February 3, 2021

TSA Now Can Enforce Mask Guidelines

With President Biden’s executive order requiring masks to be worn during interstate travel, including a specific reference to airports, TSA agents now have the power to enforce mask-wearing at checkpoints and throughout the airport.

Previously without a federal mandate, TSA agents were powerless to enforce local mask guidelines at checkpoints. TSA agents will now bar anyone who refuses to wear a mask from passing through the checkpoint and into the secured area of the airport. They also will announce to the world that the rule-breakers lack basic personal responsibility and respect for others.

TSA also plans to offer Precheck customers a new mask when arriving at the document checker with Precheck’s logo prominently featured alongside a middle finger. TSA officials believe passengers will be eager to wear their new mask showing off to non-Precheck customers what they’re missing while simultaneously making fun of them for sitting in that long line.

Reports Say the Boeing NMA is Back On

Despite beliefs to the contrary, Boeing CEO David Calhoun told industry experts that Boeing is continuing to move forward on the New Midsize Aircraft program (NMA). The surprising statement from the manufacturer comes on the heels of a historic $12 billion loss in 2020, and a $2.5 billion settlement with the federal government over the 737 MAX saga.

Questions emerged about whether or not Boeing would continue its NMA project during the height of the pandemic, but Calhoun said the company is moving forward and is making progress daily. He believes the plane could enter service as early as 2026, but Boeing is continuing to seek advanced solutions to make the plane more fiscally sound and environmentally friendly.

The NMA is expected to be a mid-market aircraft featuring twin aisles and a capacity of 270 seats. Its range will be roughly 11 hours and will serve a similar mission to the Airbus A321XLR. The Airbus aircraft was the inspiration for the NMAs original name, the Boeing 797neoXLR, but after considerable market research, Boeing decided it should probably just call it the Boeing 797 MAX.

Allegiant Q4 Financials Show $23.6 Million Loss

Allegiant Air posted its Q4 financials after the markets closed on Wednesday, and the Vegas-based airline lost $23.6 million for the final quarter of 2020 on revenues of just $246.6 million.

The Q4 revenue figure, despite being a 46.5% drop from Q4 2019, did show an increase from both Q2 and Q3 this past year, including an 85% increase from Q2 — when travel demand was at its lowest. Load factor for Allegiant in Q4 was 58.2%, also a positive trend from earlier in the year, leading the airline to hope that brighter days are ahead.

For the year-end 2020, Allegiant’s revenue fell 46% to $990 million. The revenue total, when combined with its expenses, show a loss of $281 million for the year, a whopping 177% drop from 2019’s profit of $364 million. Amazingly, the airline would have sustained much larger losses, but Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher hit a jackpot playing a Quick Hit machine at McCarran International Airport on December 23 while waiting to bring Christmas gifts to Allegiant staff at its home airport. The $52,000 prize on the 50 cent machine went right to the airline’s bottom line, helping stave off some of Q4’s deficit.

Allegiant operated 81% of its capacity in 2020 compared to the prior year, the highest capacity figure in the country. The fact that Allegiant already operates many leisure routes that operate once-weekly or less helped it maintain much of its capacity as there wasn’t as much to cut. It ended the year with $685 million in liquid assets. Of that, $684,997,500 is cash and investments, and the remaining $2,500 is being held by the sportsbook at the South Point Casino in futures for the 2021 World Series.

Second Aircraft Drifts into Breeze’s Fleet

U.S.-based startup Breeze Airways took delivery of an Embraer 190 aircraft, the second plane in its fleet. The E-190 is the first of 15 it is leasing from Nordic Aviation Capital, with the airline’s launch later this year rapidly approaching. Breeze previously received an E-195 aircraft earlier this month from a different lessor.

Breeze plans to operate its fleet of E-190 airctaft with 108 seats with its big brother the E-195 having 118. The airline will offer an enhanced legroom product in about 40% of the aircraft. A Breeze spokesman said it also will offer wireless entertainment to passengers, in addition to tray tables, seat belts, armrests, and lavatories. Overhead compartments are expected to be on offer, but the airline would not confirm or deny.

Breeze plans to launch service with its E-190/195 aircraft in the coming months. The airline has not announced the destinations it plans to serve when it launches operations later this year, but it is planning to offer point-to-point service between secondary airports. Many airports that were originally interested in receiving service from the start-up have pulled out, being too proud to admit to being considered secondary.

Singapore Begins Operating Silk Air’s 737s

Singapore is preparing to operate its former subsidiary Silk Air’s fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft as soon as next month. Nine of Silk Air’s 737-800s have been repainted in Singapore’s livery and were refreshed to match Singapore’s branding inside the aircraft.

The nine aircraft Singapore is taking delivery of at first will have Silk’s 12 business class recliners in the front with 144 economy seats in the back. Singapore still plans to add the new lie-flat Vantage seats in business class for its new 737 MAX jets which Silk had previously planned. The installation is on hold while the airline awaits regulatory approval to resume operating its MAX aircraft.

The former Silk Air aircraft do not have internet on board, which is seen as a positive for many as it prevents passengers from sending ill-advised emails or texts after one too many Singapore Slings. SQ’s famous KrisWorld entertainment system is available on-board the former Silk aircraft, available to be streamed to personal devices brought on-board the aircraft. The system, however, cannot stream to the device you left in your hotel room and will never see again.

Airline Potpourri

  • Air Belgium plans to open a new cargo hub in Liège (LGG) by the end of the year.
  • Allegiant is opening a base in Des Moines, Iowa (DSM), where it will house two A320s and add 66 jobs to the local economy. The new base from Allegiant once again proves the old adage in Iowa, that if you build it, Allegiant will come.
  • flydubai is launching 3x-weekly service to Minsk, beginning February 20.
  • Kenya Airways will become the first airline to repurpose an existing passenger Boeing 787 for cargo operations. The airline has assured regulators it will ensure all passengers are off the aircraft before beginning the transition.
  • Moov Airways expects to take delivery of its first two turboprops in late 2022.
  • Qantas currently plans to resume Project Sunrise — its proposed nonstops to both London and New York — by 2024.
  • Sunwing Airlines received access to up to C$375 in loans to help protect jobs. Consider it a friendlier, politer, more Canadian PPP.

Andrew’s Moment of Levity

Why shouldn’t you ever gamble while in the jungle? Because there are way too many cheetahs.

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.

November 10, 2020

Re-United, and it Feels so Good: United Returns to JFK on February 1

Five years after United Airlines ended service at New York/JFK, the airline will return on February 1 with four daily non-stops to the West Coast. United will fly twice-daily to both Los Angeles and San Francisco, operating its reconfigured business class-heavy Boeing 767-300ERs with 46 United Polaris beds, 22 Premium Plus seats, 47 in Economy Plus, and 52 in plain ole’ economy. 

United’s return to JFK will see it operate out of British Airways’s Terminal 7 along with other airlines known for top premium-class service such as Aerolineas Argentinas, Eurowings, and Ukraine International Airlines. United had operated in T7 before leaving, but only now can it return thanks to reduced demand from airlines.

In addition to its four daily flights to California, rumors are swirling that United also plans to launch daily service from JFK to its hub across the river in Newark, giving United customers one-stop service to over 100 destinations daily. When asked about the super-short distance between the two airports, United said that most of its NYC-based customers would prefer to connect from JFK through Newark than have to sit on NJ Transit for one more minute.

European Union to Place 15% Tariff on Boeing Aircraft

The European Union announced that it will apply a 15% tariff on Boeing aircraft being sold to operators in Europe as a retaliation for U.S. subsidies offered to Boeing.

This issue has been ongoing for more than 15 years, but came to the forefront again due to an April 2019 ruling from the WTO that the U.S. was not in compliance with WTO regulations as the government continued to offer subsidies to Boeing.

The tariff will take effect today, November 10 and will remain in place until the U.S. and EU can come to an agreement. The tariff on Boeing is included in a larger package of US exports, with the total figure being about $4 billion. 

In an effort to fight the tariff without giving up its U.S. government subsidies, Boeing is considering offering all European operators a Buy One, Get One 15% off coupon to satisfy the WTO. The manufacturer is also considering a holiday special, where each aircraft placed on order comes with a copy of Michael Buble’s hit 2011 album, Christmas.

American Eliminates More Award Fees

After eliminating change fees earlier this fall, American Airlines has gone a step further eliminating more fees for customers looking to make changes to their award travel plans.

Despite eliminating redeposit fees for awards cancelled more than 60 days out, a fee structure remained for non-Executive Platinum members who cancelled award bookings less than 60 days out. The fees ranged from $50 up to $150 — with the $150 being charged to a non-elite cancelling an award booking fewer than seven days before travel. Effective tomorrow, November 11, all redoposit fees for all members, elite or not, will be waived — provided the cancellation is prior to departure.

American also has eliminated its $40 phone booking fee for non-Executive Platinums booking awards on the phone. In reality, this fee was rarely charged as the reason the member was calling in the first place was often because of an error while booking on the web.

Lastly, AA has extended AAdvantage mileage expiration dates, through June 30, 2021. This is terrible news for all the AA-supported charities that received frequent 1,000 mile donations as travelers looked for any way to keep their miles active.

Etihad Slims Down for the Long-Haul

Unlike many people who gained weight during the pandemic, Etihad has used the spring and summer to restructure itself into a leaner, more mid-sized airline.

As part of the restructuring, Etihad will focus primarily on its widebody aircraft, despite having 56 narrowbody Airbus currently on order.

The airline also saw four top executives leave the company, including Chief Commercial Officer Robin Kamark, giving it a chance to right-size its executive team in the wake of the pandemic. With its leadership changes, Etihad will separate out business units that previously fell under Kamark’s oversight.

Etihad currently has a fleet of 81 widebody aircraft, led by 30 Boeing 787-9s. It currently serves 72 destinations from its Abu Dhabi hub with 58 daily flights. Chances are good that not a single one of them makes money.

Qatar Launches Basic Business Class

Qatar Airways has begun selling a basic business class offering on most of its routes, including to and from the United States. The unbundled business class, which the airline has named “Business Class Classic” does not include advanced seat selection or complimentary lounge access with the fare.

The basic business seat does not preclude lounge access if a passenger has it through other means such as elite status with a oneworld partner. It also will still come with a seat assignment if the passenger has elite status on a oneworld partner that allows that sort of thing.

Qatar will also be launching a pilot program on select flights beginning in early 2021 with what it is calling “Very Classic Business Class.” The VCBC seat will come at a 10% lower cost than its current basic business class and will not include on-board lavatory access or a seat belt. The airline said in a statement said that it’s unfair that those passengers with a large bladder are being forced to subsidize lavatory costs that are only used by their small-bladdered fellow passengers.

Likewise, the airline said that 10-15% of its passengers never buckle their seat belt when flying anyway, and that those passengers should not be required to shoulder the financial burden of those who do use their seat belts.

Airline Potpourri

  • Azores Airlines is facing a €15 million lawsuit from Air Lease Corporation over the airline’s Airbus A321neo aircraft.
  • China Airlines has put its final four Boeing 747 aircraft up for sale.
  • Ecuatoriana Airlines received its operating license as it moves forward to resume service next year for the first time since going out of business in 2006.
  • Jet2 has suspended all flights in and out of England for the duration of the current lockdown.
  • JetBlue added 25 extra flights from the New York area for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Qantas has added three new destinations from Canberra: Cairns (CNS), Hobart (HBA), and Sunshine Coast (MCY)

Andrew’s Moment of Levity

All gnomes have red hats. It’s a gnome fact.