q Reviewing Your 2021 Predictions and Making Your 2022 Picks – Cranky Flier

Reviewing Your 2021 Predictions and Making Your 2022 Picks


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.

Hub Changes

  • 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.

Inflight Magazines

  • 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.

General Demand

  • 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.

Lufthansa A380s

  • 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.

Southwest Outperforms

  • 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.

New Airplanes

  • 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.

Real ID

  • 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.

Mexican Aviation

  • 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.

United’s Fleet

  • 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).

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101 comments on “Reviewing Your 2021 Predictions and Making Your 2022 Picks

  1. Boeing experiences more issues getting 787’s delivered and some airlines cancel orders as a result. Other airlines sweep in to take the already-produced planes at bargain prices.

    1. I predict the AA/B6 NEA will still be in court a year from now, with the agreement plugging along unaffected.

  2. Commercial airliners will install a new radio based device that will emit a signal which “deadens” any drones in the vicinity. This device will be enabled for takeoff and landing. Drone manufacturers will be mandated to include a chip which makes their drones basically go-dead/fall-from-the-sky if the drone receives a signal emitted from a nearby aircraft.

    Once this is implemented, older non compliant drones wont be a big problem since the lifetime of a drone when flown by a mundane is not very long as it is :)

  3. Frontier will grow their ASMs to be at least 105% 2019 levels, through increased Orlando flying to the Carribean.

  4. Didn’t really feel like making any predictions for 2022 given how unpredictable the last few years have been, so maybe I’ll just make one safe one: ITA will remain the Worst Airline Ever for 2022. I know these won’t count, but minor guesses include it avoiding bankruptcy or ITA having at least one strike.

    1. I agree that ITA will be perpetually in contention for La peggiore linea aerea del mondo . Italy is a market where outside of Sicily, Sardegna & a few airports in the corners (SUF, BRI, BDS) most domestic destinations are more efficiently reached door-to-door by Italy’s rapidly expanding high speed rail and extended HSR trains on to conventional lines. Even connecting flights from some cities could be substituted with a program like Lufthansa’s integration with ICE at Frankfurt where closer destinations (Naples & Florence for starters, since train time would be faster than flying factoring travel time city center to FCO) instead of flying to FCO would be code shared onboard the high speed rail.

      An ideal national carrier for Italy, should one even exist, would need to adopt a model almost like Ryanair’s: small bases meant to connect a city to larger destinations elsewhere in Europe. It’s an open question whether or not this carrier should fly long haul at all, or only as far as the long range narrowbodies can operate using a similar model.

      1. Ditto their LH flee only has 7 planes atm and few destinations. In Europe they have major competition and domestically the situations is as you describe. The rail/train connection at FCO can and should then be replicated at MXP and VCE.

  5. MIA will add another 1/2 mile to it’s already 1 mile long Concourse D just to piss off everybody.

    1. Lol I was just their yesterday. My God that is long! Like DTW McNamara terminal long! Couldn’t they at least have used a few different letters instead of having it all D? The Cuban restaurant around D14 makes a mean mojito!

  6. >MK03 – Lufthansa’s A380s are officially permanently retired, as opposed to merely “taken out of planning”
    >Comment: Indeed, this came true.
    Weird, last I heard I thought they were considering bringing them back. In fact I just checked Lufthansa’s website and it’s still there. Then again I’ve been out of the loop about the A380 for a while so maybe they did get retired after all while I wasn’t looking.

  7. – Under pressure from various airlines, Airbus launches A220-500 in late 2022 despite initial reluctance to do so.
    – B6 and AS establishes a partnership and codesharing arrangement similar to the one AA has with AS. A really remote one would be B6 joining OneWorld.

    1. I agree on the A225 as only a matter of time, it allows two neat families in the narrowbody airbus fleet: A221,A223 and A225 for those who don’t need bigger than an A320 and A320N/A321N/A321 XLR for those who need bigger and allow for the best in category aircraft for each size.

  8. Thanks, Cranky – this is fun every year! I love it!

    Here goes for 2022:
    Due to exploding demand on the TATL market – everybody and their mother will want to fly either way during the summer – airlines will put some “unfit” planes onto routes between North America and Europe (think A319s with stop(s) in Shannon/Reykjavik/Halifax/St. John’s/Gander/Ponta Delgada) to make every cent possible.

  9. STL has another good year: AA will continue to grow their STL operation into something that resembles a focus city. NK will add destinations as well (LGA/EWR?). Someone (probably WN) will start STL-ORF and/or STL-RIC service. Everyone will continue ganging up on F9, and their LFs will continue to suck, but they won’t leave. No new airlines will begin serving STL, save for Lufthansa.

  10. Breaking my predictions down by area:
    Regionals/Pilot Staffing: We’re going to continue to see a shortage of pilots willing to work for the wages regional airlines are willing to pay. Therefore, more flying will shift to mainline and smaller cities will continue to lose their branded network carrier service. This will either create an opportunity for innovation or more federal funding to subsidize small city service.
    Mergers & Acquisitions: Two of the other carriers outside of the US4 will merge. I think this merger will likely involve AS, HA or B6 to create synergy at the corporate level while retaining both brand identities in their strongest markets.
    Demand: We will continue to see the emergence of premium economy due to the lack of full fare business travel.

    1. I agree with this. I could see HA, AS & B6 in this type of an arrangement since HA & B6 already codeshare on flights from BOS & JFK already.

  11. I will make a double prediction: Surinam Airways will continue to challenge ITA for worst run airline in the world (at least ITA has planes…). It will continue to loose money and the government will continue to prop it up. Paramaribo Airport will also NOT become a hub between North and South America, despite grandiose dreams from delusional Surinam politicians.

    Further: both Play and Norse Atlantic will find it difficult to maintain operations due to Covid’s Omicron and goodness knows what evolution will have a go at humanity next. Their target markets will evaporate/struggle to be sustainable. They will shrink operations or cease to exist.

    Domestic US Business Travel will suffer (again) in the first half of 2022 with many companies putting travel on hold and events cancelled again (I am looking at you, CES), as will leisure travel due to many sporting events being cancelled or going to no-public only. Perhaps the 2022 summer will resemble the 2021 summer, as new/revised vaccines are introduced to combat new/revised Covid versions.

    I will probably fly less in 2022 than I did in 2021 (11 trips, 19,897 miles – for comparison, pre-covid I did 62,099 miles and 19 trips in 2018).

  12. With new leadership, Southwest will officially announce plans to:

    1) diversify their aircraft mix starting with the 737-900.

    2) join a global alliance of like minded carriers.

  13. The success of the NEA will cause AA to attempt a similar scheme on the west coast with AS. This will cause AA to begin flowing passengers via SEA or PDX rather than LAX for service across the pacific. This will allow for the growth of SEA as well as PDX as viable competition for DL in SEA.

    Washington will first bauk as they usually do, but will give their blessing once a little deal making gets done.

    1. One thing I neglected so add this to the above prediction, HA will be part of this west coast alliance with AA & AS.

  14. Due to the presence of Omicron or another Covid variant, transatlantic demand will be softer than expected this upcoming summer. As a result, some airlines will not operate all of the routes that they announced for the summer 2022 season.

  15. My prediction last year (all major airlines being cash flow positive) was partially right, as opposed to being dead wrong (consolidation of some regional airlines) as was the case two years ago. Therefore, I feel bold enough to predict a settlement in the anti trust lawsuit trying to block the NEA. The big winner will be Spirit. Since this whole thing is about the government’s false narrative that ULCCs are charities, and automatically lower fares substantially (however one wants to define that term). My off-the-record thought is that there will be some rather substantial (a nebulous term that defies a substantive definition) restructuring of the regional airline space given the pilot shortage. That may not happen in 2022, but I think it will happen eventually.

    1. To clarify my prediction somewhat, I don’t think the lawsuit will get to the jury or judge. It’ll be settled before that occurs. It may go to trial, but I think there’ll probably be a settlement. As the old saw goes, one is better off with the devil one knows than the devil one doesn’t.

  16. Omicron will result in a ton of cancelations and pullbacks in the first quarter of 2022. However, as this variant is generally mild (like a cold for those who are even symptomatic), the public backlash to these various government limitations will grow. Masks may still be required through 2022, but we’ll gradually see borders open up and travel grow significantly as the world realizes that COVID is here to stay and we have to live with it. Thus, trans-Pacific will start up again and Australia-US routes will grow. QF will even do Brisbane-LAX. New Zealand remains skittish and Air NZ suffers as a result.

  17. AA’s burgeoning AUS “focus city” gets killed off due to poor loads, but AA still goes forward with the new Admirals Club.

    For the record, I hope this doesn’t happen, but upgrades are just too dang easy out of here.

    1. I’ll take the other side of this: OW+ carriers (AA+AS+B6+BA) will exceed WN for pax share in AUS 3+ months out of 2022 (though not the entire year), though AA alone will never exceed WN’s pax share. AA will ask for, and get, a NEA-ish JV with AS, at which point one of the two will exit the bloodbath that is AUS-LAX. AA will *not* draw down the focus city, though destinations/frequencies/fleet/codeshare mix will get tweaked. In fact, due to intense competition on fares to fill planes, NK and F9 will each carry fewer pax out of AUS in 2022 (let’s say first 9-10 months YoY since AUS is slow in releasing traffic numbers) than they did in 2021, though AA+NK+F9 will have more pax share YoY every single month.

  18. Allegiant continues its success in the leisure market, far outpacing the margins of all other legacy carriers and shifts its strategy to continue focusing on growth in larger, more business-heavy markets.

    A ULCC will announce a major order for new A220s.

    The Q400 begins to see a renaissance, beginning in Europe and focusing on sustainable fuels.

    A receding pandemic opens the door to 2022 beating 2019 leisure passenger numbers for U.S. airlines and a return to 90 percent of business passenger traffic across the legacy carriers.

    A major early snow storm snarls air traffic in November, causing mass cancellations as the Midwest and Northeast dig out from near-record precipitation.

    1. I like the Q400 prediction! Very clever and potentially correct. Great aircraft, vastly superior technically to the ATR (which sells better in spite of this). The new zero CO2 emissions program that is slated for the Q400 program could be just what is needed to make it worth the extra cost to buy a better turboprop.

  19. Omicron will create a wave of negative publicity in Q1 2022 as airlines are pushing big schedules with little staffing, and sick outs will be a PR nightmare as grandma gets stranded in ORD for the night. Since its an election year expect congressional hearing with . . . wait for it. . . absolutely no action. But expect a healthy amount of airline dragging in the media.

  20. My prediction is that in Winter 2022-2023 AA will start sub-Saharan Africa service from MIA with aircraft that would otherwise be unused in the winter season. MIA is the best located US airport for connections to this part of the world and I’m surprised they haven’t tried JNB/CPT from there yet.

  21. 2022 Predictions:
    1. Knowing DOJ will stiff-arm a desired merger with JetBlue (too many carve-outs), AA announces more DOJ-friendly merger with Alaska.
    2. Boeing continues to see market share erode to the A320/321 family, wakes up from their years-long slumber, and announces the NMA as the long-awaited B757 replacement.
    3. We are still fully in pandemic mode at this time next year.
    4. Mandated mask-wearing will become permanent federal law
    5. AA continues to downsize PHL in favor of more NE Alliance flying in BOS/NYC with JetBlue

  22. 1) PLAY overextends itself and folds. While Norse Atlantic continues a rapid expansion.
    2) ExpressJet ends aha! and returns to flying under Express or Connection.
    3) Airlines extend temporary waivers for basic economy change fees to build confidence in far-out bookings after variants cause demand to soften.

  23. AA/WN/G4 continues to grow in AUS.

    AA or partner adds international destination to AUS for the 2022 summer season.

    AUS (Love Field 2.0) becomes so gate-constrained that the airport authority has to manage the chaos after an operational meltdown that becomes a black eye for a reasonably well-run airport.

    DL continues to flirt with Austin, but no meaningful changes to the schedule or destinations.

    Wild Card: 7Q tries to get frisky in 2022 and adds Austin as a base out from “Forbidden” Gate 13. Serves Florida Pan Handle and smaller Western Ski Destinations as it pivots from an East Coast-only carrier coming out of the pandemic. Locals give it a shot, but when they are put on a bus and see the CRJ-200 waiting for them, they start banging on the bus windows to escape the 2+ hour torture chamber built-in 1999 waiting for them.

  24. Boeing will announce no new commercial products in 2022 (no Max derivatives, additional 777 or 787 derivatives — OK, maybe a 777X freighter — no NMA), instead keeps shrinking into irrelevance. The interesting question I think is whether they go back to EMB for help with engineering and 100 seaters, but given their hubris I think that’s a long shot.

    What is it with merger predictions? In the last 10 years we’ve seen two (AA+US, AS+VX) yet everyone predicts them. Bad bet! (20 years I guess more, TW+AA, US+HP, DL+NW, WN+FL, UA+CO, plus AA+US and AS+VX, but that’s still only one per three years)

  25. I did say I was hesitating on that award chart devaluation because I wasn’t sure it would not slide a year into 2022. And Southwest did devslue in April and Delta msssively devalued international awards this year too so technically my multiple airline prediction did come true (though I will acknowledge that only Southwest’s was across the board).

    It’s definitely coming because of the glut of miles piling up and there is not a commensurate level of burn. However I underestimated the lengths airlines would go to restrict renewal without devaluing. Nobody wants to devalue in the middle of a travel crisis when they are extending elite status to retain loyalty.

    So for 2022 I will again predict an award travel devaluation by multiple carriers – International or Domestic this time – due to the glut of miles piling up. Basic math tells us it has to happen. The only question is when.

  26. Hub Prediction: Delta’s old focus cities (AUS, CVG, RDU, etc) will become their new A220 bases of operation once they fill in the routes of Delta Hub to competitor Hub.

  27. Another low-cost airline starts on the business model of funneling people into a mid-sized airport a la aha! and Avelo because every airport deserves its own airline!

    Just for fun:
    -Alaska and Hawaiian merge to form Pacific Airlines
    -One of Southwest’s small city adds in 2020-21 has exploding passenger traffic and becomes a focus city proving that the Southwest effect still exists
    -Northern Pacific’s crypto loyalty program thing becomes the leading crypto and gets used primarily for everything but flights
    -DEN keeps adding concourses until they’re in Wyoming and can benefit from lower taxes. The extended people mover becomes a form of inter-city transportation
    -The idea of 10-30 minutes of free parking like at SFO and CLT takes off as a way to decongest curbside at busier airports

  28. JetBlue will announce at least one, possibly two, new UK destinations – some combination of Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, or Bristol (but not Cardiff and Bristol, they’re too close together.)

  29. A large airline somewhere in the world will face a crisis (bankruptcy, forced merger, or something of similar scale) as demand fluctuates and governments slowly lose interest in bailouts.

  30. Northern Pacific and Alaska Airlines merge, leading to AS to have transpacific flights from Anchorage

  31. Safe prediction: ITA will rebrand.

    Less likely: even with Delta’s cash, Virgin Atlantic will still struggle. It will lease a lot of LHR slots out and move all leisure flying to LGW and MAN.

  32. 2022 predictions:
    – Avelo will be sued for copyright infringement from Apple, Target, Tesla, New Line Cinema for Elf, or all of the above
    – Breeze will have to issue a full page apology for operational issues similar to what JetBlue had to do in 2007

  33. Sure thing:
    Aha! will be on next year’s list of airlines we lost
    An emboldened NK will continue to expand at the big three’s expense
    B6 will somehow wrangle a permanent slot at LHR
    Boeing silently kills off whatever is left of the MMA program
    Congress writes angry letters / holds additional hearings with regards to the regional airline crisis but refuses to actually do anything
    AA will cut flights at hubs considered endangered, leading to a string of articles about how those hubs are sure to be dehubbed in the near future.

    less Likely
    XP and or MX join Aha! on airlines we lost
    G4 expands into the gap left by the regional crisis
    The mask mandate is made permanent, most likely in a deal with congress to avoid a vaccine mandate for flying

    At least one of the big 3 puts mainline jets onto a few regional routes to free up rjs to put on strategic routes to shut up the more vocal congress critters

    Not happening
    Boeing will announce the MMA. However, the plane will be a designed by committee mess whose primary design goals were to avoid cannibalizing any existing Boeing product. Boeing will claim that the Chinese market will be the airplane’s niche, and will make various embarrassing attempts to woo it.

    Even stranger:
    Boeing, in coordination with the US DOJ will announce the Boeing 737 SuperMax, the first airplane to be built using prison labor, and Boeing’s replacement for the MMA

  34. Airbus will launch the A220-500 at the end of the year, effectively killing the A319neo.
    SIA will launch joint venture with United.

  35. Whatever Alitalia calls itself these days will continue to suck, but they will get bailed out by the Italian government.

    Eastern Airlines will collapse and fold after they bring the 777 on line and hemorrhage cash.

    Play will overextend themselves and run into a cash crisis and have a few planes get re-posessed.

    Avelo will drop the BUR base.

    American will try work with Airbus to order A350’s because the 787’s are just not coming.

    No major airline will add Palmdale to its network.

    Icelandair will drop their new livery because it is just too ugly and no one likes it.

    Asia will become attractive again to the big US carriers, but it will be late in the year, but not HKG.

    Avatar Airlines will attempt to get funding, and will fail, will attempt to get a certification, and fail, and will attempt to make a webpage that doesn’t look 20 years old and will fail.

    Aha! airline will go bankrupt, and will be forced to sell its exclamation point as a NFT, which will be bought by Avatar Airlines for $3 million dollars.

    Lufthansa drops new service to STL, and will apologize to everyone.

    Someone will come up with an idea for a new airline based in Gary, IN, and won’t get funding.

    United will quietly kill their Boom supersonic nonsense, and no one will notice.

    Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airlines will lose untold amounts of money on their US flights. Thai Airways will just chuckle and show them how to lose real money on US flights.

    Passengers will bitch and complain about how air travel in the US stinks and that they wish that it was a better experience, but then they will just buy tickets on Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit because it was $3 cheaper, and they will complain that air travel in the US stinks.

    Air Koryo will add a 50 year old Yak 40 to their fleet and begin service to Urumqi China.

    Burkina Faso will enter into an open skies agreement with the United States and will attempt non-stop flights from Ouagadougou to JFK on a Fokker F70 with extended fuel tanks.

    Happy New Years, and may your flights be not totally unpleasant!

  36. Norwegian manages to avoid another bankruptcy filing in 2022, but has to further scale back their operations. Wizz Air might try to buy them, but the offer will be rejected.

    1. Due to the recent $1.3 billon in industrial and commercial investments (Amazon, Green Bay Packaging and Georgia Pacific) completed and announced in Brown County (Green Bay), only Allegiant will continue to service ATW while American, Delta and United will up gauge equipment and expand routes servicing GRB due to the increase in economic expansion in the immediate area. Frontier and Sun Country will expand the ULCC services to GRB and these changes will fully utilize the 2 concourses and 12 gates at GRB.

  37. Pilot Shortage- Majors will be forced to drastically shrink the regionals forcing the smallest ones under or they will collude to squeeze an LCC under.

    COVID- Fear continues to spread faster than the disease and not a single airline reaches 2019 levels (pilot shortages wont help either). Masks become the norm during winter months. Half the country begins to realize the shortcoming of vaccines thanks to Joe Rogan and Dr. Peter A. McCullough. This will exacerbate the growth in the South and South America, but stunt growth in TATL, TPAC, and Northeast flying.

  38. I personally will get on an airplane for the first time since 2019, but my travel will remain way below what it was, especially business travel limited to one trip all year.

    Obviously Cranky can’t verify that (I’ll try to remember to!), but at least for people living in Canada like me, business travel will remain way down (my Federal employer has already extended the absolute ban on air travel and overnight car travel through the March 31 end of the fiscal year) and leisure travel down.

  39. Boeing continues to have a terrible year, with the 787 delivery crisis lasting even longer than thought. Eventually some sort of leadership/organization restructuring takes place. One thing for sure: they have a new CEO by the end of the year. One from the outside, and without any GE ties as well.

  40. CLE finally pulls the trigger on a $1B plus brand new airport thus ending decades of partially renovating and piecing together a handful of ancient concourses. Rental cars will be moved back on site ending the ridiculous current consolidated setup located approximately 23.6 miles away from the terminal.

    1. Nah, “The House that Graft Built” will live on forever. It’s more likely that various Cleveland councilmen will buy up all the land between the airport and the rental center and a $20 billion contract will be let to someone’s brother/cousin to build a people mover with 50 times the capacity needed on the premise that “we might put a parking garage there someday.”

      1. Lol, this too is quite possible. Get out the paint cans, dry wall and duct tape, this puppy has to last another decade or two!

  41. ExpressJet’s attempt at remaking Independence Air will go under faster than Independence Air did in the 2000s

  42. Huge demand for Private jet services will prompt the FAA to limit take off and landing slots with a ceiling to prevent congested skies in most metropolitan markets.

    Air France KLM will have a controversial financial restructuring that makes them look like they’re filling for bankruptcy when really they’re liquidizing their enormous debt in the form of synthetic equity posing as a “meme stock”. It works!

    Atlanta regains it’s status as the “world’s busiest airport”.

  43. SWA— Mike Van de Ven will retire (be fired) towards the end of 2022 for continued management over multiple meltdowns and ruining SWA operational performance and reputation.

  44. Boeing – certification issues continue to plague the company due to continued scrutiny from the FAA –
    – 787 – current issues not resolved until 2nd half of year, limiting deliveries to <12, all in Q4
    – 737-7 MAX – certified in Q3, with deliveries starting in Q4
    – 777-8/9 – flight test program continues, but doesn't make any substantial progress due to 787 & 737 cert issues noted above

    SWA – due to 737-7 MAX cert issues (noted above), SWA purchases used 737-700s/800s to fuel expansion
    – continues to grow AUS to defend turf
    – EUG performs way above company expectations and expands with multiple new routes in 2022

    At least 1 of the new US airlines started in 2021 goes under, as well as 1 in Canada

  45. 2022 prediction: Another US based airline places a new aircraft order, taking advantage of favorable deals to address its long term aircraft needs.

    Looking at the bigger picture, I hope 2022 brings more positive than negative news in the travel industry.

  46. There will be a new cargo airline startup trying to take advantage of cheap airplanes and a backlogged transpacific cargo market

    Delta will have more flights out of either IND or CMH than CVG

  47. 1) All of the major legacy carriers plus Alaska, Jet Blue and Southwest will report full-year profits for 2022.

    2) Cost cutting will continue to drive the quality of service downward.

    3) Boeing will fix its 787 issues and land large new orders.

    4) The MMA will finally appear with United being the launch customer as a replacement for the 767-300s and 400s in fleet.

  48. The EU will refuse the Portuguese government’s request to bail out TAP Air Portugal and TAP seek a seller in the private sector for a fire sale.

    Bonus: United will overtake Delta in terms of margins as TATL and Trans Pacific traffic returns to normal.

  49. The next major labor shortage in the airline industry will be Flight Attendants, especially lower paid ones for regional airlines. The continuing abuse by passengers and their role in enforcing masks on airplanes, plus the strong labor market, cause so many to leave the field that it becomes a problem for airlines during 2022.

    Both Airbus and Boeing will face supply disruptions during 2022, but Airbus manages them better than Boeing and continues to gain more orders than Boeing during the year.

    Delta will purchase additional “gently” used aircraft, and the limiting factor will not be Delta’s ability to find aircraft, but rather the rate by which they can retrofit those aircraft to the Delta standard.

  50. -Jetblue secures permanent LHR slots.

    -The justice department loses or drops it’s lawsuit RE the B6/AA northeast alliance.

    -Momentum to produce variant specific boosters picks up in 2nd half of year, allowing 2019 levels of demand for Q4’22

    -Breeze further expands in Islip, with flights beyond the current purely North to South routes (routes may include Boston, Chicago, etc. that fill VFR and college student demand)

    -The new AirForce One is delayed AGAIN

    -Delta purchases or founds a pilot school to shore up its supply of pilots for the future

  51. Do to Covid, one company will file Ch 11 within the following three travel segments in 2022…

    Keep in mind it may not be one of the larger companies that files.

  52. * if COVID continues to mutate rapidly then Cranky will revive the beloved ‘Skeds’ posts to track the industries schizophrenic near & medium term skd adjustments based on whatever direction the wind is blowing that week.

    * if medical tech can figure out how to manage COVID like the flu, cold or stomach bugs the industry will experience an explosion in biz & tourist demand that will have pundits screaming there is a shortage of capacity. (Wanna get to EWR on Tuesday? Haha… sorry. Next available is Thursday at 0515 for allot of $$$$$$). Airlines will repay loan guarantees with interest yet still find a way to blow the windfall on stupid ventures and overly enriched labor agreements.

    *At least one merger in the regional world and 1 or 2 stop flight ops to focus on ground handling.

    *the story about how 5G wireless and aircraft /ATC nav systems conflict will be a Big Story next year. Hopefully no major incidents involving loss but several incidents (involving POSSIBLE 5G interference) stir up a political firestorm. It will pit the movement of information vs. movement of people/goods at odds and make for great midterm US election theater.

  53. I’ll repeat my prediction for 2022 – covid certainly did not fade in 2021 as much as I expected, thus keeping a lid on restoring international service: United will be the country’s and the world’s largest carrier by the end of 2022 measured by scheduled ASMs going forward (not necessarily during calendar 2022), mainly on the basis of its restored international service, while AA and DL will struggle to restore their international service to the same extent.

    I will point out I got the AA part right in 2021- they lack widebodies and are cutting international service.

  54. Delta continues to double down on loss-making equity investments and further lags behind UA and AA internationally by continuing to reduce flying on its own metal. The press release reads “Delta, America’s Global Airline*, Expands on Worlds’ Largest Long Haul Network by ASMs** to Give Customers More Options*** than Ever Before”

    * Operated by Air France/KLM, Korean Air, LATAM

    ** To AMS, figure includes Air France-KLM’s ASM’s

    ***Via double-connects in DTW and AMS, CDG, or ICN

    (half-kidding but I think DL’s inability to adapt to changing market conditions beyond making a thousand cuts will spell trouble for them in the coming year and we will see them retreat to ATL, SLC, MSP, DTW and reduce overflight of these hubs domestically and internationally)

  55. AA continues to expand its relationship with QR and announces more flights to the Middle East and India (BOM comes to mind, maybe an extra DEL from DFW). Their marketing department starts drumming up hype about being the largest US airline to the Middle East and India, even though most of the lift is on QR codeshares.

  56. The industry loves the simplicity and revenue driven approach of the new American Airlines AAdvantage policy in elite qualifying. At least one legacy carrier in the US follows suit.

  57. AA/B6 NEA gets approval by regulators though in exchange for additional commitments of maintaining service at specific airports (particularly smaller regional northeast airports), additional slot divesture at LGA and withdrawal/disqualification of obtaining the 16 peak period EWR slots (NK being the winner here at both airports).

  58. Virgin Australia will not order widebody aircraft to relaunch longhaul flights and will stick to 737s only

  59. Primary prediction:

    – DFW Airport secures a new route to Europe (specifically Barcelona, Munich, Manchester, Zurich, or Stockholm), or Delhi, India.

    Other predictions:

    – Oneworld continues expanding at DFW following Iberia, Finnair, and BA’s A380. Iberia ramps up capacity from Madrid. Qantas announces flights to MEL or BNE and Cathay Pacific will add HKG (unlikely though).
    – Alaska continues to pull down DAL, eventually giving up/leasing a gate or even exiting DAL and adding more at DFW to leverage AA’s feed.
    – Emirates restores A380 service to DFW after six years.
    – Breeze announces SAN, SJC, ONT, PDX, AZA for A220-300 flights.
    – Air France announces AUS and SAN, increases DEN, reduces or cuts DFW.
    – Condor announces U.S. expansion, adding LAX/SAN/SFO to offer more connections with Alaska Airlines.
    – AA leases Cathay’s 777-300ERs.
    – Avelo or Allegiant announces service to College Station with flights to Orlando
    – Bamboo Airways, STARLUX, and/or Philippine Airlines join Oneworld
    – Icelandair and PLAY aggressively expand against each other. Icelandair adding RDU was a warning against PLAY. One or both will connect KEF with CMH/CLE/CVG/PVD/BDL/PIT.
    – Flair adds more U.S. markets (Houston, Dallas, Tampa, etc.) but soon scales back U.S. operations significantly.
    – American announces BOS TATL expansion primarily with the A321XLR. New flights to KEF, MAN, EDI, CDG, PDL, etc.
    – AA reduces or cancels JFK-DOH.
    – Qatar adds AUS, EWR, DTW, DEN, and/or MCO.
    – American continues JFK long-haul expansion to markets such as BOM, JNB, NRT. The A321XLRs come online and they launch markets like GLA, NCE, AGP, GVA, LIS, BRU, BER.
    – Allegiant acquires 737 MAXs
    – AA announces DFW-PVD

  60. The asiana-korean air merger is approved by the US, but at the cost of the korean air/delta jv being dissolved.

  61. The second half of 2022 will finally bring some normalcy to the airline industry after everyone has been infected with the Omicron variant. Business travel will finally start to come back, though not quite to 2019 levels.

    Also, the federal mask mandate for airline passengers will end in 2022.

  62. Boeing will introduce the NMA/797. It will be similar to the 757 in that it will be single-isle, operate from hot/high, and be optimized for long and thin routes with a higher payload than the A321-XLR.

    Also, United will bring back the Tulip (I can always dream).

  63. Aha! shuts down and Express Jet finally sends all its EMB 140-45 to the desert and someone buys their certificate to start flying EAS routes. Avelo flops at New Haven and moves to Pittsburgh, Burbank has 20th destination cancelled, the airline is on the brink of BK. Breeze gets the A-220 and really starts to impress, Neelman is a genius…..

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