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A Few Stories to Note…

A few stories have passed by in the last couple of days that I thought were worth noting:

– Continental announced that it will give up its free food in coach (and, blessedly, stop running this incredibly awful ad) on domestic flights under 6 hours.  There has been a decent amount of discussion in ye olde blogosphere about whether the slightly-over-six hour transcons from Newark to San Francisco will get free food.  My answer?  Who cares.  Buy your food before you get on board.  Continental decided (correctly) that people were not paying a premium to get food on board, so why not offer better food for $6?  I can’t believe people were actually complaining about this.

– Minneapolis-based Sun Country will offer once-weekly service between Minneapolis and London-Stansted during the summer.  The carrier will fly a 737-800 on the route, necessitating a fuel stop in Gander, Newfoundland.  As if it’s 1958.  Hm…Delta flies the route nonstop every day; no U.S. carrier has made flights to Stansted work; you have to stop in Gander.   How could this fail?

– Allegiant, the best-run airline in the US, announced that it will purchase 7 757s so that it can begin service to Hawaii.  I’m not one of those people who believes that the world comes to an end when an airline that flies a single type of aircraft introduces a new plane (ie, JetBlue).  I do think that Hawaii is a very different market than Vegas or Phoenix or Orlando, and I’m very curious how they can make flights from Bellingham (or wherever) work in the same way that they get people to buy packages to Vegas.  If anyone can do it, Allegiant can.  But it will be extremely difficult for them to lead with $69 fares to Hawaii (as they do to other destinations), and I think that Hawaii is a much more considered purchase than the other destinations they offer.  That said, if it doesn’t work, 757s are always in demand, and I’m sure they can get rid of them and pretend this never happened.  Also, based on what they’ve done in the past, they’ll give a city a couple of months to do a profitable business; if it doesn’t, they’ll try flying to Hawaii from someplace else.  This is a bold move…

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  1. The Sun Country route (summer only) isn’t necessarily doomed to failure, but I suspect you’re right that they’ll have plenty of problems with it.

    In case you haven’t noticed, the prices for summer travel to Europe are obscene. The airlines were charging almost $1200 to get from MSP to LON before these guys showed up. I think I’d pass at that price.

    So running an affordable Friday outbound, Sunday return flight could make sense — even with a stop. But is a $399+ ow fare really going to get discretionary pax to travel? I doubt it. At $299, maybe.

    There biggest problem is matching. I see KLM — which sells seats on DL’s nonstops — already has a matching fare loaded on Fridays. Let’s see, you can fly the biggest airline in the world nonstop, earn fr miles — or you can stop in Newfoundland on Sun Country. Tough choice, right?

    What might be smarter for Sun Country to do is offer a summer Europe flight where there is no direct competitor.

  2. Unfortunately given the taxes to fly to the UK, the $399 fare comes to $936. As you pointed out, summer fares to Europe have been absolutely insane this year. That said, $936 is not an impulse purchase.

    No US carrier has made Stansted work, despite the large number of lowfare connections from there. I don’t expect a giant number of people 1-hopping to STN, then connecting elsewhere.

    I’m not sure where else they could’ve chosen. Icelandair offers good connections to much of Europe thru KEF, and Delta offers a large number through AMS. Maybe Paris? But even Continental couldn’t make that work from CLE.

    Perhaps we’re missing the point, and they’ve already sold blocks of those seats to tour operators in the Minneapolis area…

  3. I’d say the chances of success for SY to London are somewhere between slim and none. Why do they think such a route is even desireable? It’s one thing if you’re offering it from, say, MKE, where there is no direct or non-stop service, but MSP has plenty of options with the massive DL hub and Icelandair, both of whom will totally outmarket SY. Almost $1,000 to fly on a 737 via Gander in both directions? C’mon now. Let’s get serious. It’s pretty clear that they have an aircraft with nothing to do and have to fly it somewhere. When you’re not making money you have to at least generate revenue to pay for the lease. Crazy idea.

  4. And one more thing…..what tour operators in Minneapolis/St. Paul. No one local will commit to space, and their biggest customer, Hobbit Travel, went belly up in December. Grasping at straws.

  5. I understand about the tour operator situation in MSP, but I simply can’t believe they looked at that route and thought it made sense. We’re clearly missing something. Maybe getting 140 people on a flight once a week just during the summer isn’t a problem? I mean, it only flies about 10 times total…

  6. Anyone have a guesstimate what the CASM of this flight would be?

    I mean, in summer, you can clearly fill up ANY US-London flight, at the right price. It just doesn’t seem like $399 each way (plus the nasty taxes) would be the right pricing for a no-name airline with a fuel stop.

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