3 Links I Love: Newark Loses Slots, Alaska’s Regional Name, and JetBlue Looks for Virgins

Alaska Airlines, Government Regulation, Links I Love, United, Virgin America

This week’s featured link:
Change of Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) DesignationFederal Register
Lost in the madness this week was a change to Newark’s designation. The upshot is that slots are effectively going away in October. Airlines will still need to get terminal and gate space and file proposed operations, but it’s in theory going to be easier for new entrants.

Why do this? Well, operations have become more reliable at the airport. With United’s slot usage apparently declining, the feds saw an opportunity to try to let more airlines get access. Remember, the Department of Justice had filed suit to prevent United from acquiring slots from Delta in Newark to prevent too much concentration. This rule change achieves that goal. In fact, the United purchase from Delta is off. (Delta, however, long ago closed on its counter-transaction to get United’s slots at JFK.)

Pretty slick move by the feds here, though we’ll have to see if it negatively impacts ops at Newark.

Links I Love

Two for the road:
Virgin America Can Help Alaska Airlines Up its Game on Several FrontsFortune
Here’s a view that Alaska should have taken Virgin America’s brand and could learn a lot. I disagree. Some people are getting hung up on Alaska being too “regional” sounding. To that I say… Southwest.

Calling All Jetblue VirginsJetBlue
Clever, JetBlue. Clever. Time to start swaying the hipsters and techies who are crying over the loss of Virgin America.

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31 comments on “3 Links I Love: Newark Loses Slots, Alaska’s Regional Name, and JetBlue Looks for Virgins

  1. In re the Fortune article—this guy, had he been around 150 years ago, would no doubt have dumped all over a “regional” name like “Coca-Cola” as opposed to a good, solid, national name–like “Moxie”.

    1. Heck, Delta Air Lines is a regional name. It refers to the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana, which is the state where Delta was headquartered when the name changed to Delta.

      1. From Wikipedia:

        A river delta (originally, the Nile River delta) is so named because its shape approximates the upper-case letter delta (the shape is a triangle).

        Hence the tail design does look like the Delta symbol from the Greek alphabet. Whereas, the airline may have started using the name to represent the Mississippi Delta, people today assume the Greek letter (?) and some of it’s adopted meanings as it is now a worldwide airline.

        Any of the delta particles in particle physics or in chemistry, the addition of heat in a reaction.

        1. From Delta’s own news web site:

          1928: C. E. Woolman, the principal founder of Delta Air Lines, leads movement to buy Huff Daland Dusters. Renamed Delta Air Service for the Mississippi Delta region it served.

          So, the name Delta came from a very specific region of the country. The widget didn’t become Delta’s logo until later.

          1959: Delta is first airline to launch Douglas DC-8 jet service. The red, white, and blue triangle “widget” becomes Delta’s logo resembling the swept -wing appearance of a jet.

          The widget is what looks like a capital letter delta.

          http://news.delta.com/timeline-airline

  2. Fortune saying Alaska has “bare bones service” is laughable… who wrote this?

    “largely overlooked while others merged” isn’t true. Joe Sprague has said publicly they’ve had merger talks and nothing ever came to fruition or made sense. Just because someone wants to date you doesn’t mean you have to say yes… but this author makes it sound like Alaska is the red headed step child; when in fact is the cute geek playing Nintendo in Grandma’s bedroom that is plotting ways to take over the world with no one noticing.

  3. Yeah, that Fortune writer came off like an east coast a**hole who doesn’t step out of his own comfort zone (the eastern time zone) much. Doesn’t sound like he’s ever actually flown Alaska. I kind of expected him to call it *Alaskan Airlines.* I also don’t get how he thinks adopting a new name in the middle of this merger would be good for business, since it would be throwing away 2 established brands and replacing it with a new one, or an old one that wasn’t exactly well known on the east coast either

  4. Let me get this straight, United swaps its JFK slots with Delta for some of its slots at EWR. Delta gets the JFK slots but United does NOT get the slots it supposedly swapped for in EWR??? Sounds like a good deal to me……………

    1. Honestly, they’re getting the EWR slots for free (they’ll be able to run whatever they want with slots going away) while getting paid by Delta for their JFK slots. It’s a pretty good deal for United if they really wanted out of the JFK market.

  5. Believe I commented earlier about the regional nature of Alaska’s name. My argument against the Southwest excuse is a mark on a compass is far less specific as a state’s name. Had WN named their airline “Texas” do you think they’d be where they are today? I say no. Remember Northwest Orient? They dropped the “Orient” from the name but surely didn’t drop the flights to Japan. Not saying Alaska can’t overcome a regional perception without changing their name, I just think it’ll take time. And for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t adopt the Virgin name either.

    The Fortune article was harsh and I didn’t agree with everything but there were some deserved criticisms. That said it seemed written in a context of Alaska wanting to grow into a major. I’m not sure that’s their goal with this purchase. If they do want to grow into a DL, AA & UA they’ve clearly got a long way to go.

  6. My fondest hope for Alaska’s Virgin acquisition is that the can get themselves better gates at BOS. The ones they currently have are in the backwaters of terminal C next to the restrooms with no pre-check, food or beverages…

    1. Unfortunately the Virgin gate(s) is in the backwater of Terminal B with its own tiny security and minimal food.

  7. It is quite ironic that United presumably invested a lot to improve its operational performance (since UA’s OTP is overwhelmingly going to drive EWR’s overall OTP) and their reward is possibly more competition at their fortress hub. Granted, given that gates form a second, and often even-more-potent-than-slots, barrier to competition at US airports, UA is probably still safe, and may even be the biggest beneficiary since they have more flexibility to better use their many gates than smaller EWR players do, but it still seems like a messy incentive structure.

  8. Virgin and Alaska are the two airlines I fly most often. Name aside, changing the Virgin America experience to be like Alaska instead of the other way around is backwards. I know it’s mostly about routes and gates, but I think you’re trying to acquire customers and this is going to drive people away.

    1. It is of course to be hoped that strength will be added to strength, but aside from putting fannies in the seats, the hard reality of business requires that those seats are gonna have to generate enough $$$ to make the airline solvent, and not just during a time of really low fuel prices.

  9. The Fortune article is so badly misinformed. It’s like he never flew Alaska.

    1) Alaska is not a bare bones operation. In some ways it provides a better service than VX. It provides snack mix to all coach customers unlike VX. Alaska offers hot food as Buy on Board for long flights, I don’t think VX does.

    2) Alaska has service to more destinations than VX. While AS is not great to fly JFK-LAX/SFO, that route is very well served by many other airlines.

    3) Why should AS become more like VX? VX was an outfit that succeeded at losing money until fuel prices became low and they could raise fares post consolidation. AS management has shown that it can run a very successful airline through many different market conditions.

    4) As the the regional name of Alaska, it’s true that Southwest is a regional name, but so is Delta. It’s named for the Mississippi River delta. I don’t see it hurting Delta or that people think it should only fly around the Southeast anymore.

    1. AFAIK VX does have buy on board food, although it doesn’t seem to have hot food. Its cold food is just ordered via their seatback system.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see AS pick some of this up, but being ordered via your smart phone, tablet, or computer onboard, and perhaps only on the longer flights.

      AS’s management is probably one of the smartest in the room, up there with DL’s and AA’s, I’m sure they’ll look at what works nicely at VX and add it in if it makes financial sense.

      1. From the time I flew VX, I’m pretty sure they have cold buy on board and it looks better than what the legacies serve. The legacies have uninspired buy on board menus.

        I agree that AS will pick up some of the better features from VX that can be implemented without breaking the bank.

  10. Add me to the list of people who don’t agree with the Fortune article. I don’t see the VX brand being superior to the AS brand except that the former has trendy mood lighting. What I really like is the WN brand that charges one honest fare and doesn’t nickle and dime on the bag fees.

  11. In addition to the Fortune article having a provincial tone, as many have mentioned, did anyone else notice that the video is titled “Alaska Air Group Will Acquire Virgin Atlantic”? The narrator refers to the airline as Virgin Atlantic through the first 80% of the video, when she then starts referring to the airline as Virgin America.

    I find it odd that a reputable publication such as Fortune was so sloppy with this article.

  12. The Fortune article was terrible: highly inaccurate as to facts and highly biased as to opinion. As a person who flies Alaska Airlines often and Virgin America quite often, I don’t see anything bland about Alaska. Virgin America has some catchy gimmicks that may be fun the first time around, but Alaska, in my experience, has much better passenger service, both on the ground and in the air.

    1. RunningJock – I haven’t heard the inside story, but I can only assume that the investors were getting antsy. They’ve been very patient but they wanted a pay off. And they did very, very well for themselves.

  13. The Fortune article misses one thing about AS’s brand and the techies. Sure they like those fancy and cool things, but they also care about good design.

    AS has well designed seats when it comes to power and legroom. Maligning them as slimline torture seats (and linking to an article on how UA’s will be horrible) misses the work that AS has done to make them good. Yes, theres a bit less padding, but the legroom is good, the power ports are in a really intelligent and easy to access spot: the seat in front of you, not the stupid spot where AA has them next to your leg so you can accidentally grope your neighbor when you’re looking for them. Plus AS includes USB charging ports as well.

    So the techies might not go for Alaska automatically, but once they try it, I’m sure they’ll like it. I mean a travel product called Hipmunk has done quite well, does the name really matter anymore as long as its unique and memorable enough?

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