With 2016 coming to a close (thankfully, finally), it’s time to go back and review the predictions you made waaaay back at the beginning of the year. This year, I’m combining the review post with your predictions for 2017. So, read through and see how everyone did. Then hit the comments to leave no more than 3 predictions for 2017. (If you leave more than 3, I won’t include them in the year-end review.)
But before we get to 2017, let’s look at 2016. How did you do?
Drones vs Airplanes
*** – There will be a collision between a plane and a drone, there have been a number of close calls and it seems inevitable at some point.
Kilroy – A drone and a commercial plane collide. No fatalities save for the loss of civil liberties and the expansion of another bureaucracy at the FAA.
Ed – Completely agree that a drone and plane will collide. I’d add to that that there will be a lithium battery fire on an aeroplane this year.
Jason – Unfortunately there will be a collision between a drone and an aircraft with people on board.
We’ll start with the biggest non-airline topic brought up last year: drones. Did a drone and an airplane collide? No, but I imagine this is a prediction that many would make again this year. Chances are, it is only a matter of time until this happens. And when it does, let’s hope that the aircraft simply shreds the drone and nobody is hurt. Now, on to the airline predictions.
United’s Management Will Be Amazing or Terrible
Len – United will find stability in the C-suite, although that won’t translate immediately to improved operating performance.
Courtney.Miller – Oscar returns at United and positive changes continue. By December, United widely considered having the best US legacy leadership.
RD – United will continue to do better operationally and the CEO, (Oscar) will become much hated by Wall Street, and much loved by the employees, ultimately to his demise.
austinflyguy – United will stop blindly following Delta and will improve its customer experience and, baring labor disputes, will win over Delta frequent flyers.
Chicago Chris – United’s customer service scores will improve with new leadership, but employee relations will continue to suffer through 2017.
SDFDuck – United makes yet another change at CEO.
Jason – United sees modest gains in operational performance but still has plenty of work to do.
Predictions about United’s management team were all over the map. Certainly the reception has been very positive so far, but is it the best management team in the industry as Courtney predicted? It’s probably too early to say. Things have changed for the better, and there are some who think the team Oscar has assembled is the best out there. But we just haven’t seen tangible results to be able to make that determination just yet. It’s clear that Oscar is well-liked throughout the airline, and Wall St hasn’t sharpened its knives yet either. The operation has improved, but much of that is thanks to additional padding and not to having actually fixed problems. The airline has wrapped up labor agreements with everyone and there is peace in Chicago for now. We may not know if this translates to improved performance until this upcoming year, but so far, all signs are good.
United and the Dehubbing of LAX
Ryan – United drops the act and reliquishes its “hub” @ LAX. It will drop capacity as it focuses it’s Asia operations in SFO. The only services it will reatin are hub connections and pacific service. Some flights to larger non-hubs may also stay.
Well, United hasn’t really dropped more capacity from LAX this year, but it has made it clear that San Francisco is its number one west coast operation by a mile. Is LAX a hub? One day, someone calls it a hub at the airline. The next day it’s not. We haven’t seen new president Scott Kirby sink his claws into the airline’s network yet, but I imagine this year will bring a much better indication of how LA fits into the long term strategy. And I still think it’s a focus city.
Alaska Loses a Partner But Gains a Spouse
Nick – Delta and Alaska will finally separate and begin divorce proceedings
Nick – JetBlue and Alaska will begin a codeshare that leads to a merger, but Delta wants them so bad that they take everyone to court over it.
Richard – AS will end relationship with DL and find a merger partner with HA or B6.
Jonathan – A ME3 carrier takes a small equity interest in one of the following US-based airlines: Alaska, Jetblue, or Virgin America.
Chicago Chris – Rumors will swirl about Alaska and JetBlue flirting, but it goes nowhere.
Eric C – Believing that Delta’s EMB-190s are destined for the west coast, and having already serviced every city a 737 can reasonably service from SEA, Alaska orders a 100-seat class aircraft. Alaska starts seeing losses in revenue per ASM to Delta’s growth, but Delta’s much higher labor costs means Alaska has the better profit margin on competing routes.
Doug Swalen – Delta finally gives up on Love Field…takes it out on Alaska by breaking up with them.
Ted – There will be a US merger outside of the big 4 (WN, AA, DL, UA) as the smaller players try to gain scale.
BJ – Virgin America is aquired by Delta.
Christophe – DL – AS divorce is final.
JhanJensen – Delta and Alaska will go all out war on one another at SEA; partnership done. I am going to say that Alaska will be on the short end of this war and ends up merging with….AA. However a better fit would be jetBlue.
By far the hottest topic last year was what would happen with Alaska. Many thought that the Delta partnership would end. That announcement finally came just this month, so good work, team. Others wondered about the fate of the airline in terms of mergers and acquisitions. Though Jonathan was the only one to mention Alaska and Virgin America in the same sentence, he didn’t think the two would actually merge. Of course, as we know, they did merge and all those Alaska/JetBlue predictions were left out in the cold.
Southwest Labors to Innovate
Nick – Southwest still won’t have a labor deals that get approved and still make incredible profits.
RD – SWA will finally get Union unity with several contracts agreed upon, as well as announce assigned seating and some type of upgraded seating option with actual different seats; the Max 8 seat will trickle down slowly to the entire fleet.
MeanMeosh – Southwest still shuns bag and change fees, but announces the introduction of an extra legroom section available for an additional fee.
Richard – WN will charge for 2nd checked bag and start assigning seats when they start a true business cabin.
RD was right that there would be labor unity as Southwest signed agreements with several of its workgroups. But he and others believed that Southwest would actually start to innovate and change its product offering. Nope, that didn’t happen. Of course, the migration to a new reservation system is just now happening, so chances are if there will be any innovation, it’ll start coming out later next year. I’ll bet we see some changes in the back half of 2017, if all goes well.
Delta Operational Icarus
RD – Delta’s operational excellence will fall, and Wall Street will notice and begin to ask questions that relate to costs, primarily, why so many different fleet types, leading to a fleet simplification announcement toward the end of the year.
MeanMeosh – DL finally experiences a spate of operational issues. To their credit, they quickly apologize and offer compensation to their customers, minimizing pushback.
Noah – Delta expands basic economy to all routes, frustrating corporate travellers who are forced to take the lowest fare, but still fly Delta.
Noah – Delta’s pilots strike when they dont get insane raises
INDHNL – Delta terminates its CPA with Shuttle America (Republic Airways)
MeanMeosh got it almost right with the “spate of operational issues” point. Granted, it wasn’t a “spate,” and it was due to a tech failure that snarled operations for a few days and not due to anything systematic. But other than that blip, Delta continues to chug on. Basic Economy has expanded, Noah, but those pilots? They got their insane raises so no strike was needed. And INDHNL, good thought on Delta walking away from Republic, but it didn’t happen. Instead, bankruptcy changes kept Delta and Republic together.
American and Its Bounty of Hubs
SDFDuck – AA grows PHX and CLT
Alex – American will significantly marginalize one of its newly acquired USAir hubs. My guess is CLT, but there are reasons to do PHX also
I guess American is at that point in its merger where all the fun speculation has died out. Instead, we had two completely opposing viewpoints on some pre-merger US Airways hubs and that was pretty much the extent of it. American didn’t marginalize any hubs in 2016. Phoenix shrunk, but most of that came from using smaller aircraft (737-800 vs A321) and less night flying, and not any actual killing of the hub. Charlotte still remains as important as ever. Not much to talk about with American this year, and that’s a big change from last year. Is there more to think about in 2017?
Regionals: Pilot Problems and Bankruptcies
Richard – Regional pilot shortage will cause more mainline flights between smaller airports and hubs, upgauge in capacity with less frequency in hub to hub flying and several regional airlines will fail. Congressional action to reduce 1500 hour rule will happen, but it’s too late.
Courtney.Miller – Up to two large regional airline bankruptcies. Regional pilot shortage continues.
Doug Swalen – Republic files for bankruptcy. Congress is unmoved and fails to loosen things up regarding the 1500 hour rule.
Jason – At least one regional folds.
There’s no doubt the regional pilot issues have continued, and airlines have found themselves in trouble because of it. Doug is the winner in predicting that Republic would go bankrupt; that happened in February. But it is coming out of it intact and in a much better position than before. Nothing has happened on the 1500 hour rule (right again, Doug), so that’s something that will need to be dealt with during the next administration.
Low Cost, Long Haul
Tara – At least one low-cost carrier will introduce new routes between the USA & Europe, maybe Southwest or JetBlue. The fares will be less than the cost of YQ surcharges on economy award tickets and this will be advertised to the public causing a mass exodus from loyalty programs.
Len – Southwest across the Atlantic or some other LCC with ambitions taking on “the pond.”
It certainly wasn’t Southwest, but Norwegian is leading the latest charge to try low-cost, Transatlantic flying. The ramp up has begun, though success is far from assured. We’re still a bit early for JetBlue and others to consider this kind of flying, but it’s not that far away. JetBlue has already made it clear that this is on its radar when it gets its new A321LRs.
China Cities You’ve Never Heard Of
Ed – Many more flights from second (and third) tier Chinese cities to the US west coast and Australia
Nailed that one, Ed! I don’t know that anyone outside of China had heard of Changsha, let alone many other cities that are getting nonstop flights from the US. Chinese airlines are ramping up quickly and throwing airplanes anywhere they can find the pavement. This is like an arms race now, and it’s not quitting, even though most of these are likely not profitable.
airberlin’s Impending Death
Bernhard – Air Berlin will die.
Looks like you might have been a year too early, Bernhard. Airberlin is certainly in a death spiral, but so far, it’s still flying. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that name on the Airlines We Lost 2017 post a year from now, especially since Uncle Etihad isn’t going to help any more.
European Merger Potpourri
Lauri – IAG will buy Finnair.
Jonas – One of the European “Big 3” (IAG, LH, AF/KLM) or Etihad will (try to) buy (a part of) LOT.
Neither of these ended up being true, but I give Lauri credit for pitching hers two years in a row. (Same for 2017?) It was relatively quiet on the merger front within Europe. Sure we had Lufthansa Group buy out the rest of Brussels Airlines, but that hardly counts as significant consolidation. This wasn’t a banner year for European mergers, but then again, it never really is.
Jonathan – Baltia goes under and its 747 heads to the scrapyard.
It’s not a party without a Baltia prediction! I had to save this one for last. The 747 is gone, but Baltia isn’t quite dead yet. It now has designs on a 767, but it’s still trying to get itself airborne. It’s not going to happen, but good on them for continuing to try.
And that’s it for 2016. Now, let’s hear your top 3 predictions for 2017 in the comments below. Remember, only leave 3 or fewer predictions. If you leave more, then they’ll be ignored in the review next year.
Well I thought Virgin would be acquired by Delta. Picked the wrong bed partner.
Trump will announce plans to privatise US ATC.
An airline will announce a new cabin class between premium economy and business class called ‘small business’….
Zero for three! Well, let’s give this a shot again…
– One of the ME3 airlines changes CEOs. Increasing cost pressures and competition lead to the actual bosses firing one of the CEOs or said CEO “resigning”.
– Boeing announces a timeframe to end production of the 747. At least two new cargo operators sign on to take planes before the line closes. The USAF also announces firm plans for 747-8 orders to replace Air Force One and the E-4s.
– Basic Economy fares will continue to spread at airlines that already have them. However, continued bad publicity and disappointing revenue gains will mean that no US airline introduces Basic Economy fares.
1) Either American or Delta will follow United’s lead in not allowing carry-on baggage for basic economy fares.
2) Boeing will finally start work on a 757 replacement
3) Baltia will fly a plane in 2017 but it won’t have Baltia titles or Baltia pilots and it’s probably heading to a SEC meeting
we’d love to see that 757 replacement!
Only going with two.
1. Stagnant oil prices in the $50 to $60 range will hurt the ME3 hard in 2017. Expect slower growth and layoffs to expand.
2. United will order the c-series and finally add a 100 to 120 seater to the mainline fleet.
1) The Trump Administration will put more pressure on the ME3 as well as other international carriers like Norwegian to align with a more nationalist policy. This won’t change the airlines’ route strategy, but may force the carriers to hire more American employees.
2) Southwest will stick to their guns on two free checked bags and no change fees, but will finally introduce a premium economy of sorts…and by premium economy, I mean a little more leg room, free beverages and an upgraded snack.
3) Continued pressure from LCCs in both the US and Europe will make legacy carriers rethink their hub and spoke structure, and begin to launch more unique, nonstop routes. British Airways has taken the lead with this in some regards like this service to Austin, but I would expect American to join in on this fun as well to potentially some cities that aren’t their hubs but have a strong enough base for a Dreamliner (i.e. St. Louis or Kansas City to London, as well as Los Angeles or Dallas to Ho Chi Minh City or Delhi).
– Two EAS operators will merge/one will buyout the other
– Delta begins winding down the Narita hub
– Norwegian will attempt to fly from Secondary US cities to Europe and fail miserably
Norwegian is already flying from secondary US cities (Oakland)…
Also Norwegian flies to/from Oslo and Copenhagen to Fort Lauderdale using their 787’s.
– AA will finally hear backlash regarding lack of saver award and C bucket upgrade space availability and open it up some time next year.
– AA will start process of moving some transatlantic routes from PHL to CLT. PHL will be the de-emphasized AA hub going forward.
– AA and QF will resubmit joint venture with a few cosmetic changes to new administration and it will be approved.
1. Airbus will announce an end date for the A380 production line.
2. At least one of M3 will announce a complete merger/takeover with one of the Europeans (KLM/AirFrance/ALITALIA, Lufthansa/SAS or IAG)
3. (More like a dream rather than a prediction): Norwegian will start flying to Gatwick or The Netherlands (take your pick: AMS, EIN or RTM) from CLT (please)? I promise to buy at least four “business” returns per year. I’ll take DUS if absolutely necessary.
1. LUV starts to charge for checked bags.
2.There will be talk between Spirit and Frontier, but no marriage.
3. MSP-HND is Gone
1) Norwegian will announce a code sharing agreement with a US LCC (first guess – JetBlue) to increase feed on its transatlantic network.
2) Airbus will aggressively market the A380 to the US big 3, likely with cut-rate pricing. There will be lots of media speculation, but no purchase.
3) Alaska/Virgin start to build up outside of the west coast. Expect more flights from Seattle/LA/SF/Portland to secondary markets in the outer Midwest and east coast (i.e. SFO-CVG or SEA-PIT).
Gotta agree with Daniel => 1) No carry on baggage fares will be actualized on all ME3
2) ULCC’s + LCC’s will continue to spread in US and disrupt ME3’s hub and spoke system
3) 1+2 will further pressure PRASM among the ME3 airlines
Your post says “ME3” which refers to the big three Middle East airlines: Emirates, Ethiad, Qatar. I think you mean something like “US big 3”: American, Delta, United.
Alaska will announce plans for a dedicated premium fleet on the JFK-LAX/SFO route, will sell it’s Love gates for $125m+ to Southwest and trade it’s LGA/DCA slots for more JFK slots and gates in SFO/LAX.
ATC is privatized but most management is retained, allowing FAA’s old problems to continue. NextGen gets a new name and scope significantly reduced.
United creates Economy Plus Plus, a more premium economy to compete with Delta and American.
Family/Avatar Airlines will take over all of United’s 747s and finally begin service in the LAX-LAS, SFO-LAS, LAS-PHX, LAS-MIA AND LAS-JFK markets. :-)
Spirit and Frontier merge after months of rumors and speculation
Norwegian fails on flight to Stewart Airport
Delta orders 737MAX
1. AirBerlin goes belly up and its remaining parts that haven’t already been parsed out go to Lufthansa/Eurowings, the new TUI airline they are setting up, and one of the major euro LCC’s that wants to grab more of the german market
2. Alitalia goes bankrupt and emerges as another “new” Alitalia.
3. United orders the C-series or Embrear E-2s.
1. AS sells its gates at Love Field to Allegiant (to piss off Delta even more), and starts the following routes: SEA–PIT, SEA–CLE, and SFO–ATL.
2. AS and UA de-hub at LAX, but still maintain sizable ops there
3. AA and UA change their A350 orders to the A330neo (specifically the -800 variant for AA)
1. AA continues its downsizing of PHX. Similar to San Jose, Reno, and St. Louis, this year there’s a decent reduction in flights, but we’ll be promised that PHX is still an important hub in the AA system.
2. WN finally starts charging for bags. They take the same approach all other airlines, starting with a simple 2nd bag fee, touting the fact that some high percentage of their customers only check 1 bag.
3. AS/VX decide to keep the Airbus and Boeing fleets, and implement a special sub-fleet to fly select trans-con routes (LAX/SFO/SEA-JFK) with some sort of lie-flat product.
1. JetBlue will either place an order for A321LRs outright or convert some of the existing A321neo orders to the LR version, in preparation for eventually launching transatlantic service.
2. Spirit will experiment with service to the (relatively) larger markets neither Southwest nor JetBlue currently serve. The first test will be Fresno.
3. Netherlands Aircraft Company (the latest name used by the “Rekkof” nutters) will manage to talk the Netherlands government into giving it more money. No progress will be made on any actual aircraft, bu it will accomplish three things: several entertaining press releases, stories in the Dutch media about why there has not been an investigation into how the previous funds (€ 20 million, IIRC) were used, and the usual flurry of “yay, this is the best news EVAR!” threads on airliners.net that pop up anytime these clowns say anything.
Cranky, although it’s been two full NFL seasons since I swore off gambling I’m still in the prediction business for *Dawg Pound Daily — *so here goes my 2017 “Election Fallout Airline Plays of the Year”. For entertainment purposes only:
– The election seemingly parted the seas for ATC “corporatization” with 1) its Congressional rabbi and early-Trump supporter Bill Shuster (R-PA) surviving a bitter primary, 2) Senate Commerce chair John Thune (who initially jumped off the Trump bus post-*Access Hollywood *tape) warming to privatizing and 3) Congressional Democrats marginalized. It may only take one bad ORD snowstorm to ingnite enough passengers griping on social media for former airline CEO/POTUS to tweet “FAA incompetent. Sad. I will fix pronto.” But I’m betting the leather-helmet and goggles FAA middle managers/AOPA hang on for another year — maybe another study.
– Despite all the “America First” rhetoric, the Norwegian and ME3 battles fizzle out. Not because of politics, but because the international demand shrinks and issues lose their sex appeal. Good riddance to those “if there wasn’t a fight, I’d start one” faux wars ginned up by former DL CEO Richard Anderson.
– Innovative self-help training programs by regionals and mainlines help triage short-term pilot shortage crisis, and increased pay levels make long-term career prospects better, but it will take decades to wipe away bad taste from airline bankruptcies, lifestyle $$, loss of glamour etc.
1500 hour rule might get shaved around the edges, but no game-changers given opposition by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Trump’s #1 Hill supporter, Buffalo Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY).
Remember, for entertainment purposes only. (You can’t get down on any of these plays on Sportsbook.com — I checked). Happy New Year!
* I agree 17 will be the year Airbus puts a fork in the 380.
* no mergers airline in North America
* major currency disruptions adversely impact premium trans-Atlantic and Pacific traffic but is a bonanza for barging hunting tourists.
* due to the above, spot oil prices gyrate all over the place between $30 and $90 on a weekly basis. Fuel planning will be a nightmare.
* several old name legacy Euro carriers become insolvent without state assistance. This becomes political football within the EU and nations impacted with the potential death of their flag carriers.
* a smallish US regional winds down flight ops to focus on ground handling.
* speaking of ground handling….I can see a merger, or 2, in the N. American market.
* IATA members post break even financial results on the whole. Those that report profits will be down YoY from 16 but the the loosers will post HUGE shortfalls.
1. AA Dl & UA each dehub one city.
2. AS talks to B6 about a merger for 2018 or 19.
3. T7 at JFK will be closed by 2020 & it’s twelve gates will be split between T5 & T8 for additional international service.
4. New international flights start serving LAS as metro population growth continues there.
Well, I’m 1-0 in 2016… I predicted the quick AS-DL divorce (although I made my predication after the AS-VA merger was approved, so it wasn’t that much of a leap).
This might be for 2018, but some kind of AS-B6 hookup seems likely (look at their route maps; it just makes too much sense). Not an outright merger, but e.g. a frequent-flier partnership. B6 needs it more than AS does, since AS already has AA as a partner.
On the other hand, if the Trump Admin hangs a “closed” sign on the DOJ Antitrust Division’s door, who knows?? Maybe one of the big three will make a move on Jet Blue.
1. Oil prices increase. Airlines react by slowing growth, deliveries, and try to avoid staff reductions.
2. Southwest’s domestic bag policy does not change.
3. United’s basic economy product is phased out.
1. United will continue to see huge operational improvements in 2017
2. A lot of new flying by european LCCs across the pond (even to smaller US destinations), with legacies being forced to respond
3. The new administration will privatize ATC
1: Great Lakes Airlines goes bankrupt.
2: Frontier Airlines adds more international routes.
3: & Southwest has a major I.T. Meltdown that snarls flights.
1. Between growth in Japanese high-speed rail and stagnant economic/demographic trends, JL and NH shift more and more domestic flying to their LCC affiliates. Eventually, they begin to take over leisure-heavy international routes to places like Micronesia
2. UA’s new basic economy fare rolls out and despite a few isolated operational hiccups, is successful. When AA launches their version, they copy UA in charging for overhead space
3. Faced with continued financial, political, and security pressures, by the end of 2017, TK purges many of the newer and more geographically marginal routes in their network. ATL, PTY/BOG, and HAV/CCS come to mind
1: Oil Price increases cause airlines to drop “long thin” 787 routes, SFO/CTU, NRT/SAN, AUS/LHR etc.
2: AS/VX merger will either be very bumpy like UA/CO or will take FOREVER like WN/FL
3: ME3 Rush to add new US routes in fears of the new administration cracking down on their expansion. Those fears are unfounded as the new administration will take no action.
Cranky, in Drones vs Airplanes you forgot to comment on Ed’s “I’d add to that that there will be a lithium battery fire on an aeroplane this year.” This did happen, thanks to Samsung!
Ron – True!
1. DL wins the AV lottery and AV announces that its leaving Star Alliance
2. AZ enters into limited relationship with LH on intra-Europe and North Africa flights; makes noise about leaving SkyTeam but stays; talks about but never actually sets up another airline “ItalyWings” with EY and LH to operate TATL flights outside of the DL/AF-KL JV
3. DL and KE finally announce “stronger trans-pac relationship” whereby DL moves PDX-NRT to PDX-ICN and announces BOS-ICN but isn’t started whereas KE announces MSP-ICN and it does start.
Some pretty big, or not so big airline, will announce it is planning to discontinue all of its company–crewed and metal-owned aircraft service, switching entirely to a “dba __xyz___ express” and/or code-sharing airline service model.
DOT will give the airline its OK, noting that we are already more than half-way there, and drop its “disclosure notice” regulations, applicable to all ticket sellers, known and unknown, relative to this important matter. The new President, and the handful of DOT officials and employees still working at DOT, will hail this as another example of the Administration’s promise-keeping, if they could only remember exactly what those promises were.
Historical copies of the old 14 CFR 257 regulation will be kept on display at the National Archives and the hundreds of carloads of historic NPRM records related thereto will be part of a yet-to-be-explained deal, for infrastructure developments.
1. Carl Icahn, bored with his role advising Big Orange, decides he should see if he can ruin another US airline. Looking around he decides on WN since (a) he’s jealous of Herb, and (b) detests Wild Turkey. Current WN management, in an effort to fend off the ageing corporate raider, announces not only 2d bag fees but also change fees. The new WN rez platform is savaged and spends weeks in sporadic dysfunction.
2. DL goes full revenue-based awards. Premium “saver” level inventory, the unicorn of the “free” travel world, become totally invisible. Normal/average redemption for a J seat across the pond is 295,000 SkyPesos (one way plus $100 “service fee” waived for anyone stoooopid enough to be elite). Gary Leff points out at least 3x/week that he coined the SkyPesos moniker.
*3. B6 finally — FINALLY — hears my complaint and publishes thru Mint fares from SoFL to the west coast. Unfortunately I am no longer Mosaic and have been jumping on whatever F fare is the cheapest and I can never find decent Mint fares when I need them.
*Yes, I have complained. If they can file a fare LGB-SFO via JFK for <$300 then they need to publish a GD thru fare on Mint for FLL-LAX over JFK!
Far fetched? Well just look at my name!
Safe 2017 travels…
1) Norwegian announces codeshare with Ryan Air and Spirit
2) Delta announces Ireland-based subsidiary to compete on long-haul transatlantic flights. IAGs attempt at a discounter starts and fails.
3) Merger fever continues with Spirit/Frontier flirting, but a deal comes through among RJs (maybe Mesa or CommutAir get acquired by Trans State or SkyWest)
Thanks for another great year of posts, Cranky!
1. Alaska decides to kill the Virgin brand, but keeps the Airbus (for now) and installs a lie flat product for the premium transcon markets.
2. British Airways announces LHR-BNA with the 787.
3. Airbus cancels the A330-800neo program.
Re: #1 …and they call it Alaska Gold!
Just for fun:
1. easyJet’s share price will fall as it’s UK powerhouse exposed due to Brexit. Leaving it open to takeover by IAG, bringing “go” home.
2. Alaska will rebrand as Virgin Alaska.
3. Porter airlines will fail
4. Norwegian will trip up over long haul, expanding too fast and stirring BA, VS, DL, AA and UA to respond fiercely.
1) B6 and HA wil merge, giving it a better chance to fight AS/VX
2) The ME3 won’t be able to support the huge aircraft orders, leading to serious financial struggle across the board
3) NK attempts to become more reliable, and fails, hurting profits. F9 comes in, growing to rival NK as the biggest ULLC in the states
1. For the first time in a decade Alaska loses the JD Power award to Delta, which bases a marketing campaign on it. Alaska announces improvements to the on-board product and airport lounges in an effort to regain the award.
2. At least one major Chinese aircraft purchase goes to Airbus when Boeing was considered a front runner. It is described as a political and/or economic consequence of PEOTUS’ actions. United adds seasonal IAD-SVO.
3. Amazon becomes the owner of an air carrier certificate after becoming dissatisfied with performance of their contract carriers. They currently contract with two companies (AAWH and ATSG) which collectively own six certificates. Alternately they become the de facto owner after forcing a management change.
1. Qatar Airways continues buying (as they did with AIG & LANTAM) OneWorld Alliance Partners and now into North America (American Airlines) and Asia (JAL or Cathay). Their way to secure world connections and counter government changes.
2. LCC’s merger(s). Spirit & Frontier / Allegiant & Frontier / Spirit & Allegiant
3. Airbus near collapse as A380 formally dies, A350 orders slow and A400M continues to hemorrhages money all due to engine issues, mfg process, market saturation and politics.
Keep up the great work Cranky!
Hail to the Chief..da-da, da-da, da-da…
I should go out on on a high note and retire. Why risk blemishing a record?
1. EK continues to suffer from overcapacity woes with its A380 fleet and a downturn in travel. As a result Airbus cuts production again on the A380 which gives EK the cover to delay more orders instead of taking on more capacity or, worse, cancelling planes which could push Airbus to bite the bullet and kill the program. The A380 production line will survive 2017. Barely.
2. Boeing finally takes big charges against the 787 program but does its best to disguise/amortize the charges so it doesn’t look like the 787 is what’s bringing Boeing’s P/L down. Even though it is.
3. Real ID becomes a REAL issue as the 2017 deadline(s) approaches and states continue to struggle with compliance. California is the biggest headache. Oh…what’s that? You never heard of Real ID? You will.
Predictions that didn’t make my final cut…and therefore do not count against Brett’s restrictions.
1. Brett pens yet another piece on Long Beach because…because Long Beach dammit!
2. Akbar Al-Baker sues the US…not because of Open Skies but because he doesn’t like being upstaged by President Trump who throws out more insults and says one thing and then does something else even worse than he does.
3. Delta security finds out its corporate HQ has been bugged. Espionage traced back to United.
4. Crankyflier picks up ZERO swag from Southwest in 2017. As a result Dorkfest is cancelled.
5. Hainan calls Etihad…asks, “So what exactly DO you do when your airline investments don’t play out as you expected?”
6. Gary Leff and Christopher Elliot will be found to have been separated at birth.
The C-Series picks up significant orders from major North American carriers (almost doubling the back log).
JetBlue buys or merges with another carrier (my guess is Frontier or Hawaiian).
There’s an accident or major incident at a US based 121 airline.
Hawaiian Airlines commits to more long range jets to expand non-stop service to mainland cities including Chicago, DFW and Boston; and explores expanded service to China.
Hawaiian can’t ignore the fact its workhorse 717s are getting very long in the tooth, and steps up the search for replacements. Bombardier might be the only option after all.
Scheduled flights to Cuba go through a shake-out due to U.S. regulations, reluctance of the new administration, and high costs with limited options in Cuban destination cities. The U.S. rebuffs applications from non-U.S. carriers to fly Cuba to the U.S.
1. C-series garners another blue chip order; CS500 launch rumors increase but no announcement is made.
2. Southwest IT failure causes the company significant embarrassment and inconveniences many.
3. AS keeps DAL gates but rebalances flights with new frequencies to the west coast and cuts to the east.
Air France staff & crew stage massive strikes that snarl air traffic & disrupts commerce for months,, resulting in route suspensions, mass layoffs, and a new slim-line low-cost version of itself! Ditto for Alitalia.
1. Alaska will strengthen its partnerships with foreign carriers and switch to a dollar-based reward system for its mileage plan to better compete with the big three and further devalue its plan in other ways.
2. Alaska will announce they will trash the airbuses acquired as part of virgin’s fleet once the leases are up, and while carrying some of the features of the virgin brand, will rebrand all as Alaska.
3. Allegiant will have a major expansion, adding routes to several larger cities to leisure destinations.
Others have already touched on some of these, but:
1) there will be strikes/industrial action on European carriers, primarily flag carriers but possibly also EasyJet.
2) related to this (not sure if it will be cause or effect) and to their massive pension liabilities and also to Brexit, IAG will restructure
3) the new US administration will threaten to withdraw from open skies/other similar agreements. Rest of the world won’t blink.
1) Alaska will publicly commit to an all-Boeing future, once the Virgin planes hit retirement age. They’ll also announce an updated cabin design, to be placed on the MAX order. (Maybe a new FA uniform too? Basically, incorporating the sexy loyalty-creating parts of the Virgin brand before they inevitably trash it.)
2) A nonsensical smallish airline will snap up a second-hand A380 for cheap, attempt to use it to funnel long-haul passengers to their hub, and conclusively fail
3) More scary Allegiant stats will be released. Nothing will change.
1) Norway and Denmark sells at least 50% of SAS shares they currently hold.
2) No other country in Europe (except the two under point 1) that owns significant share of airline (i.e. Chech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia) will manage to sell at least half of the shares they currently hold.
3) Etihad (or Emirates) gets to change the CEO
1. American will significantly cut its CLT hub. Perhaps PHX as well.
2. Low oil prices and the completion of the AS/VX merger will usher in an era of profitability for the US airlines.
3. JetBlue will expand its Mint class to many more flights, and Alaska will introduce some sort of premium transcon service similar to Virgin’s.
SWA – Will add a fee for the second checked bag, but the first will stay free.
SWA and B6 – will try to form a domestic code share but the pilots won’t let it happen
UA/AA/DL – will continue to call reduction in products “enhancements”
B6 – Will finally start moving into the fly over states and Canada
SW will have trouble implementing their new reservation system…however once it finally is up and running they will restructure their whole booking process online
I am not a transport expert but I will have a go:
1. Rather then throw out the Norwegian airport access, Trump will throw the baby with the bathwater by actually throwing out the entire US-EU open skies agreement. Economic nationalism is the card here.
2. There will be consolation of the Chinese airline market, in particular the smaller carriers like in the U-Fly alliance.
3. TAP Portugal will sell a part of it to Lufthansa group or GOL. Mainly so that the Portuguese government can get some much needed cash.
One thing I wouldn’t bet on is what is happening to Air France as the airline or the AF-KLM group, it would depend on what person is in the Élysée, whether is Marcon, Fillion or (god forbid) Le Pen.
That WN will no longer be the low-fare or innovation leader, as evidenced by my first booking for 2017. I am trying United, which was 25% cheaper including bag fees (though I signed up for the CC), and the flight times were much better anyway. Does not portend good news for my old standby airline. Hopefully they can fix the res system and at least allow TSA Precheck on International flights, though my prediction is they continue their spiral toward mediocrity and fail on that front.
– southwest announces a ceo transition after labor continues to harp on the operational issues (IT, late/cancellations) which in turn affects financials and gets the attention of wall street.
1) Lufthansa employees will go on strike.
That’s almost guaranteed!
1. WN introduces $75 fee for 2nd suitcase but continues to say “bag(s) fly free”
2. UA and AS launch crazy big frequent flyer bonus offers out of SFO aimed at each other–leaks slightly to include other west coast routes causing DL, AA and WN to enter the fray. Frequent Flyers of America rejoice!
3. AF employee go on strike again.
1. PHX won’t shrink much more than it has.
2. There will be some consolidation in the regional space (not counting Republic consolidating its flying onto one certificate).
3. The LAX international gateway (as characterized by Doug Parker) is done growing in Asia for a while unless the Qantas joint venture gets approval under a Trump administration (I think that’s called a hedge).
Happy New Year.
1) AA and DL join UA’s race to the bottom and eliminate EQMs and hand baggage for Basic Economy fares. However, due to severe backlash from business customers forced to purchase the fares, all three are forced to backtrack.
2) I’m sticking to this one for the 2nd year in a row – Southwest introduces and extra legroom section, available for an extra fee. Bags continue to fly free.
3) The Dallas Love Field gate fight gets solved when AS/VX decides to abandon Love Field, turning its two gates over the Delta.
1) Despite all of the talk about competition with Delta, Alaska/Virgin America’s real focus will be to build up hubs other than Seattle. Southwest will be the biggest target for its direct Intra-California and Western US flights, such as Sacramento-San Diego, already scheduled to begin in March.
2) Complimentary meals in economy will start to pop up on Delta, American, or United’s domestic flights over three hours.
3) LATAM will add one more North American city from Lima, Peru. Perhaps Vancouver.
1). Alaska Airlines drops the “Virgin” brand in the merged airline but modifies product offerings to be more “edgy” in order to retain/attract VX customers.
2). Delta and Korean Air make progress towards a TPAC JV.
3). Hawaiian and JetBlue expand their cooperation through expanded codesharing, or even start merging discussions.
1. G4 will have a major accident that will force the FAA/NTSB to ground them due to deficient maintenance of their planes.
2. EA will finally expand beyond Charter Service and introduce regularly scheduled routes from MIA to Caribbean and Central American cities on their 737’s.
3. The new POTUS puts enough pressure on Venezuela to finally release the funds to all American companies that have been withheld over the years. The result will be that the AA, UA, DL, NK, and B6 will increase their flights back to Venezuela and finally force S3 out of business due to their lack of on-time performance.
1. DY will continue to expand with some success, and will sign an agreement with someone (FR?) to provide more feed to their flights in Europe. Wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar (B6?) stateside.
2. AS/VX will have a fairly successful merger process (in other words, no major issues) and the Virgin brand will disappear, being at most some sort of branded service offered by AS.
3. The French will go on strike. (What do I win?)
Can I make a suggestion on the DY/FR link. DY makes a success of the SWF, that either FR announce the making of SWF as the base if its proposed RyanAtlantic service (SWF-STN anyone?) or make a takeover bid for D8.
1. TAP will continue expansion into major US East coast markets using leased A350s and A330s reconfigured. Subsidiary SATA will also increased non-stop service to LIS and FNC from tiny PVD and BDL.
2. Service on European flag carriers will undergo massive re-training to make them familiar with quirks of first-time US leisure markets
3. Public sentiment against Spirit when they announce pay-to-use lavatories. Airline is likely to barely make it to end of year before major discrepancies in safety maintenance record are leaked to press.
4. Cranky Flier will be quoted by major news media and become even more popular!
1. United will cancel their A350 order after the 777 becomes very profitable.
2. Virgin/Alaska merger is plagued by competing visions from each side. They get their act together by summer.
3. ME3 are forced to cancel aircraft orders due to rising oil prices and lower profits/instability.
1/ UA will continue to improve substantially. UA will substantially expand seat share domestically by up-guaging and adding seats in narrow bodies and high density domestic 777’s, while adding few domestic departures. UA will also accelerate strategic deployment on 787’s in international markets. All actions will lower seat mile costs and raise RPM’s.
2/ HA and B6 will expand commercial agreements, leading to codesharing.
3/ B6 will continue to its search for a merger partner and find one.
prAIRdictions for 2017
1. With a strong US-Dollar and some political “distress” (Trump, Brexit…), airlines will have problems to fill their planes in the Europe-US market which leads to low prices and/or half-empty planes, loss of money, cancellation/downsizing of routes.
2. Airbus will put on the aggressive make-up (and some nice lingerie) to try to sell (used) A380s at dirt-cheap prices (potential takers being DL, HAL, GIA (Hajj), some random LCC (Jeju? Vanilla?)).
3. After killing AirBerlin together and fileting its parts, there is a closer relationship between LH and EY in some form or other.
1. A military or terrorist organization will down a commercial airliner, but not with a bomb (with bullets, missiles, etc), and not necessarily “intentionally” (deliberate use misleading quotes). This may happen anywhere, but smart money is on the Eastern Med/Caucasus/Ukraine/ME/Russia áreas.
2. There will be at least one major systems breakdown at a US airline and (possibly the same incident) at least one major weather related breakdown.
3. At least one additional US airline will announce that they will charge for carry-on bags. People, politicians, and perhaps Trump will whine and complain, but the move will stand.
Also, i am surprised that I am one of, if not the only, people here to predict a case of terrorism or an airline crash.
If I had to make a 4th prediction (and this is unofficial, per Brett’s limit of 3), it would be that a commercial airliner will crash in the US sometime in 2016… Maybe bad maintenance practices finally catch up to Allegiant or another ULCC.
1) Alaska/Virgin America announces plans to phase out the Virgin America Brand and the A320 fleet. Going forward the combined airline will be called Alaska with an all Boeing 737 fleet.
2) Oil prices rise significantly, forcing airlines all over the world to scale back growth plans and cut some routes.
3) AA/US de-emphasizes a hub – I think it will be JFK
Air France will admit defeat at CDG and assemble a Dutch team to manage and make the airport an efficient, easy to use, pleasant facility. Or should I have saved this for April Fool’s?
1) DL will launch a TPAC JV with Korean and will announce the end to NRT-Asia flying. DL will comment that the JV is a better bet than spending the CapEx to either replace the planes flying NRT-Asia or to launch longer and thinner routes from SEA to Asia.
2) UA at IAD will look less like a true hub at the end of the year and more like AA at JFK.
3) There is a significant increase in the number of aircraft parked by airlines in 2017, and an uptick in opportunistic buying of a portion of these aircraft, including widebodies, by DL and UA.
1. Baltia finally operates flights but, loses money on them
2. Etihad partners is reduced to Air Serbia and Jet Airways
3. TK becomes an aircraft wet-leasing company that just happens to operate a few flights.
4. The AA-QF JV gets approved
1. The US Big 3 will continue to reduce frequent flyer earn on partner coded flights as they become more oriented as credit card delivery systems.
2. European tourism hits a multi-year low as “troubles (as seen in Egpyt)” continue
3. Slot restricted airports start to consider STOL runways for turboprops to open runway capacity for jets. Though probably not in the USA.
My 3 predictions from the Asia/Pacific region
1) Virgin Australia will give up trying to match Qantas on Australian domestic flights and morph into even more of an LCC.
2) DL will pull more and more out of NRT, deferring to ICN, where their codeshare partner KE is.
3) Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand will resume flying to VLI, after stopping doing so due to a poor quality runway.
And one that I would love to see happen, but I doubt it somehow.
LAX customs crew will learn how to smile, and be nice to passengers.
All of you who predicted air plane drone incident. It has happened.
My 2 predictions from the Scandinavia
1) SAS to announce a new route to Seoul in October 2017 and begin flying it in 2018.
2) Airbus to pick up the pace on A350 delivery. But still be fare behind on there delivery schedule.
1. More Islamic airport violence in first world countries.
2. Trump calls out an airline/airport on twitter. “Yuuuge disaster”
3. Delta acquires more/pushes back retirement on the mad dogs.