Monthly Archives: March 2004

Biz Class on Continental…and Sunburns

Air Transport World notes that the recent Airbus order from Spirit Airlines was all Boeing’s to lose. And lose the order they did. Spirit said that Airbus did such an amazing job during the sales process that Boeing did not even bother to submit a proposal.

If you’re looking to fly Business Class to Europe this summer, Continental Airlines has an amazing deal—$1,400 round trip to Europe after July 1st from NYC. Summer coach fares to Europe can run more than $1,000—the extra $400 is more than worth it. Of course, it’s not my money so I can say that.

And finally, Cancer Research UK says that cheap package vacations are to blame for an increase in skin cancer. I think they’re serious, too.

Too Many Mai Tais?

An Aloha Airlines co-pilot was arrested Saturday in Oakland while he was about to fly from Oakland to Honolulu. His .18% blood alcohol level (twice the legal limit for driving) would not have been a problem had it not been for the fact that he was co-piloting the plane.

And, with little in the way of interesting airline news this morning, I’ll pass along a great deal to Europe (via Frommers). AutoEurope has a package of flight and 3 days car rental from NYC to Brussels for $287 through June. That’s very, very cheap. A host of other departure cities are available, as are well-priced packages to other cities in Europe. One caveat: a friend tried to book the Rome package and was told her dates were not available. I’m certain there must be SOME dates available. If you find any, call Jupiter Research in New York, ask for Nicole, and tell her what dates you can fly.

Boeing, US Airways and Mustaches

Boeing, who doth protest too much, has once again come out and said that Airbus will sell so few of its super jumbo A380s that it will not be able to pay back the $3.5 billion in launch funds it received from European governments. Boeing mocked Airbus’ forecast of demand for 1,100 planes, saying that it will sell, at most, 320 aircraft. Airbus has already sold 129 planes, though Boeing believes these were sold at a 40% discount on the $230 million list price. Sour grapes?

I apologize for yet another story about US Airways and its impending fight with Southwest in Philadelphia, but there was an interesting comment in a Travel Weekly story today. US Airways’ marketing chief said, “I don’t want to sound overly passive, but we were a little surprised” that Southwest decided enter the Philly market. That kind of foresight is a problem, no?

And finally, this has absolutely nothing to do with travel, but I thought you might like to know that producers of several Spanish soap operas (telenovelas) have said that they no longer want their actors to wear mustaches. I’m not sure about their actresses.

US Airways, Yet Again

But first,

JetBlue has postponed its entry to LaGuardia airport until the summer because of “facilities issues.” I imagine that means that there are no facilities, something LGA travelers have always known.

British Airways said that its workers are taking more than 625,000 sick days per year, at a cost of more than GBP50 million (with the miserably weak US dollar, that equals about $364 jillion).

Southwest is making an extremely aggressive move in Philadelphia, adding a flurry of flights even before starting its previously announced service. US Airways is obviously the target of the new flights, and that carrier will have little recourse in Southwest’s expansion. To me, what’s most interesting is that this is the most aggressive I’ve seen Southwest; typically, they’ll add a couple of flights to a couple of cities and wait to see how well they do before expanding. Southwest smells blood, and, unfortunately for US Airways, they will be forced to give up the Philly hub to Southwest, just as it did in Baltimore.

US Airways and Virgin

US Airways CEO David Siegel held a conference call yesterday with all employees telling them that, in short, unless manna falls from heaven, they are screwed. Siegel noted that the airline needs to drop its cost per seat mile from 10 cents to a JetBlue-like 6 cents per mile, and that half of this reduction will come from unions, most of which don’t want to negotiate. A 40% reduction in seat costs is as likely as me spinning straw into gold. Siegel then went on to blame Southwest’s entry into Philadelphia for the airline’s woes. This is like Martha Stewart blaming her troubles on “the media.” Southwest is not the problem, costs are the problem.

US Airways may find that manna from heaven, though, in the form of Richard Branson. The Virgin mogul suggests obliquely that he may launch his Virgin USA by acquiring some part of US Airways. Interesting.

Speaking of Virgin, the airline announced a rather aggressive expansion schedule for 2005 including new flights from London to the Bahamas, Australia and Cuba. Yes, Cuba. Everyone is allowed to travel to Cuba except Americans. That embargo sure seems to be working!

SWISS and Ted

Good news for you guys who snapped up SWISS’ cheap tickets to Europe this spring: it looks like they’ll actually survive long enough to get you to Zurich. The airline announced that they have enough liquidity to make it through their slower winter months this year. Finally some good news for the airline carrier, whose CEO resigned last month following a probe into a 2002 crash.

And United now says that they will launch a few TED flights from its Chicago hub to some leisure destinations. Oh TED. TED TED TED. Allow me to get this straight: You are pulling mainline planes from your current routes to places like Tampa. These planes featured a handful of first class seats (that nobody paid for) and little else of note. You are replacing them with spacious planes with amazing entertainment systems and a wonderful choice of food. You are calling the new, amenity-laded aircraft your budget carrier. You are then allowing everyone else to pay wads of money for the opportunity to fly on the old, amentity-free aircraft. Hm. There’s something a wwweeeeeeeeeeeeee bit odd about that, isn’t there?

I have a modest proposal for United & Delta, which have mistakenly given budget travelers a better experience than their mainline business passengers. Expand TED & Song throughout the entire domestic network. Eliminate first class, but spread out your coach seats to 34 inches. Maintain your international route networks and fly those routes with planes outfitted with business class. Upgrade business class to meet the standards being set by virtually every non-US airline. Stop taking advantage of the business traveler by making them fly inferior aircraft domestically while rewarding families spending $69 to fly to Tampa with full entertainment units. Please, your branding should make some sort of rational sense. When business travelers are cramped in a regional jet for 3 hours from New York to Little Rock and grandma is flying in 34″ seat pitch royalty to West Palm, you’re never going to succeed.

Midwest…And a Hijacking

The Chicago Tribune re-examines Midwest Airlines (formerly Midwest Express), which dropped many of its frills to become a lower cost carrier. Gone are the wide seats and shrimp scampi—but the warm chocolate chip cookies are still there. Here’s the most interesting tidbit for you: the airline was founded by paper company Kimberly-Clarke, which was frustrated with service to its home airport of Milwaukee.

The concorde will float down the Thames river on April 6th on its way to Scotland. If you’re in London, that should make for quite a sight.

Two Iranians who hijacked a plane to Oslo in 1993 have been told by Norway’s government that they can remain in Norway because it would be too dangerous for them to return to Iran. Yes, you read that correctly.

And finally, the NY Times has an incredibly inane article about how wealthy people are choosing to fly JetBlue. Any article that quotes so-called “trend watcher” and master of the obvious Faith Popcorn loses all credibility. She is quoted saying, “Flying JetBlue isn’t just about taking a trip, it has actually become something fun to do.” No it hasn’t. It’s about going someplace. Just because your doctor’s office has cable TV in the waiting room doesn’t mean that getting a colon screening has actually become something fun to do. I hate her.

Updates…Among Other Stories

A couple of updates for you on stories I mentioned last week.

Alas, Virgin has decided not to install the urinals shaped like a woman’s mouth in their new lounge at JFK. The National Organization for Women complained that the urinals were sexist (Virgin did point out that the urinals were conceived and designed by women, to no avail). Says a NOW spokesperson: “We hope that they do not intend to put these degrading fixtures in countries where women are less likely to stand up for themselves.” Look for the urinals in the Virgin departure lounge in Lagos next week.

I also mentioned the 727 found chock full of mercenaries in Harare, Zimbabwe a couple of weeks ago. The NY Times has an update to the story. Turns out that it is quite likely the mercenaries were headed for Equitorial Guinea to overthrow the government. There are many odd twists to the story, not the least of which is that the main opposition leader accuses the president of the country of being a cannibal. According to the article:

Mr. Moto (the opposition leader) makes no secret of his hatred of President Obiang: on Spanish radio this month, he called him a demon who “systematically eats his political rivals.”

“He has just devoured a police commissioner. I say `devoured,’ as this commissioner was buried without his testicles and brain,” he said, adding that Mr. Obiang hungered for his body parts as well.

Lovely.

Several airlines that had applied for loans from the government are now having their records subpoenaed. The investigation is looking at whether the head of the loan board received gifts from the airlines.

And finally, those of you who fly Spirit Airlines and are tired of flying on miserable old MD-80s will be happy to know that Spirit has ordered a bunch of new A320s for your flying pleasure.

Delta…and the Funky Urinal

In what I hope is a preview of changes to come, Delta has introduced a simplified fare structure for intra-Florida flights. Gone is the labrynthine matrix of fares to get you from Tallahassee to West Palm Beach. Floridians will now enjoy a 4-fare system, with a 7-day advanced purchase, a 3-day, and a refundable and non-refundable walk-up fare. No minimum stay is required, and fares are reasonable: Orlando to West Palm Beach fares range from $60 each way to $120 each way (a nice model for how fares should probably be set, though on transcon flights, the market would likely absorb a full fare that was 3-4 times as high as the lowest fare, as JetBlue, Southwest, Frontier and others do).

I saw an article yesterday (sorry, no link, I can’t remember where it was) that said that United’s TED had a strong 80something percent load factor and used this number as a sign of the airline’s success. One thing to remember: people were already flying those routes, and, not surprisingly, United has not announced what the old load factors used to be. Nor have they noted what the yields are under TED compared with under United. Just something to keep in mind.

And finally, Virgin has introduced a urinal in the shape of a mouth for its lounge at JFK. See photos here. Only in New York, kiddies, only in New York.

Shortsighted…and United Delays Emerging from Bankruptcy

Interesting report out of CSFB yesterday revising profit estimates on American Airlines, now suggesting that they will not be in the black for 2004. This is interesting because the report blames this turnaround on 2 factors: higher fuel prices and excess capacity. Excess capacity, you may be asking yourself? Yes—it seems like just yesterday that airlines were sticking their planes in the desert, reducing frequencies and shrinking aircraft. Well, about 45 seconds after they stuck their jets in the desert, they started pulling them back out again, dumping capacity on competitive routes (screw you, JetBlue!) and diluting profitability. How quickly we forget.

In other news, United Airlines will push back their emergence from bankruptcy from June 30 to some point later in the summer. They must reduce their $1.6 billion government loan request before this can happen. As previously discussed here, United will use your tax dollars to lower their fares to drive Frontier out of business so they can once again raise fares to untenable levels.

And finally, the NY Times has an article looking at the now-getting-interesting Australian airline market, where Virgin Blue has turned the industry in that country upside down with its low fares.