Reviewing Your 2020 Predictions and Making Your 2021 Picks


Who’s excited for the annual tradition of seeing how you did with your predictions for the year? Anyone? ANYONE?

No, you shouldn’t be excited, because they were nearly all wrong. I mean… seriously. I did not see anyone predicting a global pandemic bringing the industry to its knees. BUT, as I said, they were nearly all wrong. Some actually came true, and well, I figured we should highlight those here.

Read below for the few that proved right. This year, there were so few that were correct, I ended up looking at every single prediction, even when people ignored the rules to only leave one.

Next year, I’ll go back to the regular rules. Leave your one best prediction for 2021 in the comments. Anything beyond the first one will be ignored during next year’s review.

REAL ID Delayed

  • Kilroy – The requirement for Real IDs for domestic US airline travel will not be fully, truly implemented before the end of 2020.
  • Jim – 1. REAL ID deadline will be extended again.

Comment: Though the reason for the delay was the pandemic, it’s not clear whether this would have happened on its own or not. I tend to think REAL ID would have finally happened this year, but well, I’ll give you two the benefit of the doubt.

A New Name for Moxy

  • PF – Moxy becomes BREEZE, the name of the parent company.

Comment: Not much of a stretch on that one, but it did prove true.

American’s Southern Partners

  • DesertGhost – American will finalize an agreement with one or more partners in South America to at least partially offset the loss of LATAM.

Comment: A true story indeed as American tied up with Gol.

The 737 MAX

  • Jonas – Bonus: EVERY prediction on the 737Max will be wrong.

Comment: This one isn’t really fair, but it is technically true. All the MAX predictions were about return to service coming earlier than it did or about doom and gloom.

JetBlue Grows Into Newark and Miami

  • ktenorman – Official prediction: B6 gets additional gates at EWR and start a competitive EWR-SFO/LAX service, pushing AS off these routes.
  • Keith – 2. B6 announces opening of MIA with routes to/from BOS, JFK, and SJU.
  • Keith – 3. B6 announces more routes out of EWR due to acquiring more gates – transcon routes to SFO/LAX are announced.

Comment: These are the best predictions of the year as far as I’m concerned. Ok, so ktenorman, you only get partial credit since it hasn’t kicked Alaska off yet, and Keith you only got two of your three routes from Miami, but I’m giving full credit anyway. Nice work.

Marty Moves On

  • Carl G – The fantastic Marty St. George will leave Norwegian after realizing that even he can’t fix it fast enough.

Comment: Marty did indeed leave Norwegian, but it’s not necessarily because he couldn’t fix it fast enough. It was always an interim gig. But now he’s at LATAM and Norwegian is on death’s door, so… good move there.

Daxing Rising

  • Adeej_in_nz – 2) At least one US Airline will start moving flights to Beijing Daxing Airport.

Comment: Both American and Delta made the move… or they will make the move whenever they resume service.

The 747 Ends

  • Michael – My main prediction for 2020 is a sad one: Boeing will end the 747 program.

Comment: The writing was already on the wall before the pandemic, and yes, Boeing did decide this year to end the program.

Air Italy’s Demise

  • Keith – 8. Air Italy joins Airlines We Lost 2020

Comment: Again not a stretch, but sure enough, Air Italy met its demise this year before the pandemic even kicked into full swing. You can read more about that on Thursday when I publish Airlines We Lost 2020.

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104 comments on “Reviewing Your 2020 Predictions and Making Your 2021 Picks

  1. Some predictions, don’t know if any of them will come true. #1 is the main one, the rest are just bonuses
    #1 Lufthansa’s A380s are officially permanently retired, as opposed to merely “taken out of planning”
    #2 Speaking of A380s, Ethiad and/or QR bid adieu to their A380s too
    #3 AirAsia X either goes bye-bye or downsizes dramatically
    #4 Norwegian gets close to the grim reaper but manages to escape yet again
    #5 Alitalia 4.0 will again be called the Cranky Worst Airline Ever

  2. Donald Trump, having lost the Presidency to Joe Biden, will also sell his private 757, N757AF .

  3. Just one. Tim Dunn will sell all his Delta stock, divide the proceeds into AA and UA stock, and begin to tell us how bad Delta is. Happy New Year Tim!

  4. At least one legacy airline’s list of hubs will be substantially shorter.
    WN will grow substantially larger at its most recent legacy carrier hubs.

  5. Since many think American is headed in this direction, I predict that none of the big 4 will enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

  6. Here’s my best guess for 2021.

    AA Will shrink hubs in PHL, ORD, JFK & LAX to only spokes. As a result they will be expanding partnerships with both B6 & AS to fill in the gaps. The end result – a weaker AA & a stronger B6 & AS.

    1. JFK and LAX will be smaller going forward, with a JFK pivot towards international with B6 flow, but no way ORD and PHL become spokes. That would gut the northern presence of the airline.

      1. JFK and LAX will be smaller going forward, with a JFK pivot towards international with B6 flow, but no way ORD and PHL become spokes. That would gut the northern presence of the airline.

        Oh I know, but I’m sticking to that prediction. I’m basing this on AA’s deals with AS on the west coast & B6 in the east taking some of the flow as AA flows it’s passengers via CLT, MIA, DFW & PHX & knocking off ORD.

  7. I honestly don’t know with this year. I know you are only taking the first prediction, Cranky. I’m going to make three so I can remember what I was thinking a year from now.

    Official prediction, Yuma AZ will receive service from a second carrier.

    Allegiant will see the opportunity with reduced frequency between PIT-PHX and will start PIT-AZA.
    Being will finally admit the 737 MAX is not a 757 replacement and, maybe not formally, admit something is in the works.

    And as I say every year, United will bring back the Tulip (I can dream).

    Happy New Year everyone!

  8. In flight magazines will return but will remain only in electronic version. Seatback magazines on paper will not return in 2021

  9. Despite all optimistic predictions and billions of dollars in government aid, airline passenger growth will remain tepid and especially business travel refuses to grow beyond 50% of what it was pre-COVID, even in a post-vaccinated world.

  10. My biggest prediction.
    – WN will take over 1 major airline in 2021. Most likely AS.

    Other ones:
    – DY finally bite the dust
    – VS will also bite the dust
    – All major US airlines avoid chapter 11
    – B6 announced its next focus city (SFO or RDU)
    – F9 announces major expansion out of MIA to Latin America. Leading to using A321XLR to Brazil.
    – If WN does not take over AS, AS and B6 will form codesharing partnership

  11. Starting small and working up…
    1) Icelandair begins codesharing with WestJet to expand their Canadian presence
    2) Embraer announces a prototype 19-seat hybrid-electric aircraft
    3) Southwest will overtake United to become the biggest airline at DEN
    4) A Pratt & Whitney GTF will suffer an uncontained engine failure
    5) American files for bankruptcy protection

  12. AA bankruptcy and Doug Parker departs. Glen Hauenstein or (longer shot) Richard Anderson come in to right the ship if the board is bold which they haven’t shown themselves to be so far.

    AA SEA to Bangalore doesn’t start in October as United skimmed much of its connecting traffic from SFO is scooped up by United’s nonstop from there.

    Most of the big 3 point to point routes to Florida and other sunny destinations don’t return for the winter of 2021 and the big 3 retrench back to their hubs and focus cities.

  13. The leisure market will be an absolute bloodbath in 2021, with Southwest continuing to enter new leisure markets and all of the airline’s adding new stuff that would otherwise be unconventional for them. Florida especially could be a battleground, but more specifically MIA as Frontier continues to grow, and JetBlue and Southwest find their footing. I also think Spirit gets in on the action in Miami, with flights from ORD, DTW, DFW, ACY, BWI and EWR to start. Allegiant will also add Key West from markets such as AVL, TYS, JQF and BWI with its A319’s.

  14. I’ll go a step further — AS will be acquired but it won’t be by WN. It will be by AA, assuming AA’s market cap will return to something more normalized.

    On the other hand, maybe AS will acquire AA in a stock swap.

    Look for AA also to reduce its presence at ORD. With the entry of WN into that market, AA looks to be the victim if WN is successful.

    The four major US carriers will report losses for the nine months ended September 30th, but will post small profits for the quarter ended December 31.

    Europe will open for tourists in mid-summer and the legacy carriers will rush to fill the void with enormous promotions and almost give-away seats.

  15. The 737-MAX shutdown will be a distant memory by the end of the year and its share of the fleets will be back to normal.

  16. Prediction: All of the major U.S. carriers will become cash positive at some point during 2021 and, contrary to the wishes of some folks, none will be liquidated.

    Color: Most airlines will be anywhere from 15 to 25% smaller at the end of 2021 than they were at the end of 2019. Southwest will probably shrink less than the others and, as a result, will pick up market share. Since domestic traffic will likely recover sooner than international (which is part of why I think Southwest will shrink less), American may surprise some people and recover a bit more quickly than its legacy peers. American’s higher debt levels will be a drag, of course, but I think all of the major carriers will be more nimble and efficient as a result of their focus on short-term cost reductions, and the capital investments they’ve made for the long term. If this pandemic and economic disruption had concurred prior to or during 2008, I’m guessing that nearly all of the major carriers would be in Chapter 11.

    I choose to be an optimist, not because I have any illusions, but because of what I’m seeing. That comes with the obvious caveat that I’m not seeing the situation correctly.

  17. My 2021 Prediction: Multiple airlines pull out a few rows of business/first-class seats to add more economy seats on widebody longhaul aircraft.

  18. Major airline alliances continue to take a back seat to JVs. The strain of the pandemic doesn’t help. All three major alliances either lose a member due to bankruptcy or have a member announce they are leaving. I’ll up star alliance to 2 as asiana is basically already on its way out with the pending korean air merger.

  19. My out there predictions:

    1. B6 and HA agree to merge possibly in a stock swap transaction or with third party financing. Perhaps it will be a holding company allowing each carrier to be separate brand or combine under the B6 name.

    2. WN makes a move to buy out AS.

    3. DL moves to retire another fleet type possibly the 767s or 757s.

    4. Airbus will announce the launch of the A220-500.

    5. Demand for widebody aircraft will continue to be depressed as airlines push out new deliveries further into the decade, outright cancel or turn to the secondary market.

    6. Amazon Air will become the fastest growing airline in 2021 as demand for Amazon packages continues to skyrocket. New focus cities, aircraft, frequencies, etc added to meet demand. This might be a boom for furloughed airline employees from other carriers.

  20. A 737-MAX will crash. The reason doesn’t seem to be related to the earlier failures, but the actual cause isn’t clear at first. There is a great deal of public and media pressure to ground the fleet again. The plane is grounded in the EASA, but not by the FAA. Both sides are accused of letting national interests cloud their judgments. Boeing’s order book erodes further.

    1. My prediction – a 737MAX will crash and MCAS will be the cause. While not immediately clear this will effectively be the end of the 737 program.

  21. Domestic US Airlines announce phasing out first class in favor of a a “Big Front Seat” or extra legroom option upon realizing that business travel won’t return.

  22. Given that the pick up in travel will not be consistent across the world or even within Europe, there will be a significant row (e.g. litigation, airlines or airports leaving industry groups, etc.) around the waiver of “use it or lose it” rules for slots in congested airports. A big balance to be struck by competition authorities between protecting incumbents and allowing new entrants.

    1. Speaking of use it or lose it slots particularly in Heathrow, this will fuel virgin Atlantic’s plans of expansion at heathrow

  23. United will completely discontinue its formerly year-round, EWR-SBN flight that became football season only in 2019, but didn’t operate at all in 2020 (ND football games were only open to students and faculty), although the SBN Airport Athority website will still claim it as a seasonal destination throughout 2021.

    United will add a SBN-IAD nonstop to provide a Washington connection for Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

  24. Thanks for the s/o, it’s just a matter of time until AS drops those CA transcons.

    AA will pull back at ORD and focus even more at CLT and DFW as UA correspondingly grows ORD into a bigger operation.

  25. Knd of BS here, this was my prediction 2020 and the Max flew today, so just 2 months off? 777X is delayed again for another year and the Boeing Starliner is delayed again.

    Dec 26, 2019 at 12:00 pm
    2020 – Boeing’s Max doesn’t fly again until October 2020, SWA gets pissed and orders 50 A220-300’s and the 777X will experience more delays missing the Space Station with a scheduled delivery of June 2021, meanwhile Emirates cuts its order for the 777X in half.

  26. Thanks for all your updates this year, Cranky. Here are my predictions:

    1) Norwegian’s financial gymnastics continue allowing it to hang on and resume limited, 787 service to large destinations like JFK and maybe LAX to/from LGW or CDG.
    2) At least one regional carrier goes under (maybe GoJet or Air Wisconsin)
    3) None of the major U.S. carriers declare bankruptcy (although perhaps American should)
    4) Southwest moves to buy Sun Country and expands into Montana and Canada
    5) Frontier and Spirit flirt with each other

  27. My primary prediction: Southwest will be the only one of the Big Four to have a month where ASMs in 2021 exceed 95% of ASMs in 2019…mergers don’t count here either way, and blocked seats aren’t available. AA will be a rather distant second here. WN will get there by going for breadth over depth (I don’t think they’re done adding dots to the map), while AA will get there by shoving an uncomfortable amount of capacity at markets they’re already in and continuing to soak market share thanks to bargain basement fares.

    Honorable mentions: WN’s market share in Austin for passenger traffic will be under 35% for the entire year, with Delta falling to 5th place for at least one month. ATL won’t be the busiest airport in the world for at least one day in 2021.

    A bit more out there: there will be at least one merger involving F9/NK/G4, as well as at least one involving AA/B6/AS/HA.

  28. TSA screenings had a high water mark of 2.8 million om May 24th 2019. In 2021 we will not crack 2 million/day as overall travel (especially business) remains depressed. Vaccine deployment becomes a late night TV joke as the pain continues until early summer. Global economic activity remains depressed into mid 2022.

    Happy New Year though!

  29. 2021…

    1. I’m hesitant to make this one because I fear it may not really hit until 2022. That said, multiple airlines will devalue their award charts by the end of the year due to credit card spend amassing huge numbers of points in 2020/2021 which weren’t used and that glut will put such pressure on award tickets when travel, particularly international travel, picks back up. Award space the airlines give out will dry up by the end of 2021 to force customers to pay for those seats because the airlines need that cash and every point spent is money down the drain for them.

    2. Hawaii will continue to flop around with re-opening and not be able to come up with a solution that makes it easy for travelers nor takes the pressure off a COVID spike from occurring on the islands.

    3. Doug Parker is forced out at American

  30. Vaccinations of “the West” will dramatically bring down CV risk by the summer, governments will hesitate but then relent on travel bans by August, so TATL travel will be buzzing by September, and have an unseasonably large October and November.

    Yields will an interesting one, business travel will be down but there are a lot of people in the upper 20% of income brackets who have saved piles & piles of cash from the 15 months of pandemic life, and for the right price will pay for J seats.

    1. I think you’re right. Along with vaccinations in the US, I think most people won’t go anywhere in January and a lot of schools will remain closed until March.

      1. 2021 Predictions

        1) Etihad will be sold, downsized and reconfigured into a shell of it’s former self

        2) AA will announce complete dismantling of ORD hub (keeping spokes and a smattering of P2P routes)

        3) Delta will fly LAX-ORD with several nonstops

        4) Alaska ceases all transcon flying from SFO

        5) Norwegian will liquidate

  31. 1. WN or B6 start service to MSN.

    2. AA downsizes ORD significantly

    3. UA and/or DL continue dedicated “freighter” operations through 2021

  32. The official #1: Delta places a large order for A321LR/XLR’s, signalling that Boeing’s NMA won’t be built

    and two more just for fun
    #2: (at least) one airline cancels its 777X order, but FedEx publicly expresses interest in a 777X freighter
    #3: Turkish Airlines joins in with the ‘starting new airlines for no apparent reason’ craze

  33. B6 will get regulatory approval for a LAX-DCA flight by either getting rid of its SJU-DCA flight or by Congress approving another beyond-perimeter flight on top of the current 20.

  34. There is some news about a new turboprop or new variant. ATR -700? Also, the A220-500 becomes more of a possibility as airlines look to obtain more efficient aircraft in the event of reduced demand.

  35. Since I was right about it this year, I’m going to predict that the REAL ID deadline wil be extended yet again.

  36. 1. Qatar Airways invests in a Chinese airline
    2. Emirates becomes the only airline operating the A380 by the year end
    3. Emirates resumes service to Southern Florida, but this time they announce MIA and ditch FLL altogether
    4. WestJet starts service to Dubai and finally makes their partnership with Emirates worthwhile for passengers
    5. Air Canada leaves Star Alliance for oneworld
    6. American Airlines replaces Parker with Isom after a collapse in share price and board dispute
    7. South African Airways is revived after an investment from Qatar Airways
    8. Another Nigerian airline is formed while another Nigerian airline collapses (this has to earn me a correct prediction!)
    9. COPA announces the purchase of A220s

  37. Sure, I’ll roll the dice: United will be the country’s and the world’s largest carrier by the end of 2021 measured by scheduled ASMs going forward (not necessarily during calendar 2021), mainly on the basis of its restored international service, while AA and DL will struggle to restore their international service to the same extent.

    1. fyi as you make your forecasts. even before covid, you were less likely to fly on a mainline flight if you booked on UA than any other US airline that operates regional aircraft and that ratio is even more skewed now.

      Since Delta is flying more ASMs just on narrowbody aircraft than United is flying on its entire mainline fleet, it will be a miracle if UA becomes the largest airline based on ASMs its own employees fly.

      1. Thanks for bringing that up Tim. To clarify, ASMs flying on United branded flights, regardless of the regional carrier flying them.

  38. The Summer Olympics opens but due to the lingering Pandemic air travel demand remains below expectation. Japan Airlines and ANA do end up merging but still operate under their own legacy brands, at least in 2021.

  39. 1. Eastern Airlines adds one or two more focus cities (predicting Philadelphia & Baltimore) to expand it’s latin & caribbean destinations.

    2. Eastern is looking for a domestic feeder so I’m thinking Alaska, Spirit, or Southwest will be that feeder.

    3. whistleblowing scandals against the airline industry will cause several executive shakeups in the boardroom. It’s not going to kick Doug Parker out of AA, but it’s enough to cause Congressional hearings to hear things from labor abuses during the COVID pandemic to executives pocketing the stimulus money for themselves.

    4. Leisure Low Cost Airlines will make a Comeback. In Australia & Southeast Asia. I hope Air Asia X takes notice.

    5. Delta, Air France, British Airways, GE, Airbus, and All Nippon Airways form an investment alliance (joint SPAC?) to accelerate development of Hydrogen-powered Airplanes (it’s a stretch of my crystal ball)

  40. I claim at least a partial correct for saying that AS would be the first major blue-chip order for the MAX. In that I was right, in expecting the E2 to be involved I was wrong. Don’t expect the A320NEO options to be exercised as 321NEO. AS doesn’t take any new Airbus again for years, if ever, short of a merger.

    I don’t think there will be any major mergers. Stock prices anticipate a strong recovery while cash is still being burned, meaning everyone is expensive but poor.

    Delta’s poor handling of pilot staffing will hamstring them in 2021, and they’ll operate a smaller percent of 2019 ASMs than rivals. Where others recall to the seats they vacated, Delta will do the six step shuffle, where they recall only to the most junior seat and then promote. In effect others will recall seats in parallel, Delta will do it in serial.

    We keep stumbling towards normalcy without doing any of the actual work to get there, pretending that a vaccine that won’t have widespread effectiveness until late 2021 will somehow permit lax behavior now. Thus spring’s forward bookings are promising, but when we get there we find the status of virus and economy to be not much different than now. Summer ’21, like summer ’20, will be about flying people who don’t care to places that are desperate for tourism. Most borders remain restricted our outright closed.

    1. just a little tidbit as you forecast.

      Delta operated more MAINLINE flights up until Thanksgiving than American will in all of 2020 and the same was true for 2019 and will likely be true for 2021.

      Delta is operating the world’s largest MAINLINE network, has been and likely will be for quite some time into the future.

      Just a heads up as you make your predictions.

        1. regardless of the metric, Delta operates the highest percentage and the largest number of flights and ASMs on mainline aircraft. Delta’s operational issues were related to mainline flights, not their regional carriers. That was true in 2019, is true now, and likely will be true going forward because Delta’s business plan is based on operating more of its network on mainline aircraft with Delta employees than any of the four carriers that use contracted carriers. In terms of mainline flights, the competition is DL and WN and right now, DL is operating a larger mainline network than WN.

          Despite all of the noise, Delta had its code on a lower percentage of its international partners’ flights than AAL or UAL prior to covid.

          I want to give you a good chance of having a winning prediction so want to make sure you have all of the facts.

          just a tip but you might be more successful making a positive prediction about someone’s success.

          1. Again, Tim, none of that is in my prediction. To be very clear, I am saying that Delta’s displacement bid means that each returning pilot will set off a cascade of training events as senior pilots jockey for better positions. That’s expensive and time consuming, coming in at a month or two per training event. Airlines that didn’t displace but rather offered short term leaves will recall pilots to the seat they left, a process which takes 2 hours in a simulator. Delta will be training constrained while returning to pre-covid size in a way other airlines are not.

            Can I add a new friendly wager that your word count on this blog next year won’t just beat the author’s, it’ll exceed him by double?

            1. Delta and its pilots signed their agreements during the Thanksgiving weekend.
              Delta recognizes that its fleet complexity is costly.
              To somehow think that DL will be hamstrung is not based on any actual facts or data since DL is RIGHT NOW operating a larger MAINLINE network than any of its competitors including WN.
              If DL can figure out how to make it happen now, it seems more than a stretch to think they won’t be able to get it all figured out in 2-3 months when demand MIGHT start coming back.

              but it is your prediction so we’ll see how it turns out.

              btw here was my prediction from last year
              Tim Dunn
              Dec 26, 2019 at 6:22 pm
              Delta begins the first of its new non-hub routes from MIA to both domestic and Latin destinations while AA continues to lose share to Delta in Boston, New York (where AA will pull JFK back to service to hubs), Chicago and LA. Delta also added new flights by the 1st quarter of 2020 to Miami.

              Even if we consider that the pandemic created an unfair playing field, my prediction was accurate based on DOT data for the first quarter in aggregate for the cities I noted as well as in Boston, New York and Chicago (believe it or not).
              For the entire year, my statement was true for LAX, BOS and NYC based on capacity. We don’t have DOT data for the whole year of 2020 but I think you should be more worried about the accuracy of my predictions than the words I use.

              My prediction for this year about WN’s success in ORD, MIA and IAH and its continued growth at DEN (not part of my prediction but notable nonetheless) has far more significance for the industry and also has nothing to do with Delta.

  41. Once again, Boeing will reveal a “study” or “concept” for a NMA/757+767-replacement/321(X)LR-opponent.
    Once again, it will be quickly criticized by airlines, Mr. Udvar-Hazy, Cranky, et al.

  42. The company and/or person who has been reported flying jet packs in/around/near LAX airspace will be identified, and charges will be filed. This will become a bit of a media circus, with the usual “endangering airplane passenger safety” rhetoric from law enforcement and the government (rightly so, in my opinion), while jet pack person tries to make the most of their time in the spotlight and capitalize on the public’s fascination with jet packs. Predictions will be made about widespread public jet pack travel in a few years or decades, but ultimately the safety risks and fuel costs will prevent personal jet packs from seeing serious and significant use among the general public in the next 50 years.

    Given the way that 2020 has been, I figured that I would make a more light-hearted (and unique) prediction for 2021, so there you go.

    1. I’ll keep the above as my primary prediction, but add another one…

      Almost all major US airlines implement much more strict restrictions/rules “emotional support animals” and similar, to prevent pax who want to travel with their pets from abusing the rules intended to prevent those with legitimate disabilities that trained service animals can help with. This is spurred by at least one instance where a plane has to divert / return to gate or a passenger requires medical attention due either to an animal injuring someone on the plane or due to a passenger being unable/unwilling to follow the flight crew’s instructions and control their animal.

      With the aircrew unions and most disability advocacy groups behind the push for increased standards and scrutiny on “service animals” and pushing to help close the loophole for those who aren’t truly in need of service animals, and with the new DOT guidance, I think this is pretty likely to happen.

  43. Interjet down in Mexico will disappear, volaris and vivaaerobus will be the ones to take over most of volaris share of the market domestically, volaris will and Aeromexico will be the ones to take over the Interjet’s share of the market internationally. Aeromexico will keep a smaller profile and its domestic network will just become a feeder to its international flights.

  44. #1) Delta announces a big Max order (50-150) end of Q1/ start of Q2 2021.
    #2) No mergers. Instead increased code share language, JV’s, and alliances.

    #3) General public: “Max? I think I remember. Was it that one plane that crashed and was grounded?”

    #4) AA flies chapter 11.

    #5) DAL drastically rescues their international footprint with additional JV’s and code share.

  45. #1 Frontier will finalize a deal to move to Concourse A East in Denver
    #2 United will end their LA international routes instead drawing people through San Francisco
    #3 Jetblue will announce a further expansion of Miami.

  46. One of the three major alliances will have a major fracture with key members/founding airlines leaving.

  47. Had a bit too much fun playing armchair airline CEO:

    #1: Korean Air/Asiana merger process proceeds quickly with both carriers making early fleet adjustments towards some commonality: OZ pushes forward 767 retirements, both retire their 747-400s. Korea will be one of the few bright spots in 2021 aviation due to South Korea’s success in controlling COVID, KE/OZ ‘s strength in cargo, travel bubbles with places such as Singapore/Taiwan/Australia/NZ, and ICN’s temporary role as a stopover for most US-China traffic. Both carriers announce A380 retirements in favor of A350-1000s to cover typically high demand routes like LAX-ICN/JFK-ICN in the longer (post COVID) run.

    #2: The first 6-8 months of 2021 broadly look the same as 2020: Countries keep borders closed to Americans until mass vaccination is achieved, July/August at the earliest. Until then, US airlines continue being creative, throwing as much capacity as they can towards as many creative leisure routes and provide another 6 months of continued material for Cranky’s Skeds of Air Lines by building and slashing schedules. On the transatlantic front, we see overly optimistic May/June US-EU schedules that are slashed as summer comes closer. Norwegian finally bites the dust, unable to survive another COVID-induced depression in demand and continued border closures. US-China nonstop service resumes in full force by fall, but there will be fewer flights than in 2019 due to politics.

    #3: NMA-737 MAX haunts Boeing more and NMA plans are fairly universally assumed to be dead due to its inability to replace the American market’s ancient 757/767s quickly enough. Forced to consider less optimal solutions, UA goes with a replacement plan similar to AA’s involving a combination of ordering more 787-8s with downgauging to A321XLRs. DL converts some A321neos to A321XLRs and orders 5-10 more A330neos (maybe even derated-800s if they can get a good deal), and further aggregates its transatlantic network to revolve around LHR/AMS/CDG on the European side and ATL/JFK (and to a lesser extent DTW) on the American side.

    #4: AA continues to be in dire straits and burn cash due to its disadvantaged position nearly everywhere, pushing it to the brink of bankruptcy. Domestically, B6/AS take over more traffic from AA on the coasts and AA’s own metal will retreat mostly inland to DFW, CLT, and its never-ending stalemate with United at ORD. SEA-BLR on AA is cancelled permanently due to competition from the more lucrative SFO-BLR, and SEA-PVG is also cancelled due to COVID at first and then competition from DL/MU joint venture and in favor of the existing Hainan flight (both AS/AA codeshare with them). DFW is left as AA’s only remaining East Asia gateway on its own metal with the cancellation of long haul from SEA and pulldown from LAX and ORD-Asia that occured before COVID. Retirement of all 777-200ERs is pushed forward to cut costs, with this capacity no longer necessary and redundancy with 787-9s. Possible calls for replacement of the management team, and employee discontent may ensue as the situation worsens with cash burn.

    #5: US-India: Air India abruptly cancels SFO-BLR nonstop (again) due to COVID at first and inferior connections/aircraft to United, and UA pushes the launch of their SFO-BLR service to the fall. When it starts, the route is a star performer in UA’s network due to the suitability of the 787-9, large O&D demand on both sides, and the SFO hub. SFO-BOM is announced by either AI/UA but doesn’t start.

    #6: State of US Domestic market: UA comes out of the COVID pandemic having found a niche in using GUM as a cargo hub, and explores options to keep this post pandemic. By the end of the year, UA surprisingly emerges as the best-positioned of the US3 in a post-pandemic world due to its network and (finally) competent, nimble management. DL will largely stay where it was pre-pandemic, keeping its hub in SEA (contrary to popular speculation), pulling down transatlantic plans in BOS, and growing LAX due to AA’s pain. AA continues to flounder as detailed in #4.

    #7: China holds its rank as the world’s largest aviation market in 2021 and continues to grow domestically. It remains to be seen whether the US will rebound from COVID enough to overtake China before 2024 (when China was originally predicted to overtake the US).

    #8: ME3 becomes ME2: Etihad ceases operations, LCCs and international carriers (maybe a couple EK W patterns for long haul) pick up the little AUH O&D demand. Qatar continues pumping money into QR, EK continues being the most successful and profitable of what will be the ME2 while QR runs on state money. They are permanently smaller in the US with the most aggressive cuts coming to secondary cities such as SEA/BOS/ATL/MCO/PHL, due to competition with more nonstop US-India options.

    1. Whoops, didn’t read the rule for only 1. #3 is my official prediction: that the NMA plans will be declared dead either explicitly by Boeing or implicitly by United/Delta making alternative arrangements to replace 757s/767s more quickly.

  48. Virgin Australia announces order for 787–9 for resumption of long haul flying starting with LAX, but delivery won’t occur before 2023.

  49. A major COVID outbreak will be traced back to an flight on a US airline that does not have a middle seat blocking policy, creating all sorts of controversy about allowing people to still fly and in packed airplanes, but resulting in the government doing absolutely nothing.

  50. The 737 MAX is gets global attention again over a uncontained engine failure, leading to counties being on the edge about re-grounding the plane.

  51. * AA will not concede ORD to UA and let ULCCs backfill leasure demand and further erode yield. HOWEVER……
    * Business O&D markets like BOS, NYC, AUS, XNA, SJC, etc. will suffer for the first two quarters of 21 and that will reflect in frequencies in all hubs.
    * Contrarian here: biz traffic WILL rebound once we reach critical mass with vaccines. We made virtual work because we had to…..
    but it is hardly a replacement for F2F.
    * Even with a rebound in business traffic in the second half of the year…. the appetite for super premium service will wain and “enhanced economy” will be the new bread and butter.
    * Financial distress may push the merger game but the new Administration won’t let it happen without demonstrating severe financial distress by one or both parties.
    * A glut of relatively new frames at bargain prices will trigger startups with insane “business plans” like connecting Senegal to MCO or Cairo with Nanjing. Lots of capital will evaporate but it will be fun to watch.
    * The survivors will stop chasing market share and “dominance” in certain cities and surgically look at yield in city pairs regardless of connectivity.
    * CV will create another desert of new pilot and operations talent similar to post 9/11. Won’t fill the effects in 21 but definitely by 25 or 26.

  52. A secondary prediction (my primary is the UA #1 ASMs above) is really more of an extension of current news: all the airlines chasing the limited flying demand there is focused on Florida will make it the Stalingrad battle of attrition in 2021. Waves of nonstop flights from ULCCs, LCCs, and even the legacies will connect cities all over the country directly to Florida destinations completely bypassing ATL and CLT.

  53. Ok, here are some that I think are possible but perhaps not all of them are probable…
    1. WestJet drops the cooperation with Delta and goes over into American’s camp. AA needs a North American partner and they don’t have options in Latin America so Air Canada or WestJet are their two options.
    2. IAG finishes its purchase of Air Europa with the European Commission not launching an investigation (satisfied by the divestment deal with Volotea). Air Europa leaves SkyTeam by October 2021.
    3. SkyTeam is the first of the global alliances to disband (Delta and AF-KLM can go with just their JVs)
    4. Qantas and Japan Airlines try to launch a JV and regulators begrudgingly approve it because of Covid-19-induced market conditions.
    5. American doesn’t draw back from ORD (idk why y’all are saying that… ignores a lot of the things execs have said [i know i know, don’t trust a word execs say] and it contradicts the money they’ve pumped into ORD.
    6. Speaking of hubs, the Biden admin seeks to open up LGA and DCA to increase competition and encourage air travel post-herd immunity (Say October?)
    7. UA shrinks international from LAX and moves it to SFO. AS increasingly takes AA share at LAX but as the pandemic eases, AA adds more international flights from LAX.
    8. The new Alitalia is yet again the worst airline in the world, but it loses less money because its half the size.
    9. Kenya Airways leaves SkyTeam following dissolution of JV with AF-KLM.
    10. LATAM-Delta JV isn’t approved under a Biden administration and subsequently Qatar offers to buy out Delta.
    11. UA moves to merge with Hawaiian Airlines because of the international strength of a Honolulu transpacific hub.
    12. Interjet goes under and Volaris picks up most of the market share.
    13. AS opens up the market of Seattle for Qantas.

    But my *one* that I want considered is #1

    1. Love your number 11 prediction. With Guam, it will further strengthen UA’s place in the pacific. Given how much pride Hawaii has for it’s hometown airline, I’d be surprised if it’s allowed to happen though.

      1. I agree that Hawaiian will be resistant to a takeover. Honolulu has limited value as a transpacific hub; with the advent of airliners with transpacific range, there isn’t a technical reason to stop and the great circle routes between North America and Asia are all up towards Alaska. Where HNL has potential as a hub is as a gateway to the South Pacific, especially as Hawaiian opens up more mainland destinations they give an alternative to LAX and SFO that more evenly splits up the flying time, if the connection times work.

        Delta was rumored to be interested in acquiring Hawaiian in 1989 and that was not well received.

  54. My prediction 1: No major US airline will place a new order for aircraft as demand for air travel remains depressed and finances are weak. Some existing orders may be swapped for different aircraft but no-new-orders, including MAX.

    Prediction #2: See above, more issues with the MAX. Boeing Commercial Aircraft is thrown into more chaos and requires a gov’t bailout of their own. Admitting defeat a 797 program to replace the ancient 737 is announced.

    Prediction #3: By mid-2021 the vaccine has enough penetration that air travel starts to increase but business travel remains depressed as virtual meetings have finally gained acceptance in the business world. Many corporate travel contracts with legacy carriers, including WN, are cut or eliminated. At least one airline will start reducing the # of domestic F seats on their aircraft.

  55. My first prediction is my “official” one but here are a few others.
    1. Boeing officially announces the NMA/MOM aircraft after watching Airbus continue to tally A321NEO orders; UA is the launch customer
    2. SW experiences labor disruption as rank and file continue to lose trust in leadership after layoff threats
    3. AS/B6 announce a merger
    4. AA declares bankruptcy, if only to finally unload it’s costly IAM contracts
    5. Ethiad goes under
    6. Cathay Pacific suffers a major accident due to the requirements of hiring only local pilots and Hong Kong disruption.

  56. Official prediction: United officially announces retirements of its oldest/least efficient aircraft

    Bonus predictions:
    * Delta converts some A321NEO orders into A321LR/XLR
    * Countries begin requiring proof of COVID vaccines before allowing entry

  57. *Chicago Mayor Lightfoot cancels T2 Terminal Replacement Project
    *Southwest expands further in STL, taking over an additional 4 former Ozark/TWA/AA Gates on D-Concourse. This is in addition to the 4 former Ozark/TWA/AA Gates on D-Concourse already taken-over by Southwest.
    *Southwest obtains additional gates at ORD & IAH after initial start-up
    *American files Chapter 11 and downsizes.
    *Frontier & Spirit Merge, rebrand company as Frontier-Spirit
    *Sun Country is purchased by Amazon and converts to All Cargo
    *Allegiant further expands out of Midway

  58. With AirAsiaX unable to pay for any of its orders, and no airline wanting to initially order or increase its orders (except for DL getting partially built AirAsiaX frames at firesale prices), Airbus announces a planned end of production of the 330NEO program.

  59. My main prediction is kind of a crazy and silly. but I have a good feeling about it.
    -Alitalia will order either the A320neo and/or the 787.

    Other predictions i have.
    -Delta will come out much smaller and in a struggling financial position worse than the other legacy airlines.
    -Airlines will again furlong passengers in a few months cos they ran out of stimulus money.
    -American will announce at least 3 more flights to Asia from Seattle.
    -Denver will become United’s largest hub.
    -Delta will order 737max
    -JetBlue will announce another European destination.
    -I doubt there will be any airline merger announced in the US in 2021. maybe later, but in 2021 I doubt it.

  60. Primary Prediction:

    – American Airlines announces SEA-HKG to fill in for Cathay Pacific after abandoning the route.

    Other Predictions:

    – American targets the remaining 4x weekly frequencies available for U.S. carriers on flights to South Africa by applying for JFK or MIA to JNB
    – American adds a new (or returning) destination in Brazil
    – American relaunches LAX-GRU despite cutting it in July 2020
    – American returns to Santa Cruz (VVI) or Brasilia from Miami with the 737 MAX
    – American delays LAX to Christchurch from late-2021 to 2022
    – American adds a JFK to India route
    – China Southern and/or Aer Lingus join Oneworld or Oneworld Connect
    – XiamenAir leaves SkyTeam and follows its parent company China Southern into being unaligned or joining Oneworld
    – Eastern Airlines adds DFW to Latin America/Caribbean (personal wish)
    – JetBlue launches Boston to San Antonio with the A220-300
    – JetBlue adds San Juan to Austin
    – China Southern or AA launch PKX-SEA
    – China Southern announces codeshare with Alaska Airlines
    – Alaska dumps Hainan and Emirates
    – At the end of 2021 Korean Air announces ICN-AUS
    – China Eastern/Southern order the 777X

  61. It is my feeling that the Biden Administration will work with Nicaragua to resolve financial vulnerability, and more airlines will (re)start flying as the money would be guaranteed to come to the airline in a timely matter.

    Also, More flights to Cuba will return as Biden returns to the Obama foreign policy with the Cuban administration.

  62. The new Democratic administration in Washington, D. C. reimposes Obama-era regulations on drilling for oil & natural gas, under the guise of environmental protection. They will refer to this as “Saving Our Mother Earth.” As a result, the USA will lose its energy independence. The price of petroleum-based products, including gasoline, Jet A, diesel & lubricants will soar as a result. The pain at the gas pumps will hit all drivers & their families hard. Airfares & fuel surcharges will increase, crippling a post-Covid recovery in travel of all types, especially in the airline, rental car & lodging industries.

    That is my prediction. My wish is that I shall be wrong!

    1. For the love of God get out. Climate Change is real and there is a real need to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Aviation is a huge contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and to reject the science proving such is childish. 9/10 dentists recommend a specific toothpaste and people say “hmmm, 90% of dentists support it, so I should too” but when 99/100 scientists say “climate change is man-made and a result of green house gas emissions,” then all of a sudden, scientists aren’t to be trusted??? It’s laughable. And, while we’re at it “energy independence” can be supported through mixed usage of varying power sources. The US can transition other sectors to renewable sources before setting sights on aviation. Markets won’t crash. If anything, the U.S. will see a decline in the price of crude because of the poor organization of OPEC and decreased dependence on oil and gas :)

      1. I DO love God! Cranky wanted our predictions here & I gave him one. At NO TIME did I deny that there is such a thing as climate change, or global warming, or whatever the trendy term for it is now! I KNOW that planet Earth’s atmosphere is getting warmer, sea levels are rising, etc., but Cranky wanted a prediction for THIS year, 2021. However, you posted no such thing! You only shot off enough flames my way to burn down the rest of the Amazon rain forest!

        Just because I predict something does NOT mean that I like it! Had you bothered to read the last line of my post, you might have caught that. But, that would have required some calm, thoughtful, intelligent debate . . .

  63. Wow. Almost on the mark with my predictions.

    1. Norwegian joins airlines we lost 2021, if not at least its long-haul subsidiary. A new buyer is found and restructures Norwegian to fly only short haul routes around Europe and at a smaller fleet.

    2. Hawaiian and JetBlue announce a strategic partnership a-la American style. JetBlue announces Hawaii intentions with routes from LAX, SFO, LAS on their new A321neos. Hawaiian makes a decision to replace it’s 717s. Looks for deals with Airbus for the A220 and Boeing with the 737max. High chance A220 gets chosen. Hawaiian also launches new domestic routes due to the depressed demand in international flying (HNL-SLC, DFW, IAH).

    3. Virgin Atlantic declares bankruptcy. Delta continues to prop up JV to protect its position against AA/BA. Restructures to a fleet type of A330 / A350s and gets rid of the 787s. Fleet is downsized and only a handful of routes to the US (mostly Delta hubs), Africa, and Carribbean are flown.

    4. Virgin Australia sees increasingly competitive pressure from Qantas and a newly expanded Rex. Rex continues to add 737s to fly more to the larger cities in Australia driving a fare war. Virgin Australia further cuts costs and changes its business plan to a low cost carrier a-la original Virgin Blue or JetBlue. Qantas takes a step back from the international market and focuses more on Jetstar to fly leisure domestic routes and international routes.

    5. Frontier expands its presence in Miami, replicating what Spirit has in FLL. They also announce a mini-hub focus city at ONT, and start launching short haul routes in addition to more international flights. Frontier also solidifies its position in Denver by adding more flights and securing additional gate space.

    6. Interjet joins airlines we lost 2021. Massive competition in the Mexican domestic market between VivaAerobus and Volaris to fill the void left by them and a downsized AeroMexico. VivaAerobus announces more cross-border flights to new cities in the US.

    7. Spirit chooses not to jump to MIA train and instead focuses on increasing its presence in EWR, LAX, and LAS. Commits to making FLL a fortress hub and chases out WN in many markets.  Announces a mini focus city type operation at OAK to have an effective west coast strategy.

    8. Speaking of west coast strategies, B6 continues its LAX experiments – CHS becomes a seasonal route and RIC / JAX / BUF become A220 markets in addition to much of the short-haul routes. LAX becomes more of the A220 base than BOS due to the depressed demand of business travel. Announcement of LAX-TPA, PHL (Mint), SAL, GUA, PVR, MBJ, DFW, and IAH. It won’t be until 2022 they decide to right size ops and which markets to increase/decrease frequency and/or ax. 

    9. WN right sizes ops at LGB (cuts unprofitable routes i.e SJC and cuts frequencies) and adds once profitable B6 markets (SLC, SFO, and RNO), and focuses more on LAX (specifically launching LAX-Hawaii now that the MAX is recertified), ONT (as a competitive response to an increased F9 presence) and OAK. BNA officially becomes a WN focus city while FLL continues to be downsized. More routes out of MIA are announced (BNA-MIA and DEN-MIA are likely). FAT gets DEN, PHX, and LAX. SBA gets OAK, DEN, PHX. Continued focus on making DEN the fortress against UA.

    10. Leadership changes at AA with Doug Parker stepping down and Robert Isom becoming CEO. David Seymour becomes President. Expect AA to go on a major cost cutting spree. A chapter 11 filing would actually help them become more competitive as this would allow them to reset their entire cost structure; though this is dependent on what happens post March 2021 if there’s any sign of another stimulus/ recovery package. Highly likely they would file Chapter 11 if there’s no relief by years end.
    A321T sees its end, and LAX/SFO become 777 or 787 flights at a reduced frequency, however customers will be able to book on B6 Mint due to the partnership as a “replacement” to the A321T. Eventually this will be replaced once the XLRs come in or AA closes to put a business class on their NEO (albeit with no flagship first and a more denser configuration in eco).

    11. DL shifts flying away from its focus cities to just flying to/from hubs and select point-to-point where it has the greatest market share (i.e SJC, AUS, RDU get downsized). Increased focus on SLC and ATL. BOS/SEA see frequency reductions, but DL remains committed to maintaining presence due to AA’s partnership with AS and B6. Some route experimentation to leisure markets will happen from these 2 hubs. DL strikes a deal with Boeing for the 737max, replacing their A320/19 fleets. No decision on 757/767 replacement.

    12. United focuses on DEN, IAH, ORD, and IAD hubs – continued depressed demand for Asia / Europe flights leave SFO and EWR on a backburner (at least until EOY where UA ramps back up Europe flights to major markets). No major fleet decisions.

    13. B6 places BOS on a back burner while it focuses more on South Florida and EWR flying (expect to see SEA in Mint and some of the seasonal ACK/MVY/HYA/PWM flying). Expect to see FLL go back closer to its pre-COVID departures/day. MIA sees additional additions, including SJU, SFO (Mint), LAS, HAV, SDQ, BDL, HPN, and PVD. PBI sees some transcon additions such as LAS. A220 proves to be a useful asset as this will help in managing some of the newer point-to-point routes and LAX flying. Consolidation from their new routes, especially axing its point-to-point CUN flying (all cut except for SFO, RDU and BDL goes seasonal) and axing FLL-PSP/PBI-ORD. RDU becomes the new focus city for B6, with new additions of SAN, PBI, LGA, and BNA. SFO becomes something of a mini-focus with route additions that look like pre-merger VX (possible additions SEA, SAN, LAS, PVR, SJD, BZN, MIA). Finally, JFK/BOS – LGW is announced and starts at a minimal 2x daily for JFK / 1x daily for BOS as they still try to find slots at LHR.

    14. AS officially joins One-word 1st half of 2021. This allows them to effectively solidify their west coast position and enable them to have more of a foothold in the California market against WN. Its DAL fortunes change for the better as it can tap in to the AA clientele who prefer not to drive to DFW from Dallas. Its also able to tap into the Texas corporate contracts and increases its frequency between CA and TX. Seeing the possibilities of connections to the Caribbean and South America, MIA is added from SEA, PDX, LAX and SFO. Expect to see upgauging in frequency at LAX since its now able to better leverage connections with international partners.

    15. Expect to see a bloodbath on routes to/from Las Vegas and Florida (especially FLL)

    16. AirAsia X is folded into the main AirAsia brand, cancels orders for the A330neos and sells off existing A330s.

  64. Southwest will still have sluggish demand in 2021 & will be forced to make significant adjustments to it’s route map by mid summer.

  65. i said in late feb that every airline on the planet, large medium small, ULCC / EAS / global flag carrier, regardless of balance sheet of 2019Q4, has to be either re-nationalized (govt bailouts are a form of nationalization), or go through BK court.

    Did any airline avoid either ?

  66. Better late than never: AA, after hemming and hawing internally (of course, we won’t know about this) decides to reinstate South America routes that they had previously dropped in order to stem Eastern’s growth. They add back some subset of ASU, VVI (probably in conjunction with SRZ), BSB, one or two of SSA, FOR, REC, and do something random like CUZ (maybe as a tag due to altitude). These are all on the MAX, with AA hoping that the better fuel economics make them work better this time around. Ultimately, with no feed and little brand recognition, especially in South America, AA is successful and Eastern either folds or retreats back to being solely a charter/ACMI business. AA then pulls any of the routes that aren’t performing reasonably well. I’ll feel better about this prediction if Eastern gets its act together and actually runs a reasonable operation, which would give AA far more reason to respond, but that’s a big “if”.

  67. By Q4, there will be enthusiasm among many passengers to stop wearing masks on airplanes, but given hesitancy by the Biden Administration masks will still be officially required all year. Because of this, people will still wear them while getting on and off the airplane but, during flight, lots of people will be “eating and drinking” — for hours.

  68. Here are a few, in no particular order. Some of these I think are quite likely, others are long-shot hunches.

    1. Boeing will announce a clean sheet replacement to the 737 MAX, effectively spelling the end of the 737 program. Getting into speculation… I think passenger comfort will be a focus. Will be designed for a 3×3 configuration in Y with a wider seat, at least 18” with normal-sized armrests, and the aircraft will feature an updated version of (or something similar to) the Sky interior. Will also be designed with a higher ground clearance to provide more flexibility in retrofitting new engines.
    2. Southwest will get a steal from Boeing, and they will ultimately decide to replace their 737-700 fleet with something from the 737 MAX family (probably a mix of 7s and 8s). The A220 order probably won’t come to fruition.
    3. The CRJ-700 and possibly the E170 will disappear (quietly) from the Delta Connection fleet.
    4. No major US airline will cease to exist due to bankruptcy, with the possible exception of Sun Country if you even want to call them major. I am not counting the regional carriers operating for Delta Connection/United Express/American Eagle as major airlines.
    5. At least one of the regional carriers operating for the big three will no longer be with us by year end. I would nominate Mesa (who I hope it is), GoJet, Air Wisconsin (who I hope it isn’t), and maybe Piedmont (AA may fold their flying into Envoy and leave Piedmont as a ground ops company).
    6. A stretched A220 that’s bigger than the A220-300 (probably called the -500) will be announced, and Air France will buy it. Delta will also buy it, and we will eventually see it take on some flying that the A320s and 738s have now (but we might not find out about any of that until 2022).
    7. Regardless of the A220-500, Delta will add more A220s to its order.
    8. The latest incarnation of Eastern will throw in the towel by year end.

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