Monthly Archives: January 2004

Photos

For your Friday viewing pleasure, by way of Salon’s Ask the Pilot column, check out these two amazing pictures of flights landing at St. Maarten. These are real. One is here, the other here.

Virgin Calms You Down

Virgin Atlantic will offer an in-flight meditation program on its trans-atlantic flights. According to the press release, Meditainment Ltd, a company that specializes in guided meditation experiences, has produced a series of meditative journeys for the audio inflight entertainment system. Yes, meditative journeys.

I apologize, there was really no news at all today…I was scraping with this one.

Jetblue Earnings Call

I listened to a bit of the JetBlue earnings call today (if you’re ever incredibly bored or literally, and I mean literally, have nothing to do, you can listen to the airline earnings calls on the investor relations section of each carrier’s website—they’re archived there. The Q&A with the analysts usually starts about 30 minutes in. But I’m serious, it can be horribly, horribly boring. Like an episode of Yes, Dear. No, worse. OK, it’s not worse). Where was I? Oh yes, the conference call. A couple of interesting tidbits:

–Last year they flew 67,000 flights and only cancelled 7 because of aircraft maintanance. If anyone any out there is thinking of starting an airline, I have only one piece of advice. OK, that’s a lie. But one piece of advice I would give is: buy new planes.

–JetBlue had ZERO DoT complaints in October. No passengers complained about the airline for an entire month. Amazing.

–One of the execs on the call said that one of the things they liked about starting operations at LaGuardia is that if it gets too backed up, they’ll simply land the jet at JFK and bus people over. Weird but interesting, no?

–After being asked about continued competition, someone on the Jetblue side said something to the effect of, “how much worse can the competition get when they’re giving away a ticket to Tokyo for flying to Florida for $69?” Good point.

Taking a WIZZ and So Forth

Cheap joke, and I apologize…WIZZ Air, a new low cost carrier in Central Europe has chosen Airbus as its aircraft supplier. I only mention it here because WIZZ is an awesome name for an airline.

My Conservation of Airline Theory continues to hold (no new airlines are ever created, they are just shifted around the universe) as Irish carrier Jetmagic went bankrupt, stranding 400 folks overseas.

And finally for the morning, US Airways has some good news for frequent fliers, as they have improved their upgrade policy for silver and gold Dividend Miles members. Status-holding frequent fliers now receive unlimited upgrades (just like Continental and Northwest). Assuming US Airways doesn’t sell everything they own (entirely possible), this is a welcome piece of news for US Airways loyalists.

Today on Iron Chef: Legroom Battle

A Reuters articletoday says that the major carriers are in a “legroom battle” now that United has announced it will expand its 36″ legroom Economy Plus section to its entire fleet. Now, if you’re an infrequent United flier like myself, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Didn’t they already have Economy Plus on their whole fleet?” The answer, you now know, is no, they didn’t have it on their whole fleet. Which leads to they point I’ve only made about a billion times is that the most frustrating part of the flying experience for frequent travelers is that you never know what you’re going to get (much like Forrest Gump’s annoying box of cho-co-lates). Is there food? On AA, are you on a plane with good legroom or bad? Is there first class? Is there a movie? Is there first class and business class, or just one, or neither? Anyhoo, United will now have Economy Plus in their whole fleet. Unlike AA, though, the added leg room is only on a couple of rows and is held back for frequent travelers.

Bad News at Ryanair

Ryanair lost 1/4 of its market value after announcing that it will meet profit targets for the first time in its history.
As Ryanair has quickly expanded its route network it has cut fares drastically (often charging $.01) to gain market share. Of course, this has led to lower margins. (I think they taught us this stuff in business school). Yields (average fares) will be 25-30% lower than they were in the same quarter last year. Now the CEO is saying that staff may not receive raises in ’05. Ouch.

Flying Finns and Equitorial Guinea

Here’s the news, all in one batch…

Air France has launched a highly targeted niche airline-within-an-airline called Dedicate to serve the travel requirements of companies in the natural gas and oil industries. The specially configured A319s will fly people twice weekly from Paris to, no joke, Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo, malabo in Equitorial Guinea, and other well trafficked spots in Iran, Kazakhstan and Qatar.

Speaking of Qatar, while nobody in the US ever talks about the Qatar Airways has quickly grown to be a major regional player in the Middle East. They said last week that they’ll take 13 new aircraft this year to expand to 12 more destinations. Alongside this news, the government of Qatar awarded Bechtel a $2.5 billion contract to build a new airport. Man, that Bechtel is everywhere.

In bankruptcy news, low-cost Finnish airline Flying Finn declared bankruptcy this week. The tiny carrier operated 8 domestic flights in Finland. Insert joke about frozen assets here.

Air Canada is expanding its well received simplified Canadian fare structure to include a bunch of US cities. The fare structure (which you can see on Air Canada’s site when you search between 2 Canadian cities, and looks a lot like Southwest’s) is fantastic, except for the mindblowingly ridiculous names given to each: Tango, Econo, Fun, Latitude, Freedom and Executive. I don’t know what they mean either.

Four airlines are reportedly bidding on US Airways’ assets, with American, JetBlue and AirTran interested in the shuttle. Delta is interested in “pretty much everything” except the shuttle. Since they already own a competing shuttle. How much would a JetBlue shuttle rock? Just curious.

And finally…you’ll thank me for this. 21 bikers were thrown off a plane after confronting a father who was disciplining his son. Oh, you should know that the bikers were part of a group called “Bikers Against Child Abuse.” Awesome.

Goodbye Great Plains

A bit of non-death related sad news: Tiny tiny midwestern carrier Great Plains declared bankruptcy on Friday, stranding 3 or 4 people in like Tulsa or something. Whatever. The more interesting part of the story is that Great Plains was the last carrier at MidAmerica St. Louis airport, also known as the airport near St. Louis that isn’t nearly as close to St. Louis as the St. Louis airport that you’ve actually heard of. Whew.

Continental Interested in Avianca

Reuters is reporting that Continental is interested in purchasing floundering Colombian carrier Avianca. Avianca’s owners have recently rejected a bid from LanChile, which is in the process of taking over the entire South American market with their LanPeru, LanEcuador, and Lan Dominicana operations. Not sure what Continental sees in the bankrupt carrier, but their investments have always been wise—I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Is That A Stun Gun In Your Pocket Or…

A freakin’ genius packed a knife and a stun gun in her bag while traveling from LaGuardia to Denver…and didn’t get caught. She told a flight attendant on the plane that she realized she had the knife and stun gun with her. Fantastic.

And in other news a man who hadn’t flown in 17 years got completely wasted before a flight from the UK to Ibiza, verbally abused flight attendants and was sentenced this week to 6 months in jail. The passenger reportedly “clawed at (the flight attendant’s) hair and ears before pushing her to the ground”