Flights between the Northeast and the major international airports in Florida and the Caribbean are more direct, more efficient, and safer since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented 55 new Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) routes on November 8.
Satellite-equipped aircraft now can fly new routes that begin at the North Carolina/South Carolina border and flow south toward Florida and the Caribbean. The new routes will augment the existing structure of conventional jet routes. The Agency also updated 11 existing PBN routes. It previously added two PBN routes to the system
Implementing 55 new satellite-based routes on one day is a significant milestone in our work to modernize the air traffic control system, said Dan Elwell, Acting FAA Administrator. We are providing better access to busy airspace along the southern part of the East Coast, to the major international airports in Florida and beyond.
The Agency also is designing high-altitude PBN routes from the northeast to join the new routes that began today. When the new route structure is completed, equipped aircraft will seamlessly fly on satellite-based routes along the East Coast to South Florida and the Caribbean.
The project is part of the FAAs South-Central Florida Metroplex initiative. The Metroplex team designed the new routes, 39 are over water and 16 are over land. This brings the total number of PBN routes over the United States to 316. Get more facts about the South-Central Florida Metroplex on our website.
These new routes, along with other PBN procedures and new technologies are part of the FAAs Next Generation Air Transportation System. NextGen is moving the National Airspace System from ground-based radar to satellite-based navigation, from voice to digital communication, and from point-to-point data to a fully integrated information management system. These initiatives change how we see, navigate, and communicate in our nations skies.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today dedicated the new Atlanta Flight Operations Facility at Cobb County International Airport in Kennesaw, GA. The new facility will enable the Agency to continue providing outstanding support of the National Airspace System.
The FAA is pleased to locate our critical flight inspection services out of this state-of-the-art facility, said Teri L. Bristol, Chief Operating Officer of the FAAs Air Traffic Organization. We appreciate the Atlanta communitys support of our continued mission to provide the safest, most efficient airspace system in the world.
Flight Inspection ensures the integrity of instrument approaches and flight procedures that pilots fly in the National Airspace System. FAA pilots fly specially equipped Beechcraft King Air 300 (BE-300) aircraft to conduct airborne inspections of all space- and ground-based instrument flight procedures and they validate electronic signals in space transmitted from ground navigation systems.
The 32,050-square-foot facility includes a 23,100-square-foot hangar that will accommodate six BE-300 aircraft that support Flight Program Operations flight inspection mission. The facility also includes shop space for aircraft maintenance and repair, and administrative space that can accommodate 26 FAA employees.
The Atlanta Flight Operations Facility is part of the FAAs Flight Program Operations service unit in the Air Traffic Organization. The program consolidates all of the agencys aircraft and people into a single organization responsible for all aspects of flight program safety, administration, operations, training, and maintenance.
Other Flight Program Operations facilities are located at Anchorage, AK; Atlantic City, NJ; Battle Creek, MI; Fort Worth, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Sacramento, CA; and Washington, D.C.
Tickets now on sale for Alaska Airlines flights out of Paine Field – Seattle PI After long battles commercial air service is finally coming to Paine Field north of Seattle. Alaska put its flights on sale for travel beginning Feb 11. This in itself is midly-interesting news, but wait, did Alaska say it would have 18 flights a day? It didn’t have enough gate space at the already-full airport to do that. So what gives?
Southwest quietly announced in its new schedule release that it has pulled out of Paine entirely and the gate space has gone to Alaska. (Anyone else want to know what Southwest got in return?) That means Alaska will have the lion’s share of flights with United still expected to fill out the rest. Alaska is going big here. I mean, four daily flights to LA? On the one hand, Alaska keeps Delta out and if this works as planned, it’ll be a big leg up for Alaska in the battle for Seattle. But if it doesn’t work out, then it’ll just be a big money pit.
Via cancels 50 percent of flights – Parkersburg News and Sentinel Seems like things aren’t going so well for Via Air. We’ve heard this story before, I’m afraid. Finding a reliable, stable operator on these small routes is a challenge.
On Wednesday evening, an air traffic controller at the Las Vegas tower became incapacitated while on duty. The FAA is deeply concerned by the incident, is thoroughly investigating what occurred, and is taking immediate steps to modify its overnight shift staffing policies. No safety events occurred during this incident. The controller is currently restricted from working air traffic.
American Elevates Corporate Customers During Disruptions – FlightGlobal I was critical of American for rolling out a change to how it reaccommodates passengers recently. (They won’t put non-elites on non-partner airlines.) Now, apparently, they’ve realized this policy sucks… but they’re only fixing it for corporate customers who aren’t elites. There’s something about this change that makes it feel even worse.
Two for the road
After Years of False Starts, California Pacific Airlines Takes Flight – Los Angeles Times You have to give it to Ted Vallas, the nearly century-old founder of California Pacific. He did not give up. And now, after many false starts, California Pacific is airborne. As if it wasn’t a long enough road, the airline had to contend with a mechanical issue on its first flight. Ouch. Now we can start playing another game. How long will it keep flying? Carlsbad isn’t a bad place for an airline, but I still don’t have high expectations that this will work out.
What Ever Happened to Berlin’s Deserted ‘Ghost’ Airport? – BBC Capital Remember the Berlin airport that was supposed to open several years ago? Yeah, it still hasn’t happened. I like to post periodic reminders every so often. It’s fun to highlight the ineptitude. There are little bits in here I hadn’t heard before. For example, in 2013, there was a computer glitch that wouldn’t allow them to turn off the lights… for months. What a mess.
There was a big acquisition announced this week north of the 60th parallel when Icelandair said it would pick up its rival WOW Air for very little compensation. If the price is any indication, WOW was in dire straits, and its owner Skuli Mogensen may have been lucky to get anything at all. This is a great deal for Icelandair, though fans of unsustainably-low fares won’t be happy.
The deal itself shows just how remarkably little WOW is worth. In an all-stock transaction, Icelandair will take over WOW Air by giving 272 million shares of its own stock. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not. Icelandair has 5 billion shares outstanding, so this is less than six percent of the combined company. Each share was worth less than a dollar at last check. In fact, even after the post-acquisition surge, an Icelandair share was only around 11 Icelandic krónur… or 90 US cents.
This means when the deal was announced, Icelandair would have provided stock worth about $18 million. With the market’s favorable reaction, that value is up to shy of $25 million. But that is overstating things. This nugget was from a Bloomberg article:
Wow’s equity will account for about 3.5 percent of Icelandair, a figure that could fluctuate between 4.8 percent and zero depending on conditions that weren’t detailed. A subordinated loan will be converted to about 1.8 percent of the equity in the buyer, the remainder of the purchase price.
Holy cow, so let’s pretend the value of the stock is worth $25 million when it can be sold (always a big “if”). A third of that goes to convert a loan. That means WOW’s owner (Skuli Mogensen) will keep about $17m. But even that seemingly paltry sum is dependent upon “conditions that weren’t detailed.” Presumably those are performance-based conditions, so a failing WOW might earn Skuli nothing at all. That’s incredible when you think about WOW’s size.
In 2017, Icelandair’s annual revenue was around 148.5 billion Icelandic krónur or $1.23 billion using today’s exchange rate. Meanwhile, WOW pulled in $486 million in revenue last year and expected to be at $659 million this year and $826 million the year after. If you think about it as a company that was expecting to be about half the size of Icelandair in short order, for the owner to pull in less than 4 percent of the combined company in stock if he’s lucky says one thing… that business was in deep, deep trouble.
And that is no surprise. WOW had been in something of an arms race with Icelandair to see who could make the most questionable route-planning decisions. Was it both of them deciding to go into DFW (along with American)? Or maybe it was a competing effort to go into Cleveland. It could also be the general overcapacity that hurt both airlines. There are a lot of places to look, but these guys were both desperately trying to out-run each other.
The results for both airlines have been bad, though we know a lot more about Icelandair because it’s publicly traded. In the peak third quarter, Icelandair made a 14 percent operating margin. That may sound good, but there are two things to consider. First, last year it did about 10 points better. Second, it needs to make a ton of money in the summer to offset the winter months. This result doesn’t mean Icelandair was on death’s door, but it wasn’t doing well enough. WOW was probably doing worse.
Iceland has been a hot market, but it is cooling. (It had to at some point.) And it still has a crushing amount of capacity filling every corner of the Keflavik airport. That’s not just thanks to WOW and Icelandair but also other airlines ramping up on both sides of the Atlantic.
Both airlines relied heavily not just on local traffic but also on flowing people between North America and Europe. That’s been a rough place for low-cost carriers as they continue to beat each other with fares that are far too low outside of the peak summer months. WOW’s demise shouldn’t surprise anyone.
I should be clear about one thing. This may not technically be the demise of WOW. Icelandair says it’ll run both carriers as standalones for now, but this is certainly the death of the high-flying, fast-growing disruptor role that WOW liked to play. I have to assume that next steps will involve slashing capacity on both sides and rationalizing the networks. If things get dire, Icelandair can just kill off WOW entirely.
The future for Icelandair is strong regardless of its current performance. It’s an arm of the government of Iceland and it isn’t going anywhere. But WOW was causing a lot of trouble for the airline. With that resolved, Icelandair can go back to running a more rational, profitable airline.
It’s been well over a year since Etihad pulled the plug on its failed Alitalia experiment. That left Alitalia — officially known here as the worst airline ever — without a lifeline as it hemorrhaged what precious cash it had left. The airline was living on borrowed time with cash infusions from the state, and there were big plans to sell it off to the highest bidder. That process has taken far longer than anyone hoped, but we’re now one step closer thanks to real bids that have come in, including a surprising one, reportedly, from Delta.
Last April, I expressed an interest in buying Alitalia for a penny, as long as you all agreed to absorb the debt. There were 32 others who were interested as well, but those have mostly fallen by the wayside. Since that time, the sale was put on hold as Italy struggled to build a coalition government to rule. Then the state started talking more about further nationalizing the airline. Delays kept piling up.
While this silliness has been going on, every other airline in the country has been eating Alitalia’s lunch. In 2017, Ryanair was the biggest airline in Italy with more than 36 million passengers (up 11 percent). Meanwhile Alitalia shrunk 5 percent down to just shy of 22 million passengers. That was followed by easyJet with more than 16 million passengers (like Ryanair, up 11 percent).
As you can imagine, this means Alitalia’s short-haul business is evaporating. Probably its best strength right now is its dominant position at close-in Linate airport in Milan, but that’s a fortress position that could easily be replaced if another airline had the chance to come in.
The long-haul isn’t much better. Air Italy — backed by Qatar because that airline apparently likes the Etihad “lose a ton of money” strategy — has reoriented away from its niche leisure long-haul market to become an airline that wants to sit on top of Alitalia with flights like Milan to New York. Other airlines are starting to dig deeper into Italy too, such as American announcing it would fly from Philly to Bologna next year.
So what is Alitalia’s purpose? It doesn’t have one, but the government mistakenly thinks it needs to exist because of national pride and… well, no other reason. With that backdrop, it’s no surprise that of the original 32 bidders, only 3 remain. (I should note my offer to pay a penny as long as the debt is wiped down still stands, but it isn’t counted in these numbers.)
Let’s start with the government. It has decided to use the state rail company to push forward a plan. There was some talk previously about synergy between planes and trains, but that’s just another scheme cooked up by politicians who don’t understand the airline industry. This route would undoubtedly end in another bankruptcy. It’s just a matter of how long it takes.
Then there’s easyJet. Looking at those numbers above, you can understand why easyJet might be interested. It looks at Alitalia the way it looked at airberlin. It could pick at the carcass and build up its Italian operation, creating a great base of operations at Linate. This acquisition would also make a much more formidable competitor to Ryanair. The long-haul piece of the business probably doesn’t really interest easyJet.
Lastly there’s Delta. Delta is a well-run company, so it should be running away screaming. But Delta does love its equity stakes. This is different in that most airlines in which Delta invests are at least solvent with a chance of future success. Something tells me that Delta made about the same offer I did. I would be surprised if anything happened with Delta here at all.
Of course, there could be a collaboration where Delta and easyJet agree to split pieces and focus on the parts they want. But then there’s that national pride issue again. I just don’t see the government being willing to do the right thing here.
Were I a betting man, I’d put my money on the rail company. Why? Because it makes no sense and wouldn’t help the airline survive in the long run. That being said, it would be the biggest win for national pride. In the meantime, Ryanair and easyJet will continue to gobble up the short-haul traffic while Air Italy will fight Alitalia to see who can lose more money as they bash each other’s heads in. Words cannot express how much I love following this airline.
I’ve linked to stories about the trouble with Mexico City’s new airport project a couple of times previously, but now it’s getting ugly enough that it warrants having its own post. Mexico City is desperately in need of new airport capacity, and help was on the way. But those plans are now in serious jeopardy, and a very poor plan has been proposed in its place. I imagine we should know for sure in the next couple of months which way this will go.
Mexico City’s airport problems go back for years. The current airport is in the city, hemmed in on all sides. It was built to handle 32 million passengers, but it now handles nearly 50 percent more than that. Slots are highly restricted, and there are two terminals that are on opposite sides of the airport from each other. That makes connections difficult. Considering that the broader metro area has more than 20 million people and is the largest metro area in the western hemisphere, a solution has to come about. This is a city that deserves a big airport.
After several false starts, a plan was settled upon. Mexico City would build a giant new airport that would replace the current one entirely. Money has poured into this project, and architectural designs were grand, to say the least. With a $13 billion+ price tag, this airport was incredibly expensive and there was substantial opposition.
The new airport itself is built near Texcoco in what is today an empty area, or was an empty area as you can see in the photo above. Why was it empty? Well, dust off those history books and you’ll remember that Mexico City was once a city on a lake. Centuries ago, efforts began to dry up the lakes and prevent catastrophic floods. As efforts went forward, pockets of water remained, but they continued to shrink. The area where the new airport is being built happens to be on top of one of one of the last lake remnants. It’s only in the last couple of decades that it has dried up.
You’d think by this point that project would have been settled, but no. In Mexico’s most recent presidential election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador rode the anti-airport sentiment to victory. He promised he would halt construction and look elsewhere for airport capacity.
Shortly after being elected, it seems he realized this was a bad idea. To avoid the political fallout however, he decided to put it to a vote. Let the Mexican people decide if they want the new airport or not, and then the president-elect could deflect all blame regardless of the outcome.
The vote was held last week, and it was a farce. A referendum along these lines isn’t something that’s part of Mexican politics. The implementation was sloppy, to say the least. It was suggested that polling places were stacked in locations that were known to have people in favor of scrapping the project. There were also reports of people voting multiple times. Very few Mexicans actually voted, but the result from that small sample was a mandate to stop the project from moving forward.
What would this mean if it happens? The new president says he wants to build up Toluca, far out to the west, and add runways to a military base, Santa Lucía, in the north for commercial service. Along with the current airport, this would create more capacity, albeit in a three airport system. That’s not a feasible option, and it will instead split local traffic, depriving the creation of a strong hub at a single large airport. It also wouldn’t save the area around Texcoco from development. So much of the infrastructure has already been laid down that it will just be a hugely expensive white elephant. We haven’t even talked about the financial ramifications from halting a project with a lot of debt on it.
All hope is not lost. After all, López Obrador hasn’t even taken office yet. That happens December 1. Until then, the outgoing president has vowed to keep building as planned. When the new president takes over, he will undoubtedly have to deal with all sorts of lawsuits before any new plan could be put into place.
Unless López Obrador has a change of heart, Mexico City will continue to suffer from a lack of airport capacity for years to come. The presented solutions, whenever they can be implemented, won’t solve the issues at hand.
The 411 on Preferred Seating Fees & Basic Economy Fares – Miles to Go podcast I sat down for a long chat with Ed, and we discussed everything from preferred seating fees (and how I hate them) to basic economy and hidden city ticketing. Listen in if you have some time to spare.
JetBlue Founder Reveals Details on His New Tech-Focused International Airline – Skift There’s a lot in here that makes me scratch my head. Moxy will have no routes where it competes with others? Uh, right, if you don’t count nearby airports. And somehow Azul in Brazil is going to be a huge feed opportunity? It’s something, but it’s not going to make this thing fly. It will, however, add complexity, yet Neeleman thinks he needs no phone number for the airline because you can do everything online. There’s just a lot of ego in here, but we know David likes to talk and that won’t necessarily be the final outcome.
Two for the road
Ethiopian pushes Togo as a gateway to America – Wandering Aramean Here’s another head-scratcher. You’ll be able to fly from LA to Lome in Togo. That marks the first African destination from LA and makes LAX one of the only airports with nonstop flights to six continents. Sure, Ethiopian has a partner in Togo that can connect people all over, but is this really a route that’ll work? I say no.
Pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger: ‘This is not the America I know and love’ – The Hill Ok, this has nothing to do with airlines except that the guy giving the message used to fly for one. But we are only 4 days away from the US midterm elections, so this seemed like a good opportunity to remind everyone to vote. My ballot has already been mailed in. You? VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. That is all. Oh wait… VOTE.