3 Links I Love: United Mandate Backstory, LAX Spotting, Korean Merger, Ed Beauvais Dies

America West, Links I Love

This Week’s Featured Link

Inside United Airlines’ Decision to Mandate Coronavirus VaccinesThe New York Times
Here’s a closer look at how the United mandate evolved. I think it’s important to understand all the communication and incentive groundwork that made this happen more smoothly. The other airlines do not have the benefit of time to make it as well-oiled as the United operation with less than two months to go. And hell, Delta hasn’t even said it’ll mandate the vaccine yet.

Image of the Week

If Cranky Dorkfest just wasn’t enough to satisfy you, here’s another opportunity. Next Friday, LAX will be having a planespotting event from 1130a to 130p on top of the brand-spanking new economy parking garage which is not yet open. It’ll be a good opportunity to see the new facility, get goodies, and watch airplanes. I’m planning on going. If you’d like to put your name in, register here, but note that you should wait until you receive confirmation before booking flights.

Two for the Road

Korean Air-Asiana merger may harm competition – regulatorch-aviation
Hold up, hold up. Are you trying to suggest that when the two largest airlines in a country — largest by far — merge, there will be a reduction in competition? That’s crazy talk! How is this now just becoming an issue?

A Tribute to Aviation Pioneer Edward R BeauvaisAirways
So long to an industry legend. Sure America West went into bankruptcy after about a decade, and yes, Western Pacific failed, but he was still an important figure in the airline industry.

38 comments on “3 Links I Love: United Mandate Backstory, LAX Spotting, Korean Merger, Ed Beauvais Dies

  1. Just as with everything else with covid, the difference between United and Delta’s approach will become apparent with time. As much as some want to believe otherwise, there are people who have legitimate concerns about the safety and effectiveness esp. of the mRNA vaccines and those concerns are not taking place just in the US. We require drug manufacturers to provide detailed studies about all kinds of drugs and make them available to consumers and yet, for the first time in American history, ADULTS are being required to take a medical treatment that has not succeeded in eradicating a disease even in countries that have heavily used the vaccines.
    Delta’s approach so far has been that employees need to make their own health decisions with their doctors and request exemptions which the company says probably amounts to 5-10% of their workforce. The real question is how much safer is a public contact workforce with a 99% vs. 85% vaccination rate with a vaccine that even the manufacturers acknowledge decays over time.
    And then you have to ask how far Delta will go in telling the government that it is not going to impose vaccination mandates. Maybe giving up low-yield government business is not such a great sacrifice if the outcome is that Delta chooses to, once again, zig while other airlines zag – a strategy it has successfully used in multiple other areas of the company’s operations. It will be totally worth watching the outcome and esp. comparing DL vs. UA’s vaccination strategies.

    As for Korean/Asiana, ICN is a busy airport but has space to allow strong competition, something that doesn’t exist in most other major international airports where mergers or other business arrangements have played out. And the root issue is that OZ was not profitable and there isn’t a single entity that said they could come up w/ a plan to keep it economically viable without state aid. As much as everyone wants to believe that every country can have at least 2 global carriers, S. Korea is proving that isn’t realistic. The objective is just to make sure that competitors have meaningful access and that KE can’t use its size – as well as that of its partners – to squash competition.

    1. Tim, you’ve written some pretty crazy things on this blog, but this may be the craziest yet. I refuse to get involved in a back and forth, but having worked for one of Delta’s competitors, let me state this very clearly: You have no idea how much those government contracts are worth to the airlines. That’s serious, nearly guaranteed, revenue, which no airline is in a position to ever forfeit, let alone right now. There’s a snowball’s chance in hell that DL risks losing those contracts. That’s not a zig where others zag – that’s biting the hand that feeds you. That would be a terrible move for DL and, having a lot of respect for the intelligence of their C suite, I will 100% confidently predict that they will not go that route. If the mandate holds up, and I think it will, DL will come along. They’ll probably put better PR spin on it than AA and that will translate to better buy-in, but they will 100% come along.

      1. Delta could announce a plan to fly all its planes upside down and sure as the sun rises in the east, Tim Dunn would be here to tell us how brilliant they are.

      2. DFW88–

        That’s exactly how I think it’ll play out. There’ll be some nice massaging of the message by DL’s corp comm team, but the end run’ll be the same.

        Any carrier that states it’s in an “existential crisis” and then turns down millions in potential government revenue–to say nothing of the positive PR that comes with DoD charters–deserves the shareholder revolt it gets.

    2. I agree with Tim in one respect. There are people who believe they have legitimate concerns regarding the vaccines. Whether they do or don’t, only time will prove out. But there is one thing Tim said that just isn’t accurate. The COVID vaccine was never designed to eradicate COVID and is not a silver bullet. This is a common misconception among the “vaccine hesitant” and the anti-vaxxer crowd has tried to weaponize this straw man. In fact, the eradication of COVID, so to speak, is pretty much off the table because it’s a coronavirus. The goal is to make it manageable to the point that it is no longer a serious concern and to keep the hospitals from collapsing under the onslaught of cases. The fight against COVID has more in common with the fight against HIV in the 80s and 90s than, say, the fights against the Measles, Polio, or Chickenpox.

      The vaccine is merely one attack vector in a set of attack vectors (masking up, social distancing, etc). Alone, none of these vectors will make much of a difference. Together they vastly reduce the serious infection and death rates.

      Another misconception which Tim touches on is that the vaccine a one and done. This could be the case for something like Measles or Polio but for a Coronavirus it was never going to happen. I realized over a year ago that we were going to be getting shot after shot for COVID for years because this is a coronavirus. The other big coronavirus that annually menaces us is the Flu. Every year we need a vaccine shot (and those shots are best guesses as to what the flu will do that season…and those guesses are better some years than others). The thing about the Flu is it is essentially seasonal. It’s worst between Oct/Nov-March/April. The rest of the year it’s not a threat. And the Flu is nowhere near as potent or deadly as COVID so it’s not as big a threat to the vast majority of the population.

      COVID is not seasonal. It’s year round…for as long as the virus comes up with new mutations and the total population of the world is still very susceptible to its effects (which basically means as long as the virus can spread like it has been). So while a Flu shot can get away with lasting for five to six months because flu the season ends, a COVID shot can’t because its season doesn’t end. For now at least.

      So we will be getting 2x a year shots until one of several things happens…

      1) COVID mutates into an innocuous form and is no longer a threat. That’s unlikely.
      2) A more powerful vaccine is developed that can reduce the number of shots one takes.
      3) Herd immunity occurs and reduces the threat level and it’s decided that less shots are required. There is no way to know when or if things will ever get to this stage.

      1. No vaccine completely eradicates disease. They’re meant to limit them. That’s because there are no magic bullets in life. People react differently to vaccines, just as they react differently to disease. Some people develop allergic reactions. Vaccines don’t work on some people. Of course, politicians love to exploit the fact that the public wants to believe in magic bullets. That’s why so many of them make an issue out of the 2% who do have a negative reaction or die once they’ve been vaccinated instead of focusing on the 98% who are helped. But that’s because politicians, some lawyers, and the media are the only people who rejoice when people suffer – especially if it’s good for business, ratings, or raising campaign contributions.

        1. Well, to be fair, vaccines eradicated smallpox and may yet do so with polio. But it’s unbelievably difficult to eradicate diseases. And it’s impossible with viruses like sars-cov-2, which have real animal reservoirs.

      2. you make my points completely.
        It is precisely because the covid vaccines don’t eradicate the disease and many people have successfully survived the disease – gaining immunity w/o a vaccine – that people have legitimate concerns.
        I am not interested in debating the validity of vaccines.
        I am noting that it will very much be worth tracking the AIRLINE SPECIFIC benefits if Delta chooses to continue with its no-mandate approach compared to other airlines. There are all kinds of issues to consider – and there simply is not data to know which approach will result in the best outcome. Delta has long chosen to NOT DO what everyone is doing.
        Government revenue is not high yielding. It is low quality revenue even if there is normally alot of it – but that might not be the case now. I am simply suggesting that part of Delta’s calculus might be that losing government contract revenue might not be the worst thing, esp. since they could achieve comparable safety outcomes w/o ticking off their employees or customers and local and state governments that respect personal choice.
        also, there is new data that the number of Americans that are not fully vaccinated for other diseases is well above levels for covid 19.
        Again, let’s see how long Delta holds out and whether any large company can really document the benefit to their company and their workforce compared to companies -perhaps including Delta – that can achieve their safety goals in less intrusive ways.

        1. Tim, You have no right to censor what I write. Obviously, you have the right to disagree with it. I was simply making a point. How individual companies handle their internal employee relations is based on a lot of factors we are unaware of. I generally prefer to limit my comments to those things about which I have reasonably verifiable information, telling people I’m speculating, or giving an opinion.

          grichard, According to a quick Google search (which may be flawed), Smallpox has been largely eradicated, but there are a number of reasons for this that don’t apply to other viruses. So my original sentence was probably a bit too broad (although there may be one or two isolated cases of Smallpox that could occur). As for polio, in 2020, 140 cases of WPV1 were reported, including 56 in Afghanistan (a 93% increase from 29 cases in 2019) and 84 in Pakistan (a 43% decrease from 147 cases in 2019).

          1. say what? I don’t have the abililty and didn’t censor anything you said.
            My reply was to Douglas Swalen and at least on my browser, my reply shows under and indented from his as does your first reply.

            I agree w/ the point you make about numbers in that there is a point of diminishing return of effectiveness and mandates do not necessarily provide the incremental benefit. There are concerns in Washington even today regarding the weak jobs report which some believe is in part due to the fact that there are alot of people that will not come back to the workforce because they don’t want to be vaccinated. I don’t think we have the data to know that for sure but I have figured out in life that one size fits all solutions rarely work w/o significant consequences, regardless of the subject.

            as humans, we are smart enough to solve complex problems but the starting place has to be to listen to the concerns of all parties and come up w/ solutions that respect the persons involved and their desires within the totality of the issue at hand – whether we are talking about Palestine, homelessness, or global food production and distribution.

            1. It’s unclear who you were responding to on my browser, but when you wrote that you weren’t interested in “debating” the validity of vaccines, that went too far, in my opinion. Maybe the word “censorship” was a poor choice of words on my part, as was the word “debating” on yours. If someone wants to “discuss” the effectiveness of vaccines as it relates to ar travel, that’s their right. But what people post here isn’t for any of us to decide on our own. Just to let you know where I’m coming from. Maybe I overreacted a bit. Covid vaccines are affecting the airline industry and personnel decisions as a whole. They aren’t airline-specific.

            2. I’m simply saying to you or anyone else that I am not interested in debating – or beating the horse or whatever term one might use – the validity of the vaccine in the general population.

              My point is simply to have data to show whether the incremental benefit of an 85% or vaccination rate for Delta – which is still well above the country’s average and many “laggard” states as well as likely above AAL and LUV – compared to a “perfect” vaccination rate for United. United’s strategy comes w/ some job losses; Delta’s strategy comes with higher insurance rates for some employees (not all of Delta’s unvaccinated employees have Delta insurance).

              We don’t have any of that data so there really is nothing to debate right now. From a case study perspective ONLY, I hope that Delta maintains its position and there is data to say who really chose the better position in total with every factor including whether the government tries to strip Delta’s government contracts (there will be an outcry from some legislators and voters if that happened). Lots of “what ifs” that would be … interesting…. to watch.

              My position isn’t specific to you or anyone else and I always enjoy discussions w/ you.

            3. Tim, I think we’ve just about beaten these horses to death. So … have a great weekend.

              A thought occurred to me after I pressed “enter”: There IS one person with veto power over what we write here. He goes by Brett or Cranky Flier. LOL!!

            4. Desert – This is true! And though I rarely do delete comments, it has happened when it degenerates into personal attacks or slurs.

              I’ll take this opportunity to remind everyone that sometimes comments can be very repetitive. If you don’t respond, that will mean that the original poster won’t respond either. And that’s not a bad thing.

  2. I won’t be at LAX for this occasion, but I will visit sometime this fall. I live 200 miles north. So no flights. Within driving distance. And won’t go until I see clear weather in the forecast.

    That’s a shame about Mr Beauvis. HP and W7 were among my favorite and most photographed airlines of the ’90’s.

  3. I remember America West fondly. I remember when it was started, and part of the rationale for it. When it acquired US Airways, America West was the only airline founded in the immediate wake of deregulation (1978) that survived operating under its original operating certificate. That in itself was quite an accomplishment.

    The largest carrier when I moved to Phoenix in 1976 was Hughes Airwest. Its substantial operation in Phoenix was cut way back after its acquisition by Republic Airlines. That left a void in Phoenix, which even then, was a good size city. Southwest had barely come into Phoenix at that time and wasn’t the behemoth it later became. Enter America West.

    America West first flew in 1983, six years after deregulation. Its original intent was to be a regional carrier, serving the market between the middle of the country and the West Coast. The airline exploded from three aircraft in 1983 to 21 by 1984. By 1985, it had basically become a hub and spoke version of Hughes Airwest. In those days, Beauvais constantly talked about gaining “critical mass” – being big enough to be relevant, which is debated here often.

    Then there were the 747s. The original intent was to fly them to Australia, as Ansett had bought an interest in America West. But that was vetoed. So it settled for Nagoya – with disastrous results. I’ve often wondered if things would have been different if America West had been allowed to fly to Australia where it had feed, as opposed to Nagoya, where it had none. But no one will ever know.

    Most of the people who comment on this blog are familiar with America West’s bankruptcy, Beauvais’ ouster, and Bill Franke’s entry into the airline industry. But they might not be quite as familiar with the beginning of America West, so I’ve written this comment. It may not have every detail completely right, and I was unable to find some exact dates (such as when Southwest began service to Phoenix), but what I’ve written is the gist of what happened as seen by someone who lived (and still lives) in the Phoenix area.

    At an America West employees reunion a few years ago, Beauvais offered the view that the two main changes in the airline industry of that era happened in Phoenix and Newark. He had a point.

    America West/US Airways/American and Southwest have competed in Phoenix since 1983 – almost 40 years. Part of why I have faith in the current American Airlines management team is because most of them came from America West. While many airline blog pundits love to put down America West, it doesn’t deserve the snarky and derisive comments it often gets. It was a well-run niche airline that offered good service, a level of amenities that rivaled larger airlines, yet did so in its own way. It was a hybrid airline before that term became a cliche.

    RIP Mr. Beauvais.

    1. For the most part, an excellent synopsis. However, I would argue that the 747’s were merely the proverbial “last straw”. HP was already getting too big, too fast. Add the 757’s and A320’s, the first Gulf War, and the subsequent Recession and drop in traffic, and yeah. They were in for a hard time.

      Getting back to the A320’s for a moment (and someone correct me if I’m wrong), but I understand that they got them for absolutely dirt cheap. They picked up the 3 or so that Braniff II had plus the outstanding orders. Which, in turn was originally placed by Pan Am. If this is true, I still don’t understand what the rationale for adding a different type from a different manufacturer was. If anyone can shed some light on this.

      I flew HP many times in the mid and late 1990’s between LAX/ONT and LAS. One of the scariest flights I ever took was on a 733 headed back to LAX in the middle of Summer. Takeoff was long, slow, and violent. Even back then I was already a seasoned flyer. But that takeoff had my butt cheeks swallowing that seat cushion.

      And fastest flight was on an HP 73S out of ONT, mid 1994. I still remember it. Was on leased C-G8PW. Liftoff to touchdown: 27 minutes. I timed it. I still wore a wrist watch back then.

      —–

      And related. I flew Western Pacific once in early 1996 to COS from LAX. Took “Colorado Tech” on the outbound and “Stardust” on the return. Just to get as many pictures as I could of their fleet at the time. I ended up coming back with double pneumonia. But lots of fantastic pics.

      Those were the days,

      1. I don’t know the whole story behind the economics that spurred the purchase of the 747s, but I do know America West originally wanted to fly them to Australia to connect with Ansett (which had a 40% stake in the airline at the time). America West also needed three or four-engine aircraft to fly to Hawaii, as ETOPS wasn’t as widely implemented back then. I understand the 747s were dirt cheap, as were the A320s from Braniff. Airbus wasn’t as entrenched in the U.S. in those days as it is now, and I’m guessing America West got a really sweet deal. I also remember that there were enough of them that the added complexity wasn’t a big issue. The A320s largely replaced older Boeing 737-200s which had to be replaced anyway, so why not do it on the cheap? But I also remember Beauvais specifically mentioning in an interview about Western Pacific that he thought the 737-300 was one of the best aircraft in the sky.

        1. Yes I remember reading an article about him and WestPac too. Oh yeah Mr Beauvis absolutely adored the 733.

          Now again, someone needs to brush up my history, but didn’t HP fly the Thunder Guppies (737-200) right up until the end?

          I stopped taking pictures as a hobby in late Summer 2001. No explanation needed. But I have a pic of at least one 73S in the then new colors, Was #184 or #185. I don’t have my photos handy at the moment. I also got-twice (once at LAX and once at SJC) of the one -100, also painted in the new colors. Albeit a modified version. Two tone pink and purple IIRC. It had the Phoenix Suns logo on it. Both pics I got were in 1999. So they were around at least that long.

          1. I think you’re right. I believe at least two 737-200s lasted as long as they could fly. As you mentioned, America West even had a -100 for use by the Phoenix Suns. That may have also been part of the arena naming rights deal, but I’m not 100% certain of the timing. I understand that aircraft had a lot of “main cabin extra” seats to accommodate the Suns’ players.

            1. Yes, the -100s were all gone except for N708AW which hung around until they could fly no more. Originally that airplane was the Suns charter aircraft, and it flew a lot of Phoenix – San Jose and Austin flights to fill up all those First Class seats with paying .comers when it wasn’t flying. Later on, the Suns moved on but the aircraft kept flying in a normal configuration until 2000 when the more strict noise requirements required it being retired. That airplane was incredible. It was delivered in 1969 to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines before they separated. It went on to Singapore and then Air Florida before reaching America West in 1985.

              The -200s lasted longer with their hushkits. The last ones were sent packing between 2003 and 2005. I don’t know what the last aircraft to leave was, but looking at Cirium schedules, the last scheduled flights on the airplane were Jan 20, 2005 with one roundtrip from Phoenix to Kansas City followed by a roundtrip from Phoenix to Ontario.

            2. 2005 sounds about right. I remember that there was a bit of a going-away party the day the last -200 flew.

      2. I also understand America West got a really sweet deal on the 757s. Republic’s had Rolls Royce engines, while Northwest’s had different ones (I’m not 100% sure which). Beauvais also had connections with Republic as he’d worked for at least one of its predecessors. There was a whole lot of debate about America West growing too fast back in those days. But I really think the 747s are what did it in along with the Gulf War. I heard stories that there were often as few as two passengers flying from Nagoya to Honolulu. No airline can survive that, not even the “Perfect Airline.”

        1. My memory may be suspect, but my recollection is that the A320s was post bankruptcy, because of the smoking deal, so they did not contribute to the dilution of focus that drive bankruptcy. The reason Nagoya was a disaster was the Gulf War. In the early 90s Japan was the hottest country on the planet for business. After the gulf war started, the Japanese Government told its people to not fly US carriers due to potential for terror, kind of crushed the market. I was on a flight that only had 3 revenue passengers in business class and 50 in coach…

          Ed Beauvais’ impact on the economic growth in the Western US is incredible. The PHX market and competition with WN attracted significant business to Arizona. $9 fare war PHX ONT, crazy stuff, but there is a reason PHX is now the 5th largest city in the US, and it tracks back to America West. Thank you Ed, and may you Rest In Peace

          1. Saw – Republic must have since N901AW-N906AW were all built for Republic before coming over to America West. But yes, N913AW-N915AW were built for Eastern and those came over as well.

    2. You might tell Airways Magazine that the inaugural service for America West Airlines was on August 1, 1983–not August 2.

  4. Whether you agree with it or not (leaving my own opinions aside here), the federal government’s new requirements for vaccinations/tests for government contractors and employers of > 100 people is almost a godsend for the management of many organizations, especially those who might have considering requiring proof of vaccination on their own but didn’t quite have the courage to do what United did.

    Instead of either requiring employees show proof of vaccination (and potentially risk losing employees to competitors in a tight labor market) or to continue to deal with high rates of COVID-related absences in their workforce, employers can simply require that employees show proof of vaccination “or else” and blame it on Uncle Sam, with the knowledge that other employers competing for labor are (or will soon be) doing the same thing. It’s tough for employees to argue with, “Sorry, it’s the new federal rules and we have to follow them,” as the justification behind new company policies.

  5. The lede of the NYT story is worth posting:

    Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United Airlines, reached a breaking point while vacationing in Croatia this summer: After receiving word that a 57-year-old United pilot had died after contracting the coronavirus, he felt it was time to require all employees to get vaccinated.

    He paced for about half an hour and then called two of his top executives. “We concluded enough is enough,” Mr. Kirby said in an interview on Thursday. “People are dying, and we can do something to stop that with United Airlines.”

    The story later states that dozens of United employees have died with covid.

    1. Kirby somehow found the courage to execute the tough decision other CEOs couldn’t bring themselves to make.

      1. Firing people to get your way is really not that hard to do.
        Working w/ the workforce you hired years ago and still achieving your goals is the most lofty achievement.
        It’s most noteworthy that Delta says it is at 85% vaccination rate and Bastian says they have 5-10% of their employees with legitimate exemptions.
        Delta is pretty close to where it needs to be – and so far without the drama.
        If he stays the course, this might turn out to be Bastian’s finest hour.

  6. Southwest has passed 24% of its flights cancelled Saturday; they say the reason is weather and ATC. Friday was rough in Florida but no other airline is above 2% cancellations on Saturday.

    In other Southwest news, Southwest’s pilots union has sued to stop the company from enforcing the vaccine mandate.

    Whether the two things are connected is anyone’s guess….

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Cranky Flier