February 2, 2021

Pete Buttigieg Confirmed as Transportation Secretary

With an 86-13 vote, Pete Buttigieg was confirmed by the Senate today to become the 19th US Secretary of Transportation. At the moment the confirmation was made official, Buttigieg also took over the title of “Secretary with the last name most likely to be misspelled over-and-over again” in the president’s cabinet. Buttigeg Buttigieg takes the title from former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who was quoted as saying he didn’t even know he had that “n” as the second letter in his last name until he was 26.

Buttigieg and Vice President Kamala Harris are the only two former democratic nominees for president serving in the Biden administration. In his new role, Secretary Buttigieg is expected to take the lead on the president’s agenda to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, but it’s not entirely clear what his plans will be for the airline industry. He is expected to play a major role in the president’s flight against the climate crisis, improving efficiency & safety in the nation’s transportation network, and figuring out why a 20 oz. bottle of water costs so much in Hudson News outlets in America’s airports.

As he takes over the DOT, Secretary Buttigieg will oversee an $87 billion budget and 55,000 employees, 14 administrations (including the FAA), and will be in charge of the nation’s airspace, highway system, pipeline safety and more.

Airlines Begin to Align Mask Policy with CDC

Nobody ever wants to go first, but American Airlines took the plunge and is updating its existing mask policy effectivey today in order to align itself with the brand new federal government requirements. There are two notable changes to American’s previous policy, which had been in place since last year.

First, American will now allow medical exemptions, but it won’t be cheap for those looking to take advantage. Customers wanting to use a medical exemption must contact the airline at least 72 hours prior to departure. Exemptions will require documentation from a health care provider, a negative COVID text taken no more than 72 hours before departure, and the sacrifice of a gallon of goat’s milk in a pre-departure bonfire.

Second, in an effort to align with the CDC directive, passengers must wear masks and cannot wear gaiters, bandanas, catchers’ masks, or Darth Vader masks in lieu of a more protective face coverings. Passengers who refuse to wear a mask can be denied boarding or forced to fly every American Eagle route from Dallas/Ft. Worth airport in a six-week period.

American Spills the Tea with the DOT

American Airlines came back at its detractors with a vengeance, throwing shade at Spirit, Southwest, United, and others who challenged the validity of the carrier’s Northeast Alliance with JetBlue. American sat quietly, biding its time while others submitted complaints, and it is now unleashing a vigorous defense of both its agreement with JetBlue & the DOT’s handling of it.

AA starts by writing – in bold and italics – that the airline, along with JetBlue, announced their plans six months ago and the DOT began its informal review of the agreement five months ago. AA tells Spirit, the original complainant, and its co-conspirators commenters that it had six months to file complaints. To pretend they didn’t know what was going on until just now is “inconceivable.”

AA claims that after six months of ignoring NEA, Spirit and Friends want the DOT to duplicate all of the work it’s already done – but on Spirit’s terms.  AA has sniffed out what it believes to be a giant ruse — the other airlines only want another, more formal investigation in order to access confidential information filed by the two airlines to the DOT. American officials are adamant that no matter how many different ways the airline asks, Spirit will not access the confidential information it desires. This includes details like… what it is they put in the tomato sauce on their baked chicken dish they serve in domestic first class – it’s too proprietary and valuable to the airline.

AA has a laundry list of issues with the complaints, and calls Spirit, Southwest, and United out with gusto at every turn. Truthfully, AA has too many objections to list them all here, otherwise it would be the entirety of today’s Cranky Daily. But rest assured, no matter how this shakes out, American is never going to reveal just what makes its baked chicken so…delicious.

JetBlue’s Northeast Presence to Increase

With its Northeast Alliance with American having received the OK from the DOT, JetBlue Airways is primed to dramatically increase its presence at several northeast airports as a benefit of coordinating schedules with American.

The largest increase is expected to take place at New York/LaGuardia, where JetBlue’s daily departure total is expected to increase more than 300%. In 2019, JetBlue operated 18 daily flights at LGA, but will potentially operate between 50-60 daily departures at the airport. JetBlue’s Head of Revenue & Planning Scott Laurence indicated the airline might take a shot at Delta, noting that there was a monopoly on routes to the southeastern U.S. that JetBlue could swoop in on with its increased frequencies and feed from American.

Other additions for JetBlue will see Newark go from 35 daily departures to 70-80; Boston will go from 180 to as many as 230; and JFK will increase from 175 to 240. With the potential Newark additions, the airline becomes the first group of people on record to purposefully spend more time at Newark.

Deutsche Aircraft Pushes Ahead on New Plane

German aircraft manufacturer Deutsche Aircraft – or as its called in Germany – Aircraft, announced its intention to deliver the first D328eco aircraft by 2025.

At this point, the manufacturer does not have any customers, a pesky prerequisite to delivering airplanes, but expects to find someone to buy the plane and meet its goal. The aircraft program launched late last year, and merges the Dornier 328, a 33-seat turboprop, with new technology that introduces the use of alternate fuels and can be operated by just one pilot.

The new aircraft will be larger than its predecessor, as it will contain 43 seats. It hopes to serve current operators of both the Saab 340 and Dash 8, and with approximately 4,000 of those two aircraft in the market, Deutsche Aviation believes the market is ripe for its new airplane.

The plane will be manufactured in Germany, despite higher labor costs in the country. Deutsche wants to honor the legacy of Dornier by having its successor aircraft be as German as the original. The new D328eco expects to be ready for a prototype by early 2024, and thanks to German efficiency, is expected to be right on time.

Airline Potpourri

  • Hawaiian is hopeful it can achieve as much as 85% of its summer capacity this year as compared to 2019.
  • JAL has reduced the schedule it plans to operate in March to less than 50% of what was previously predicted last fall.
  •  JetSMART, a Chilean ULCC recently took delivery of a brand new Airbus A320neo aircraft with BioFuel, an organic fuel that reduces the carbon footprint emitted by the aircraft by 80%.
  • LOT is expanding its service to the United States, adding service from Krakow (KRK) to New York/JFK, operating once-weekly from May 2 to October 25. The airline is also adding flights from Rzeszów (RZE) to Newark, also once-weekly, beginning on March 29.
  • Podeba announced its schedule to begin operating from Moscow/Sheremetyevo (SVO) this summer. The airline will operate 12 routes — nine domestic and three international.
  • United is suspending three Florida routes from New York/LaGuardia: Fort Myers, Tampa, and West Palm Beach that were supposed to operate in March.
  • Virgin Australia is delaying the resumption of flights to New Zealand until at least June.

Andrew’s Moment of Levity

I hated to do it, but I fired this kid I’d been paying to mow my lawn. He just didn’t cut it.