So, how did your predictions go this year? For most of you, the answer was… not well. This was one hard year to predict. But hey, there was some success in there, so kudos to those of you who actually, somehow pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
Let’s dig right in, and then remember to leave your predictions for 2022 in the comments. As a reminder, once again, I will only consider the first prediction you make when I evaluate guesses next year. Otherwise there’s just too much volume.
- Jim Kingdon – 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.
- grichard – A 737-MAX will crash.
- A – a 737MAX will crash and MCAS will be the cause. While not immediately clear this will effectively be the end of the 737 program.
- Isaac – 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.
Comment: Jim Kingon is the big winner in this one. There was no drama surrounding the MAX, and it has continued to quietly fly all over.
Other Boeing Activities
- Ken – 777X is delayed again for another year and the Boeing Starliner is delayed again.
- Chris – Boeing officially announces the NMA/MOM aircraft after watching Airbus continue to tally A321NEO orders; UA is the launch customer
- Jonas – 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.
- Ian C – 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.
- Dan Hood – 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.
Comment: Predicting new airplane projects will be delayed? That’s a guaranteed win. But Chris, well, you give Boeing too much credit, same for Jonas and Dan Hood. Ian C, well, not sure if it’s dead or not, but it feels like it is.
- Tim Dunn – 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.
- SEAN – 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.
- ktenorman – AA will pull back at ORD and focus even more at CLT and DFW as UA correspondingly grows ORD into a bigger operation.
- Eric – AA will not concede ORD to UA and let ULCCs backfill leasure demand and further erode yield.
Comment: I don’t know what Tim Dunn would call “substantial,” but this has not happened by my measure. Sean’s comment, however, is debatable. No, none of these have shrunk to spokes, but American certainly has relied on JetBlue to help it grow its presence in the Northeast As for Chicago, ktenorman, this does seem to be happening.
Bankruptcy and Profit
- Michael – I predict that none of the big 4 will enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
- DesertGhost – 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.
Comment: Thanks to all that government money, Michael is right. And DesertGhost, even though some have made it to cash positive, not all are there.
Southwest and Sabre
- PF – Southwest joins Sabre as a participating carrier.
Comment: This actually happened shortly after this comment was left and it was back in 2020. But that’s a technicality. Winner.
- David – In flight magazines will return but will remain only in electronic version. Seatback magazines on paper will not return in 2021
Comment: Well, I can’t speak for all airlines, but these are definitely on the way out.
American and Doug Parker
- Matteus Stevens – Doug Parker finally gets the boot from AA!
- Rhys – 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.
- AP – My money is on Parker will still be at AA on 12/31/21
Comment: Matteus and Rhys didn’t get it right since Doug is leaving on his own and AA isn’t bankrupt, but AP, well, you sir are technically correct. Doug doesn’t leave until the end of March.
- CLTflyer – 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.
- Trey – 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.
- Richard – 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.
- SkyVoice – 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.
Comment: Well, can we call this unclear, CLTflyer? I haven’t heard the latest business travel numbers, but Omicron is changing things once again anyway. It’s choppy, and that’s where I’d leave this. But Trey, you didn’t get the leisure market bloodbath right, but you certainly nailed the Spirit Miami bit. And Richard, maybe a bit early on that call, but the sentiment was right. SkyVoice, you had me until the part about “crippling the recovery.” This is happening, but it hasn’t crippled anything yet.
- FC – WN will take over 1 major airline in 2021. Most likely AS.
- Davey – 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.
- Bricen – 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.
- Marcos – The Eskimo and Pualani send out wedding announcements and set a date to tie the knot.
Comment: Nope, nope, nope, and nope.
The Demise of Premium Travel
- Brian G – Multiple airlines pull out a few rows of business/first-class seats to add more economy seats on widebody longhaul aircraft.
- Mike F – 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.
Comment: Premium demand remains strong, even if it’s more leisure-focused than ever before, so this didn’t happen.
- Cody C – 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.
- Irwin – One of the three major alliances will have a major fracture with key members/founding airlines leaving.
Comment: No such action here. No alliance lost a member this year, unless you count Alitalia. And oneworld actually picked up a new member in Alaska.
- MK03 – Lufthansa’s A380s are officially permanently retired, as opposed to merely “taken out of planning”
Comment: Indeed, this came true.
- john – Breeze turns a profit before Q4.
- Mike K – BREEZE doesn’t fly in 2021.
Comment: Was Breeze profitable? I have no idea. They don’t have to tell us that. But I wouldn’t bet on it. It did, however, fly in 2021.
- Ian L – 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.
Comment: Crushed it. Southwest was above 95 percent in July through October before falling off. But American was second and its best was 90 precent in November.
- Juanita Barber – 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.
Comment: It’s a little vague, but I guess you could say this did happen with Embraer working on a new turboprop and chatter around an A220-500 growing.
- Jim – I’m going to predict that the REAL ID deadline wil be extended yet again.
Comment: Way too easy, and of course, it happened.
World’s Largest Airline
- Johosofat – China Southern is the world’s largest airline in 2021.
- Tory – 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.
Comment: Not by ASMs or seats, Johosofat, where China Southern is in 5th behind the big four US carriers. For flights, it’s in 6th also behind China Eastern. And Tory, United still looks to be behind American.
- Bernardo Ng – 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.
Comment: I’d say Interjet died well before 2021, but despite efforts to revive the airline, it still hasn’t come back. And indeed Volaris and Viva have stepped in to fill the void.
- A – 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
- Austin787 – United officially announces retirements of its oldest/least efficient aircraft
Comment: Pandemic? That didn’t stop United from ordering an enormous number of airplanes. They weren’t alone.
- Dan – Alitalia will order either the A320neo and/or the 787.
Comment: Hmm, well, Alitalia technically doesn’t exist anymore, but its successor ITA did indeed order the neo. I say… correct!
- Keith – 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.
- Chicago Chris – 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.
Comment: Alas, no luck for Chicago Chris. You have it generally right, Keith, however. Long-haul is dead.
- iahphx – 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.
Comment: I’m not sure how much enthusiasm there is to stop, but yep, masks are still required.
More Predictions That Didn’t Come True
- Outer Space Guy – Donald Trump, having lost the Presidency to Joe Biden, will also sell his private 757, N757AF .
- Doug V – Icelandair begins codesharing with WestJet to expand their Canadian presence
- Simon – 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.
- SubwayNut – 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.
- Jim M – 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.
- Douglas Swalen – 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.
- Jet Girl – Etihad will be sold, downsized and reconfigured into a shell of it’s former self
- Tobin Sparfeld – American Airlines places an order for the 777x for delivery in the late 2020s.
- Kevin – WN or B6 start service to MSN.
- Harvey – Delta places a large order for A321LR/XLR’s, signalling that Boeing’s NMA won’t be built
- Juan – Delta announces a big Max order (50-150) end of Q1/ start of Q2 2021.
- Pilotaaron1 – Official prediction, Yuma AZ will receive service from a second carrier.
- Hammer – 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.
- KinkyKuwaiti – Qatar Airways invests in a Chinese airline
- Zhuo Andrew – 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.
- Jarvis – Eastern Airlines adds one or two more focus cities (predicting Philadelphia & Baltimore) to expand it’s latin & caribbean destinations.
- Eric C – 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.
- Kilroy – 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.
- Noah – Frontier will finalize a deal to move to Concourse A East in Denver
- David M – Virgin Australia announces order for 787–9 for resumption of long haul flying starting with LAX, but delivery won’t occur before 2023.
- southbay flier – 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.
- Sears2119 – 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.
- David C – United orders the A220
- FlyOza – Chicago Mayor Lightfoot cancels T2 Terminal Replacement Project
- Victor Kilo – 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.
- Ishrion – American Airlines announces SEA-HKG to fill in for Cathay Pacific after abandoning the route.
- TC99 – 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.
- Paul A – Southwest will still have sluggish demand in 2021 & will be forced to make significant adjustments to it’s route map by mid summer.
- dfw88 – 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).