Monthly Archives: December 2004

A Final Word for 2004…

I was thinking about doing a Top 10 predictions for 2005, but I thought I’d just pass along one useful piece of advice:  If you have US Airways Dividend Miles, please book a ticket on a partner airline.  My number one prediction was going to be that US Airways will liquidate.  If that happens, the miles are gone.  I cannot promise if US Airways goes under that partner airlines will honor the free tickets, but I do know that if you book a free ticket on US Airways, it will be gone.  So even if you don’t have a trip planned, please please please book a ticket on United or Lufthansa (preferably the latter) and give yourself a shot at getting something for the miles.

OK fine, here’s my Top 10 predictions for the year.  And please don’t go back and look at these 12 months from now…I may be completely wrong.

1) US Airways will shut down.  I really feel terrible about this, as, especially on the east coast, US Airways has a long history dating back to when it was Allegheny and Piedmont.  This will be a blow to several local economies, and it will put lots of people out of work.  Almost as bad, it’s not enough capacity to really impact the industry enough in a positive way.

2) Fares will go up.  We’ve already started to see this on transcon routes (for most of this year, you could fly transcon for $200.  Not so much any more), and it will become more widespread.  It won’t be enough to bring airlines out of the red, though.

3) Indepdence Air will go back to being a United feeder.  Fly-i just underestimated the power of the majors’ frequent flyer programs…and I think people kinda hate the regional jets.

4) United will not disappear.  I think they’ll emerge from bankruptcy mid-year and be on the brink of returning to bankruptcy then-on.

5) Continental will start charging for meals.  They were the last holdout, and with Gordon Bethune gone, so too will be the "meals at mealtime." 

6) United’s P.S. experiement will be a success–and we’ll see the majors match.  United has taken a huge step to differentiate their transcon product and they’re actually able to charge a bit more for it.  Somone else (Delta?) will jump on this and also offer a premium product transcon.

7) First class fares will continue to be reasonable.  There has been a HUGE change in first class fares, especially transcon—for $1200 you can fly coast-to-coast up front.  Six months ago you couldn’t buy a coach ticket last minute for that price.

8) Virgin America will be a huge success immediately (like JetBlue).  Or they won’t launch in 2005.  I’m not sure.

9) There are a bunch of business plans for lowfare carriers to Europe floating around.  One of these will launch in 2005.  And fail.  Because 10 months of the year you can fly from NYC to London for $99.  How much lower could it be?

10) First class seats will continue to disappear off airplanes.  Continental has been removing first class seats from its 757-300s, aircraft used primarily on leisure routes.  Airlines have been moving toward differentiating its leisure route product (Song, for example); Continental is doing this by removing first class seats from these aircraft.

There ya go…Happy New Year.  And book those tickets using Dividend Miles.

Northwest Airline Flight From Hell Follow Up

Quick follow up to yesterday’s story about the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Seattle:  The airline is giving passengers vouchers good for a free flight in the US or Canada.  I’m sure the Europeans on that flight will be thrilled with that compensation.

Aloha Files Chapter 11

Aloha Airlines filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy today, joining ATA, United, US Airways and fellow Hawaiian islander Hawaiian Airlines.  Welcome to the club.  The airline will continue to fly as normal.  Which means it will continue to lose money.  At least fuel is getting cheaper.

Interview with AA CEO

For you Wall Street Journal subscribers, you should check out the interview with American Airlines’ CEO Gerald Arpey.  Highlight?  When discussing the removal of pillows from AA planes, Arpey said if he wanted to sleep on a filght, "I’d bring my own pillow."  Indeed.

10 Hour Flight Takes 28 Hours

300 passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Seattle had a miserable experience, as they were stranded on the ground in Moses Lake, Washington, for 18 hours.  Because of fog at Sea-Tac airport, the airplane was forced to circle after its 10 hour flight from Amsterdam.  Once the plan ran low on fuel, it was diverted to Moses Lake, where it awaited another Northwest crew to take over.  This crew had to fly in from Minneapolis.  In a mean twist, the plane carrying the replacement crew had mechanical difficulties.  Passengers were not allowed off the plane for at least 8 hours, during which time the airplane ran out of food and its toilets broke. 

Northwest has apologized and offered the passengers vouchers for a future flight.

Continental Orders 7E7

I promise I will not start printing articles here about new plane orders.  Except today.  Continental announced that it has ordered 10 of the new Boeing 7E7s for delivery in 2009.  This is significant for 2 reasons:  first, that Continental is the only US airline to order this plane; and second, that Boeing believes Continental will still be around in 2009.

US Airways Asks Staff to Work for Free

Let’s say you work for US Airways and you’re looking for a way to make yourself feel good during the Christmas season.  Perhaps you’ll volunteer for a non-profit organization.  Perhaps you’ll help the needy in some way.  Well, US Airways has just the plan for you.  It is asking its non-union staff to volunteer (that means without pay) at Philadelphia Airport during the New Year’s rush.  I call this Habitat for H’US Airways. 

You did read that correctly:  US Airways is solving its sick-out problem by asking non-union workers to volunteer over New Year’s. 

"This is a volunteer program," the airline said in an email to staff
published by the paper. "You will not be paid if this is on your day(s)
off. It promises to be a rewarding opportunity to learn more about the
operation of our airline and come face to face with our customers."

Rewarding.  Like slavery.

KLM Lowers Intra-European Fares

KLM has woken up and realized that its European routes are under siege by low cost carriers.  Welcome to 2001, KLM.  With that, KLM has lowered fares on flights within Europe (as many, if not most, other flag carriers have already done).  Flights to Heathrow are now 69 Euro, down from 109.  Not Ryanair low, but an improvement.

India to Allow Domestic Airlines to Fly Overseas…Sort of

Big change in the Indian aviation world was announced today:  India’s domestic carriers will now be permitted to fly to overseas destinations.  India has tried mightily to protect its two government-owned carriers (Air India and Indian Airlines) but has now agreed that its rather successful domestic carriers (such as Sahara Airlines and Jet Airways) can brng down prices on international routes.  But not entirely.  Popular flights to the Gulf states will be off-limits to the upstarts, as the government seeks to protect these highly profitable routes for itself.  However, it’s a big step forward…

JetBlue Fare Sale

I rarely bother to mention fare sales here because they’re generally no big deal.  But since I like JetBlue, I’ll let you guys know that JetBlue launched a pretty good sale, featuring $55 fares from the northeast to Tampa & Orlando, $65 to the rest of Florida, $75 to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and $85/95 cross country.  Fares are good through May, except for Florida fares which are only good through mid-February.