July 28, 2022

All My Mergers: The Inevitable Conclusion

It’s like when you figure out who the killer is ten minutes into the movie but feel compelled to watch the whole thing to see how they get there. A day after Frontier’s bid to merge with Spirit was squashed, JetBlue announced it would be purchasing Spirit. Be careful what you ask for, because it just might happen.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes and Spirit CEO Ted Christie held one of the more awkward TV moments this side of Will Smith and Chris Rock this morning discussing the deal showing what awkward pairing this will be. The two CEOs and their airlines are having to find a way to play nicely together after an several months where Spirit did everything it could to fend off JetBlue’s takeover bid only to be stuck with it in the end. The deal is for $3.8 billion and will create the nation’s fifth-largest airline if it manages to pass regulatory scrutiny.

JetBlue is already entangled in a lawsuit with the Justice Department over its Northeast AAlliance and knows it will need Spirit to divest itself of much of its northeast operations for the sale to have any chance to go through. In the spirit of cooperation, the two airlines are already working together to streamline the customer experience, including JetBlue beginning to introduce fees for basically everything, and Spirit’s announcement of two new Buzzball flavors: Dunkin’ and mint.

Southwest Flight Credits Will Probably Never Expire

Southwest Airlines will eliminate expiration dates on flight credits, becoming the first U.S. airline to take such a plunge.

This rule will not be retroactive and apply to credits which have already expired, but any credits scheduled to expire today or anytime into the future will last indefinitely – or until Southwest changes its mind – whichever comes first. Now, we’re dealing with airline technology, so it can’t just make the credits last forever in its system, or every Southwest plane in the air would spontaneously combust at the same time. So it’s listing the credits with a placeholder expiration of December 31, 2040 which seems reasonable for now.

Go ahead and bookmark this page as a reference for when all the outrage breaks out on the internet — or whatever will be left of the internet — in the final week of December 2040 when everyone’s $68 credit from a canceled ONT-SMF flight in 2024 expires, because Southwest never fixed the glitch. The credits only apply to Southwest’s Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares, as Anytime and Business Select can be refunded for cash – a much better option than flight credits regardless of when they expire.

Southwest Cruises to $760 Million Profit

Southwest Airlines returned a $760 million profit on Texas-sized revenue of $6.7 billion for Q2, by far its best fiscal performance since before the pandemic.

In its Q2 earnings report, the carrier also disclosed that it’s expecting just 66 aircraft deliveries for the year compared to the expected 114. Southwest will end the year with 765 aircraft, yet somehow you always will get the one parked at the furthest gate at the terminal, walking past the other 764.

Its outlook for Q3 is bullish, with revenue expected to be up 8-12% from Q3 in 2019, while planning to pay about $3.30 per gallon during the quarter. WN’s Q2 RASM increased 22% from Q2 2019 while its load factor rose 0.7%. The carrier ended the quarter with $17.4 billion in liquidity, including orders for a bunch of planes Boeing still says it’ll deliver eventually, and 40 cases of champagne it bought at a bargain price from Frontier that was earmarked for a party that never happened.

  • AirAsia is looking for places to build landing sites for flying taxis in Malaysia. This appears to be real.
  • airBaltic made a $13.5 million payment to investors.
  • Avelo is adding new routes including 2x weekly service between Wilmington, NC and Fort Lauderdale beginning November 11. Also Lexington, KY to Tampa and Orlando and Kalamazoo to Orlando.
  • Etihad reported a $296 million profit for the first half of the year.
  • Ethiopian ordered Africa’s first A350-1000.
  • IAG placed an order for 37 A320neo family aircraft.
  • Jet Airways Fall 2022 relaunch hit a financial snag. It doesn’t have as much money as it thought it did.
  • JetSMART took delivery of a new A321neo.
  • Norwegian and Norse Atlantic are entering into the interline agreement we didn’t know we all needed. Thanks Bjorn.
  • Singapore ended the June quarter with a $268 million profit.
  • SirLankan settled the interest it owed on a government-guaranteed bond.

I decided it was time to start a diet. I just have way too much on my plate right now.

June 30, 2022

All My Mergers: Fool Me Once…

Today was supposed to be the day Spirit’s shareholders voted on its merger with Frontier, hopefully putting this never-ending story closer to a conclusion. But Spirit pulled the cover over our eyes for a second time, postponing the vote until next Friday, July 8.

The vote was originally supposed to take place on June 10, but Spirit’s board moved it back when it realized it didn’t have the votes to approve its preferred option — Frontier. In the days since, both JetBlue and Frontier have upped their offers and postured over Spirit shareholders through both traditional and social media.

Spirit’s board has preferred the Frontier deal the whole time, while JetBlue’s increasingly attractive all-cash offers are making the decision for shareholders difficult. Perhaps this delay is best for all three airlines so they can spend the long holiday weekend making sure their operations don’t go completely down the drain before getting back to business on Tuesday.

Air Canada Joins Reduced Summer Flying Club

Air Canada is the latest carrier to put a significant dent into its schedule for July and August to stave off operational challenges and keep planes staffed and in the air.

The carrier called its adjustment “meaningful reductions” in a politely-written email to customers. Most of the changes affect Toronto and Montreal’s operation and all reductions are either domestic or to the United States. Three routes are being suspended from Montreal: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Kelowna (YLW), and one from Toronto: Fort McMurray (YMM).

Most of the cuts are frequency reductions, especially late at night. AC operates about 1,000 flights per day on a normal summer day. The schedule adjustment it just filed reduces that by 77 round trips — 154 flights — meaning about 15% of the schedule has been lopped off. Those travelers affected by the changes will be given the option of rebooking at no charge, a refund, or the value of their ticket plus a 15% bonus in maple syrup.

Back to Cuba: AA Wants Five More

About a month after the DOT reapproved travel to nine Cuban cities, AA applied to the government for permission to fly to five cities from Miami.  The carrier requested permission to fly cargo and passenger service to: Santa Clara (SNU), Holguín (HOG), Varadero (VRA). Camaguey (CMW), and Santiago de Cuba (SCU).

American operated to all five cities from Miami until they were suspended in October 2019 by the DOT leaving it operating exclusively to Havana. Its desired schedule to each city is:

  • Santa Clara – 2x daily beginning November 3
  • Holguín – 1x daily round trip beginning November 4
  • Varadero – 1x daily round trip beginning November 3
  • Camaguey – 1x daily round trip beginning November 4
  • Santiago – 1x daily roundtrip beginning November 5

Santa Clara, Holguín, and Varadero would operate with a B737-800, while Camaguey and Santiago would see A319 service. 

  • Breeze’s A220 launch has been anything but breezy.
  • Hi Fly formed a JV with flyPOP. It’s expected that two will eventually merge and rename the combined airline Hi Pop Fly which will soon presumably be caught by the bankruptcy court before being called out.
  • IAG converting 14 A320neo orders from August 2013 into firm orders.
  • Jet Airways is expected to select Airbus to order some airplanes.
  • JetBlue’s former employee Keily Nunez allegedly accepted more than $1 million in bribes to divert aircraft part order to two companies that were paying the money. Prior to being arrested, Nunez used the million to afford one cross-country flight from NY to LA this summer in coach.
  • KLM repaid the final €277 million it owed the Dutch government from its 2020 pandemic loan.
  • Lion Air roared with approval this week when it took delivery of a new B737-8.
  • Philippines Airlines completed a slot swap at London/Heathrow with BA for this winter.
  • Qantas is reopening its lounges in both Auckland and Wellington.
  • Transavia is cutting its operation in Amsterdam to remain complaint with the Scihphol’s passenger caps.
  • Virgin Australia debuted its new business class menu.

My neighbor turned 95 today but he still doesn’t need glasses.

He drinks straight from the bottle.

January 31, 2022

 Qatar Paints Final Touches on Boeing Order

Qatar Airways completed an order for 102 airplanes with Boeing today, becoming the launch customer for the B777X freighter in addition to adding B737 MAX aircraft to its fleet.

The total order is for up to 50 B737 MAX aircraft including 25 confirmed orders for the B737 MAX 10 and options for 25 more. Then, it’s adding up to 50 B777x freighters, including 34 confirmed orders and options for 16 more. Lastly, it’s taking two current generation B777 freighters as well.

The 777X freighter is the cargo version of the B777X passenger jet that’s expected to enter service late next year. The freighter version of the aircraft is expected to come off the production line in 2027 at the earliest and will be the world’s largest twin-engine cargo jet.

The list prices of the 102 planes purchased by Qatar come in at a cool $34 billion, but as always, the airline likely saw significant savings over the list price for placing such a large order. It’s also being reported that a new partnership between Boeing and Sherwin Williams will see each airplane come with a complimentary bucket of paint to allow the carrier to perform its own touch-ups, as needed.

JetBlue’s Jaded JFK Job

JetBlue Airways had a tough day at its hometown airport on Sunday as it struggled to bounce back from a snowstorm that hit New York on Saturday. The carrier proactively canceled hundreds of flights ahead of time to account for the storm, essentially shutting down its JFK operation on Saturday. But scores of passengers were left stuck on their planes after landing at JFK Sunday as JetBlue ran out of gates and staff to handle arriving flights.

As the situation worsened Sunday evening, the airline began to divert flights away from JFK, including subjecting some passengers the undignified horror of being forced to Newark. At the peak of irregular operations last night, JetBlue had nearly 20 planes scattered around JFK having landed with nowhere to go.

As it attempts to recover, JetBlue has canceled about 15% of its operation on Monday.  The Port Authority in a statement said JetBlue’s issues were due to the carrier’s own staffing shortcomings and not directly related. The Port Authority was also seen violently kicking several passengers while they were also down.

United Flight Lands with More Passengers Than at Takeoff

With two hours left on United Flight 977 from Accra to Washington/Dulles this past Saturday, a passenger went into labor and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Atlantic Canada.

The flight had a Ghanian doctor on-board the flight as a passenger who helped with the delivery along with United’s flight attendants, of which one was a registered nurse. The flight landed at about 5:30 a.m. at Dulles where the mom and baby were helped off the aircraft and sent to a local hospital.

Upon arrival, United made sure its new passenger had a MileagePlus number and credited it the 5,143 miles for the flight. It also sent the mother a bill for 2/11 of the full-fare economy price for the ACC-IAD route since the baby did fly for the final two hours of the 11 hour journey as a regular passenger. There’s no truth to the rumor that the carrier offered the mom free flights for life if she was willing to name the baby “Newark.”

  • Alaska is adding dynamic award pricing when redeeming on American.
  • China Airlines placed an order to add four more B777 freighters.
  • easyJet is hiring pilots.
  • GOL took delivery of seven B737 MAX 8s.
  • Kuwait Airways has suspended service to Iraq for a week.
  • Lynx Air will do just fine in the crowded Canadian LCC market, according to Lynx Air.
  • Philippine Airlines is returning to Tel Aviv in April for the first time since the 1950s. Twice-weekly service from Manila to Tel Aviv begins April 6.
  • Q-Airlines secured an operating license in Pakistan (trust us, that’s not very difficult), and plans to begin operating later this spring because a new airline is exactly what Pakistan needs.
  • Qantas opened its newest flight training center in Brisbane.
  • Starlux took delivery of an A321neo.

The guy who invented velcro died.


January 12, 2022

Cockpit Enthusiast Booted off AA Flight

A traveler on American Airlines flight 488 from San Pedro Sula, Honduras (SAP) to Miami was apprehended by police in San Pedro Sula Tuesday for daring to explore his curiosity about the inner-workings of the cockpit of a B737-800 aircraft.

The passenger ran down the jetbridge into the aircraft, beelining directly for the cockpit, which was exposed with its door open as it usually is during the boarding process. Once in the cockpit, the passenger damaged some of the controls and then made the rational decision to try and jump out the window.

The strange actions were especially frustrating for American and its passengers, as the flight was delayed eight hours while AA found a replacement plane and crew (because the crew would time out) in Miami and sent it to Honduras, delaying one of American’s rare flights that was actually planning to operate on-time.

The replacement aircraft arrived at SAP at 10 p.m. local time and was boarded without any cockpit incursions this time and took off at 10:45 p.m., arriving back in Miami at 1:59 a.m., perfect timing for passengers and crew to hit the clubs in Miami Beach.

United Flight Attendants Call for Service Reductions

United Airlines flight attendant union asked its airline to consider reducing on-board service levels to limit the number of interactions between flight attendants and passengers to reduce opportunities for the transmission of COVID-19.

The union noted that Alaska recently announced it would only do one beverage service per flight in the main cabin, regardless of flight length, and is also reducing the amount of buy-on-board stock by about one-third. United says it is reviewing the request and will get to it after it figures out how to make Newark something better than the 8th circle of Hell for connecting passengers… which means never.

The request comes just days after UA announced it plans a trial next month of returning several pre-pandemic service touches in Polaris including expanded desserts and the return of warm nuts (the horror of room temperature nuts). The union is also asking UA to cool its nuts for a couple weeks longer and delay the return of these service elements.

Singapore Starts Spreadin’ the News

Singapore Airlines is growing its presence in the Big Apple (and northern New Jersey) as the carrier expands to three daily flights into New York this March for the first time in its history.

The carrier will operate two daily nonstops from Singapore to New York, one to New York/JFK and another to Newark, both operating with an A350-900 ULR aircraft. The third flight will be its fifth freedom flight from Singapore via Frankfurt, operated by an A380.

The daily flight from SIN to JFK blocks in at 9,537 miles and takes the crown as the longest flight in the world. It’s scheduled to take 18:40 to New York and 18:50 to Singapore. The nonstop to Newark comes in at 9,523 miles, making it the second-longest flight in the world but far more painful since it involves arriving at Newark. The A350 operating both routes for SQ has only 161 seats on-board – 67 in business and 94 in premium economy.

By comparison, the A380 operating the SIN-FRA-JFK route comes with a sardine-friendly 475 seats, including six Singapore Suites up front, 82 business class seats, 44 in premium economy and a hefty 343 in the back for the hoi polloi.

  • Aeromexico has 86% of its creditors voting in favor of its reorganization plan, according to Aeromexico.
  • Air France-KLM needs cash. Get in line, pal.
  • Amelia International Airlines, the pride of Slovenia, is beginning cargo ops after acquiring its first dedicated freighter, an ATR-72F.
  • Avianca will begin two new routes to the United States in March — daily service from Cartagena (CTG) to New York/JFK beginning March 27 and 3x-weekly from Medellin (MDE) to Orlando beginning March 29.
  • Delta is extending the validity of all eCredits on the carrier through December 31, 2023 for travel through 2024.
  • Empire Airlines is growing its empire as it acquired fellow FedEx express carrier West Air.
  • Georgian Airways, fresh off celebrating a national championship in American football, was granted bankruptcy protection by a Georgian court.
  • Hans Airways, the official airline of Los Angeles’s Nakatomi Plaza, signed an LOI to purchase its first A320-200.
  • Norse Atlantic Airways named its second B787 Dreamliner “Rago.” It considered naming the plane “Bjørn,” but decided not to since that’s the name of nearly everyone who works at the airline, and adding a plane with the name would just make things complicated.
  • Ryanair‘s latest angry rant is to blame Lufthansa for faking global warming and climate fears to maintain slots at German airports. The carrier also blames Lufthansa for outing Santa Claus and not being real and for throwing banana peels on the runway at multiple airports just as Ryanair planes are ready for taxi and takeoff.
  • SpiceJet‘s appeal to dismiss a liquidation order owed to Credit Suisse was dismissed by an Indian court, but the carrier was able to buy itself some more thyme as the court extended a deadline to January 28 for an appeal to India’s Supreme Court.
  • South African Express‘s liquidation process has been anything but an express, as it was delayed by a seventh time in South African bankruptcy court — this time until July 4, 2022.
  • Virgin Atlantic opened for applications to fill up to 400 new cabin crew positions after receiving permission from Delta.

I knew a guy who collected candy canes, he always kept them all in mint condition.

August 4, 2021

Spirit: When You Think it Can’t Get Any Worse…

Spirit’s operational meltdown has reached its fourth day, and amazingly, not only is it not getting better, it’s getting worse.

The airline canceled 306 flights – 45% of its schedule before 7 a.m. Eastern this morning with the number of cancellations creeping towards 400 by noon. This is one day after the airline cancelled an astonishing 61% of its schedule and delayed another 19%, meaning just 20% of its schedule operated on-time.

It appears Spirit is firmly in the rare doom spiral when almost nothing can help short of shutting down and resetting the airline. It’s even worse thanks to customers revolting in terrifying ways. How bad is it? Well, it seems some staff in San Juan were hiding after travelers began rioting, according to some reports.

It’s bad for passengers, but just imagine being a frontline employee working for Spirit with no ability to help at all. Whenever they get those airplanes flying again, they’ll need to fill an A321 up a third with therapists, a third with Zoloft, and a third with BuzzBallz because this experience will not be forgotten easily.

Home is Where the Best Deal from Local Tax Authorities Is: JetBlue Stays in NYC

JetBlue Airways announced its intention to keep its headquarters in New York and move forward with an expansion of its home at JFK’s Terminal 6 after coming to terms with the city and mayor, New York senator Chuck Schumer, and New York governor (for now) Andrew Cuomo.

JetBlue’s current lease in Long Island City ends in 2023, and the airline flirted with moving its HQ and the hundreds of jobs that come with it to South Florida. The city and state government, led by Senator Schumer, were vocal that the airline – and its jobs – stay in New York beyond 2023 when its lease expired.

The airline is also going ahead with its plan to renovate its home in Terminal 6 at JFK, also a top priority for Governor Cuomo and the Port Authority. The project is slated to cost nearly $4 billion and will be primarily privately financed. Groundbreaking is expected next year with opening scheduled for 2025. The Port Authority is said to be focused on the terminal expansion and renovation as its second top priority after it fixes the price of beer and fries at LaGuardia. The rats over there have a lot of political sway, and the high prices mean fewer leftovers for them to get out of the trash.

The airline says it plans to add jobs at its Queens headquarters on top of the 1,300 that work there now. It also expects to add hundreds of jobs at its three NYC-area airports to coincide with increased flying from its Northeast Alliance with American.

Air France Grows in North America

Air France is adding two new routes from the Caribbean this winter, but they won’t fly where you might first think. The airline is adding service from its mini hub at Guadeloupe (PTP) in the Lesser Antilles to both New York/JFK and Montreal. Both routes will operate twice weekly with afternoon flights departing northbound and a southbound return the next morning.

The airline won’t be alone in operating these two routes. The PTP-JFK route was operated by Norwegian for several years beginning in 2015 but was presumably stopped during one of the airline’s dozens of bankruptcies. JetBlue began flying the route in early 2020 but stopped at the beginning of the pandemic. It plans to resume the route this November. Both Air Canada and Air Transat will offer service on the YUL-PTP route this winter, giving AF two competitors on the city pair.

In other news, Air France is adding daily flights beginning on October 31 from Paris/Orly to both Berlin and Munich for Wheneverfest aficionados. It’s also adding twice-weekly winter service from CDG to Tenerife (TFN) in the Canary Islands and twice-weekly winter service beginning December 4 to Rovaniemi, Finland (RVN) for those who want to go visit Santa and/or freeze to death.

Emerald Airlines Signs on as Aer Lingus’s New Regional Partner

Emerald Airlines signed with Aer Lingus to enter into a franchise agreement effective January 1, 2023. The agreement is for Emerald to operate Aer Lingus regional flights for ten years, through the end of 2032. Aer Lingus chose Emerald because Leprechaun Airlines, Guinness Airlines, and South Bend Aviation failed to proffer a bid.

Emerald will operate ATR turboprop aircraft on the regional flights. It will fly between Ireland, regional airports in the UK, the Isle of Man, and Jersey (the old one, not the new one). Emerald has recently taken delivery of two planes and is in negotiations for four more. It expects to have a fleet of 14 by the time the contract begins.

Aer Lingus has been looking for a new regional partner since Stobart Air went out of business earlier this year. Stobart’s contract with Aer Lingus would have expired at the end of 2022. BA CityFlyer stepped in this summer when Stobart ceased flying and will continue to do so for the next 16 months because it beats the alternative of furloughing everyone.

EU Adds Travel Fee for Health Screening

The EU agreed to levy an $11 fee on non-EU citizens traveling to the Schengen area from countries that are exempt from visa requirements. The charge is for a health and security check that is expected to be operational by the end of next year.

The new fee will come with an online screening form for travelers to fill out prior to travel. It will aim to identify health risks posed by travelers in addition to ensuring that they feel confident and secure about their decision to travel with a special pamphlet entitled “So you wanna visit Europe?”

The fee and screening system had been first proposed in 2016 but was held up, along with everything else in Europe, by Brexit. With the UK firmly out of the EU and never coming back, the bloc has returned its attention back to the fee. The UK is in discussions about launching its own screening system but nothing it proposes will come into being until 2024 at the earliest.

Visitors subject to the authorization will only have to fill the form out once every three years. Authorizations will also be valid for multiple entries into the EU.

  • Air Tanzania is asking the Tanzanian government for assistance in revamping its fleet and clearing some of its debt off the books.
  • American is splitting its operation at London/Heathrow between both T3 and T5. JFK flights will operate from T5 with all other destinations operating from T3 except for those which don’t operate which will just park on the ramp on the other side of the airport.
  • British Airways extended its contract with Lufthansa Technik in Manila to serve as a maintenance base for its 12 A380 aircraft.
  • Connect Airlines connected with Chorus Aviation to lease Dash 8-400 aircraft with an expected delivery date this fall.
  • Contour Airlines announced three new regional routes out of Indianapolis to Nashville, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh.
  • Delta is considering making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees when the FDA gives the shot full approval.  It’s planning an incentive of 100,000 SkyMiles to each fully-vaccinated employee which should be about halfway to a one-way reward in coach.
  • GlobalX received its AOC from the FAA giving it the A-OK to begin passenger operations.
  • GOL announced its agreement for 28 additional B737-8 MAX aircraft. Delivery is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
  • Mango’s business rescue case in South African bankruptcy court was postponed until Friday.
  • TUI is pulling an anti-Lufthansa and consolidating the five airlines under its brand into one entity.
  • Turkish put tickets on sale for its new route to Dallas/Ft. Worth.
  • United took delivery of the first of 13 B737 MAX 8 from its sale and leaseback with CDB Aviation.

There’s a 95-year old man on my street and I asked him “After 75 years or marriage, you still call your wife ‘honey,’ ‘sweetheart,’ ‘darling,’ or ‘love.’ What’s your secret?

He said: “Goodness, I forgot her name 10 years ago, this is the best I can do.”

April 14, 2021

American’s Aggressive Summer Schedule

American Airlines will operate more than 150 new routes this summer, with the airline flying more than 90% of its domestic capacity and 80% of its international capacity compared to summer 2019. It expects some of the flights to operate on-time, and it is rumored that some of the international flights may actually have passengers.

Highlights of the new schedule additions include a daily nonstop between Raleigh-Durham and Nashville along with two new flights from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Bangor, ME (BGR) and Burlington, VT (BTV).  Because nothing shouts “highlight” like Bangor, Maine.

Another example of “highlight” needing to be in quotes is Orlando, which leads the way with eight new Saturday-only non-hub routes beginning June 5. If you live in a medium-sized city in the midwest, or near the midwest, you can safely assume you’ll be getting a flight.

Miami will also see an upgrade to the west coast, JFK, and to six destinations in South America, with widebodies for all. American will put its 787 Dreamliner aircraft on daily flights to Cali (CLO), Guayaquil (GYE), Lima (LIM), Medellin (MDE), Port-au-Prince (PAP) and Quito (UIO), all of which seem slightly better than just parking the airplanes in the desert.

JetBlue and AA Northeast Alliance Undergoes Further Scrutiny

The proposed Northeast Alliance between American Airlines and JetBlue Airways will undergo a more detailed examination from the Department of Justice’s antitrust division in the coming weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) signed off on the deal earlier this year, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not weighed in. With a new Biden Administration likely to be tougher than the previous regime, the DOJ is now taking a closer look. It has not helped that several airlines – led by Spirit – have objected to the partnership based on anticompetitive actions taken by the two airlines primarily at three northeast airports: New York/JFK, New York/LaGuardia, and Washington/National.

The DOJ is expected to investigate Spirit’s formally-filed objections that coordination in the northeast could lead to higher prices for consumers. Spirit wants nothing to do with higher ticket prices; it wants American and JetBlue to stuff their high prices into nonsensical fees like a real airline does it.

Really what Spirit wants — along with United — is for American and JetBlue to divest themselves of slots at all three airports so they can get their hands on them instead.

Southwest Devalues Rapid Rewards

A rapid change in the value of Rapid Rewards points came overnight, with Southwest making all point redemptions 6% more expensive while simultaneously annoying countless loyal travelers and credit card mileage schemers.

The airline took a page out of the Delta SkyMiles playbook, enhancing the price of rewards with no warning to its customers. Existing bookings are still valid at the previous price, but any changes to those itineraries will be repriced at the new redemption levels.

Previously, Wanna Get Away fares cost between 76-78 points per dollar, with Anytime and Business Select consistently at 78 points per dollar. With the update the airline made overnight, redemptions will now cost 83 points per dollar – a valuation of ~1.2 cents per point.

The change did not appear to affect cash fares. This is the first enhancement of Rapid Reward redemption rates (RRRR) since 2018 when the airline made a similar 6% devaluation. The change likely is correlated to the glut of Rapid Rewards points in the market. With earning rates staying steady, especially with those who earn points via credit card purchases, but travel being way down in 2020, this change help Southwest clear more points off its balance sheet.

Oh Canada: True North Strong and Free: Except for the Caribbean

Air Canada is extending its suspension of flights to most “sun destinations” through the end of May, matching announcements from its fellow Canadian airlines.

Canada’s four largest airlines — Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing, and WestJet — agreed earlier this year to stop flying to most sun destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico through April 30 at the request of the Canadian government. All four are extending their suspensions beyond that deadline. In addition to Air Canada’s holding off through May, WestJet will not resume flying to the Caribbean until June 4, Air Transat is holding off until June 14, and Sunwing will pick things back up on June 23.

The Canadian government’s border is still closed to Americans and other foreign, non-essential visitors. While Canadian residents can return following international travel to any destinations including Mexico and the Caribbean, the federal government is strongly discouraging leisure and non-essential travel.

Air Canada will continue to operate cargo-only flights to three destinations – Mexico City, Barbados, and Kingston, Jamaica. In rare instances, it will fly some passengers on the return portion of those cargo flights – back to Canada – to repatriate those Canadians who either need to hitch a ride back home or those Latin/Caribbean residents who exhibit superior ice hockey and/or bobsledding skills.

Norwegian CEO Says Norwegian Needs More Money

Norwegian Air Shuttle, the Babe Ruth of bankruptcy filings, needs more money if its to continue filing for bankruptcy flying, according to its CEO.

The airline has recently received approval for its restructuring plan from bankruptcy courts in both Oslo and Dublin — or as it’s known in airline circles, the Deep in Debt Double — allowing it to cut its debt obligations by converting them to stock. But both courts agreed to debt-cutting provision on the condition that the airline raise 4.5 billion crowns (~$207 million) on its own.

The airline duped the Norwegian government received a cash infusion from the Norwegian government to cover the first 1.5 billion crowns, but it needs to raise the remaining three billion crowns (approximately $133 million). That process will require Norwegian to find rich investors who love the airline industry and have no good use for material possessions or money.

  • Air France’s cargo flights to and from Brazil will continue, but all other flights between the two nations have been suspended indefinitely by the French government.
  • Air Tunilik, a Canadian seaplane operator has received C$5 million in aid from Québec. It had to promise to only speak French, and not to speak English, to any potential customers in exchange for the cash.
  • Alaska was so impressed by United’s plan to convert trash to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) yesterday, that it announced its own plan today. You might want to click the link, print the release and leave it by the toilet for quality reading material later on.
  • Avianca says it will fly again, but it will need to right-size its airline, planning to emerge from bankruptcy with fewer aircraft and fewer employees.
  • China Southern is reviewing the future of the A380 in its fleet. The airline is also reportedly reviewing the number of sticky pads and ballpoint pens in its supply closet.
  • FlyArystan is beginning its first international service into Georgia (this one, not this one), flying to three cities beginning May 2.
  • Jazeera Airways’s board of directors has recommended the airline increase its cash on-hand via a capital increase. My online banking app tells me the same thing every time I log on.
  • Norse Atlantic Airways, the airline being started by three guys named Bjørn, has fooled investors into raising $165 million for the airline’s IPO.
  • PLAY, a fun-focused Icelandic startup airline has raise $35 million in play money real money through a private share offerings.
  • Qantas intends to return its entire A380 fleet to active operations but not until 2024. Stay tuned to Cranky Daily for updates on this story as it unfolds over the next four years.
  • Red Wings Airlines is launching a new base at Chelyabinsk (CEK).
  • Royal Air Maroc has suspended flights to 17 countries through May 21 because of Morocco closing its borders due to a new wave of COVID infections.
  • Ryanair realized it hadn’t sued anyone lately, so its taking the EU to court over Finnish, Danish, and Swedish aid favoring Finnair and SAS.
  • Smartwings has resumed flying between its Prague hub and St. Petersburg/Pulkovo (LED).
  • Southwest operated its inaugural flight to Santa Barbara yesterday, a nonstop flight from Las Vegas. The inaugural wasn’t supposed to operate until this weekend, but Santa Barbara Airport Administration purchased Early Bird.

I saw a porcupine try and race a squirrel today, and it lost the race badly. It really was a slowpoke.

March 8, 2021

AA LeverAAges AAdvantage to RAAise $7.5 Billion

American Airlines is using its AAdvantage program as collateral to raise funds in order to lower borrowing costs and pay back a $7.5 billion loan from the federal government.

On September 25 of last year the airline entered into an agreement with the Treasury for a $5 billion loan that then grew to $7.5 billion in October. The loan is due and payable back to the government on June 30, 2025 which really isn’t that far away. Some AA passengers currently on the taxiway at JFK might still be awaiting their takeoff slot by the time the loan comes due.

The airline created a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands, American Loyalty, LP, which will refinance the loan using the AAdvantage program as collateral in order to reduce borrowing costs and pay back the government. The newly-formed company will:

  • Offer $2.5 billion in senior secured notes due in 2026                                                                       
  • Offer $2.5 billion in senior secured notes due in 2029
  • Take out a $2.5 billion senior secured term loan credit facility
  • Use the cash raised from the above methods to lend back to AA to pay back us, the taxpayers, and the federal government.
  • Enjoy all the Cayman Islands has to offer including beaches and nightlife
  • Bring some water to those poor people stuck on the JFK taxiway for four years

We thank you for enjoying today’s Cranky Daily MBA minute and now return you to the aviation-themed portion of our program.

GE to Combine Aircraft Leasing Division with AerCap

General Electric is nearing completion on a $30 billion – billion with a b – deal with AerCap Holdings of Ireland to combine their aircraft leasing businesses in one monstrous deal that would rock the leasing industry.

The unit of GE, better known as GE Capital Aviation Services, or GECAS, is the largest remaining part of GE Capital. GE Capital is the former lending division of GE which rivaled many U.S. banks at its peak but nearly ended the company during the 2008 financial crisis.

Despite the downturn in the industry, aircraft leasing companies have been well-received by investors in the last year after raising a combined $14.9 billion in 2020. GECAS has over 1,600 aircraft owned or on-order making it the one of the largest jet-leasing company in the world, along with AerCap and Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corp. Its joining with AerCap will create a dominant position in the market for the combined entity.

After hearing news of the deal, several airlines, led by Spirit in the U.S. and Ryanair in Ireland filed lawsuits and challenges to the new combined entity. Spirit insisted the new leasing company divest of itself of slots at BOS, LGA, and JFK despite insistence from the DOT that this was a leasing company and not an airline. Ryanair joined Spirit in its suit and filed its own in Europe. It gave no reason for the suit other than saying that filing lawsuits is what they do best.

Sun Country Goes Public

Sun Country Airlines announced the launch of its IPO today, offering 9,090,909 shares of public stock priced between $21 and $23 per share. The shares will trade under the airline’s ticket symbol SNCY.

The airline plans to raise between $190 and $210 million from the IPO along with thousands of amateur airline experts who will now feel justified in telling its leadership team what to do.

Barclays, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank Securities are acting as joint lead bookrunners for the offering, with Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC and Nomura are acting as joint bookrunners.  Apollo Global Securities, AmeriVet Securities, Siebert Williams Shank and Tribal Capital Markets, LLC are acting as co-managers and will receive a BOGO coupon for an on-board cocktail for their efforts.

Southwest Jumps the Shark

Once upon a time, Southwest was a swashbuckling upstart with a Texas accent trying to challenge the big boys with a targeted route network. Today’s announcement of three new cities for the airline shows that it has just about run out of places to add to its network with the bustling metropolises of Bellingham, WA; Eugene, OR; and Myrtle Beach, SC now joining the party.

The airline plans to start Myrtle Beach (MYR) first, in the first half of 2021 in order to cater to summer travelers who for some unknown reason can’t find anything better than to travel to the Grand Strand.

The new northwest destinations being added by the airline will enter service in the second half of 2021. Bellingham (BLI) is often used a low-cost alternative for travelers both in Seattle and Vancouver. The airport is located just 23 miles from the Canadian border and is only 54 miles from downtown Vancouver. The town of Bellingham even boasts more Canadian flags per capita than any other American city. Two-thirds of travelers who use BLI come from Canada, and the airport is banking on those travelers returning once the border is reopened.

Eugene (EUG) is located two hours south of Portland and serves as an alternative airport for those heading to Oregon’s coast or to visit their kids at the University of Oregon. Or something.

The airline has not yet announced exact dates service will begin at any of the three airports or what cities will be connected but presumably will let someone know before it begins flying the new routes.

Lufthansa Announces Expanded Rail Reach

Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn (DB), Germany’s national rail carrier, announced an expansion of their partnership adding five new cities to their air-rail partnership. The pair also will introduce “Sprinter Trains,” trains that passengers must sprint 100 meters in under 12 seconds to be permitted to board extra-fast high-speed trains that will operate for the first time to Frankfurt Airport, cutting up to 90 minutes off some journeys.

The expanded partnership will strengthen Lufthansa’s domestic operation, adding train service from Frankfurt to Hamburg and Munich (beginning in July) and Frankfurt to Berlin, Bremen, and Münster (beginning in December). Lufthansa currently offers 134 daily trains exclusive for its air passengers to 17 German cities via its DB partnership.

In addition to offering additional connectivity, the airline also needs to appease German environmentalists who are pushing for the airline to end domestic flights and replace them all with rail service. The addition of new cities and trains hopefully helps the airline earn political points while also adding efficient service for its passengers.

Airline Potpourri

  • Advanced Air had its EAS contract extended to serve Silver City, NM (SVC) for another two years.
  • Aeroflot is launching once-weekly service from Moscow to Mahé, Seychelles (SEZ).
  • Air India plans to retire its final B747 later this month.
  • Etihad is extending its offer of COVID insurance for fliers through September 30. The program was originally supposed to end on March 31.
  • Eurowings will add a new base in Berlin this April.
  • Lufthansa plans to launch its new business class – with every seat having direct aisle access – in 2023.
  • JetSMART is adding frequencies from its base in at Buenos Aires/Aeroparque (AEP), launching 10x-weekly service to Córdoba (COR).
  • Neos, the Italian leisure airline filed a request with the DOT to begin flying to the U.S. and now an eager nation awaits to find out what cities plans to operate to.
  • Norwegian continues the dismantling of anything its ever built, as it received court approval to terminate the leases on 25 aircraft it still has in its possession.
  • Singapore operated flight SQ736 from Singapore to Phuket last week on a B737-800, the first narrow body flight for the airline in over 40 years.

Andrew’s Moment of Levity

My neighbor told me I was a bad parent because I feed my kids frozen pizza every night. And I was super offended because I obviously cook it first.

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.

February 24, 2021

FAA Requiring B777 Pratt & Whitney Engine Inspections

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that requires stepped up inspections of all PW4000-series engines that power Boeing 777 aircraft after the apparent fan blade failure on United flight 328 over the weekend. The impacted B777s will remain grounded until the inspections are completed.

Airlines will be required to use thermal acoustic imaging to inspect fan blades for metal fatigue before they are allowed to put the airplanes back into service. (Thermal Acoustic Imaging, by the way, was the name of our favorite band in high school.) It is unclear how long this process might take to complete.

The PW4000 engines were not a popular option on the B777, and the only current operators are ANA, Asiana, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Korean’s subsidiary Jin Air, and United Airlines. United also has a substantial fleet of B777s powered by GE engines, so only a portion of its fleet will be grounded.

United says very few passengers will be impacted, but those that are will be rebooked and given two tickets to Thermal Acoustic Imaging’s next show.

Breeze is Declared Fit to Fly By DOT

Start-up Breeze Aviation Group, Inc. has proven that navigating the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) start-up process is… a breeze. The airline has been found to be “fit, willing, and able” to fly up to 22 airplanes by the Department. There will be a 14-day objection period before the order is made final.

The DOT appears to have been in a hurry, making several mistakes in the show-cause order. For example, instead of Lukas Johnson being listed as Chief Commercial Officer, he is shown as Chief Operating Officer, as is Tom Anderson. We are assuming that this is a typo, and they are not being forced to battle to the death for this important position as a new strength requirement for receiving DOT sign-off.

Breeze has already taken delivery of its first Embraer aircraft, and it will operate those on point-to-point routes in the eastern US before it starts taking delivery of Airbus A220s. It can’t start flying yet, however. Despite receiving DOT approval, it still needs to acquire its Air Carrier Certificate and Operations Specifications from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Spirit Makes a Move on Milwaukee

Yesterday, it was Louisville that won the jackpot. Today, it’s Milwaukee — which as well all know is Algonquin for “the good land” — that will start seeing those bright yellow Spirit airplanes at its gates.

Spirit will launch daily flights to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Orlando beginning June 24, nearly a month after the same cities receive flights from Louisville. This will be the first nonstop to Los Angeles from Milwaukee since Southwest suspended its Saturday-only service at the onset of the pandemic. Both Southwest and Frontier currently serve the Milwaukee to Las Vegas and Orlando markets.

To celebrate, Spirit will begin selling cheese curds as part of its buy-on-board program. To prevent panic, all travelers departing Milwaukee will be charged a $4.99 “curd notification fee” so that materials can be distributed informing travelers that any squeaking onboard is from the curds and not from questionable maintenance.

Audit Shows Mexico City Airport Losses Over $16 Billion

Mexico City’s new airport was a third complete when the country elected new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador to office. One of his promises was to scrap the airport project despite the projected cost of $5 billion to do so. He kept his promise, but the cost — as I’m sure will be a shock to everyone — was far higher.

According to the Federal Auditor’s Office — which is naturally being denied by the president — halting the new airport’s construction is going to cost the country just over US$16 billion, or 232% higher than predicted. That’s about 325 billion Mexican pesos or, if you like really big numbers, more than 672 trillion Iranian rials.

Instead of creating a single, new hub to serve the capital city, a new plan was put into place to keep the current airport operating while building up nearby Toluca and Santa Lucía Air Force base into larger commercial operations as well. Aeroméxico was asked for comment but simply replied with 💸🤷.

Contour Denied Switch to Sacramento

Regional carrier Contour Airlines was denied a request by the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority in California to move its essential service from Crescent City Airport (CEC) in extreme northwest California from Oakland to Sacramento. Contour currently operates once-daily service between CEC and Oakland.

The airline wanted to swap its Oakland flight with Sacramento to take advantage of its recent interline agreement with American Airlines since American no longer flies to Oakland. You might think having connectivity throughout the American Airlines network would be appealing, but apparently a community poll stated a higher preference for Oakland over Sacramento by the decisive margin of 25.5% to 22.8%.

In other news, Crescent City has decided to begin paving streets with cotton candy and implement a 2 day workweek, because 31.2% of those polled thought it would be a good idea while only 29.6% thought it was a bad idea. And as we know, polls always know what’s best.

Airline Potpourri

  • Air France has a new safety video out and if you love the French, you’ll love this. If you don’t, you’ll probably just be surprised at how much time is spent talking about cigarettes.
  • Air Seychelles won’t have to pay Etihad anything this year as it works to extract itself from Etihad’s failed partner strategy. It is negotiating to become 100% locally-owned.
  • Brussels Airlines has released its summer plans, and service to New York and Washington/Dulles will resume on June 14 for the first time since the pandemic began.
  • Jet Airways continues to lurch closer to a restart in the back half of this year.
  • KLM has received its first of 25 firm orders for the Embraer E195-E2 aircraft. To celebrate, it appears to have found the thinnest seats on Earth.
  • Lufthansa and Embraer have now both confirmed they are in talks over a new aircraft order.
  • Norwegian has come to an agreement with Airbus that will see the airline not take delivery of its remaining 88 airplanes on order in exchange for letting Airbus keep the pre-delivery deposits plus an additional $850,000 and 3 tons of surströmming.

Beth’s Moment of Levity

Last night, I dreamed I was swimming in an ocean of orange soda, but it was just a Fanta sea.

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?