March 3, 2021

Delta to Drop Three Focus Cities

Delta Air Lines plans to drop three of the five focus cities it operated prior to the pandemic, leaving the airline with just two focus cities to go along with the nine cities it lists as domestic hubs. On the chopping block as focus cities are Cincinnati, Nashville, and San Jose. If you didn’t realize all those still were — or in the case of San Jose, ever were — focus cities, you are not alone.

Cincinnati is the most notable of the group as it was a major Delta hub dating back to the ’90s, but it has seen its importance in Delta’s route network shrink considerably since the airline merged with Northwest more than ten years ago. As recently as 2019, Cincinnati still had flights on Delta to 24 non-hubs, while Nashville and San Jose had a combined four.

The two cities maintaining their status are Austin and Raleigh-Durham. Both are cities where Delta will face competition to strengthen its presence with JetBlue growing seven new routes at RDU and AUS seeing additional service from four airlines: Alaska, Allegiant, Hawaiian, and JetBlue.

Frontier Avoided Disaster in Nashville

A Frontier Airlines flight departing Nashville last month avoided potential catastrophe when a flight attendant questioned the haphazard deicing job performed by a third-party contractor moments before takeoff.

The company performed its deicing procedure on the aircraft and declared it ready-to-go, and the aircraft began to taxi towards the runway for departure. As the aircraft taxied, a flight attendant noticed that the wings were still covered in snow, ice, and deicing fluid and immediately called the flight deck.

The pilot returned the aircraft to the gate, avoiding what could have quite possibly been a catastrophic incident had the plane tried to take off in that condition. Reports say the deicing company was running low on deicing fluid and instead of letting Frontier know, it decided to not fully deice the wing and hope no one would notice. Unsurprisingly, Frontier has moved on from using this contractor. Words simply fail us here.

Boeing Tells EU That Airbus’s New Plane is Unsafe

Boeing is throwing a wrench into Airbus’s plans for the A321XLR, telling the EU’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that it has safety concerns with the new plane that has garnered hundreds of orders for billions of dollars for its chief competitor. No really, it totally, seriously has safety concerns that have nothing to do with wanting to mess up the billions in orders Airbus already has on the aircraft.

The A321XLR is the longest-range narrow body plane in the world. The aircraft is supposed to come off the assembly line in 2023 to enter passenger service, and it has been extremely popular with airlines with hundreds already having been ordered.

In its filing, Boeing’s director of global regulatory strategy said that “fuel tanks integral to the airframe structure inherently provide less redundancy than structurally separate fuel tanks.” Basically he’s implying that the insulation panels between the cabin and extra fuel tanks – which will be located underneath the floor of the passenger cabin – are not safe enough.

The regulatory agency is willing to humor Boeing by asking Airbus to prove through tests that the extra fuel tanks are as safe as it claims. The issue is that there is a risk of fire via heat transfer in the passenger cabin, and as a general rule of thumb, raging infernos on an airplane are usually not a good thing. EASA is taking the concerns from Boeing seriously because it knows that if any aircraft manufacturer knows about unsafe planes, it’s Boeing.

Japan Considering Banning Overseas Spectators for Olympics

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics looming in just four months, Tokyo and Japanese officials are exploring all options to still stage the games this year, one year later than originally planned.

Japan currently has a travel ban in place and is considering keeping the ban active through the Olympics and Paralympics this summer along with limiting the number of fans that can attend. The government is expected to make an official announcement later this month around the start of the Olympic Torch Relay, which begins March 25.

One proposal from the Japanese government is to ban travelers — including athletes — from any country in the top 25 of all-time Summer Olympic medals to give the host country a better chance at securing as many medals as possible. Russia was the first to blast that idea, but also patted Japan on the back for such a brilliant, devious plan and wondered why it hadn’t done the same in Sochi back in 2014.

EASA to Require Windshield Checks on Airbus Aircraft

The European Safety Agency for Aviation (EASA) issued a directive requiring all EU operators to carry out a check on windshields installed on Airbus A318, A319, A320, and A321 aircraft. The ordered surprised Air France, which didn’t realize it even still had A318s in the fleet.

The directive comes following the conclusion of the investigation into Sichuan Airlines Flight 8633 from May 2018 that saw the right windshield break away during flight. While many pilots have reached the age in which a mid-life crisis leading to a convertible purchase is within reason, the feeling of the wind flowing as you drive is not nearly as relaxing 30,000 feet up.

The French newspaper La Depeche described the cause of the incident as a faulty rubber joint that allowed water vapor into the windshield eventually leading to cracks. The cracks eventually created a pressure differential that gave in and the windshield exploded. There’s a joke in there about pressure in the cracks leading to an explosion but its just too easy.

Airline Potpourri

  • American and United have both received doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the Chicago Department of Health to vaccinate frontline workers at their Chicago/O’Hare hub.
  • Austrian Airways retired its first 767 this week after the plane flew 15 years for the airline. It’s en route to Bangor where it will clear customs before heading to Arizona to the great airplane hangar in the sky.
  • British Airways was not willing to call the government of Ghana’s bluff and agreed to keep its daily flight to Accra (ACC) operating out of London/Heathrow. The airline had planned to move the flight to Gatwick, a move that the Ghanaian government planned to match by moving BA out of Accra to a “less-favorable” Ghanaian airport.
  • Delta is bringing the 1,700 remaining pilots that are currently inactive back to work later this month.
  • Ryanair has joined the Fueling Flight Initiative to support the implementation of Sustainable Aviation Fuels. It plans to resume its regular schedule of lawsuits as soon as the ink is dry on this announcement.
  • Surinam Airways managed to offload its only leased B777 jet and will operate its one long-haul route to Amsterdam via a wet-leased Air Belgium aircraft.

Andrew’s Moment of Levity

What’s the oldest someone can be and still get a circumcision? I just want to know the cutoff date.