for leisure travelers in over 5,500 city pairs and $4-$70 for business travelers in over 9,000 city pairs.
Unfortunately for air travel consumers this 13th increase of 2008 puts us on pace for just under 40 increase attempts this year compared to a total 23 increase attempts (17 widely successful) in 2007 ( by far the most in 3 years prior to 2007)..
I have updated our 2008 airfare hike timeline as follows:
1.---January 3rd, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
2. ---January 11th, initiated by United, $30 roundtrip, unsuccessful
3. ---January 17th, initiated by American, $20 roundtrip, unsuccessful
4. 4. January 24th, initiated by Continental, $20 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
5. ---February 22nd, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
6. ---February 28th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
7. ---March 7th, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
8. ---March 14th, initiated by United, $4-$50 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
9. ---March 19th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, unsuccessful
10.---March 27th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, unsuccessful
11--- April 9th, initiated by United, $4-$30 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
12.---April 15th, initiated by United, $10-$20 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
13.---April 24th, initiated by United, $4-$70, pending
United has had the most success in getting other legacy airlines to come along with increases when it has laddered the increases, instead of trying to instigate an across the board $10 or $20 hike – I would suspect we will quickly see some matching by the end of the day tomorrow from other legacy airlines.
I again cannot stress enough that consumers should lock in their summer airline travel as quickly as possible, seats are going to start to get scarce and the prices are going to reflect the summer supply and demand.
I will update on any major matching or rollback activity as it occurs." (Rick Seaney)
Well, weather is the attributed cause. But, duh, we've always had weather. Weather alone doesn't explain why three out of ten flights are delayed -- even as airlines build copious slack into their flight schedules to give that airplane lots and lots more time than it actually needs to try to get there without officially being marked as delayed.
An obsolete F.A.A. flight-control system is the primary reason for mounting delays. And a fix is many years off, even assuming the F.A.A. gets its act together under a new administration in Washington. So ok by me: let's blame the weather, which at least we can see coming.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
On the other hand, summer is coming up and lots of leisure travelers, especially those traveling with children, do check extra bags.
Kimpton Hotels has hopped to. Kimpton said today it will give a credit of up to $25 toward the bill to guests who show proof at check-in that they incurred an additional-bag charge. The offer, good at all 43 Kimpton hotels in North America, runs from May 22 through Sept. 9.
Over There: The Airlines' Retreat from Domestic Flying ... Delta and Northwest: $10+ Billion in 'Losses'?
Delta Air Lines today reported an amazing $6.4 billion loss for the first quarter of this year. And the airline Delta has made a deal to buy, Northwest, today reported a huge loss, $4.1 billion.
Turns out they didn't really lose anywhere near that much money, though. Let me get out my reading specs here. Delta's actual loss for the quarter appears to have been $274 million, and Northwest's appears to have been $191 million. That's still a lot of money on my block.
But the two airlines came up with that combined figure of over $10 billion in "losses," which looks ever so much nicer on paper for the regulators in Washington to publicly justify approval of a "merger" that they were already going to approve anyway.
Here's what they did. In identical language, Delta and Northwest said they took what they called "non-cash goodwill-impairment" charges against earnings. Those charges were $6.1 billion and $3.9 billion respectively for the quarter. This additional alleged lost dough is accounted for by the airlines' estimates of the decline in their market capitalization caused by oil prices, coupled with a bookkeeping thing that has to do with re-valuing the companies from what they were presumed to have been worth after prior bankruptcies to what they are presumed to be worth now.
But one thing is clear, major U.S. airlines are accelerating their retreat from serving domestic routes in favor of serving more international routes.
Some relevant statements from Delta's earnings report:
---"Delta now expects system capacity for the second half of 2008 to be down 0-2% compared to 2007, with domestic capacity down 9-11 %" (italics mine)
--"As a result of the capacity reduction, the company is removing 15-20 mainline and 60-70 regional-jet aircraft from its operations by the end of 2008. Delta is continuing to evaluate the fuel and demand environment and will make proactive changes quickly if economic conditions warrant."
---"Delta's international expansion has contributed significantly to passenger revenue growth, as the airline has launched nearly 90 new international routes since the summer of 2005 ...
Then there are these excerpts from Northwest's earnings report:
---"In September, after peak summer travel concludes, Northwest will reduce its scheduled domestic system capacity by approximately five percent versus the 2008 business plan. This reduction will entail the removal from service of 15 to 20 additional aircraft."
--- "For domestic routes, Northwest has participated in numerous attempts by various carriers to increase fares to reflect rising fuel costs, although most have been rolled back because some airlines failed to match."
---"Northwest attempted to increase the minimum stay requirements to create better segmentation between business and leisure travelers. Many have been pulled because airlines failed to match."By the way (my comments follow):
1. Airfare experts like Tom Parsons and Rick Seaney dispute airlines' contentions that "most" fare-hike increases have been rolled back this year because some competitors failed to match. In fact, the major airlines have successfully raised fares (whether through filed fare increases or so-called fare fuel surcharges) on nearly a dozen successive occasions this year -- in concert.
2. Northwest did roll back some "minimum stay requirements" two weeks ago. These were attempts to add new restrictions on nonrefundable fares to make them less attractive to business travelers by requiring extra days on the road, including Saturday night stays. However, United Airlines has now added draconian Saturday night stay restrictions on all discounted (that is, nonrefundable) fares in every market in which it has competition -- which is 65 percent of United's markets. Now that United took that bold step -- and didn't even get called for it by most of the media -- other airlines are expected to follow.
The dread Saturday night stay restriction has risen from the dead.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
(United yesterday raised its domestic change fees from $100 to $150, by the way.)
From Tom Parsons:
"United Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines raised their international change fees from $200 to $250 on European tickets. This new increase is effective immediately, but passengers who purchased tickets on United Airlines or Lufthansa Airlines prior to April 19, 2008 should be able to make changes to their airline ticket, if need be, at the old change fee of $200," states Tom Parsons, CEO of Bestfares.com.
United Airlines also raised its change fees from $100 to $150 per ticket to destinations within Mexico, Central America, Canada and Caribbean. Travel to deep South America such as Santiago, Chile, as well as Australia and Asia has also increased from $200 to $250 per ticket.
In just three short months, the major airlines have made so many changes that it's becoming very difficult for the traveling public to find consistency between one airline and the other.
The differential in change fees for USA travel to international destinations vary greatly by airlines depending on the number of international airlines servicing the same markets. Consumers who have intentions of flying on the exact dates they booked, but later needs to make a change, for one reason or the other, should be careful choosing which airlines they book their ticket on , especially with those who have super high change fees.
For example, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines offer the same airfare from Dallas to Santiago, Chile. American Airlines and Continental Airlines charge a $150 change fee, Delta Airlines charges a $200 change fee and United Airlines now charges the highest change fee of $250. If you booked your ticket on United Airlines, it will cost you $100 more in change fees, versus if you had booked with American Airlines or Continental Airlines.
Listed below are destinations and various change fees by international airlines.
Europe Change Fees: United Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines charge $250 per change; British Airways, Air France, KLM Airlines, Continental Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways and Northwest Airlines charge $200 per change.
Asia Change Fees: United Airlines charges $250 per change; Japan Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines charge $200 per change; Korean Airlines is charging $150 per change; Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and American Airlines charge $100 per change; and Air Canada is only $50 per change.
South America Change Fees: United Airlines charges $250 per change; Delta Airlines charges $200 per change; American Airlines, US Airways and Continental Airlines are charging $150 per change.
Australia Change Fees: United Airlines charges $250 per change; Quantas Airways and Air Canada charge $200 per change; American Airlines charges $150 per change; and Air New Zealand charge $100 per change.
"Travelers who wish to stack the odds in their favor need to pay attention to many of the new rules and fees implemented by the major airlines in the past 3 months. Last summer the consumer had very simple, consistent rates and fees which varied very little between airlines. This year, if you pick an airline with the highest change fees, new baggage charges and fuel surcharges and it could end up costing you dearly," adds Parsons.""###
More domestic capacity reductions, this time from United. And more indications that airlines are saying that lower-fare-paying customers (meaning you and me, most of the time) can take it or leave it.
Besides adding a dread Saturday-night-stay requirement to nonrefundable fares on 65 percent of its market, and raising the standard itinerary change fee from $100 to $150, United Airlines says today that it is “further shrinking 2008 mainline domestic capacity.” By the fall, domestic capacity will be down approximately 9 percent this year, United said. This is on top of a 5 percent reduction in the fourth quarter of 2007.
United -- which reported a first-quarter loss of $542 million -- also will unload 30 narrow-body aircraft from its fleet -- 10 to 15 more aircraft than initially announced last month.
United is “facing the realities of the marketplace and making the tough choices: aggressively managing our capacity, passing commodity costs onto customers where possible, and identifying new revenue opportunities,” said John Tague, EVP and chief revenue officer.
That means more focus on “our best guests”—customers paying the highest fares. United said it “continues to improve the experience for its premium customers” by “rolling out several new initiatives over the next quarter” including “a new Red Carpet Club in Chicago, free wireless at Red Carpet Clubs, new information displays at all hubs, custom dining in the first and business class cabins, and upgrades to all Pacific lounges.
And from Pro Pilot World, comes this humorous item – author and veracity unknown to me—that “has been circulating on the Internet for several years.” It has to do with airline maintenance and, while the focus is on Qantas, the item correctly notes that Qantas has never had a major accident:
""After every flight, Qantas Airline’s pilots fill out a form, called a “gripe sheet,”
which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form,
and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.
Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas’ pilots (marked with a P)
and the solutions recorded (marked with an (S) by maintenance engineers.
P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.
P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what they’re for.
P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.""
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
"JoeSharkeyAtLarge.com ... The blog that proudly wears a patriotic American flag pin so you won't have to."
As somebody who actually went to Vietnam, I always thought those flag-lapel pins were fashion statements by guys my age who 1. Supported that war and still have fantasies of being warriors and 2. Nevertheless managed to dodge the draft and avoid service in Vietnam.
That would account for the omnipresent flag-lapel pins on the likes of George Bush and Dick "Five Deferrals: I Had Other Priorities" Cheney, as well as various other chicken hawks such as Rudy Giuliani, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich ... well, you know, the list goes on and on. Have you even noticed the relish with which these guys return snappy military salutes? What fun to play soldier! Let's ask our men and women in Iraq how much fun actually being one is!
Anyway, the debate questions have now made it clear that the patriotism of all Men is subject to evaluation if they do not stick one of those I'm-an-American-dammit pins in their lapels.
And this blog is patriotic, dammit.
I almost forgot to mention this in my fervor to prove that I am a patriot. Southwest Airlines is now joining in the fare-hike fandango.
Here's a new note from Rick Seaney at FareCompare.com
By the way, I cannot actually see Mr. Seaney, and so an unable to verify whether he is wearing his flag pin. We will take his compliance on faith. For now.
"Southwest Airlines does not publicly file their airfare information and we normally track their changes by watching their competitor’s reaction – this has presented a problem for us because of the pace of weekly increases and the daily matching activity.
After several inquiries from analysts and reporters -- we felt it was important to provide some information on the airfare increase matching activity of Southwest - the largest domestic airline. Legacy airlines routinely “tip-toe” around competitive Southwest markets when it comes to increases – both base airfare and fuel surcharges, and also are wary of increasing the cheapest promotional airfares in which Southwest has little or no fuel surcharge.
To this end -- Southwest spokesperson Marilee McInnis provided us with the following statement regarding their matching activity related to the wave of legacy airline increases this year:
'On April 10, we followed an increase by United with a very modest, mileage-based increase from $2 each way for short haul, $4 each way for medium haul, and $6 each way for long haul.
'Last night, we instituted a fare increase that takes effect June 13 and it ranges from $3 - $5 one-way for short haul; $8 one-way for medium haul, and $10 one-way for long haul.'Southwest is built for efficiency and we have hedges in place, but no airline is immune to astronomical $115/barrel oil. With the volatile nature of jet fuel prices, we are taking these modest fare increases at a time when our fleet will be in its peak consumption of jet fuel during the busy summer travel season.'"
Dis - MISSED!
Fuel surcharges get added onto the bottom line, but they have more of a bite on business travelers than standard fare increases because generally, negotiated corporate discounts don't apply to fuel surcharges.
And no, though the major airlines appear to be acting in collusion, they actually all don't get in a room and fix prices. They don't have to do that anymore! Haven't you heard of technology? Don't you know there's a war on?
Anyway, here's the latest update from Rick Seaney at FareCompare.com:
""Thursday, April 17, 2008 12:15pm CDT
Starting early Wednesday morning the legacy airlines began to match the United Airlines fuel surcharge increase of an additional $10-$20 roundtrip initiated late Tuesday evening, in order:
· US Airways matched only at the $20 roundtrip level
· Delta Air Lines matched at the $10 and $20 roundtrip level
· Continental matched only at the $20 roundtrip level
· American matched only at the $20 roundtrip level
· Northwest Airlines just matched at 12:30 today
All matching was across their respective route systems, while continuing to tip-toe around low cost airline routes and the very cheapest promotional leisure airfares flown by the fewest passengers.
A few of the airlines, didn’t bother with the $10 increase level and opted for $20 roundtrip across the board. This brings the domestic fuel surcharge for many markets to $70 roundtrip from its previous high of $50 roundtrip.
I was skeptical that this increase would stick given the two scuttled attempts by Delta in late March and the base airfare increase of up to $30 that was widely matched this past week, but it seems the price of oil coupled with comfort on summer demand along with the announced capacity cuts are providing an environment where the airlines feel comfortable with this new increase – for the moment.
I will wait until early next week to call this increase a “success” leaving our 2008 airfare hike time line as follows:
1. January 3rd, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
2. January 11th, initiated by United, $30 roundtrip, unsuccessful
3. January 17th, initiated by American, $20 roundtrip, unsuccessful
4. January 24th, initiated by Continental, $20 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
5. February 22nd, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
6. February 28th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
7. March 7th, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
8. March 14th, initiated by United, $4-$50 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
9. March 19th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, unsuccessful
10. March 27th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, unsuccessful
11. April 9th, initiated by United, $4-$30 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
12. April 15th, initiated by United, $10-$20 roundtrip, pending – fully matched as of noon today
The skies are thicker than ever with the congestion of media gasbags (witness the infantile "Where's-your-lapel-flag-pin" performance of ABC's Gibson-Stephanopoulos at the Democratic debate last night).
But this week's award for pure fatuous media posturing in a manner not seen since the heyday of Colonel McCormick goes to the editor of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch newspaper, seen here piously explaining why his worthy publication agreed to withhold news of the imminent collapse of Skybus airlines earlier this month.
Not only did the newspaper and its Web site sit on the news, the reporter dispatched to the airport was instructed not to tell people about it either. Even though they were going to be stranded.
I generally don't pay attention to these "We here at the Bumbutt Bugle think ..." kinds of dispatches from the regional fartosphere that the Poynter media site Romenesko gets all atwitter over, but this one demands a look.
For some reason that defies rational explanation, the newspaper failed to report its knowledge that the local airline was about to shut down, knowing full well that its readers who were also passengers were likely to be stuck. It seems the newspaper had inexplicably agreed to an "embargo" on the news -- even though the news was available elsewhere.
Shhhh. What's that loud hissing sound?
Southwest and Continental both say today they're planning domestic fleet cutbacks because of oil prices. At Southwest, which had been aggressively expanding, the CEO, Gary Kelley, says there is an "ongoing review of our flight schedule to eliminate nonproductive flying."
Anytown U.S.A.: That means you!
Southwest also says it has reduced the number of new 737s it expects to take delivery of this year from 28 to 14.
Continental, meanwhile, says it's shrinking domestic capacity by 5 percent. It's looking to "reduce regional-jet capacity" (Attention: Anytown U.S.A.) and will park an additional 14 older 737s beyond the 34 737s it already said it would park this year.
Yesterday, in an op-ed page piece in the Wall Street Journal that was a remarkable effusion of blather even for that particular op-ed page, the CEOs of Delta and Northwest gave blithe assurances that the Delta devouring of ... er, merger with Northwest would not hurt domestic air travel despite route cutbacks, because the low-cost carriers would expand to fill any gaps.
See Southwest (above).
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
American said it now expects that domestic capacity for all of 2008 to be 3.6 percent below the 2007 level, and international capacity to be 2.5 percent higher.
The sharpest cutbacks in domestic capacity will occur in the fall. In the fourth quarter, American said today, there will be 4.6 percent fewer seats on its lanes than there were in the fourth quarter of 2007.
The new capacity-reductions are a change from American's previous forecast. In February, American had said it expected domestic capacity to be down only 1.1 percent for the year.
Domestic load factor, the percentage of available seats occupied by paying customers, was a record 80.1 percent in the first quarter, American said. At over 80 percent, it's generally considered that most flights are taking off completely full.
Again, the only advice I have is: Plan ahead. Anticipate problems and delays. Always look on the bright side of life, ta-da, ta-da.
Rick Seaney at FareCompare.com is, as usual, is on alert. His e-mail last night:
""Merger Day Surprise: United Airlines Raises Fuel Surcharges another $20 Roundtrip
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 11:15pm CDT
With oil hitting a new high today of $114 a barrel and consumers beginning to absorb the ramifications of the pending creation of the world’s largest airline – one would think commercial aviation would have nothing else to “give” on this crazy tax day – sadly, one would be wrong …
2. ---January 11th, initiated by United, $30 roundtrip, unsuccessful
3. ---January 17th, initiated by American, $20 roundtrip, unsuccessful
4. ---January 24th, initiated by Continental, $20 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
5. ---February 22nd, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
6. ---February 28th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
7. ---March 7th, initiated by United, $10 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
8. ---March 14th, initiated by United, $4-$50 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
9. ---March 19th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, unsuccessful
10. ---March 27th, initiated by Delta, $10 roundtrip, unsuccessful
11. ---April 9th, initiated by United, $4-$30 roundtrip, successful (sticky)
12. ---April 15th, initiated by United, $10-$20 roundtrip, pending"""
"At this point all I can say after this exhausting day is – ouch! – Consumers who haven’t heeded my advice about locking in summer travel plans, should do so as quickly as possible. My gut tells me that this attempt may not make it, as the last early week fuel surcharge increase attempt by Delta was scuttled (increases historically are started late Thursday evening) – but I cannot rule out the possibility of major matching in the next 5 days.
I will update on any significant activity in the coming days – in the mean time for those that didn’t get enough on the merger -- you checkout my consumer oriented thoughts on the topic in my weekly ABCNews.com column."
If someone traces the history of this DC-9, I'll bet there is a very important story there. A lot of old commercial jets that wouldn't pass inspection at the DMV are ending up in service in Africa these days.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Here's an excerpt from a memo United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton sent to employees late yesterday as speculation intensified that United will gobble up ... er, merge with Continental once Continental is legally free to be sold ... er, acquired with the formal inking of the agreement on the Delta takeover of ... er, merger with Northwest.
CHICAGO, April 15 -- UAL Corporation issued the following statement from Chairman, President and Chief Executive Glenn Tilton regarding consolidation in the airline industry, as part of his message to employees earlier today:
WTF, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Glenn? You gonna buy Continental or not?
By the way, watch it when an airline executive (or a media executive, come to think of it) starts tossing around sentences like "the old paradigms no longer apply." That's a sure signal that somebody, somewhere is about to get screwed.
Meanwhile, hilarity abounds today over press reports and NPR reports pegging the value of the Delta-Northwest deal at $17 billion. Hell, it's the airline business! It's funny money! Who's counting?
The Times and WSJ get it right, of course, at a far more sober $3 billion.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Now that Delta is moving to acquire Northwest (which is what that so-called merger is), the expectation is that a long-anticipated United-Continental deal will surface. The other shoe might drop soon.
And then, as I said earlier, whither American, which is about to lose its distinction as the world's largest airline?
Here’s the memo from Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson and president Ed Bastian, presenting the plan to merge with Northwest to Delta employees. Looking for a clue about long-range intent, you night note that “our plans for international growth are strengthened and accelerated” is near the top of the memo, which makes no mention of domestic traffic.
Cover Up Failure By Pulling A Media Stunt. The FAA looked like sloppy buffoons at Oberstar's hearings. Predictably, Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell and his management team went into full damage control mode to make it look like they're the guys in the white hats, instead of inept yo-yos who can't do their jobs properly.
Sturgell's plan was brilliant: inflict maximum pain on the flying public, make them and a gullible media believe that the FAA is on the case, and do it in a manner so that the airline industry cannot defend itself. This, of course, was the MD-80 affair.
The MD-80 fleet shutdown was not a safety program. It was an attack against the American public, against honesty, and against integrity, all intended to cover up the real facts. The FAA chose to pull a stunt that unnecessarily inflicted substantial disruption on hundreds of thousands of travelers, trying to look tough. The only thing "safe" was the FAA's belief that the public and some of the gullible don't-bother-to-research-anything media would assume that the problem was with airlines. It proves again that the way the FAA is run and managed at the top is indeed a threat to public safety.Serious Questions About Oberstar. Yet, despite Kabuki-theatre hearings in Congress, the FAA will not likely be touched...."
---Here's a heads-up story in USA Today, to put in the file marked "You can't fix stupid." (Which is a line from the comedian Ron White, by the way.)
---Stories I'm already fed up with and it's only Monday: Katie Couric ... Benedict XVI ... That hideous Olympic torch, especially considering that the Olympic torch-and-flame relay were a spectacle/theatrical stunt cooked up by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Delta-Northwest merger announcement is said to be imminent. Here's the Financial Times report.
If Delta and Northwest merge, can United-Continental be far behind?
And after that, whither American Airlines? [Which, come to think of it, is a question hundreds of thousands of air travelers had reason to ask last week after American abruptly canceled over 3,500 flights.]
Anyway, on the likely Delta-Northwest deal, from the Wall Street Journal online:
"Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines have spent the last week readying their long-delayed merger announcement, with the aim of unveiling it as early as Tuesday, said people familiar with the matter.
They could go ahead without the support of Delta's 6,000 pilots. Delta and its pilots remained in talks over the weekend on a new post-merger contract that would cover that group only, leaving negotiations with Northwest's 5,000 pilots for a later day, these people said. ..."
And here's the story from the Journal-Constitution in Atlanta, where Delta -- which would be the controlling and namesake airline after a merger -- is based. [And by the way, I do wish the media would cut out all this "courtship/marriage" metaphorical crap. These are two big rapacious corporations, not Frankie and Sue from the neighborhood.]
Friday, April 11, 2008
American Airlines has now redefined the concept. American, which canceled over 3,000 flights over the last four days and abandoned 300,000-plus passengers (many of whom are still staggering through airports trying to get flights), has just raised its fares, joining its fellow unindicted co-conspirators .. I mean, competitors.
See earlier post from Tom Parsons at BestFares.com
The update with American's action is from Rick Seaney at FareCompare.com:
"Friday, April 11, 2008 12:30pm CDT
American has joined into the increase in a similar metered fashion as past airfare hikes, completing the six legacy airlines matching of the $4-$30 roundtrip increase initiated by United late Wednesday evening. New prices will go into effect on American’s reservation system at approximately 3:00pm EDT.
UPDATE: American has canceled another 600 flights so far today, according to FlightStats.com.
Here’s the latest, from Tom Parsons at BestFares.com:
Arlington, TX — April 11, 2008 – At about 11:30 a.m. EDT today, Northwest Airlines joined the ranks of United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines and US Airways in raising airfares up to $30 roundtrip for both leisure and business airfares.
“To have this airfare increase stick, all six of the major airlines must match this increase. As of now, American Airlines, who has their hands full with over 300,000 disgruntled passengers, has elected not to match this increase of up to $30 roundtrip initiated by United Airlines on the evening of Wednesday, April 9″ - says Tom Parsons, Founder and CEO of Bestfares.com.
“This three-tier airfare hike added $10 roundtrip on short-haul flights up to 500 miles each way; $20 roundtrip on flights 501 to 1500 miles each way; and $30 roundtrip on coast-to-coast flights. This is the 12th attempt to raise airfares or fuel surcharges since the weekend of December 20, 2007. While five of the six major airlines have currently raised their airfares, if American Airlines elects not to match these new increases by Sunday, April 13, we predict it will be rolled back as we have seen on four other occasions in the past four months” - adds Parsons.
Since December 20, 2007, the major airlines have now attempted to raise airfares and fuel surcharges 12 different times. Seven have stuck so far. See our list of airfare and fuel surcharge hikes and attempts listed below.
(1) Week of December 20, 2007: Major airlines raise fuel surcharges on leisure and Business Class fares from $10 roundtrip to $20 roundtrip. Total increase since December 18, 2007, $10 roundtrip.
(2) Week of January 7, 2008: Major airlines raise leisure and Business Class airfares by $10 roundtrip. Fuel surcharges still remain at $20 roundtrip. Total increase since December 18, 2007, $20 roundtrip.
(3) Weekend of January 11, 2008: United Airlines attempts to raise domestic airfares by adding a $30 roundtrip fuel surcharge to domestic airline tickets. Delta, American, Continental, US Airways and Northwest Airlines match. However, on January 14, 2008, Northwest rolled back their $30 fuel surcharge hike forcing the other major airlines, including United, to roll back their fuel surcharge increase. In other words, this attempt to raise airfares (by adding a $30 fuel surcharge) was a bust.
(4) Weekend of January 17, 2008: American Airlines attempts to raise domestic airfares by adding a $20 roundtrip fuel surcharge. Delta, United and Continental quickly match. Northwest Airlines and US Airways decline to match, forcing the other carriers to roll back their fuel surcharge. This attempted airfare fuel surcharge hike was a bust.
(5) Weekend of January 24, 2008: Major airlines double fuel surcharges on leisure and Business Class airfares from $20 to $40 roundtrip. Total increase since December 18, 2007, $40 roundtrip.
(6) Weekend of February 22, 2008: Major airlines raise airfares on both leisure and Business Class airfares $10 roundtrip. $40 fuel surcharge still in place. Total increase since December 18, 2007, $50 roundtrip.
(7) Weekend of February 29, 2008: Major airlines raise leisure and Business Class airfares $10 roundtrip. Total increase since December 18, 2007, $60 roundtrip.
(8) Weekend of March 7, 2008: Major airlines raise fuel surcharges from $40 to $50 roundtrip. Total airfare increase with airfare hikes and fuel surcharges since December 18, 2007, $70 roundtrip.
(9) March 14, 2008: United & Continental Airlines raised both leisure and business domestic airfares by $10 roundtrip on flights up to 500 air miles, $20 on flights 501 to 1000 air miles, $30 on flights 1001 to 1500 air miles, and a whopping $50 roundtrip on domestic flights over 1,500 air miles one-way. On March 15, 2008 American Airlines, Delta Airlines and US Airways matched the new fare hike. March 16, 2008 Northwest, the final hold out of the legacy airlines, matched United Airlines airfare increases.
(10) Weekend of March 21, 2008: Delta Airlines raises fuel surcharges by $10 roundtrip. United Airlines was the only major airline to match the new increase. Delta Airlines and United Airlines were both forced to roll back the fuel surcharge increase. This attempted airfare fuel surcharge increase was a bust.
(11) March 27, 2008: Delta Airlines raised domestic leisure airfares by adding a $10 fuel surcharge to most domestic airfares. This attempted airfare fuel surcharge increase was a bust for the second week in a row.
(12) April 10, 2008: United Airlines raises domestic airfares $10 - $30 in markets where they are not competing with low-cost carriers. Continental, Delta, Northwest and US Airways match the increase.
“If the other major airlines don’t go along with this fare increase, United Airlines will probably have to roll it back to stay competitive just like Delta Airlines had to do with both of its attempts in just the last three weeks” – advises Parsons.
“With all of the negative attention pertaining to flight cancellations, bad weather and hundreds of thousands of stranded passengers, American Airlines could be the spoiler on this airfare increase attempt. But, then again, we’ve seen stranger things happen in this wacky world of air travel” [said Parsons].