7 Cranky Posts That Were Wrong

Cranky 10

In the last of the series where I look back on the last 10 years of Cranky, I pull out some posts where I screwed up. I’d like to say that every post I’ve ever written has been completely, 100 percent right. I’m sure this is shocking to you, but that hasn’t always been the case. Sometimes, my best guess is proven wrong with time. Other times, I just got it wrong when I wrote the thing in the first place.

Here are 7 posts that I’d like to take back (or modify), in date order.

  • The US Airways/America West Res System – Technically it looked like the migration to a single reservation system went well for US Airways and America West when it happened, but that proved to be wrong. It went very poorly and in fact, became a case study that US Airways itself used to successfully pull off its integration with American.
  • United’s “Rock Star” Business Class – I thought United’s pre-merger flat beds in Business Class looked like “rock stars.” Oops. The flat beds were nice, but going 8 across on a 777? Bad, bad idea. People do not like these seats, and they can’t disappear soon enough.
  • United’s Second Bag Fee – When United rolled out a fee for its second checked bag, my knee-jerk reaction was that it was bad. But as frequent readers know, over time I’ve come to believe in the ancillary strategy. I know some of you will say I got this right way back in 2008, but I disagree… with myself.
  • Allegiant in Hawai’i – When Allegiant acquired 757s to fly to Hawai’i, I was excited. I thought this plan would do well, and I hoped it might even mean service from Long Beach. None of that happened. The original small-city routes did poorly, and only a couple of big city routes survived. It wasn’t enough, however, and the 757s are on their way out, as is all Hawai’i service.
  • Miami’s Decline – There were some obnoxiously angry commenters who disagreed with this one when I said Miami’s air service was in peril because of absurdly high costs. What I didn’t quite pick up at the time was that while insane costs did indeed keep low cost carriers out, it created a perfect fortress hub for American. Nobody else could justify challenging the airline with airport costs that high. Sure, the airport has cooled off as Latin America has struggled with economic problems, but that won’t stop American from continuing to dominate one of the few true fortress hubs left. That’s not how I’d want to run an airport, but I was still wrong.
  • The United/Continental Res System – Sensing a trend here? Again, this one appeared to switch successfully at first. But the problems and glitches grew from there and it took years before the airline could get them under control. This was really, really wrong.
  • American’s A321T – I thought American was insane for rolling out a new First Class-equipped transcon airplane, but sure enough, it’s been a profitable hit (at least in LA). Even the incoming US Airways management team had to admit it was totally wrong on this one. I must do the same, since at least in LA, it has worked very well.

Now, the moment the trolls have been waiting for… what else did I get wrong? Post your favorites in the comments.

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17 comments on “7 Cranky Posts That Were Wrong

  1. CF – let’s commisarate. once in a while i need and get some humble pie. I thought AS would not do well with the DL incursion in seattle.

    Keep (airline) thirsty my friend!

    1. What about all the digital ink spilled about the overcapacity with Southwest/Frontier/United all going crazy in Denver? Aside from low fares for the locals what has been the outcome? Were there predictions? Personally I thought Frontier would bleed to oblivion but that hasn’t happened yet. But like Seattle I think things will play out over more than a decade.

    2. IO – I think we all thought that in some way!

      A – Frontier effectively did go under. It just was reborn as an ultra low cost carrier. Meanwhile Southwest has grown relentlessly and United hasn’t put much into Denver.

  2. It has been around 8 years since airlines adopted the nickel-and-dime methodology, and I still hate it. Airlines should charge one honest fare and skip the annoying fees. Of course, the fees are not taxed as part of the fare, so the airlines don’t have to share fee revenue with the government. The ticked tax should be a percentage of the “all-in” price.

  3. For awhile you thought American Airlines headquarters was in Dallas instead of Fort Worth! These two cities are in different counties and are worlds apart in culture and just about everything else. You should visit some time…you would probably go home with cowboy boots and hat!

  4. Cranky: you have written a lot about the Tarmac delay rule prior it going into effect, and a few times after. It has not caused a deluge of cancellations or other disruptions, and many of the other implications you wrote about. In fact, almost all airlines run a decent on-time performance (while severe weather seems to have gotten worse since you started your blog way back when). So I think that might be one where you saw a bigger bear than what has happened in reality.

    Personally, I thought I could probably get to like United under new management. But I don’t. I have given them a fair 4 month try, using them weekly in the beginning of this year. But nothing good came from that. I also thought I could not live without Delta. But I can. My next “what I got wrong” will probably be my opinion of flying JetBlue, Southwest and/or Virgin. I have never been on Virgin USA and have been on JetBlue a grand total of three times in my entire life, and only once on Southwest ever.

    We all live and learn!

  5. Cranky – I don’t think you were wrong on United’s business class seats being great. For their time, they were best in class, far better than the seats American was installing, and still has on some of their 777s. Times change, and United’s seats do need to be replaced. But for the era, they were a game changer.

    1. Brian – They definitely were way better than American’s angled seats. That was a huge mistake on their part. But I don’t really ever remember hearing people say they liked those seats. There were better options in the market and United chose to let the finance team guide the decision. Had I said they looked decent or good, that’s one thing. But calling them “rock stars”? I still think that was wrong.

  6. I still don’t get the obsession with lie flat seats on a domestic flight unless it’s a red eye. I have flown SFO – JFK in domestic F and thought it was fine. No legacy carrier does lie flats for LAX – BOS or SFO – BOS which are both longer than LAX – JFK and no one complains.

    Why would AA do better with F seats on LAX – JFK instead of SFO – JFK? NorCal has more money than SoCal based on average income and GDP per person.

    1. Southbay Flier – This isn’t an issue of which market has more money. This is an issue of who needs to fly between LA/SF and NYC. There’s a lot more money filling a lot more fancy pants seats in the LA market. I’m told SF actually does pretty well now too, but keep in mind that LAX-JFK has 12 American flights today while SFO-JFK has 6.

  7. First, I strongly commend you for writing an article admitting you were wrong, let alone inviting other people to jump in and add to your list. There are far too few people in the world who can admit that they were wrong.

    Second, some of the topics on which you said you are wrong are far from being in a steady, final state.
    South Florida to Latin America competition is just getting warmed up and It is far too early to predict how any carrier will look. Likewise, the transcon markets are still very much evolving with shifts in market share and pricing. B6’s average fares, share and local revenue have increased dramatically. DL is now the largest carrier by passenger share in the JFK-LAX and -SFO markets and in the JFK transcon market on a combined basis. even in JFK-LAX, AA, DL and B6 have nearly identical amounts of local revenue. DL uses a large aircraft approach to the market with int’l aircraft while the B6 Mint aircraft carry 60 more passengers on the same aircraft as AA’s transcon 321s. AA is number 5 in share for the combined EWR/JFK-LAX/SFO market. If AA is profitable, B6 and DL likely are even more so.

    There is a whole lot that isn’t settled yet. I wouldn’t admit to being right or wrong until a chapter really closes -such as IT transitions.’

    Hats off to you for even broaching the topic.

    1. Tim – Thanks. But for American, even if things continue to change, we’re far enough along to know that introducing this airplane configuration was smart. I thought it was too premium-heavy and would fall flat on its face from the get-go. But by now, it proves it was worth doing. Now, might that change in a couple years? Sure. But by then, I won’t be able to say “told you so” anymore. ;)

      1. Thanks for your response
        I’m not sure that saying that a strategy is successful in one of the best periods of profitability due to low fuel prices in a highly cyclical industry is a very high bar to cross. Given that the transcon market has seen significant competitive changes just since American’s 321T strategy began, profitability can be measured many ways and has to include the cost of a unique cabin/aircraft that works in few other places on AA’s network, and strategic success also must include other factors, I think it is premature to declare the 321T strategy a success or failure. Further, I believe that the LaGuardia perimeter rule will be revoked in time which obviously has major implications for AA’s 321T JFK strategy. There is no economic reason it should remain and the economics of rebuilding LGA don’t work unless a whole lot more people fly thru the airport.
        At its core, AA’s 321T strategy is just UA’s JFK old strategy with a lower cost airframe. American’s competitive positioning in NYC isn’t a whole lot different than UA 20 years ago… perhaps only 15
        Again, I am glad you are willing to admit that you are wrong but I don’t think a short term determination of profitability absent other factors is an accurate or complete measure of success for a strategy as complicated as the transcon markets.

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