It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means. It’s time to look back at your predictions for 2018 as well as make you picks for what you think will happen in 2019.
The 2017 review saw almost 100 comments, and it has been quite the pain to try to organize all of these. So for this year’s picks, things are changing. I will only include one pick from each commenter in the year-end review. You can write down as many as you want, but only the first one you write will be included in the wrap-up.
Now, let’s get on with a review of your 2018 picks. I had to cut this down or it would be overwhelming to read, so if your pick didn’t make the final cut, my apologies.
The Future of the A380
- Jonas – Airbus will get orders for the A380.
- SDFDuck – The A380 program is shut down after it fails to get a significant new order
- Jinxed_K – Emirates doesn’t order additional A380s, Airbus announces to cease production
- Tobin Sparfeld – The A380 program officially dies.
- Joe P – Emirates will keep trying to “resuscitate” the A380 program, which Airbus will say no to.
- Jonathan – Airbus dangles the A380plus to Emirates to try and get one last A380 order. It doesn’t work. A380 closure is announced and Airbus takes a billion-euro writeoff to cut their losses.
- Nadav – With no order from Emirates in sight, Airbus will begin to wind down the A380 program. Maybe Willie Walsh will score a cheap end-of-the-line order for BA in the process.
- Justin – Airbus announces the end of the a380.
- johosofat – At least one more A380 order will come to fruition, but no airlines order the 748i.
Wow, did a lot of you chime in on the future of the A380 or what? For the first time in years, the A380 actually booked a serious order with 20 from Emirates plus options on 16 more. But that deal has been in trouble since Rolls Royce can’t get its act together enough to deliver on engine improvements that Emirates wants. The program isn’t dead, but it sure remains on life support.
- Jonas – The rooftop-bar-that-also-flies-a little (“Joon”) won’t see the year 2019 and will die a slow death in 2018. The PR for that will not be as fantastic as the PR for its introduction.
- cbw – Joon survives, but only because it morphs into an AF regional carrier. Despite the fact that we can all see what’s really happening, AF touts its success as a new business model and at least one stupid airline tries to replicate said “success” with horrible results.
- Nadav – Joon will fail to raise yields meaningfully, and its planes will quietly fold back into Air France with every paint shop visit
- Miles – Joon dies, LEVEL flourishes
Call this a work in progress. Joon isn’t dead, but the new CEO of Air France/KLM doesn’t seem to be a fan. With any luck, this prediction may have just been a little too early.
Boeing and Embraer
- Noah – Boeing buys into the E2 program allowing delta to take C-series without tariffs
- Matt D – The C Series/Airbus/Boeing/E-Jet drama is going to get really, really interesting. Boeing will finally wake up and start kicking themselves for having abandoned that market (100-149 seats) and because this is a RE-active (NEVER PRO-active) industry, Boeing will try and buy its way in with EMBRAER. I’ve seen some rumblings that this may already be in motion.
- Mostly Air – Boeing will buy into Embraer’s E190/E170 program and push it more heavily in Europe while looking to build a larger variant to compete in the US market.
- cbw – Boeing goes through with its plan to buy a stake in Embraer (probably >50%), talks about setting up a US factory for them (but probably doesn’t), and aggressively markets the E-2 worldwide with marginally positive results.
- Doug Swalen – Boeing and Embraer will fail at merger/acquisition talks leaving Boeing twisting in the wind with no short term answer to Airbus/Bombardier.
- Jonathan – There are too many complications in the way of a Boeing-Embraer merger, so that won’t happen. What is much more likely is some sort of joint venture/alliance: combined sales/marketing, support, sub-contracting, etcetera. Boeing and Embraer announce something along those lines in 2018.
It’s been a rocky road, but Boeing’s plan to get together with Embraer for commercial aircraft purposes seems to be back on track. Of course, this comes after Boeing’s tantrum about CSeries subsidies pushed that program into the arms of its competitor. Brilliant plan, Boeing. Speaking of that…
- Harvey – Bombardier will gain at least one large(ish) order (at least 30 aircraft) for the CSeries from a new customer, but not from North America.
- Tobin Sparfeld – Bombardier CSeries receives a ton of new orders, somewhere between 50-100 this year. Meanwhile the MRJ program loses orders and lies teetering on its last legs.
- Carson Schraer – C-Series gets around Boeing and takes off as an “American Made” plane. They receive orders from B6, UA, and smaller orders from smaller airlines like Aeromexico that want an extremely profitable regional plane.
- Claude B – With the renown of Airbus, The C Series will be a first class hit in world aviation in that class.
- Ben H – DL takes delivery of the Bombardier CS100 after USA reduces or eliminates CSeries tarriffs and dutes.
- KipPate – US government keeps tariff on CSeries
- MikeK – CSeries tariffs remain, even for planes made in Alabama, resulting in Delta pulling out and buying an bunch of Embraers
- Mike K – JetBlue announces a 3rd aircraft type will enter the fleet, either going bigger, with a handful of cheap A330ceos to explore the transatlantic market or with CS100 to replace E190s (“proudly all Airbus”?)
Some of these predictions were too bullish, but the CSeries, now awkwardly named the Airbus A220 is in a much stronger position. The JetBlue order came to fruition, as did a commitment from David Neeleman’s start-up, tentatively-named Moxy.
JetBlue Over the Pond
- Noah – Jetblue announces a321LR and with it announces BOS-DUB
- FC – B6 announces jumping into Europe with A321LR and starts BOS/NYC-DUB/LON with mint fare of $1000 O/W causing premium fares to collapse after its entry in 2019
- Jake – B6 will start trans-atlantic flights, starting from BOS and eventually JFK, we will see a build up of service from BOS is gate space frees up.
- Zack Rules – JetBlue announces A321neoLR order with plans for LHR flights using AA-BA slots from both Boston and JFK, even doing DFW-BOS-LHR and FLL-JFK-LHR to snag additional slots.
- GM – JetBlue will announce expansion plans to Europe with the A321, but it will not be the large markets (LHR, DUB, CDG) that many are predicting. The first Europe expansion will be secondary markets such as Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, etc.
- CraigTPA – JetBlue will also announce a new fleet strategy, converting some existing A320neo to A321LR. Initial destinations will be a mix of Latin American destinations the existing fleet can’t reach and two or three smaller UK cities (Birmingham, either Cardiff or Bristol, maybe one Iberian city.) They’ll also announce C-series order, initially for the West Coast but eventually to replace the E190, and cancel the existing E190 orders, taking a loss if necessary. Finally, they’ll kick the tires on a widebody (probably the A330), which will lead to much wild speculation but no firm order.
- Michael – JetBlue announces TATL route(s) from BOS set to to start in late 2018 but doesn’t actually start until 2019.
- JeremyF – B6 announces new 2019 routes to Europe using converted A321LR orders. There are rumors that UA DL or AA will take on A321LRs to go after transatlantic LCCs. Boeing rushes to introduce 797 in response, but at least 1 of the 3 will make a small order or conversion before Boeing can do so.
Oooh boy, did a lot of you think JetBlue was going to start flying to Europe, or at least announce its plans. JetBlue sure has talked about the possibility a lot. A LOT. But there’s nothing concrete to speak of yet.
- Kilroy – The price of oil may increase a little in 2018, but will largely be a non-issue.
- cbw – With oil prices staying relatively low, the US big 3 get more adventurous with long thin routes (AA or UA ORD to WAW?, AA DFW to DEL?, etc) only to have it bite them before year’s end when oil starts to go back up significantly.
- Austin787 – Higher oil prices force airlines to drop routes
On this one, cbw had it right. American didn’t announce DFW to Delhi, but you do see a lot of longer, thinner routes coming online that probably don’t work when oil prices are high (and when the economy goes down). Oil did go up this year, but then it came down, way down.
Basic Economy Grows
- Kilroy – Media & FF outrage aside, some form of “basic economy” will be increasingly accepted by the traveling public and offered by most major airlines… This will be especially true for basic economy forms like those on Delta, where a rollerboard is included free but seating is not assigned until check in. That said, I’m definitely not predicting the Delta’s pax-friendly type of basic economy will become the de facto standard.
- MeanMeosh – UA and AA copy DL’s experiment of replacing F/J with Premium Economy on thinner TATL routes, and introduce hand baggage-only Basic Economy fares on all routes. The resulting price competition forces one of the ULCCs (most likely Norwegian) to begin pulling back, but nobody goes belly up just yet.
- southbayflier – UA and AA will try to introduce Basic Economy on European routes and realize that they will need to allow passengers to bring a carry on bag as you can’t ban a carry on and charge $60 for the first checked bag which makes the fare essentially worthless.
- Jeremy F – Having familiarized most consumers with the ins and outs of basic economy, DL AA and UA rollout basic economy systemwide with no exceptions. It helps to boost metrics slightly, but still leaves the Big 3 struggling to compete with ULCC in certain markets.
- Austin787 – United, American, Delta expand basic economy fares to all Trans Atlantic routes as a reaction to the ULCC
All of you who guessed Basic Economy would continue to expand, take a bow. It did, and it’s only likely to spread further. At least American had a change of heart and started allowing carry-ons back into the BE cabin. And not even United is blocking carry-ons from Transatlantic fares. So that’s something.
Iceland Expansion (or Contraction)
- Richard – The Icelandic carriers experience over expansion and their “honeymoon” phase begins to end
- Miles – WOW Air grows considerably and finally gets their act together to connect passengers more efficiently. Also adds Salt Lake City as a new destination.
Iceland has seen its fair share of madness this year, but Miles, well, it kind of went the other way. WOW didn’t figure anything out and is now teetering on the brink. Icelandair has been feeling the pain of that competition as well. 2019 should be interesting.
Boeing’s Middle of the Market Aircraft
- Richard – Boeing announces a 757 replacement for its MoM program, named the 797, which will be used on transcontinental and transoceanic routes
- Harvey- Boeing will make a move on announcing the 797 MOM aircraft, maybe in time for the Farnborough air show
- Matt D – The Boeing 797 is formally announced. It will, depending on how you look at it, be either a 787 shrink. Or a rehash of the old A310.
- Tobin Sparfeld – Boeing comes out with a 797 MOM concept. To undercut it, Airbus announces an A322 XLR with a longer fuselage and new wings.
- Jake – Boeing comes out with a replacement for the 757 (797)
- Carl Anderson – Boeing offers for sale a MOM aircraft. DL and UA buy it to replace their 767 fleets. Yes, Delta will buy Boeing but UA will be the launch customer.
- KipPate – Boeing announces the 797 and a restart of the 767-300ER as a filler until the 797 comes out. My guess is that UA will order both as launch carrier with Delta, British Airways and LCC’s around the world order
- Anthony – Boeing will keep talking about perhaps maybe someday possibly building a new MOM aircraft.
- MikeK – Boeing announces a MOM 797 with first flight/EIS waaaay in the future as a way to deflect some of A321’s recent wins
You guys really like your aircraft predictions, don’t you? The year has come and gone, and there is no official announcement of the MOM/797 aircraft. It’s kind of like this scene from Austin Powers:
We all know it’s coming, but it’s sure taking a long time.
- Matt D – Frontier and Spirit WILL merge. The question is ‘when’, not ‘if’. Maybe this will be the year. If/when that happens, it will spark yet another round of mergers. Sun Country/Allegiant and Alaska-having bit off more than it can chew with Virgin-will come to JetBlue begging for a merger-come to mind. Other possibilities I can see happening would be Southwest/Hawaiian and with a “business friendly” White House, I would not entirely rule out a Delta/United one. Contingent of course on one of the hubs being handed over to Southwest.
- PF – Apollo Global liquidates Sun Country
- Itami – Frontier doesn’t file an IPO this year.
- MichaelinMKE – Sun country and allegiant merge
- Ted – SAVE buys SY, leave F9 on the sideline.
A lot of you expected a merger, but none occurred. Itami was right that Frontier didn’t file an IPO. It was pretty much a “status quo” kind of year for the ULCCs in the US. Though did anyone pick that Spirit would turn in the best on-time performance in the US one month? Nope. But it happened.
Southwest Model Changes
- MeanMeosh – 3rd year in a row, so third time has to be the charm. Southwest launches an extra legroom section and buy-on-board food trial coincident with the launching of Hawai’i flights; a schedule is formally announced but flights don’t start until 2019.
- Ted – LUV charges bag fee.
Looks like this one is going to have to wait another year (or 10). Southwest changed nothing in its model this year. Nor does there appear to be anything on the horizon, except for this…
Southwest Goes to Hawai’i
- Doug Swalen – Due to the hassles of ETOPS certification, Southwest does not launch Hawaii service but by the end of the year does announce some routes for a 2019 launch. Most likely candidates Oakland, San Diego, and Burbank.
- ktenorman – WN service to Hawaii in late 2018 will elicit a big response from UA, AS, and HA. Good time to fly to Hawaii.
- FC – WN entering HI will cause yields crater in the west coast to HI market. Having meaningful effect on UA/HA/AS revenue.
- Ty – Southwest announces its first Hawaiian routes, including interisland flights. HA responds with a combination of low fares, additional frequencies, new routes to the mainland from smaller Hawaiian airports (OGG/LIH/KOA/ITO) and enhanced codeshare partnerships. Also possible is greater marketing of Icelandair-style stopovers, especially for travel to/from Australia and New Zealand.
- Anthony – Southwest will announce Hawaii routes.
There was some real misplaced optimism here. Though Southwest still has a few days, it hasn’t announced service yet as it waits for the feds to sign-off. Doug was closest. The airline has announced which cities will get service on both sides of the Pacific, but it hasn’t said which routes specifically will launch. So we wait.
Alaska’s Love Field Antics
- PF – AS pulls out of DAL consolidating operations at DFW.
Close, but not quite. Alaska did get rid of its eastbound flying from Love, but it has kept its service from the west for now.
American Cuts JFK
- SDFDuck – AA will continue to move more international routes from JFK to PHL, leading to JFK becoming a “hub” in name only within the network.
Nailed that one. American has continued to move routes from JFK to Philly as the hub dwindles further.
JetBlue’s West Coast Woes
- Doug Swalen – Jet Blue throws in the towel at Long Beach, thus guaranteeing we get at least one 2018 Crankyflier Long Beach blog post.
- ktenorman – B6 will try again at OAK after LGB keeps bleeding (one can hope).
- Carl Anderson – Nothing big with LGB and B6 this year. That may change near the end of 2019 if B6 can get some more gates thanks to the MSC at LAX.
- Evan – Jetblue starts building a new west coast focus city.
The general expectation seems to have been that JetBlue would make a move to shore up its west coast strategy. It really didn’t. It has shrunk Long Beach and partnered with JetSuiteX, but it has done little else.
Norwegian Marches Toward Failure
- FC – Norwegian continues to take massive losses on its international businesses and forces to sell more of the Norwegian bank to cover
- Evan – Norwegian hits the wall and has to start cutting.
- Smallvoyageur – Norwegian. It would be a mixed bag, they would slow down their TATL expansions in attempted to concentrate on their new Argentine operations. However, while their long-haul services to Europe do well, their short-haul flops against local rival Flybondi. Possible new services to the Spanish and Portuguese islands, e.g. Madeira or Gran Canaria from the US.
So far Norwegian has had a miraculous ability to somehow avoid running into walls. It has cut some flights (especially 737 operations from the Northeast to Europe) and it has shifted airports in others, but the madness continues. Norwegian seems to have survived another year, but I know its failure would be high on my 2019 list, unless someone buys the airline.
Pressure on American
- Tom – Doug Parker is given the boot at American
- Joe P – Shareholders will continue to push AA to deliver financial results besides just stock buyback programs, and will continue to expect an answer for how paying employees more money results in better airline performance. Doug P. will have to get creative to find new ways to increase revenue in mature domestic market. This will in turn pressure United to do the same.
Doug Parker still has his job, but there has certainly been pressure from Wall St to do better. Just look at that share price, and you can tell many people aren’t believers. There’s a lot of work to do to get this airline performing better, so American better do some of that work in 2019.
Middle East Shenanigans
- Nathaniel – Things with Qatar and it’s neighbors don’t get any better causing issues for the airline.
- Carson Schraer – Etihad and Qatar get into financial trouble, Emirates too but less so as they are a more complete airline.
- Cody C – Etihad’s balance sheet continues to strain. Aircraft orders are deferred, growth slowed, and another airline from the Etihad Equity Alliance is sold off.
Things most certainly have not gotten better between Qatar and its neighbors, yet somehow (read: massive subsidy) Qatar Airways continues to grow. Etihad is feeling the pain, however, and it has dramatically cut back. Who knew it could show restraint?
Chinese Alliance Jump
- Zack Rules – China Southern dumps Skyteam for oneworld while Cathay leaves oneworld for Star Alliance.
Indeed, China Southern has left Skyteam, though its entrance into oneworld is not guaranteed. We’ll see if that happens in the next year.
- Seanny – Long-promised California Pacific Airways in Carlsbad, CA will finally fly, but will fold by December.
Yes, it flew! But no, it didn’t fold. At least not yet. Though maintenance issues have dogged the airline so far, and that does not bode well.
Japan Airlines to Seattle
- Zhuo – Japan Airlines announces Seattle.
A somewhat narrow prediction, yet a correct one nonetheless. JAL starts flying to Seattle in 2019.
United Premium Economy
- KipPate – UA rolls out Premium Economy with 787-10 and a plan to roll it out to retrofit 77W and other long haul fleet (hopefully that plan is better than the initial Polaris Roll Out…) Along with that, Polaris is rolled out to the existing 789/788 fleet.
- Austin787 – United announces Premium Economy
United did roll out premium economy this year, and it’s now for sale on some routes.
- Stephen – Consolidation of the regional airlines. The big three buying shares and or the entire operation to maintain operational needs. ExpressJet will probably be the first.
- Justin – At least one US regional folds this year.
Nice work there, Stephen. It’s as if you were in on the planning meetings. As we all know, United just took a stake in ExpressJet, but this didn’t really consolidate anything. There should be more regional consolidation coming, I’d think.
Pittsburgh’s London Return
- Pilotaaron1 – PIT will finally land the London service they have so badly wanted back since they lost it with the US Airways hub a decade ago.
Another narrow prediction and another winner. BA service starts next year.
Air New Zealand to Chicago
- BSPN – Air New Zealand will add Auckland to Chicago as a further gateway to the East Coast after the success of the AKL-IAH route
We are on a roll now. Chicago service was announced earlier this year and recently started to take advantage of the southern summer peak.
Virgin Atlantic Joint Venture
- Andy – Virgin Atlantic will join the existing SkyTeam transatlantic joint venture with KL/AF/AZ, but will not join SkyTeam.
Another one right on the nose. (Well, ok, Alitalia isn’t a part of it right now.) Delta is working to combine its two Transatlantic joint ventures into one.
Flight Attendants Unionize
- Michael – JetBlue and Delta flight attendants will unionize
I suppose batting .500 isn’t bad. JetBlue flight attendants did indeed join a union. Delta? Not even close.
American’s A350 Fleet
- Justin – AA cancels a350 order.
It would have been quite the surprise to see this go the other way, but we didn’t know if it would officially happen or not this year. Now we do, and the A350 is off American’s books.
- Cody C – Alitalia soldiers on, because this airline never dies.
- Jeremy F – Alitalia reemerges as the (5th? 7th? 12th!?) Alitalia but shrinks its operations. Meridiana tries to fill the gaps but acts too slowly in fear of moving too fast. Delta increases frequencies to Italy to compensate for the loss.
Once again, we’ll close with the worst airline ever. Alitalia will soldier on thanks to a big investment from the Italian rail company. It won’t solve the airline’s problems, however. We’ll just have to wait and see what 2019 will bring.
Remember, you can leave your predictions for 2019 in the comments below. Leave as many as you want, but this year, I will only look at the first one you leave.