Monthly Archives: April 2009

The OTR Takes a 1 Month Hiatus: It’s Not You It’s Me

After 5 1/2 years of writing this site nearly every day, I’ve decided I need a short break – just until June 1st. Or maybe a bit earlier.  Or a bit later.  But roughly then.  I think most people read this site through a feed, so you’ll find out when I’m back that way.  Or just keep checking the site every day until then.  Hitting refresh over and over.

I will still keep up the Twitter account at twitter.com/cheapestairfare and I’ll continue to post airfare deals there (as well as an occasional story or two that I find interesting).

Thanks for your understanding and for sticking with the OTR since 2003.  I’ll see you in June.

Allegiant Posts Q1 Earnings – It’s Like They’re in a Different Industry

Allegiant posted strong financial results for the first quarter, earning $1.37 per share in a miserable demand environment.  I don’t usually talk about financials here, but if you care about this stuff, it’s worth reading their release (which I linked to above).  A few highlights:

They bring in $34 in anciallary revenue for each passenger on top of the $74 average fare (though that average fare is down $12.50 from last year’s Q1 average fare).  Their planes fly 90% full, and they have a 31% operating margin.  Their cash reserves actually grew $61 million over the year.

Sure, they’re facing the same fare pressures as everyone else.  But they’ve stayed out of the way of competition, and developed an ancillary revenue stream that continues to grow.  They can buy MD-80 aircraft for next-to-nothing.  And while that was hurting them a bit when fuel was expensive, it doesn’t hurt them at all anymore.  

Great job all around.

(BTW – I used to own ALGT shares.  I don’t anymore).

Did a Cathay Pacific Employee Allow Passengers to Have Sex in the Crew Rest of a 777?

Cathay Pacific is investigating whether a purser allowed a couple traveling in first class from Toronto to Hong Kong to have sex in the crew rest area of the 777.  The passenger, a doctor in his 20s, and his girlfriend were, uh, cuddling in first class when the purser allegedly asked if they’d like to use the rest area to, um, complete their activities.  They supposedly said yes and headed off to take care of business. 

The airline found out about this when the doctor posted photos of the crew rest to his blog, and implied that he was involved in some romantic activities in there (this sounds like a Cinemax movie, I know).  In any case, the airline is investigating.

UPDATE: Our CANjet Man Not in Havana…Canadian Charter Flight Hijacked in Jamaica

UPDATE:  The passenger was captured and no one was injured.

A passenger described as “mentally challenged” has hijacked a CanJet 737 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  The hijacker has a gun, but he has released all of the passengers.  He has demanded that the remaining crew fly him to Cuba.  That part is a bit odd, as the plane was schedule to fly to Santa Clara, Cuba, anyway.

I’m sure you’ll hear about this elsewhere.

Don’t Eat Honduran Food Before That Flight from San Pedro Sula

A passenger who took a Delta flight from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to Atlanta faces felony charges after he grabbed a flight attendant on his way to use the bathroom.  A bit more:  He told the flight attendant about 30 minutes into the flight that he really had to use the bathroom because he had some Honduran food that upset his stomach.  

The flight attendant told him that the aisle was blocked by the beverage cart (why doesn’t everyone use the JetBlue tray method of passing out drinks?) and asked him to wait.  He asked to use the business class lav and was refused.

A bit of time went by and he had to go.  He couldn’t get past the cart, so he headed for the front cabin.  A fight attendant put up her arm to block the man from using the business class class toilet, and he grabbed her arm and pushed her to the side so he could go.

I’m not sure what the key takeaway is…what’s the guy supposed to do?

(Thanks, Doug, for the link…)

United Joins Other Airlines in Making Bumped Obese Passengers Buy Two Seats

United announced yesterday that it would join several other major carriers in forcing obese passengers who were bumped from their flight to purchase two tickets on the new flight to which they have been re-booked  (JetBlue, Delta and Southwest are the others).

Obese is defined as not being able to buckle your seatbelt with one extension while putting down the armrest fully.  United says that they received 700 complaints last year from passengers who said that obese passengers were (and I’m paraphrasing here) all up in their stuff.

If empty seats are available on the re-booked flight, United will not force the obese to purchase two tickets.

On a positive note, with the double elite miles promotions going on right now, an elite passenger bumped from a Boston – Seattle roundtrip on AA through Dallas will actually earn elite status from just that one roundtrip (assuming they had to buy two tickets).  Hm…I better go back to the buffet.

Can the Online Agencies Survive with No Fees?

A quick word about online agencies:  Following Orbitz announced last week that it was (basically forced into) eliminating fees on airline ticket bookings, it joined the other major online agencies in dropping the $5-10 charge from their airline ticket sales.  Priceline dropped fees a while ago and saw a nice gain in market share, as their competitors kept their fees (while enjoying the cash they generated).

One Expedia and Travelocity dropped the fees (albeit temporarily), Orbitz had no choice.  And that’s rough for them, since reportedly about 60% of their cash flow (EBITDA) comes from these fees.  Uh oh.  

You may have heard the old theory that if every competitor in a market offers a low price guarantee, you’ll actually end up with higher prices since there is no incentive to drop prices.  A simlilar situation has occurred here:  Priceline was making up (at least part) of the fees by generating market share from the move.  Once competitors joined in, every company ends up taking a haircut.  The end result is no shift in market share with lower profits.  Not a good situation.

Perhaps the OTAs could shift from share from people who were previously booking directly with the airlines, but I see that as a very small piece of the pie.  And the math still doesn’t work:  if OTAs were making, let’s say, $9 from each airline ticket and $6 from each additional fee, they would have to shift a helluva lot of share to make up that missing $6.  

I could see Expedia and Travelocity eliminating the fee as a means of putting the screws to Orbitz, but Orbitz may just have to go and put the fee back in and hope that, eventually, Expedia and Travelocity decide they can’t live without the additional revenue.  Either way, Orbitz is in a rough spot.

Pakistan International Airlines Pilot Refuses to Fly Economy, Delays Flight 90 Minutes

A off-duty pilot for Pakistan International Airlines caused a ruckus of sorts on a flight from Karachi to Jeddah last week when he refused to fly in coach.  Off-duty pilots are entitled to a business class seat, but business class was full.  The plane was already taxiing for takeoff when the aircraft’s pilots radioed the tower and requested to return to the airport for technical reasons.  That wasn’t true, however, as they simply wanted to gate agents to cut a deal with one of the business class passengers to change seats with the off-duty pilot, who was at that point causing a disturbance on the plane.

Despite offering compensation, none of the passengers would switch seats.  In the end, they allowed the off-duty pilot to sit in the cockpit (I’m not sure how that’s more comfortable than coach, but there you go).  For whatever reason, the pilot was not disciplined after delaying the flight for an hour and a half.

Turkish Airlines Plane Lands at Wrong Airport in Georgia

A Turkish Airlines plane mistakenly landed at the wrong airport near Tbilisi, Georgia, yesterday, touching down at a military air base rather than the commercial airport 10 miles away.  Incredibly, this did not cause a massive international incident.  And also luckily for the passengers, they did not mistakenly land in Atlanta, Georgia.

Judge: Airlines Can Keep You on Tarmac for 9 Hours

An Arkansas judge dismissed a case against American Airlines filed by a passenger who was stuck on the tarmac in Austin, Texas, for more than 9 hours back in 2006.  The passenger had filed a claim of false imprisonment, and while the judge had sympathy for the passenger, he said the case didn’t meet the definition of that charge.

The key part of this is that the airline told passengers they could get off the plane if they wanted to (doesn’t quite sound like imprisonment), though they added that passengers would be “on their own” if they left the aircraft.  The plaintiff added that she felt claustrophobic (really?  in coach?) and had an upset stomach the next day (really?  after 9 1/2 hours on a plane?).  Oh, she added that the upset stomach was likely caused by her not being able to wash her hands after going to the bathroom because the water had run out.  Right.

I can’t imagine how miserable it was being stuck on that plane, but this case had zero merit.  And as much as legislation against this type of thing may seem like an obvious solution, it will cause far, far more problems than it solves.

Airlines have cleaned up their acts when it comes to looooon tarmac delays since the JetBlue snowstorm disaster a couple of February’s ago.  Airlines are quick to allow you to change your flight when a storm is coming, and they now give ample warning for those changes.  Plus, they’re being much more conservative about canceling flights when big storms are coming.  This has done more to improve the customer experience than any piece of legislation would.

I’m hardly apologizing for the airlines, which have done a miserable job apologizing for these types of events.  But let’s be realistic – legislation won’t solve the problem.