3 Links I Love: United’s Management Under Fire, Sun Country’s ULCC Twist, Jet2’s Empty Seats

This week’s featured link:
How Oscar Munoz spooked United Airlines investorsCrain’s Chicago Business
If you missed it, United had its earnings call and it did not go well. There appears to be growing concern on Wall Street that the management team in place is not up to the task at hand. United’s team basically says “trust us, this is going to work in the long run,” but the big question is… how long are people willing to wait? (There is a soft paywall on this article.)

Two for the road:
Sun Country sets new bag and seat fees; carry-ons will cost the mostStarTribune
Sun Country said it would start moving toward the ULCC model, and it has. You can see details of the new bundle & go program here. It’s a bit of a twist on the traditional model.

Woman is only passenger on holiday jetBBC
People think airlines just cancel flights that aren’t full, but that’s pretty rare. Here’s proof that even with one lonely passenger, Jet2 will still fly. Kudos to Jet2 for seeing this opportunity and turning it into a great PR stunt. Those empty seats are probably paying for themselves right now.

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18 Comments on "3 Links I Love: United’s Management Under Fire, Sun Country’s ULCC Twist, Jet2’s Empty Seats"

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I’m so jealous of Ms. Grieve… Not because I want a plane all to myself (3 seats from the aisle to the window is fine, provided the leg and hip room is decent), but because I’d love to have a few hours to sit with a flight crew, talk informally, BS, and hear their war stories. I bet Ms. Grieve got plenty of material out of that experience for her novel.


Another good way is to sit at the bar at on a Virgin Atlantic flight for a few hours. Those FA’s will regale you with some crazy tales.


I can beat the Jet2 story – in September this year I flew on a charter with Atlas Global from Arad in Romania to Antalya in Turkey on an A321 with over 200 seats – I was the only person with a ticket for not just the flight but the only paying passenger to fly out of Arad all day so got to monopolise checkin, security, immigration, customs and ramp staff. 2 pilots and 5 cabin crew as well. The only difference is I didn’t go to the press about it !


I was once the only passenger on a scheduled passenger flight. Granted, it was just a Mokulele Cessna Grand Caravan going from Honolulu to Lanai, but it was still awesome to fly “private” :)

My “assistant” walked me out onto the tarmac, took a picture of me in front of my plane and introduced me to my crew.

David M

My private flight was only a little bit bigger plane, a Jetstream 32. LAX-SAN on Trans States dba US Airways Express. There was another flight 20 minutes before mine so everyone else switched to that, but since I would be waiting around at SAN for a shuttle anyway there was no reason to go earlier so I ended up being the only person on the flight. My special treatment was being asked to move to a seat further back for weight and balance.


Two flights:
4 people on SWA from Vegas to Phoenix. My coworker had lots of free drink coupons so we shared with two other passengers.

Brand new DL 767 from ATL to CVG. First scheduled flight in the evening. Probably a handful of folks. No, we didn’t get invited to first class but the captain bought us a drink.


In the waning days of the original Braniff got to enjoy one of their “Great Pumpkin” 747s from MIA to DFW with only five other folks.

David SF eastbay

One of three people on the final leg of a TWA767 JFK-SAN-ONT. We all sat in first class and they turned all the other cabin lights off. Two of us not traveling together boarded in SAN.

But a few days earlier, the ONT-SAN segment of ONT-SAN-JFK 767 was pretty full with a number of people getting off in SAN.


$20 for a checked bag will be one of the lowest bag fees in the industry. Do any of the other ULCCs limit the number of carry on bags that can be reserved?


On SY the local sentiment about the ULCC move is still as bad as ever. Looking at their bundles it seems they are rewarding vacation packages and credit card holders while elites get the whole shootin match for free. Guess that aligns sort of with the legacies. People have been looking at them awaiting Spirit-like cheap fares and those have yet to materialize. And with JetBlue moving into town the ante has just been upped. Now is when things get interesting.


It would be interesting to see the statistics on how many of SY’s round trips originate at MSP vs other airports. For example, they fly to SFO, but I never have heard anyone in Northern California say a word about them.

In theory you could fly SY from SFO-BOS with a connection at MSP…similar to what Frontier does/did at DEN. I wonder if marketing beyond the MSP market is part of their grand plan. They do fly to a lot of the larger markets on both coasts. Several years back they had a MSP-LAN-DCA route which I took more than once to see family in Michigan. I liked SY mostly because it was a 737 and Delta only had a CRJ. #1, I was always the only person to deplane there and #2, never saw more than maybe half a dozen… Read more »

These tensions Re: United are very much a Scott Kirby story. Oscar Muñoz has been focusing on repairing UA’s public image and labor relations. It’s Kirby who’s been pushing for discounting and market share fights and analysts have called him out specifically for that.

southbay flier

You would think that United would have an advantage with hubs in the five largest markets (as measured by CSA) unlike their competitors.

Tim Dunn

Those 5 largest markets are also some of the most competitive markets in the country.


FYI, I was able to access the UA article without a Crain’s subscription. It loaded like any other free wrticle.

Ian L

F9 also charges more for carry-on than checked. I can live with it mainly because it means I’ll never have to gate-check on F9, and not waiting around for 20 minutes for bags to come out is worth the cost difference.

Makes sense to charge more for carry-ons than checked if you’re trying to board folks more quickly for quicker turns…which is probably why Allegiant is the other way around; they run at low enough utilization that they don’t care about taking a bit longer to board :p