Category: aero

3 Links I Love: Privatizing JFK, Heathrow Plan…

3 Links I Love: Privatizing JFK, Heathrow Plan Cuts, Clearing the Runways of Snow:

This week’s featured link:
The time has come to privatize JFK AirportNew York Post
It’s a rare day that I find myself wanting to link to the New York Post, but just like last week, this week brings another good article from Jason Rabinowitz. Is it time to pull JFK away from the Port Authority? (Well, yeah.)

Two for the road:
Heathrow Plans Sloping Runway to Cut Costs by $3.4 BillionBloomberg
Go figure, the plan to add a runway (and more) at Heathrow is really, really expensive. So now they’re looking at ways to cut back the costs. The sloped runway is one possibility, so it cutting the length of the runway. Besides the obvious cost savings of using less concrete, it more importantly means less of a move for the busy motorway that the runway butts up against. I have no idea if this is a smart move or if it’s just being pennywise and pound foolish.

Clearing Mitchell’s runways a choreographed snow dance powered by massive diesel enginesMilwaukee Journal Sentinel
File this one under “unsung heroes” alongside the people who de-ice aircraft. Keeping those runways clear of snow is a thankless job, but it’s incredibly important. I’m glad to see the paper shining a spotlight on the locals who do it in Milwaukee.

January 19, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

How Long Do I Have to Use My Airline Ticket? (…

How Long Do I Have to Use My Airline Ticket? (Ask Cranky):

I realize the title of this sounds odd since, you know, you usually just use your ticket when you take the flights you booked. But tickets themselves have independent value, and if your plans change, you can usually cancel the flights you booked originally and save that ticket for future use. So it wasn’t a surprise to see a question come in from a Cranky Concierge client who had to postpone travel due to a major medical issue. The answer, however, surprised me a bit, so I thought it worthy of an Ask Cranky.

The question (paraphrased for clarity) seemed simple:

If I bought a ticket but can’t fly as planned, how long do I have to use the credit for a different flight before it expires?

Some may find the entire premise of the question odd. After all, if you have a gift card from Applebee’s, it doesn’t expire (though you’ll probably be happier if you never use it). But airline tickets most certainly do have an expiration and you could lose a lot of money if you aren’t careful. I’ll admit that I always thought this was straightforward. In general, you had to use a ticket to fly within one year of the original date of issue. There were some exceptions to that depending upon if you had already flown a part of the original itinerary or not, but it was pretty standard. If you bought a ticket on January 18, 2018, then you’d have to use it to fly before January 18, 2019 or it would lose all value.

For this particular client, she had a major medical issue, so were were investigating closely to see how we could fix it. Agencies often have the ability to waive fees or do something useful in situations like this. That’s when I learned that Delta’s rules had, at some point, changed from the standard when it comes to international travel. I found other airlines had also strayed, and I’m surprised at just how much variation there is out there now. You’re probably guessing airlines became more stingy, but nay. Many have loosened up.

Here’s a rundown of the ticket validity policies for US-based airlines where I’ve found clear policies.

Unused Ticket Partially-Used Ticket
Airline Book By Fly By Book By Fly By
Standard Policy Within one year of original date of issue Within one year of original date of issue Within one year of first flight taken Within one year of first flight taken
Alaska Standard or if converted to credit certs without charge, can also be 30 days after cert is created, if that’s better Standard or if converted to credit certs without charge, can travel at any time Standard Standard
American Standard Standard Standard Standard
Delta Domestic^ Standard Standard Within one year of original date of issue Within one year of original date of issue
Delta International Standard Within one year of the new ticketing date Standard Standard
Hawaiian# Standard Standard Standard Standard
JetBlue@ Standard or if converted to Travel Bank without charge, within one year of date Travel Bank credit created Standard or if converted to Travel Bank without charge, within one year of date Travel Bank credit created Standard or if converted to Travel Bank without charge, within one year of date Travel Bank credit created Standard or if converted to Travel Bank without charge, within one year of date Travel Bank credit created
Southwest Standard Standard Within one year of original date of issue Within one year of original date of issue
United Standard Within one year of the new ticketing date Standard Standard

^Delta domestic includes travel within the 50 US States and between those states and Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Canada
#Hawaiian validity can be extended up to 30 days if someone is sick and can’t travel.
@JetBlue bookings made directly go into Travel Bank credits automatically when original flights are canceled
*Southwest tickets are converted into Travel Funds

How’s that for a pain in the butt? These policies are all complex, sometimes unnecessarily. And this isn’t even complete. If you make a change and have residual value left over, you can usually (but not always) put it into another credit for future use, and those credits have different rules themselves. It’s all pretty confusing. Of course, airlines are good at making things confusing.

Are there any lessons to be learned? Sure. The most obvious is: don’t book so far in advance. If you do and need to change, with most airlines you’ll have less validity after your original travel dates available. Another tip is that if you do expect to need to change, then maybe consider an airline with a more friendly policy like United or Delta on international flights only. Some of you may be surprised to see Southwest as having one of the least friendly policies of any airline. You may not have a change fee, but there’s a lot less flexibility on when you can use your credit. Just keep that in mind.

Of course, you can always consider travel insurance. Then you don’t have to worry about these rules if you or a family members gets sick or you have to cancel for a variety of other reasons. Then you don’t have to worry about credits and you just get your money back.

January 18, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

United Improves While JetBlue, Alaska, and Sou…

United Improves While JetBlue, Alaska, and Southwest Don’t in 2017 On-Time Derby:

It’s time for some fun with numbers. The year is over, and my technical issue with masFlight was fixed. That means I was able to cuddle up with my computer over the weekend and start thumbing through operational performance for 2017. I didn’t get quite as far as I would’ve liked, but there were four trends that popped out when it came to on-time performance. I figured I’d start there and then dig into some of the issues on future posts.

Let’s start with a chart showing the year-over-year change in on-time performance looking at two metrics: both departures on or before schedule (D0) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) metric of arrivals within 14 minutes of schedule (A14). Keep in mind this includes all regionals under the marketing brand name.

I chose this graph because you can identify the four trends I noticed pretty easily. Just in case you can’t, I’ve color-coded them for you.

United Pushes Planes On Time
On the left I posted the three legacy carriers together, and what really stands out is United’s huge improvement on getting airplanes off the gate on time. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. President Scott Kirby used to have the same job at American, an airline that sees pushing airplanes on time as a religious obligation. You might be surprised, however, to see that arrivals on-time didn’t change much. I’d say that shows that the airline has had plenty of schedule padding in the past. Now with more airplanes getting out on time, it should be able to remove some of that, if it hasn’t already.

You might be surprised to see Delta taking a hit, but you shouldn’t be. Delta is still at the top of the heap on aggregate numbers. (It saw 84 percent of flights arrive within 14 minutes of schedule while United had 81.7 percent and American has 80.8 percent.) It’s hard to keep going up when you’re already that high. But I’m guessing some things like the power outage in Atlanta really hurt the airline. I’d look for Delta to, ahem, start climbing again this year.

Southwest Is Not Running A Good Operation
That’s quite a drop in performance for the LUV birds, but as bad as the trend looks, the actual numbers seem even worse. Southwest was by far the worst airline at getting airplanes off the gate on time. It saw only 53.4 percent of flights push back on or before schedule, and that is pretty awful. Maybe those 737-300s really acted up before they left the fleet in September. Or maybe Southwest just needs to run a better airline. It should be noted that there’s enough padding in there that Southwest still landed 79.7 percent of flights on schedule. That’s not awful, but it’s behind each of the big three. And the trends just aren’t going in the right direction.

Alaska and Virgin America Have Merger Pains
If you thought the Southwest numbers looked bad, keep moving to the right. It was not a good year for Alaska and Virgin America. Alaska saw performance slip with A14 dropping from 87.1 percent in 2016 to 82.9 percent last year. That, of course, is still a decent number (at least it’s better than Southwest), but that’s a steep drop. Virgin America, meanwhile, saw an even worse plunge from 77.5 percent all the way down to 71.6 percent. There really isn’t any good news here. Alaska is clearly struggling with how to best operate an airline that has a huge chunk of its operation at San Francisco, an incredibly delay-prone airport. I tend to give management a pass on things like this during a merger integration, but that pass won’t last much longer. We’ll look in 2019 to see if Alaska is really up to the task of fixing this.

JetBlue is Still Running Poorly
JetBlue saw its on-time departures actually tick up a tenth of a percent. The problem is, it’s still only at 58.5 percent. And arrivals? The airline skidded down to a mere 73.5 percent of planes getting to the gate within 14 minutes of schedule. There is no merger to blame here. Oh sure, JetBlue has its biggest operation in the crowded Northeast. But guess what? Delta has the same problem, and I don’t see that airline floundering. JetBlue has a lot of work to do here.

Of these, it’s really Southwest and JetBlue that I want to study more closely. I’ll let Alaska have a little more time to digest its merger. And United? Well, there’s not much to pick apart there, I don’t think. But clearly Southwest and JetBlue are having problems, and these are problems that need attention. Let’s see if a little more moonlight masFlight data-digging will help shine a spotlight on what’s really going on.

January 16, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

Icelandair Tries New Market Types to Protect I…

Icelandair Tries New Market Types to Protect Its Model in a MAX/neo World:

On a cold winter back in 1999, my college friends and I decided to spend our last spring break in the exact opposite way of pretty much everyone else. I had received an email from Icelandair with a great deal. For a mere $220 roundtrip each (including taxes), we could fly from Baltimore to Glasgow, spend 3 nights, and then do an Iceland stopover for 3 nights before heading home. Icelandair’s model was pretty simple, and it hadn’t changed in years. Fly people between North America and Europe for cheap, and then sell the stopover in Iceland as a good thing. That basic premise hasn’t changed, but many other things have. With the advent of aggressive competition alongside new aircraft with longer legs and lower costs, Icelandair has had to adapt. Last week alone, it launched 3 very different types of markets. Each one may hold a key to ensuring Icelandair’s future.

As is the case with Emirates in Dubai or Copa in Panama, it’s Iceland’s geography that makes Icelandair work. Go back to 1999 and you find a shell of what the airline is today, but the premise was the same. Icelandair would easily fly 757s (and in some markets, 737s) to connect bigger cities in the north and east of the US (along with some Canadian cities) to Iceland. Then those airplanes could continue on to Europe and return, bringing passengers back and forth. That Iceland stop was the key, because it was close enough to both sides of the Atlantic to allow for that narrowbody operation. Anything between the US and Europe (save a few eastern US routes) required a big, expensive widebody. Those lower aircraft costs for Icelandair meant it could offer flights for cheap. And people who wanted to fly cheap (as I did back in 1999) would be willing to make the stop in Iceland. Even better, some people, again including me and my friends, liked the idea of staying in Iceland for a day or two.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and the world is a different place. Iceland’s tourism industry has exploded to the point where many airlines fly into the island’s main airport simply as a destination. Icelandair now makes a fair bit off people who actually want to stay in Iceland, not just pass through. The demand has been enough for a rival to start. WOW and its purple airplanes have been expanding quickly with an ultra low cost model. That demand, however, isn’t enough to support the operations both airlines run. It’s still the traffic between the US and Europe that bolsters both airlines and allows them to fly to so many cities on both sides of the Pond.

The beauty of this model is not just the low costs, but it’s also the ability to connect cities via Iceland that haven’t been able to support nonstop service before. When I flew in 1999, it was from Baltimore to Glasgow. The idea that we’d ever see a big widebody serving that market nonstop was silly. And if you had to connect, an Iceland stop was actually one of the more efficient options around. Combine that with low costs and hence, low fares, and you’ve got a winner.

But now, the 737 MAX and A320neo families are a threat to the airline. That sounds odd considering Icelandair is putting its faith in the 737 MAX as its future workhorse, but it’s true. With fewer seats and lower costs, markets that seemed silly before now seem possible. Baltimore to Glasgow? That sounds positively massive compared to Providence to Cork… but Norwegian is flying the latter route with MAX aircraft already. It’s going to be a lot harder for Icelandair to make a living when people can overfly Iceland and get a cheap fare in the process. So what can Icelandair do?

The airline has started expanding in a way that it hopes can outrun recent aircraft trends. Last week alone, Icelandair added 3 markets in the US bringing its North America total up to 23 destinations, nearly balanced against the 25 destinations is has in Iceland. (In the map above, you’ll count only 21, but that’s because Newark and JFK are combined as are Baltimore and Dulles.) Each of these three new destinations has a different rationale behind it.

Kansas City
Possibly the most surprising of all is Kansas City. This summer, Icelandair will fly from its Keflavik home to Kansas City three times weekly. The flight will be operated by a 757, and that’s the key to this service. You can’t fly a 757 from Kansas City to anywhere in continental Europe. It’s too far. So you need to have a more expensive widebody, and so far, no airline has been able to justify that. Icelandair can take passengers from Kansas City and funnel them into Europe (during peak summer, I might add) with a single stop to a whole host of destinations. Sure, passengers can fly with a single stop from Kansas City to bigger destinations already (like Kansas City – Minneapolis – Paris), but Icelandair can make it more convenient, go into many more cities, and allow for that free Iceland stopover. Oh, and it can likely support lower fares. I like this flight’s chances.

Back when I flew in 1999, Baltimore was a point of focus for Icelandair in the US, but the airline pulled out and eventually returned to the DC area through Dulles instead. Now, Baltimore is back with four weekly flights to Keflavik on a 757 during the summer. There are probably two things going on here. First, WOW flies to Baltimore already, so there could be something of a turf war. But the more interesting explanation is that this is a localization strategy. If you live in the Baltimore area now, your options to get to Europe are fairly limited. Most options require a traffic-choked drive to Dulles (or possibly a train ride to Philly). Icelandair can make a single stop option out of Baltimore as attractive as a nonstop from Dulles, especially since it’ll undoubtedly be cheaper. As for competing with WOW, Icelandair has a very different product. Half the airplane is either Saga (domestic-style First) or Economy Comfort (premium economy) while WOW is nearly all standard coach seats. That and Icelandair’s superior operational performance will attract a fair number of people over WOW.

San Francisco
This is another WOW-competitive market. Icelandair will run 4 daily flights this summer from San Francisco to Keflavik. This is a long way to go, so it has to be on a 767 and not a 757. While San Francisco has more nonstop service to Europe, the number of destinations are still limited. So, Icelandair is going into the primary airport in the Bay Area to open up connecting options.

From the West Coast, Iceland is particularly attractive being right on the great circle route, as you can see in the above image from the Great Circle Mapper. It’s 5,038 miles direct from SFO to Glasgow. Going via Iceland adds a mere 6 extra miles to the process. Further, this helps people avoid those long domestic flights to connect through the East Cost to secondary European destinations. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Icelandair’s partner, Alaska, has its new (thanks, Virgin) SFO hub to help feed the flights. It should be noted that in Seattle, Icelandair is up to two daily flights this summer.

I like to see Icelandair trying new things, because the same old stuff won’t work in the future. Whether all of these work is unclear, but they are summer-only flights that operate less than daily. These are all experiments worth doing. Actually, these are all experiments that are necessary to make sure Icelandair has a future.

January 15, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)and the general aviation (GA) communitys national #FlySafe campaign is designed to educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.

A Loss of Control (LOC) accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen when the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and quickly develops into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.

Types of Enhanced Vision Systems
Our five senses vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch) are key to keeping us safe. Vision is especially important to a pilot. Vision at night and in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) can be improved with technology, such as Enhanced Vision (EV) and Synthetic Vision (SV) technology.

Enhanced Vision (EV) uses sensors on your airplane to provide a better view. These sensors can be infrared or radar. They are very useful in seeing terrain in weather, or on a dark night. The sensors help you see what is actually in front of the aircraft.

Synthetic Vision (SV) doesnt use sensors. Instead, it relies on GPS information and a database to create a virtual landscape. SV can create a picture of the flight environment and overlay that picture with aircraft instrumentation. The result is a single image that contains the information you need for safe flight operations. Since this information is not based on direct observation, youll need to keep your software and databases up to date.

Display Choices
Most GA systems are displayed through a cockpit Multifunction Display (MFD), or a Primary Flight Display (PFD). A Head Up display (HUD) is a great way of displaying EV/SV information.

Regardless of which display you choose, be sure to become very familiar with it before you use it in real time. Its a good idea to schedule periodic proficiency training with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) who knows the equipment. These training and review sessions will give you the confidence you need to use the equipment effectively.

Message from FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #Fly Safe campaign. Every month on, we provide pilots with Loss of Control solutions developed by a team of experts some of which are already reducing risk. I hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.

More about Loss of Control
Contributing factors may include:

  • Poor judgment or aeronautical decision making
  • Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
  • Intentional failure to comply with regulations
  • Failure to maintain airspeed
  • Failure to follow procedure
  • Pilot inexperience and proficiency
  • Use of prohibited or over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol

Did you know?

  • In 2016, 413 people died in 219 general aviation accidents.
  • Loss of Control was the number one cause of these accidents.
  • Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight.It can happen anywhere and at any time.
  • There is one fatal accident involving Loss of Control every four days.

Learn more:
Read more about Enhanced Vision Systems in Brushing Back the Dark: A Look at the Latest in Night Vision Technology. FAA Safety Briefing Jan/Feb 2014, p. 20.

FAAsAdvisory Circular 90-106, Enhanced Flight Vision Systems, has valuable information.

T=Terrain Avoidance: What does it Take to Use NVGs? FAA Safety Briefing Nov/Dec 2015, p. 28

You can learn more about Enhanced Vision Systems in this GA Safety Enhancement fact sheet

TheFAASafety.govwebsite has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.

Check out GA Safety Enhancements fact sheets on the mainFAA Safety Briefingwebsite, including Flight Risk Assessment Tools.

TheWINGS Pilot Proficiency Programhelps pilots build an educational curriculum suitable for their unique flight requirements. It is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will enjoy a safer and more stress-free flying experience.

TheGeneral Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC)is comprised of government and industry experts who work together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies to reduce the risk of GA accidents. The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers in the FAA, several government agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and stakeholder groups. Industry participants include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Flight Instructors, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, and the aviation insurance industry. The National Transportation Safety Board and the European Aviation Safety Agency participate as observers.

January 13, 2018 at 12:54AM News and Updates

3 Links I Love: Why JFK is Terrible (Reason #3…

3 Links I Love: Why JFK is Terrible (Reason #3,194), Alaska’s Winter of Discontent, Americans Flee to Tijuana:

This week’s featured link:
Why Did New York’s JFK Airport Struggle to Cope With Its Flight Backlog After the Bomb Cyclone?The Points Guy
Were you stuck in New York during that nasty bomb cyclone thing? Or did you at least hear about the mess that was JFK? Well Jason Rabinowitz lives for terrible, terrible days like this in his hometown, and he’s put together a great post explaining just exactly what went wrong. A lot of this falls squarely on JFK itself and its bizarre operating structure. On the bright side, it made for some interesting aircraft spotting in other cities which had to take all these diversions. (Ok, that’s not much of a bright side…)

Two for the road:
As Alaska Air cuts costs, employee discontent grows and passenger loyalty is at riskThe Seattle Times
Normally I take stories like these with a grain of salt, but there appears to be some meat on this one. The reality is that during every merger there comes a time where morale sinks, and the company takes a wrong turn or two. That hardly means the world is ending, but it should be a wake up call to management. This is a story worth watching.

Cross-border bridge boosts Tijuana airportTravel Weekly
For those who don’t know, the Tijuana Airport sits right on the border with California, but crossing the border can be a pain. Enter this brilliant idea a couple years back to simply build a bridge with customs/immigration built in. I love the idea of this bridge (which, yes, would go over any wall), and now the numbers are really starting to ramp up.

January 12, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

The Trend Toward Pre-Reclining Seats in Coach …

The Trend Toward Pre-Reclining Seats in Coach is a Good Thing:

This week it came out that British Airways was doing away with seats that recline on new short-haul aircraft and will instead use a “pre-reclining” seat. The knee-jerk reaction is, of course, to curse BA for taking away something so incredibly important (not really) and then mock the airline for using such silly words like “pre-reclining.” This may sound crazy, but I say the knee-jerk reaction is wrong. Pre-reclining seats are a good thing, and we should welcome them with open arms. The time has come to finally end the tyranny of the overly-aggressive reclining person (who somehow always sits in front of me).

There are really two kinds of people in this world: coach travelers who recline and those who don’t. I am firmly in the latter category and have been for as long as I can remember. If the golden rule still matters, then we should all feel that way. The last thing you want is the person in front of you to slam back the seat and dig into your personal space. I choose not to recline to respect the person behind me. Note: if you a) have an empty (or no) seat behind you or b) are sitting in front of someone who thinks kicking your seat is a sport, then ignore this and crank that bad boy back as far as you can go.

Some would suggest that the reclining issue is a recent development. Back when seats had greater pitch between them, you could recline as much as you wanted and nobody cared, they’ll say. I disagree. It’s always been annoying. Further, it doesn’t matter how much seat pitch you have when you’re watching your laptop get crunched or your bottle of water get knocked off the tray table. The tray table goes with the seat in front regardless of how far it is from you. Those items are going to be smashed regardless. Even in a world of less seat pitch, most seats themselves are thinner, so the amount of personal space hasn’t really changed dramatically on most airlines.

I say “most” because there are airlines which have absolutely put seats in that have dramatically impacted personal space. The ultra low cost carriers, naturally, were the first to push those boundaries. I think of Frontier with its mini/half tray tables. That is an airline that knows there’s so little space that you couldn’t get a laptop out without going into full T-Rex pose (little arms hunched over with the laptop at an angle) anyway. That is what sparked the pre-reclining movement. Most people have a negative opinion of pre-reclining, because so far it’s been associated with those knee-crunching airlines. But we can all hope this trend spreads further into more generous configurations.

“Pre-reclining” may sound stupid, but it’s actually quite accurate. Existing seats when they are in their “full upright” position (whatever that really means…) are mostly vertical. You can then recline up to about 4 degrees or so during flight. These pre-reclined seats actually lean back a bit (not sure how much, but it’s greater than 0 and less than 4 degrees) to make the initial seating position more comfortable. You can see a highly-inaccurate illustration above.

Why this pre-reclined position isn’t just the default on older seats is entirely unclear to me. Maybe nobody realized that sitting straight up was painful. Then again, it could just be a social commentary on our lack of proper posture in today’s world.

I’ve sat in pre-reclining seats, and I find them to be comfortable. Dare I say I find them to be MORE comfortable simply because I wouldn’t recline in a regular seat anyway.

Though these seats have largely been the domain of ultra low cost carriers, the closest thing we have to a ULCC in the legacy world is British Airways. So it’s sensible that BA would jump on this bandwagon early. BA spokesperson Michele Kropf told me that all new A320neo family aircraft will be delivered with pre-reclining seats in coach. “A small number” of existing A320 family narrowbodies will be retrofitted with these pre-reclining seats over the next few years. In other words, if you’re flying within Europe on BA in the future, you’ll pretty much have the same seating experience as if you’re flying Ryanair.

BA isn’t doing this because it’s the right thing to do for passengers. No, of course it’s an economic decision. With slimline seats and tight pitch in general, the airline can fit more seats onboard. And if it’s doing that, then pre-recline should be a requirement. It doesn’t hurt that removing the recline means there are fewer moving parts in the seat that can break. It’s good for maintenance, and it’s probably lighter as well, so it’s good for fuel consumption. (Even a little bit matters.)

You can decry British Airways for effectively going to a ULCC configuration within Europe if you want, but don’t take it out on these pre-reclining seats. That’s a feature that should be on every coach seat, good legroom or no.

January 11, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

With an Assist From JetBlue, Hawaiian Chooses …

With an Assist From JetBlue, Hawaiian Chooses Long Beach As Its First New Airport to Serve with the A321neo:

Hawaiian Airlines has long had a size issue. Ever since the DC-8s were retired back in the 1990s, the airline has only had large widebody aircraft to fly to the mainland. This wasn’t necessarily a problem for the airline, but it limited the type of routes it could fly. While other airlines like Alaska ramped up on tons of thinner routes with narrowbodies, Hawaiian had to sit and watch. Now, Hawaiian has put its first A321neo aircraft into service, and that smaller airplane means Hawaiian has a whole new range of opportunities.

Hawaiian decided to first use the new airplane to bolster existing routes, but yesterday, the first totally new airport was announced. It just happens to be in my backyard: Long Beach will get daily Honolulu flights starting June 1. This is a very interesting choice, and it’s one that required JetBlue to independently decide to give up a slot. I’d say both airlines are likely happy about that.

Up until now, the smallest airplane Hawaiian had that could make the mainland was a 767 with just over 250 seats. That airplane is leaving the fleet in the not-too-distant future, so that leaves the 278-seat A330-200 with fully flat beds in First Class as the smallest option. That is a whole lot of airplane. The A321neo, however, has only 189 seats, and it has recliners, not beds, in First Class. This airplanes sips fuel and has low operating costs. It was supposed to allow Hawaiian to open up 3 new types of routes:

  • Flights from smaller West Coast cities to big Hawaiian cities like Honolulu.
  • Flights from big West Coast cities to smaller Hawaiian cities like Lihu’e or Kona.
  • Add frequency on big trunk routes like, potentially, LA to Honolulu.

So far, Hawaiian has focused on the second bullet point. It put the A321neos on routes it already operated like Oakland to Kahului (which started yesterday), Lihu’e, and Kona. But the question remained, when would Hawaiian open up new cities with the airplane as promised? That starts June 1.

Technically, the airplane comes in on the evening of May 31 so it can operate the inaugural westbound flight on the morning of June 1. It’ll be a typical West Coast-Hawai’i pattern where there’s a morning flight to the islands with a return that evening. The flight will arrive at 9pm, an hour before the Long Beach curfew kicks in.

Is this going to work? During the summer, I bet it’ll do nicely. During the rest of the year, I’m not so sure. But wait, isn’t Long Beach slot-restricted and full? Yes, but here’s where this story gets interesting.

Long Beach Has a Waitlist
Long Beach has 50 slot pairs for daily flights on big aircraft, and they’re all currently taken. So how on Earth did Hawaiian get one? Well, it turns out that Long Beach has a waitlist for slots. Up until November, the waitlist was comprised of existing airlines. Delta was first, JetBlue was second, and Southwest was third.

But then Hawaiian showed interest in flying to Long Beach. When Hawaiian joined the waitlist, it zoomed to the top, as any new entrant would per the noise ordinance rules. Every other carrier would have been notified that the waitlist was going to be updated. They would have been asked if they wanted to remain on the list, and then when the new list was generated, they would all know who was on it and in which position. Seeing Hawaiian at the top, JetBlue must have had an idea.

JetBlue Smells Opportunity
JetBlue has long struggled to figure out how to serve Long Beach. No matter what it tries, it just can’t generate a decent fare. Things got worse when Southwest entered, but JetBlue didn’t want to walk away from what really is its only West Coast operation of any substance. It went into defensive mode and started flying slots as required to keep Southwest from getting more.

JetBlue admitted that things weren’t working well. It told employees to keep watching as it looked to find better ways to use the slots including possible flights to leisure destinations like Santa Rosa or Steamboat Springs. That’s probably still on the docket, but there was another opportunity that presented itself.

When the waitlist was updated, JetBlue undoubtedly saw that Hawaiian was now at the top of the list. It’s obvious to anyone watching that if Hawaiian got a slot, it would use it to fly to Honolulu. That’s music to JetBlue’s ears. If Southwest gets a slot, there’s a good chance it gets used to compete directly with JetBlue. But if Hawaiian gets it? That’s fine. In fact, it’s good. JetBlue and Hawaiian are frequent flier partners, so members of each program could earn and burn miles on each other. There could even be codeshare opportunities between the two (though not many considering the schedule Hawaiian ended up putting out).

So it was that in December, JetBlue made the strategic decision to give up a slot while oddly remaining on the waitlist for additional slots. It must have had to cross its proverbial fingers and hope that Hawaiian was serious about flying to Long Beach.

Will It Work for Hawaiian?
Long Beach is a tough market, and it generally underperforms on revenue compared to other LA Basin markets. But Hawai’i could be different.

First, there is also absolutely no service from Orange County to Hawai’i any longer, so this will have much broader geographic appeal compared to something like Oakland or Vegas which has service from every airport in Southern California. Second, you have a much higher percentage of leisure travelers who fly less frequently. They won’t be loyal to specific airlines as much, and they’ll be more willing to look at various airport options. Lastly, you have the Hawaiian diaspora around Southern California in cities like Gardena, Carson, and even Long Beach itself. Long Beach is the most convenient airport for people in those areas.

In the summer, I’d imagine this will work well. It’s the rest of the year that has me less sure. But all those reasons listed above make me think there is a chance of this working. I like Hawaiian giving it a shot, and it bodes well for the airline getting creative as it gets more of these airplanes. I imagine some other West Coast cities are eagerly drooling at the prospect.

January 09, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

Just How Did American Perform After Its Pilot …

Just How Did American Perform After Its Pilot Schedule Problem?:

Remember way back in early December? There were no absurdly-named bomb cyclones to speak of (if you have had to touch that mess of an airport that is JFK in the past week, my condolences), but there was a looming pilot problem. American made a pilot-scheduling mistake, and there were plenty of prognosticating pundits who predicted the end of the world (or at least the imminent stranding of all adorable children and cats). Now that the holiday season has passed, did all the doomsday predictions come true? Of course not. It was a non-issue.

For those who have already forgotten what happened, here’s a summary. American’s pilot-scheduling system messed up and accidentally started raining down vacation days on pilots during the peak holiday season (December 17 – December 31). The upshot was that American didn’t have enough pilots scheduled to run the operation. The pilots union was unconcerned about wrongly scaring the public and instead selfishly sensed a negotiating opportunity. This gave the general media fodder for a sensational story, and that sent everyone into panic mode. Thousands of flights could be canceled! You’ll never get home in time for Santa! Blah, blah, blah.

Of course, American would never let that happen, and it had the ability to fix the problem itself. As it understood from the terms of the contract, it would offer extra pay to encourage pilots to volunteer to take trips. And then it would also rely on reserve pilots to pick up any slack. This move started to close the gap and fill up flights right away, but the union was still waging war publicly. After sitting down, American swallowed its pride and came to a deal with the union that included even more pay for the pilots. All of a sudden, both sides said that everything was fine and there would be no disruptions.

That period of time has passed, and as you know, there weren’t any broad issues, but I wanted numbers. The masFlight tool I’ve long used to pull real-time flight information appears to have stopped functioning (hopefully this is temporary), so I turned to OAG for data. I focused solely on the mainline operations of American, Delta, and United since the regionals weren’t impacted by this problem. And here’s what I found:

Both American and United completed more than 99 percent of their flights. Delta was atypically lower, but that was residual pain from the Atlanta computer outage. Presumably without that, Delta would have been at the top. Of course, anything over 99 percent for American would certainly indicate that there were no major pilot issues impacting the whole system, unless… could they have just taken massive delays and not canceled flights?


On-time performance wasn’t stellar by anyone, but they were all pretty much in line with each other. I should point out, however, that United finished best in both of these metrics. From a customer perspective, it’s remarkable to see the improvement operationally at that airline.

But overall, this is just a non-story. There were enough pilots and most people made it where they were going.

I say “most” because there are always normal problems that impact flights without the help of a pilot snafu. So, sorry to the person who emailed every American exec and copied me because using her obvious airline expertise, she had found that the pilot scheduling problem was real and caused her flight to be delayed. No, it didn’t. This was just a pretty normal holiday.

Now, once we got into January, it was far from normal, but that had nothing to do with pilots. These weather mess on the East Coast has made for a very bad situation, especially at JFK, and one that hasn’t gotten much better. The broken water pipe in Terminal 4 is only making things worse. This situation is an embarrassment, but I suppose that’s a topic for another time.

January 08, 2018 at 01:45PM Source:

3 Links I Love: A Political Bonus Thanks to Ta…

3 Links I Love: A Political Bonus Thanks to Tax Reform, A 747 Wedding:

This week’s TWO featured links:
Southwest Airlines Rings In The New Year Under Tax Reform With Employee Bonus, Charitable Contribution, And Further Investment In Its Boeing FleetSouthwest Newsroom
American Airlines to Distribute $1,000 to Each Team MemberAmerican Airlines Newsroom
With the new tax plan lowering tax rates on corporations, it seems companies feel the need to publicly bow down and show their thanks to the administration. So far, it’s Southwest and American doing the fawning.

For American, there are no actual savings yet, but the airline is giving money away. American hasn’t paid taxes in years thanks to all the losses it rolled up before bankruptcy. Those losses continue to carry over, so American won’t have to pay tax until there are no more losses available to offset profits. But that won’t stop the airline from giving a $1,000 bonus to celebrate the lower tax rate that will, presumably, have an impact on the airline when it does eventually start paying taxes again. But since it’s a one-time bonus, it’s more about optics than sharing actual cash savings.

Over at Southwest, the airline definitely pays taxes, so the savings are real. Employees will get a $1,000 bonus to celebrate that. But Southwest also took the opportunity to claim that tax reform allowed it to order more airplanes. In reality, Southwest is really spinning what is mostly an order modification that pushes the 737 MAX 7 one step closer to its grave. See, Southwest exercised an option for 40 737 MAX 8 aircraft to come in 2019 and 2020. But that move was partially offset by the airline’s decision to defer 23 MAX 7 aircraft all the way out until 2023/2024. That’s not good news for the MAX 7 which has very few orders as is. I can’t help but assume this deal would have happened anyway regardless of tax reform.

Delta, for what it’s worth, appears to be bucking the trend and won’t be giving bonuses. It does mention, however, that if profits go up, then profit-sharing goes up. That’s the right way to do this.

And now JetBlue appears to be joining the trend of paying up. I hear Alaska is doing the same.

One for the road:
Midair vows: Pilot marries flight attendant on last Delta 747 flight to Marana, ArizonaArizona Republic
Did I say I was done with 747 tributes. I lied. On Wednesday, Delta finished up its football charter work and flew the last 747 to the desert for good. A couple journalists were onboard to document it, and they were able to witness a wedding in the process.

January 05, 2018 at 01:45PM Source: