Category: aero

The Case for Copa Defecting to American:

As LATAM prepares to consciously uncouple from American, the discussion has centered around what American can do to shore up its already-solid Latin American network. In the vision I laid out recently, the least controversial piece was that American should use Gol (an airline that was unconsciously uncoupled from Delta as part of this) to feed its Brazilian network. That’s really a no-brainer. But my second suggestion of snagging Copa away from United was met with more resistance. Some of you asked for it, so here it is: the case for Copa making the switch.

I’ll set some boundaries here. I’m looking at this from a US <–> Latin America perspective. This is about how the partnership of American and Copa would be more beneficial than the current United and Copa agreement; it’s not looking at the airline overall. Let’s start with this from American’s perspective.

Original image “A Treat for the Dogs” by LollypopFarm is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

American’s Perspective

For American the loss of LATAM hurts only slightly from a network standpoint. American already serves nearly all of the destinations in South America that generate significant traffic. The few it doesn’t serve can either be added by American (likely with MAX or neo aircraft) or through very limited partnerships.

Sure, those who remain loyal to LATAM will be tougher to retain, but American has its own strong loyalty in South America that goes back decades. Fun fact: According to DB1B data, for the year ending March 31, 2019, nearly 60 percent of American’s passengers flying between the US and South America originated in South America.

On the one hand, this is about American filling in the corners where it needs help. Gol is great for that. Gol can aggregate the drips of traffic that want to go from small town Brazil up to the US and funnel those people on to American flights (or vice versa). Every little bit helps, and the volume should help to bolster additional American frequencies to the country.

While Copa can serve that same purpose in northern South America, it can do more than that for American. Think about this from the US perspective. To serve South America, American has its big hub in Miami with a secondary hub in Dallas/Fort Worth. Nearly everything has to funnel through those cities to reach South America.

This may work from bigger cities throughout the country that have frequent flights to Miami, but it doesn’t work as well beyond that.

Take Las Vegas, for example. Looking at a random date in the future, American’s options to go from Las Vegas to Lima are either an afternoon flight via DFW connecting to a redeye or the same thing via Miami with a very long layover. (There’s also a redeye to Miami followed by an 8+ hour layover, if that’s more your bag.) If you add Copa to the mix, then you can do a redeye to Panama City followed by an easy connection to Lima.

Adding a Panama City hub to a Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth operation gives better coverage with more frequencies at more times of day. In a joint venture, they could work to time flights better to not only allow better single connection options but double connects as well.

This assumes that Copa would keep most of its network intact and American and Copa would come together to open new routes. I’d expect an easy case to be made for American’s hubs in Phoenix, Charlotte, and Philadelphia. Opportunities abound to connect places like Austin, St Louis, and Nashville among others.

Would this dilute the Miami hub? Possibly to some extent. But the upside is there to be able to take more traffic with better coverage and frequencies on both sides.

That’s the easy argument. The hard part is convincing Copa.

A Harder Sell for Copa

Leaving United would be a huge turn of events for Copa. The airline was basically Continental Junior for many years. In the late 1990s, Continental owned 51 percent of Copa. Copa used the OnePass program and even painted its airplanes to look almost identical to those of Continental. Between 2005 and 2008, Continental sold everything off. Then United and Continental merged, but the relationship carried over. Copa even used the MileagePlus program as its own until 2015 when it launched its own program, ConnectMiles.

Copa is part of a pending joint venture application that would see the airline join forces with United and Avianca (and possibly Azul if the rumors are true). That is where I’d start the pitch.

United owns a good chunk of flailing Avianca, so it has incentives to try to fix that airline. Avianca is based in Bogota but also has hublets in Central America, remnants of the TACA empire that Avianca mostly destroyed. In other words, Avianca’s hubs surround Copa’s home in Panama City.

In a three-way arrangement, Copa feels like a third wheel by necessity. Or at the very least, it’s the second wheel that has to help prop up the mess of a third wheel. Historical ties between Copa and United (or its predecessor) may be strong, but the same could have been said for LATAM and American. Nothing is off the table, if the deal is right.

American’s strength in Latin America should help turbo-charge the Panama City hub beyond its already turbo-charged state. Copa would be the only partner in Latin America in the joint venture, and it could then deal with Avianca as a competitor instead of a messy organization that could bring Copa down with it. American’s strong loyalty base in Latin America would help Copa to grow from both ends, something that United alone can’t provide.

In the US, there would be some initial moves to shift capacity from United strongholds to American strongholds, but ultimately there would be more new growth opportunities as all the dots get connected.

I realize this is a controversial suggestion, and I’ve had lengthy discussions with others in the industry who disagree with me vehemently. I can see both sides of this debate, but in my mind, Copa is better off making the move. American would be too.

October 21, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

San Francisco Shuffles Its Gate Numbers:

If you flew through San Francisco (SFO) yesterday, you may have noticed things looked a bit different. No, no. It’s not that the planes can actually run on time when there’s a cloud in the sky. (I mean, please.) The big change is cosmetic. All gates changed their numbers. Nothing like a good gate shuffle to get the blood pumping.

The old system of numbering at SFO was to use straight-up numbers increasing in a counter-clockwise manner. Gate numbers started in Terminal 1 and then topped out with gate 90 in Terminal 3. This has been somewhat problematic for awhile.

When the International Terminal opened in 2000, those gates numbers took on a modified numbering system. They still had numbers that fit into the overall system, but now they added the concourse letter in front. At least, that’s what happened officially.

When I flew JetBlue up to SFO in May of this year, I landed at gate A11B. Not all airlines used the letters however. United flight 837 took off from gate 97, or so United said, on Tuesday. That’s technically gate G97, but United didn’t bother with the letter.

The opening of the the new Terminal 1 had to be the catalyst for the change. The old twin banjo concourse in Terminal 1 (the non-Delta gates) had 22 gates numbered from 20 up through 38 (using A/B as needed). The Delta gates began at 40. But the new concourse has 28 gates. They could have just gone crazier with the A/B designations, or they could re-number everything. They chose the latter.

As of yesterday, every single gate at SFO has officially been re-numbered. Now, the terminals become somewhat irrelevant and instead, it’s the concourses that matter more. As was the case in the International Terminal before, each gate will start with the letter of the concourse. But instead of having the numbers increase around the circle, each concourse will now start with gate 1. Here’s the map with before-and-after numbering.

A1-15 (International Terminal) – Alaska (Intl), Frontier, Hawaiian, Sun Country, and several International carriers
The old A gates are the closest to their original numbering, but this re-numbering allowed SFO to get rid of the A/B designators so it’s sequential throughout that concourse. As an aside, I would imagine that the remainder of the domestic airlines will move into B once that work is done.

B1-27 (Terminal 1) – JetBlue and Southwest
The new concourse in Terminal 1 never had old gate numbers, since, well, it’s new. But these B gates replace the old gates 20-38. Note that all those in red have yet to open.

C1-10 (Terminal 1) – Delta
Delta’s gates are due to eventually be re-done, but for now, they just get a number change. Eventually there will be one new gate added to C (technically between B and C) once the construction is done.

D1-18 (Terminal 2) – Alaska and American
This is the old international terminal that was re-done as Virgin America’s home. It will eventually become all Alaska’s, I believe, and American will move into Terminal 1.

E1-13 (Terminal 3) – United
These are the old gates in the 60s that American used to use before moving into Terminal 2. After American moved out, United moved in and fixed the place up. This will also include 70/71A/71B.

F1-22 (Terminal 3) – United
The meat of United’s operation is concentrated here in what used to be gates 72-90.

G1-14 (Terminal 3) – United (Intl), its partners, and some international cats and dogs
United continues to use the G gates, but the gates now have lower numbers than they did in the old days. For example, G92 is now G1.

This seems like a lot of effort, but will there be enough benefit? I’d think it probably is worthwhile. After all, the use of A/B designators got somewhat out-of-control as they tried to shoehorn the number of gates they had into a fixed set of numbers. I count more than 30 in the old system, including a couple of C gates. Those are ALMOST all gone. Inexplicably, gate 73A becomes F3A, the only one to use that in the entire airport.

This change also eliminates some of the quirks of the old numbering system. For example, 72 and 81 were about as close to each other as 72 and 71B or 76A and 81. A change in the first number made people think it was a different terminal (as is the case in Los Angeles) even though it wasn’t. So this should reduce confusion.

This is similar to what Honolulu did last year, and in an environment where the number and location of gates can change, it does make sense. There is more flexibility when you start with the concourse, because then you can have up to 99 gates without needing to re-number. And there is no chance any concourse is going to have 99 gates.

I’m sure it’s been disorienting for travelers who didn’t realize the change was coming, but as with everything else, people will eventually get used to the new system.

October 17, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

Join the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) on October 17:

The FAAwill hold a Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting on October 17, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The DAC will continue our public conversation about how we can collaborate on important issues like remote i.d., technical challenges, security, recreational operations, and waivers. Its a broad-based, long-term federal advisory committee that provides the FAA with advice on key drone integration issues by helping us identify challenges and prioritize improvements.

If you cant join us in person, well stream it live on the FAAs social media platforms: Twitter @FAANews, Facebook @FAA and YouTube beginning at 9:00 am ET.

October 15, 2019 at 10:57PM News and Updates

Delta to Portland: Big Bins and Great Service (Trip Report):

Just a couple months after my last trip to Portland, it was time to return. And just like last time, I had a bunch of flight issues before travel.

We were actually heading up for a family wedding in the Willamette Valley an hour outside Portland, and after we booked… the wedding date changed. So we lost those bookings (though got lucky when an Alaska schedule change let us get at least one way refunded), and we rebooked for the week earlier on Southwest up with Delta taking us back… until Southwest canceled our flight up due to MAX issues. Once that was refunded, we bought a ticket on Delta going up and we were finally set.

For people who fly Delta regularly, this won’t be anything overly exciting. For those who don’t, take notice It was just another nearly-flawless Delta performance

We left home early to get up to LAX during rush hour, park at Quikpark, and then shuttle into the terminals. On the bus, our gate changed from the miserable Terminal 3 over to the much nicer Terminal 2. That was good news since we had time to kill. My daughter insisted on wearing a “happy birthday” headband even though her birthday was a couple months ago. That means we had all kinds of people wishing her happy birthday. The line minder at security even sang to her. We were through in no time.

We found our gate in the back corner of the concourse and grabbed a seat. There was enough seating, but man, was it busy in there. That place is a madhouse. Once we grabbed our seats, a gate agent named Kevin came up to me and said, “Are you the Cranky Flier?” I cautiously said yes, but I was concerned that Delta was flagging me and that’s how he knew. That wasn’t the case. He said he’d been reading the blog for years and just recognized me. I quickly warmed up, and we talked until it was time to board.

We were in Main3 for our boarding group, and I was surprised to see no crowding in the gate area at all. It was just a nice orderly process. By the time they called Main3, the last group before Basic, I was afraid there wouldn’t be room for bags. Oh, was I wrong.

September 13, 2019
Delta 473 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 916a Arr Portland (PDX) 1134a
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 26A, Runway 24L, Depart 3m Early
Portland (PDX): Gate D3, Runway 10R, Arrive 5m Late
N315NB, Airbus A319-114, Standard Delta colors, ~95% Full
Seat 19B, Coach
Flight Time 2h6m

The retrofitted A319 is a glorious bird. The bins are just so big, and there was no problem finding space for everyone’s bags.

The cabin looks modern. We sat down in our seats to find a big monitor staring back at us. My tray table was dirty on the front but otherwise the plane looked immaculate.

Adding to the star power of the airplane itself was… a celebrity. Oscar Nuñez (Oscar from The Office) was sitting in First Class.

Once in the air, I was surprised to hear the flight attendants say that service wouldn’t begin until we had reached our cruising altitude. It took a little while to get there, but the carts came out promptly once we leveled out. I had started flipping through TV options and saw they had Shrill from Hulu, something I had heard about but hadn’t seen since I don’t have a Hulu subscription. I watched three episodes and that made the time pass quickly.

Seeing the flight attendants coming, I opened my tray table to find a wet, sticky, and disgusting mess.

What kind of person leaves a table like this?! I asked the flight attendant for a napkin, and she gave me one. But when she turned, her eyes got big and she asked if it was like that when I got on. She looked horrified, and wet some napkins to help clean it up.

With that fixed, we were given our choice of nuts, Cheez-Its, Biscoff, and Kind bars. My son and I both chose Biscoff… one for him and one for his cousin who was flying Southwest up to meet us and wouldn’t be so lucky otherwise.

I could log on for an hour of free wifi thanks to T-Mobile, so I did that while I was watching TV. It’s times like these that remind me how much I do appreciate having those separate screens.

We flew up the coast and then turned inland around Monterey. That means we were strategically positioned for an expansive view of the San Francisco Bay Area on a clear day.

It wasn’t long before we were descending into Portland. There were some low, scattered clouds that made for a scenic approach. We had to go way west and hold our altitude under 3,000 feet for several minutes, dodging and cutting through the clouds before we turned back to land.

The wedding was a success and the weather stayed clear for it. I do have to say a couple things about this place. First, the Evergreen Aviation Museum. What a great spot. Go. And bring a bathing suit because of the water park that has a 747 on top of it where all the slides start. (I didn’t go in because I didn’t have a swimsuit. Next time…)

Second, I have to give a shout-out to the Atticus Hotel. It’s not often that I have an experience at a hotel that sticks with me, but this place… words just can’t describe it. They made us feel like family from the moment we arrived. We asked the front desk agent when we arrived that first night where we should go for dinner. She said she had a great idea but wanted to make sure they could fit our group of 10. When they didn’t answer the phone, she said it was just a block away so she RAN OVER THERE. It was just so good the entire time. They remembered what we were doing and asked us how the wedding was when we returned. And the rooms… the rooms were beautiful. We had a Luxury Balcony Suite. It wasn’t cheap, but it was worth the price. That’s not something I say often.

When we woke up on Sunday for the return, it had turned gloomy, and not just because we were leaving this glorious hotel. A storm front had moved in, and the rain was pouring down. It was also much chillier. We hopped in the car and drove the hour back to the airport. After dropping off the rental, we walked back into the terminal through the underground tunnel. Security was a breeze, and we were back at the same gate at which we had arrived two days earlier.

The flight before ours was boarding, so newly-vacated seats were easy to find. We sat and waited it out until boarding began. Boarding was a repeat of the way up. People weren’t crowding at all, and it was all nice and orderly.

September 15, 2019
Delta 473 Lv Portland (PDX) 1215p Arr Los Angeles (LAX) 231p
Portland (PDX): Gate D3, Runway 10R, Depart 2m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 37A, Runway 24L, Arrive 12m Late
N371NB, Airbus A319-114, Standard Delta colors, ~99% Full
Seat 18B, Coach
Flight Time 2h00m

We had pretty much the same experience going back with huge bins and friendly flight attendants… and celebrities. This time, Camryn Manheim was in First Class. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise since she’s in the new series Stumptown which is filmed in Portland. My wife said there was another guy she recognized but couldn’t place him. Apparently Delta is the airline of the stars, at least on this route.

Taxi-out was long probably because only one runway is open right now. This was good for me, because we I wanted to watch the movie Long Shot. It is 2h6m and the flight was 1h56m. The race was on.

We took off into the murk and climbed through it for awhile until peeking our heads above it at cruise. The flight attendants came through as usual, and I became a power user. I had my daughter’s TV tuned to the Rams game since she was glued to her tablet. My TV was on Long Shot. Then I broke my computer out to write this up.

Every few minutes, the flight attendants came through with water. They were a constant and welcome presence. At one point, I had to take my son to the lav. If the airplane has one flaw, it’s those rear space-saver lavs. They are so damn tiny.

We did the usual approach from the north, swung around downtown LA and landed on the north runways. This time we parked in Terminal 3. What a mess that place is. I took this photo of the hordes waiting to board after we arrived.

Sure, it looks much better than it did in the Virgin America days. There is a new coat of paint, new eateries, and a more professional look. But it’s a construction zone as they work to finally replace this thing. For now, the neck of the terminal is completely cut-off. Travelers have to go through security on the lower level and walk through the old baggage claim tunnel to get to the gates. This is a return to its roots as a true satellite building.

We navigated our way out, sat in traffic while the Quikpark shuttle crept around the horseshoe, and finally headed home. I couldn’t help but think about how much more pleasant it was to fly Delta than many other airlines I’ve flown recently. And did I mention the bins?

October 15, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

United Takes the Lead on Simplifying Elite Qualifying By Focusing on Spend:

One of the knocks on United’s loyalty strategies over the years has been that the airline just takes what Delta does and slaps its own name on the change. When it comes to qualifying for elite status, however, United has decided to be the first mover. The airline announced on Friday that it is simplifying elite qualifying metrics and better matching them up with what people pay starting with travel in 2020 for 2021 status. Though it is simplifying the process, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to learn. There are now two new metrics replacing the three old ones, and as always, there are asterisks that make understanding them difficult.

Before we can talk about what United is going to do, I need to back up and explain how it works today along with the problems behind that method.

2019: PQMs, PQSs, and PQDs

Up until the last few years, United let people qualify based on either the number of miles they flew (called Premier Qualifying Miles, or PQMs, in the current language) or the number of flights they took (called Premier Qualifying Segments, or PQSs, in the current language). This opened up the ability for people to do mileage runs. Short by 10,000 points? Just study fare rules and find a cheap ticket at the end of the year. This became a cottage industry that spawned all sorts of websites and strategies to help re-qualify.

The airlines tried to solve the problem of people not spending much to get status by giving bonuses to those who bought expensive tickets. But even that wasn’t enough for United when it followed Delta by introducing the Premier Qualifying Dollar, or PQD. This added a minimum spend requirement to being able to qualify for elite status. Those last minute mileage runs became much tougher to do unless you had already spent a ton of money and just needed more miles.

In other words, United kept piling on requirements on top of requirements to try to jury-rig a system that would reward those it wanted to reward. This led to mass confusion with multiple ways to qualify.

For 2019 travel and spend qualifying for 2020 status, this is how United has things set up:

You either need to earn a certain number of qualifying miles or you need to fly a certain number of flights (both adjusted for high or low fares) in addition to meeting the minimum spend. But what counts as a PQM, a PQS, or a PQD? I won’t bother getting into it, because this system dies at the end of this year.

2020: Hello PQFs, and PQPs

Starting for 2020 travel qualifying for 2021 status, United is introducing only two metrics for qualifying, the Premier Qualifying Flight (PQF) and the Premier Qualifying Point (PQP).

The PQF will replace PQS. What’s the difference? There is no longer any bonus for buying an expensive ticket. One takeoff and landing = one PQF*. That’s easy, oh, except for that asterisk. *Basic Economy earns nothing.

The PQP is a little more complex. This replaces the PQD, and you continue to earn one PQD for each dollar you spend on airfare (excluding tax) on United-issued tickets and paid seating options. But now, you also earn PQPs for the following:

  • paid upgrades (online, at the gate, etc)
  • co-pays on upgrade awards
  • Star Alliance operated flights on non-United (016) issued tickets

It’s that last one that’s likely to make the biggest difference going forward for most people. Today, if you buy a ticket on a Star Alliance partner, you get no PQDs. PQPs will take those into account, and that can add up quickly.

This is where complexity creeps back into the system. United still doesn’t know how much money you spent on those non-United tickets, so it will take the number of regular redeemable award miles you earn and divide by 5 for flights operated by so-called “preferred partners” which are Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Avianca, Azul, Copa, and Lufthansa Group* airlines. For all other Star partners, you’ll divide by 6. Details are here.

There’s that nasty asterisk again. For Lufthansa Group, it’s really Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels, Austrian, and… Eurowings. For some reason, Edelweiss and Air Dolomiti are left out. And why is Air China a preferred partner? Maybe United had to suck up to the Chinese for labeling Taipei as being part of Taiwan at some point. But I digress.

The end result is that you can now earn status in two ways. Here’s the chart:

As you can see, the biggest change is that PQMs disappear entirely. It now doesn’t matter at all how far you fly. Effectively, United is saying there are two ways to earn status. You either fly a lot or you spend a lot.

  • Fly a Lot: If you fly a certain number of flights and spend an average of $334 on each flight, then you will qualify. If you fly more than the required number of flights, then the amount you’d have to spend on average drops, because… math.
  • Spend a Lot: If you buy expensive tickets, you can qualify just by taking 4 United flights the entire year. You just have to hit those dollar amounts in the chart above to qualify.

This is actually a good way to handle this, because it deals with the issue of value. If you fly the airline a lot, even if it’s on shorter flights in coach, you can still qualify as long as you have at least some moderately-priced tickets (or a couple of really expensive ones in addition to cheapies). On the other hand, if you don’t fly a lot, but you buy very expensive tickets, United will still reward you with status. Miles really don’t matter in a world where you have spend and number of flights.

While the increased simplicity is nice, whether you like it or not depends upon what this does to your individual ability to earn status and nothing else. When I spoke with Luc Bondar, VP of Loyalty for United, he said “in broad terms, this will grow the total Premier population.” But he then said it will “rebalance” things. I take that to mean that there will be more elite members, but it will skew more toward the lower tiers.

Of course, this doesn’t apply until 2020 travel for 2021 qualification, so it’s not in effect yet. Travelers will probably be crunching numbers to figure out how they need to change their behavior. At least the new calculations should be simpler than they are today.

October 14, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

Cranky on the Web: Icelandair Leaves Kansas City:

After Icelandair leaves Kansas City, can KCI land another nonstop flight to Europe?Kansas City Star
The local paper took a deep look at Icelandair leaving Kansas City and interviewed me along with a ton of others. My entire thoughts aren’t in the article, but effectively, Icelandair must have seen Kansas City as one of the weakest performers in the network. That shouldn’t necessarily mean the airport can’t support a European flight, but it’s also not a good sign.

October 12, 2019 at 01:45PM Source:

ADS-B Rebates Going, Going, Gone……:

WASHINGTON The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that all 20,000 rebates offered to general aviation aircraft owners to equip their aircraft with a new surveillance technology have been issued and are no longer available.

Aircraft owners who have already reserved their rebate, but not claimed it yet with installation, will be allotted the specified time needed to complete the requirements for the rebate.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Out avionics will be required for aircraft flying in certain, controlled airspace. ADS-B is the state-of-the-art surveillance system that enables air traffic controllers to track aircraft with greater accuracy and reliability.

The FAA first launched the $500 ADS-B rebate program in September 2016 to encourage owners of fixed-wing, single engine piston aircraft to equip in advance of the Jan. 1, 2020 deadline and take advantage of the many benefits ADS-B offers. The FAA has reiterated that the deadline will not change.

For more information on ADS-B, visit our website.

October 12, 2019 at 12:04AM News and Updates

3 Links I Love: Filling the Void, Boeing in a Pickle, Slots:

This week’s featured link:

Lufthansa to start flying to Ljubljana after Adria Airways’ collapseReuters
Question: Oh no, what will happen if our national airline fails?! Answer: A better airline will move in and serve the markets that have demand.

Image of the Week: Happy 100th birthday, KLM. The airline put together a little video to tug on those heart strings, and it works quite nicely. How am I celebrating? Well, I’ve booked my first flight on KLM.

Two for the road:

Boeing’s 737 in another pickle, Part 2Leeham News and Analysis
Boeing just can’t catch a break. Now a critical part on existing 737s is cracking even though it never should have been. A fix is on the way and some airplanes have been grounded. Here’s a detailed post about what’s going on.

Heathrow slots: the insiders guideRuby
Have you ever wanted to know more about slots at Heathrow? Well, too bad. Now you’re going to learn anyway. This is Virgin Atlantic’s blog, and they trot out their expert to give details on how it all works.

October 11, 2019 at 04:33PM Source:

American Rearranges the Deck Chairs:

Sorry for the delayed post, but this news was under embargo until now, and I thought it worth waiting instead of posting next week. Rumors about changes in American’s management have reached a fever pitch recently, and now a change is officially being made. The problem is… it’s more of a rearranging of the deck chairs than a fundamental change. I don’t expect this is going to be received positively.

Many have fixated on CEO Doug Parker needing to go, but I take a broader view. As I said last week:

I would be very surprised if we don’t see management changes at or near the top soon thanks to this turn of events. In fact, I’d say some kind of shake-up is necessary here. The board can’t be happy, and Wall Street is going to keep ramping up pressure. We already know employees aren’t happy. The only way to get things moving in the right direction is to make big changes, and they need to happen very soon.

People like to make Doug out to be the source of all problems, but I find that view lazy and over-simplified. This isn’t to defend management on the whole. I see an airline that is stagnating and in need of change. It needs new blood to shake things up. That can be at the CEO level, but it doesn’t have to be, especially since there isn’t anyone obvious to step into those shoes at the moment.

When an American spokesperson contacted me to talk about big changes, I got excited that we’d see something that was, well, big. That excitement faded fairly quickly once I learned the details.

Instead of a management-driven focus on effecting big change, this actually appears to be a reactive change based on a retirement. Kerry Philipovitch, SVP of Customer Experience, has decided to leave. And as I understand it, Kerry is actually retiring from the airline to go do something different and not “going to spend time with her family,” if you know what I mean.

What they’re doing in this reorg is effectively taking Kerry’s team and splitting them up under two different areas. There are other moving pieces, so let me explain.

Musical Chairs

Here’s is how the structure is today. Note that this isn’t the entire company’s structure but rather just the roles that are being impacted by the change:

And now here is the new order of things:

As you can see, there is a consolidation of operational functions under David Seymour, now called SVP of Operations. He’ll get airport operations and cargo added to his empire when Jim Butler begins reporting to him instead of Kerry. Devon May will be another new direct report when he stops reporting to President Robert Isom. He moves from network strategy to take over American Eagle and ops planning, and will move it under David’s organization.

In other words, David Seymour gets closer to being a Chief Operating Officer, but he still isn’t one for some unknown reason. American hasn’t had a dedicated COO since Robert became President.

With Devon moving over to ops, Vasu Raja steps up into Devon’s shoes and becomes an SVP reporting directly to Robert. Joe Mohan, VP of Alliances and Partnerships, will report to Vasu.

The rest of Kerry’s team handles less ops-focused roles and they will move over to report to Kurt Stache. Kurt has been the SVP of Marketing, Loyalty, and Sales, but he’ll now take on Kerry’s title as the SVP of Customer Experience. He keeps Alice Curry and Jill Surdek (who is being promoted to SVP) from Kerry’s old team. Oddly, Julie Rath who has “customer experience” in her title doesn’t report to him.

Despite the title change, Kurt will keep his marketing and loyalty teams under him, but he loses sales. Allison Taylor, SVP of Global Sales, will now strangely report to Don Casey, SVP of Revenue Management. There is often quite the butting of heads between revenue management and sales, so this could be problematic.

What This Means

There is a lot of shifting around to “better align” and all that. This may very well be a better structure than what was there before. In fact, I’d assume that it is. But there are real problems here. First and foremost, there is no new blood.

Oh sure, seeing Vasu’s rise to report directly to Robert is a very welcome move. If you’ve seen interviews with Vasu, you know he doesn’t pull punches and doesn’t even know the meaning of “corporate speak.” He can add some energy and direction that has been sorely lacking at higher levels. But his fiefdom is still fairly narrow, and without some new people from the outside at or near the top, it’s going to be very hard to turn this ship.

While the structure itself may make more sense, this really shines a spotlight on how near-the-top-heavy the company is. You have a silly number of SVPs here, some of whom report to other SVPs. David Seymour is the SVP of Integrated Ops. He has Devon May, SVP of American Eagle and Ops Planning along with Jim Butler SVP Airport Ops and Cargo reporting to him. You also have SVP Jill Surdek reporting to SVP Kurt Stache and SVP Allison Taylor reporting to SVP Don Casey. At the same time, you have a vacuum at the very top. There is still no Chief Operating Officer and no Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Commercial Officer. This is very confusing.

In a normal world, this kind of reshuffling probably wouldn’t get much attention at all. But we are in a world where nearly everyone is looking for and expecting big change at American. This kind of shift makes it look like American feels fully confident that it has all the right people, just not in the right places. I think many people outside the company would disagree with that assessment.

While it’s possible more change is coming, this does make it seem like bigger change has been — at the very least — deferred. If true, that is a head-scratcher.

October 10, 2019 at 06:30PM Source:

3 Links I Love: The American MD-80 Edition:

American may not have had a 747 to retire like Delta and United, but the airline put together one heck of a tribute to its MD-80s on their last day in revenue service. Though I was invited, I wasn’t able to make the trip, so I had to live vicariously through others. The #Super80Sendoff hashtag on Twitter was full of great coverage, but I’ve decided to devote this week’s links to some of the more interesting stories I saw.

This week’s featured link:

American Air Says Goodbye to MD-80 Jet After 36 YearsBloomberg
Much of the coverage was full of nostalgia, but Mary Schlangenstein took a more balanced look at the airplane. Of course the MD-80 had its issues, and there’s no reason to gloss over them.

Video of the Week: American put together a farewell video for the Mad Dog, and I participated. Looks like I wasn’t the only one with the idea to film my bit outside the MD-80s birthplace here in Long Beach.

Two for the road:

Images and a special video: A Nostalgic Goodbye to the American Airlines MD-80Andy’s Travel Blog
Remember how I said much of the coverage was focused on nostalgia? I didn’t say that’s a bad thing. Andy put together a heartfelt post with a tribute video about the airplane. He also posted some excellent photos, many of which were taken back in February when we were both up all night with American. This one is for the geeks.

American Airlines MD-80 Retirement Press KitAA Newsroom
I know it says it’s a press kit, but American put together one heck of a treasure trove. Sure there are press releases, but there is also video from the events. You’ll also see a bunch of historical photos and marketing materials. You can get lost on this page for an hour.

September 06, 2019 at 01:45PM Source: