Monthly Archives: February 2004

Pulling out of HAAiti

American Airlines announced that it will suspend flights to and from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Because of the civil unrest, the carrier’s staff has been unable to get to the airport. I’ll give American all the credit in the world for staying there as long as they have. The situation is unbelievably dangerous, and, as the capture of refugees fleeing by boat off the coast of the US has shown, people will do anything to get out of there. AA hopes to resume flights by March 3, but I’ll bet that won’t happen.

Investigators examining last year’s US Airways Express (Air Midwest) crash in Charlotte released a report citing sloppy maintenance and weight calculating procedures as the causes. A National Transportation Safety Board member said, “the sheer number of people who failed to do their job set a new low.” Pretty scary.

First Class on American

The Ft. Worth Star Telegram notes that it recently tracked the financial performance of an American Airlines flight from DFW to JFK. While margins on the route have improved over the past year, the flight is still in the red, a remarkable fact considering it has no non-stop competition from low cost airlines. Even worse, while 106 passengers flew in the first class cabin during the period studied, only ONE paid full fare. The rest were on frequent flier upgrades.

President Bush announced today that “since it has been said many times that man wasn’t meant to fly, it only makes sense that two men aren’t meant to fly together.” He then went on to ban homosexuals from airplanes.

OK, he didn’t really. But I figure it’s just a matter of time.

Low Fares in Australia

With a slow news day in the US, I wanted to pass along a crazy fare sale going on in Australia right now. To publicize the launch of Jetstar, Qantas’ new low-fare airline, it is selling 100,000 tickets at A$29 (USD$23) on its website. That’s up to about 80% off the typical fares. Low fare competitor Virgin Blue immediately matched the offer, with its CEO saying, “Make no mistake, we will not be underpriced or out-stunted, ever.”

Why doesn’t this kind of irrational, Ryanair-like behavior ever happen here? I dare Spirit Airlines, or the new Independence Air to generate some publicity with an economically ridiculous, but publicity fabulous, stunt like this.

Cheap Flights to Europe and a Strike in Nepal

Two pieces of news about low-cost flights to Europe:

RivieraJet Airways, a new low-cost carrier, says that they will fly from 3 gateways in the US to a bunch of cities in Western Europe. They note that the airline will feature all the newist gimmicks and entertainment yada yada yada. It currently costs $178 r/t to fly to London from New York on perfectly good airlines with seatback TV. (OK, Northwest doesn’t have seatback TV on most of its trans-Atlantic flights—but most others do). These guys won’t get off the ground.

ATA announced that it will begin scheduled flights to Europe by the summer of 2006. They’re focusing on markets that Europeans will be interested in (flights, say, to Orlando). Having flown on an old ATA DC-10 charter to Hawaii a few years back, I can say that these are not the most comfortable flights in the world, with few entertainment amenities and old planes. Just like Northwest.

And finally, if you’re reading this while stranded in Kathmandu, you’ll be happy to know that the 2-day airline strike in Nepal is now over.

Sad State of Pan Am

A handful of stories from the weekend:

–Emirates is considering setting up a hub in Auckland, New Zealand, which, you may note, is very far from the United Arab Emirates. The hub would allow the airline to expand its South Pacific services and reach the west coast of the US>

–The New York Post reports that a Tokyo-bound American Airlines 777 had to dump fuel into the Atlantic after losing an engine upon takeoff from JFK. While I’m sure this is a scary event, the plane was in no danger, despite the Post’s dramatic portralyal of the incident.

–The Financial Times noted that Richard Branson is wooing Delta COO Fred Reid to take the helm of the new Virgin USA.

–The US State Department said that it will likely lift the ban on American travel to Libya as a thank you of sorts for Libya scrapping its nuclear programs. The government, of course, will keep its absolutely insane ban on travel to Cuba while allowing Americans to travel to Libya, which, under this same government, shot down Pan Am 103. Well done.

–US Airways has increased service out of Philadelphia to the cities that Southwest has announced it will serve. Also, the airline says that it will increase the point-to-point service that is Southwest’s hallmark as a means of competing with the carrier. With its large regional jet fleet, the move is a smart one, allowing US Airways to cherry-pick its routes, rather than remaining tethered to its unsuccessful hub-and-spoke system. However, its costs are still so far out of line that even these two good moves won’t get them out of trouble until the carrier gains additional incredibly painful concessions from employees.

–And finally, flying back from Myrtle Beach this weekend I saw a check-in booth for tiny Pan Am tucked away into a corner, flying a flight a day to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I was actually sad when I saw that Pan Am now existed to fly 5 flights a week from Myrtle Beach to Portsmouth. There hasn’t been a fall from grace like that since I saw Dana Plato in one of those Skinemax movies—incredibly sad—yet fascinating.

Vacation Day

I’m on my way out the door for a long weekend, so I’ve only got time to let you know that American Airlines will now join the ranks of Continental and Northwest and offer unlimited upgrades to elite travelers. OK, they’re not quite as generous as Continental and Northwest—American will only offer unlimited upgrades to Platinum flyers. Still, a move in the right direction.

Have a great weekend.

Equitorial Guinea, United, and Gandalf

United Airlines announced a new aircraft livery for its fleet yesterday. A spokesman said the change was made to “extend a confident, bold new look to United’s products and services.” I think getting out of bankruptcy would also be bold and confident, but that’s just me.

Italy’s fantastically named regional carrier Gandalf has filed for bankruptcy.

In fare news:

—Iberia is currently running an amazing sale (then click on the ‘offers’ at the bottom of the page) to Africa from New York (it’s been going on for a little while, but somehow I missed it). Through March you can fly round trip from NYC to South Africa for $485. Really. Even more incredibly, if utterly worthless, is the $485 r/t fare from New York to Malabo, Equitorial Guinea. Seriously. Even the Lonely Planet says there’s nothing to do there (which may be all the more reason to go there). in any case, that is an unheard of price for an unheard of place.

–Korean Air has a $330 round trip fare from LA to Tokyo.

–And finally, EuropeByAir (which has a $99 per-leg flight pass throughout Europe, has added a couple of new airlines to its line up of obscure carriers you’ve never heard of. Portugalia?

717 and Estonia

The death of the Boeing 717 jet has been greatly exaggerated, according to an Air Transport World article. While the company is only producing about 12 of these per year, Boeing remains optimistic about the future of the aircraft, citing possible orders from Cebu Pacific and Qantas. If JetBlue shows some success with the Embraer 190, I would have to guess that the 717 is a goner.

Readers of my daily nonsense may have picked up on my affinity for Estonia. With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along that tiny Estonian Air turned a profit for 2003 despite only flying 5 737s. You can read what I wrote about Estonian Air back in my old Jupiter blog in the May 6th entry here.

First Class, First Class, No Class

3 stories about comfort today:

–United Airlines announced a promotion (sorry, I received an email, but I can’t find it on their site) where you get 1 first class upgrade for every $1,000 you spend on the airline. Upgrades are usable on flights within the US, Hawaii (yes, part of the US, I know), Central America and the Caribbean. I like the value-based promotions vastly more than the typical fare-class based promotions where you have to figure out whether you’re flying in a fare class that applies (“K”) or a fare class that does not apply (“Q”). Many airlines don’t make it obvious on their website which fare class you’re booking. In any case, making a promotion based on dollars spent is easier for the consumer.

–America West has revamped their first class fare structure, introducing a 2 new non-refundable first class fares (a 0-day advance purchase and a 7-day advance purchase). Fares top off at $499 each way, well below the fares of major carriers (in fact, according to the press release, it’s up to about $2200 less for a transcon round trip. America West is currently my favorite airline that I never fly.

–And finally, Ryanair is taking no frills to a whole new level, ordering new planes that have seats that do not recline and windows without window shades. Well, that’s what you’re going to get when fares cost $.01.

International Low Cost Carrier News…Plus Southwest

Coincidentally, there are a bunch of stories today about low cost carriers around the world.

Malaysian low fare juggernaut Air Asia has announced that it will pay $69 million to set up a joint venture in neighboring Singapore. Singapore, once dominated by Singapore Airlines, will see 3 new budget carriers entering the market this year.

Similarly, the Air Asia-backed Thai AirAsia has introduced $2.50 fares from Bangkok to Chang Mai, setting off a fare war in that country with its other budget carrier One Two Go. The funniest part of this story is that Thai AirAsia’s inaugural flight, packed with dignitaries and press, had to make an emergency landing. No one was hurt.

Easyjet is expanding into Eastern Europe, introducing round trip flights for about $50 from London to Budapest and Ljubljana (in Slovenia). At the same time, the New York Times today has an article about Wizz Air (which I mentioned a week or two ago) entering the low cost market in Poland.

And in an announcement that US Airways execs had been dreading, Southwest announced their fares out of Philadelphia, tapped off with $29 one-way fares to Providence. US Airways charges nearly 5 1/2 times that amount. Yikes. US Airways will be gone from Philly within 18 months, just as they pulled out of Baltimore as Southwest grew its presence there.

Four nuns were kept off an American Airlines flight because they were considered, along with 2 others, a security risk. So in the span of a week, American has had a captain ask all the Christians on a flight to identify themselves, while keeping 4 nuns from boarding a flight.

And finally…I noticed that on Alaska Airlines’ fare rules it notes that for non-refundable tickets, the “TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE. WAIVED FOR DEATH OF PASSENGER.” If you die, you get your money back.