February 23, 2021

Oops, Our Bad: Yesterday’s Cranky Daily reported that approximately 913,000 travelers passed through TSA checkpoints in the last week. That figure was the daily average over the previous seven days — not a total number. We apologize for the confusion, especially if you flew last week and wanted to ensure you had been counted.

American Takes a New Basic Economy Variant Global, Tweaks Bag Rules

American Airlines is simplifying its checked bag policies on most international itineraries, but — similar to a coronavirus — American has also evolved Basic Economy into a third variant which is now spreading throughout the Pacific with cases in India and Israel as well.

Effective today, all Premium Economy tickets will include two checked bags, consistent with AA’s premium cabin offerings, regardless of the route. This applies to routes and aircraft that have the Premium Economy offering, not the Main Cabin Extra’s ripoff extra legroom option. Previously, this was limited to one bag on certain routes, so this is good news.

Basic Economy travelers, however, are facing a more complicated situation. Today, American has Basic Economy within North America where no checked bag is included, the tickets cannot be changed, and boarding is in group 9. It also has Basic Economy in South America and Europe where no checked bag is included, the ticket can be changed for a fee, and boarding is in group 8. Now, the airline is introducing a new version for the rest of world.

In Asia (including India and Israel), Australia, and New Zealand, Basic Economy will now include one checked bag, the ticket can be changed for a fee, and boarding is in group 8. Everyone clear? If so, then American will have to go back to the drawing board to confuse you more.

Metal Fatigue Likely Led to UA328 Issues

Damage to the fan blade on the failed engine that led to the dramatic landing of United Flight 328 on Saturday is consistent with metal fatigue according to the guy who had engine parts land in his yard a preliminary assessment from the NTSB.

The PW4000 engine was heard to have made a “loud bang” four minutes after takeoff. That’s not unusual for United flights, but usually the bang comes from passengers realizing shortly after takeoff that they’re stuck on a United flight for the foreseeable future.

The engine that failed was a PW4000 that is currently installed on 128 B777 aircraft worldwide, representing less than 10% of the worldwide B777 fleet.  The specific engine from the incident has been flown (how ironic) to a Pratt laboratory where it will be examined by P&W’s experts along with NTSB investigators.

The FAA currently requires fan blades to be inspected every 6,500 cycles, a figure that has been the standard since March 2019. South Korea updated its requirement to inspect fan blades every 1,000 cycles following Saturday’s incident. When asked if it would make a similar update to its inspection policy to follow its southern neighbor, North Korea’s aviation ministry replied with “what’s a fan blade?”

Canada/U.S. Border Closing to Celebrate First Birthday

Officials from both the United States and Canada plan to present the border with a smash cake on March 20 as it celebrates its first anniversary of being closed to travel on either side. The cake will be maple syrup flavored on the Canadian side and have a tart apple pie filling on the U.S. side of the dessert.

The anniversary became a reality when both countries agreed to extend the border closing yet again, this time through March 21. The border was closed for the first time on March 20, 2020, and the closure has been extended a month at a time since, with few exceptions for essential travel.

The Canadian government is allowing very few exceptions to the policy, forcing the three in-season professional sports leagues to alter their plans. The NHL created an all-Canadian division for its seven Canada-based teams to compete exclusively amongst themselves. The NBA’s Toronto Raptors made decision to spend their winter playing home games in Tampa, while MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays will play at least the first six weeks of the 2021 season in their Spring Training home of Dunedin, Florida.

Bourbon, Churchill Downs, Muhammad Ali and Now: Spirit

Spirit Airlines is adding a new city to its route map, announcing today that it will begin serving Louisville (SDF) in late May with flights to four destinations.

Spirit will begin flying from Louisville to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The flight to LA will be the only nonstop between Louisville and LAX since American suspended its service during at the onset of the pandemic.

All four destinations will launch on the same day – May 27. All four will operate once-daily in each direction. In addition to the only nonstop between Louisville and Los Angeles; Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Vegas represent three of the largest cities in Spirit’s network and will provide connections beyond for those risk-takers willing to book a connection on Spirit.

Spirit also announced two new fees it would introduce to celebrate its new service to Louisville. Any passengers flying on Sprit with the first name Louis will be assessed an $11.99 first name fee. Additionally, anyone on a Spirit flight to a city that ends in “ville” will see a $6.99 fee added to their final price. Spirit welcomes these new fees as a celebration of Louisville and all it has to offer.

Alitalia Looks to Lufthansa as Latest Savior

Italy’s new government is looking for a solution to an old problem – what in the heck to do with Alitalia. The Italian flag carrier is bankrupt once again, with the government considering a capital injection from Star Alliance carrier Lufthansa.

Alitalia, is currently the red-headed stepchild member of Skyteam, but rumors of it leaving the alliance since this most recent bankruptcy have been lurking for quite some time. The airline is currently pursuing a sale of all of its assets to the Italian government which would then flip them to Lufthansa, according to Italian publication La Repubblica. Reports from Frankfurt say that with the worst of winter having passed, Lufthansa no longer needs to literally burn its cash reserves in order to produce heat, making investing in Alitalia the next best alternative for burning its money.

The plan would be three-pronged: place Alitalia under the control of its low-cost subsidiary Alitalia CityLiner, followed by the Italian government taking control of CityLiner – retaining a total of 70 aircraft and about 5,500 employees, then for Lufthansa to enter the company via a capital increase.

Alitalia would leave Skyteam at some point in the process and likely move to Star Alliance. When asked about the possibility of losing Alitalia, Skyteam officials from both Delta and Air France/KLM issued a statement saying “no, please don’t go. Seriously, please don’t. But if you must, we’ve packed up your cubicle for you and all your stuff is here in this box. We also called a car to take you over to Lufthansa. It’s waiting outside. But seriously, don’t go.”

Airline Potpourri

  • AirAsia plans to resume all domestic routes within Thailand by April.
  • Edelweiss is considering removing its four A330s from its long-haul fleet and maintaining an exclusive fleet of A340s for long-distance flying, because 4 engines usually equates to success these days.
  • Gulf Air’s newest destination will be Singapore, with the airline launching one weekly flight from its Bahrain hub in April.
  • Mesa signed a letter of intent to lease an additional B737-400F cargo aircraft to operate on behalf of DHL. The deal was official when UPS delivered a copy of the executed contract to both parties.
  • Norwegian did some more things with bankruptcy. Click the link if it seems remotely interesting.
  • Virgin Australia’s new lounge in Adelaide opened today, just 10 months later than planned.
  • Volotea is expanding its fleet adding 15 to 19 additional A320s while also transitioning to an all Airbus fleet.

Madi’s Moment of Levity

What do you call a man with a rubber toe?