Monthly Archives: January 2005

United’s Mechanics Reject Deal

In a move that ranges in severity from "hm, that’s not good" to "oh crap," United’s mechanics union rejected the airline’s contract offer.  Worse, it said that it would strike if United went to court to impose the contract terms.  A strike during bankruptcy would be catastrophic at best.  Analysts I’ve seen quoted said a possible strike would be "suicidal" and "a death blow."  The contract would have reduced wages and benefits by 18.3%.  The mechanics will soon outline a counter-proposal that they say will offer United the necessary cost savings.

China, Taiwan Launch Direct Flights

A(n) historic day in China on Saturday as the first nonstop flight in 55 years between Taiwan and mainland China landed in Taipei.  A China Southern charter was the first flights between China and Taiwan that did not require a stop in a third country since 1949.  The charters were launched in conjunction with the lunar New Year, though many believe this is a major step toward scheduled service between Taiwan and China.

As ATW noted, in a diplomatic gesture, China’s flag carrier, Air China, did not carry the communist flag on its fuselage.

Delta Will No Longer Guarantee Shuttle Seat

One of the great airline marketing gimmicks is going away:  Delta used to guarantee any customer who showed up a seat on its DC-NY-Boston shuttle.  If one couldn’t be provided within 30 minutes of the next departure, the customer received a free shuttle ticket.  This harkens back, I think, to the old gimmick when Eastern ran the shuttle and said they kept an extra plane onhand in case one shuttle was full.  In any case, Delta is eliminating the guarantee policy.  This will have virtually no affect on anyone (US Airways also runs a shuttle, so seats are available every 30 minutes), but it was nice to know it was there.  Oh well.

Southwest to Stop Serving IAH

Southwest Airlines said yesterday that it will stop flying to Houston Intercontinental Airport (I believe it’s actually Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport for all of you sticklers out there) as of April 2nd.  Southwest’s CEO said that its routes from IAH to Dallas have not been profitable for years, so they will switch their focus to Houston Hobby which, as I think most of you who have been there will agree, is a much more pleasant airport.

Passenger Scuffles with Southwest Crew

A clearly disturbed passenger fought with flight attendants and tried to break into the cockpit on a Southwest flight from West Palm Beach to Philly.  The man was ranting about the government (understandable, I suppose), but then starting fighting with passengers and crew.  Passengers subdued the guy (whose photo is in the above article) and tied him up with duct tape (which I found funny for some reason).  The plane landed without further incident.

ATA Admits Defeat in Indianapolis

ATA surprised the airline nerd world yesterday by announcing that it is effectively shutting down its Indianapolis hub.  The press release linked above offers all of the details, but the short version is that ATA will discontinue most of its Indy flights by April 10th.  The Northwest Airlines crew must be cheering, as they’ve been throwing cheap flights out of Indy for the past year in an effort to drive ATA out.  Well done.  On the negative side, Northwest is not known for maintaining low fares when there’s no competition.

Song Will Fly Transcon

Delta announced that its low fare subsidiary Song will increase its fleet by 33% this year, adding a bunch of new service, including JFK to LAX, Seattle and San Francisco, and JFK to Aruba and San Juan. 

A couple of things to note:

–I don’t really understand the transcon service choice.  Song was started to service leisure destinations, which would allow Delta to differentiate between its business-focused Delta service and its leisure-focused Song service.  This blurs that line, leaving travelers confused as to what benefits you get from Delta mainline flights vs. the so-called leisure brand Song. 

–America West just pulled out of these markets saying that they couldn’t make any money on them.  And their costs are lower.

–United just improved service on these routes with their new P.S. product, offering lie-flat beds in first class, and all Economy Plus seating.  Is it odd that Delta is competing with this product by throwing its budget carrier at the route?  What does that say about Delta’s mainline product?  Why offer it at all?  Why not make Song Delta’s domestic brand, and Delta the international brand?  (actually, that’s not a terrible idea at all…)

New International Low Fare Carrier to Launch

The Department of Transportation has given approval to a new airline called SkyLink Airways to launch low fare international service from Baltimore.  The new company, launched by a former Midway Airlines executive, would like to launch 767 service from Baltimore to London-Stansted this summer, later expanding to as many as 15 other countries as diverse as Costa Rica and Slovakia.  The company says it will offer coach fares around $300 one way and business class fares at around $700 one way.

The airline faces any number of obstacles, not the least of which is, you’re probably already noting, airlines already offer fares lower than that most of the year to London.  And incumbent airlines fly to London airports that have easy connections to the city, unlike Stansted (though on the positive side, it will be easy to connect to Ryanair flights).  International flights tend to be profitable (though, of course, not always), so existing airlines will fight this new airline to the death.  A fare fight would good news for Baltimore-area international travelers, though.

More likely is that this airline will never launch.  They are still looking for $150 million and, as you may have heard, the industry is in a bit of a slump.

Independence Air Sale

Independence Air is running a helluva sale through Friday:  $44 gets you a flight from DC to any of its destinations, including Las Vegas.  $64 gets you a flight to and from any destination (say, New York to Vegas).  Not available on every flight, but there seemed to be a good amount of availability left.  Can’t beat $88 transcon round trip, can ya?

Goodbye Great Plains…We Hardly Knew Ye

Actually, I didn’t know ye at all.  Great Plains Airlines declared a Chapter 7 liquidation for the 4-year old carrier.  The small Tulsa-based airline ran turboprops around (not surprisingly) the Great Plains.  Now it doesn’t.