Cranky on the Web and In the Sky: Oakland California Corridor Challenge, JetBlue/Spirit, Delays and Cancels

Cranky on the Web

This coming week, I will be spending a LOT of time on airplanes. I’m joining with Henry Harteveldt to complete the Oakland California Corridor Challenge which will showcase the return of higher frequency flying between Oakland and Southern California as the pandemic wanes. I have regular posts scheduled for all next week, so nothing changes there (except no Friday links are likely). If you want to follow along, I will primarily be posting on Twitter using #OAKCCC.

Disclosure: Oakland is paying for flights, hotels, and food while we’re doing this.


JetBlue is willing to spend $3.6 billion on Spirit to compete against giant airlinesCNBC
I am not shy when talking about how this merger seems nuts.

Why So Many Flights Were Canceled or Delayed This WeekendTime
The weather was bad. Staffing is tight. It’s not a great combination.

Two RDU carriers now bidding for Spirit AirlinesTriangle Business Journal
What does JetBlue’s attempt to buy Spirit mean for RDU? I have no idea.

5 comments on “Cranky on the Web and In the Sky: Oakland California Corridor Challenge, JetBlue/Spirit, Delays and Cancels

  1. On the Alaska pilot issues, I had a couple of weird issues flying them this week that seemed to relate to the dispute. My outbound flight from Bozeman was an hour late leaving due to delayed inbound aircraft. Before we departed, the pilot got on the PA inside the cabin saying the delay was not due to pilots and then discussing the pilot’s beef with the airline for 5 minutes. Just weird, because what are we the passengers going to do about that? Then on the return, our flight from Seattle to Bozeman returned to the gate for an engine issue, then had to call in a reserve crew because the pilots timed out. It took almost 3 hours to get a reserve crew, which shows how tight the operation is running right now at Alaska. But what really seemed strange was that once they were on board, it took the new pilots 90 minutes to preflight the plane while we sat there, which just seems a very long time, and twice as long as I’ve experienced with previous arriving reserve crews preflighting. Then, after landing at Bozeman, we taxied at the slowest speed I have ever seen in several hundred flights there, and this was a flight that was almost 5 hours late. I could have walked faster from the end of RWY 30 to the terminal. Could the super-long preflight and turtle-like taxi have been innocuous, due to some other reasons? Sure, I suppose, but given what’s going on between the airline and the pilots, you have to wonder. I hope the two sides reach a contract soon because this is not doing much to win hearts and minds.

  2. I know JetBlue’s offer for Spirit has been pretty much beaten to death, but I’d like to add a couple of points to the discussion based on the linked article.

    The first is that the CNBC article is a pretty good synopsis of the issues and opinions surrounding the proposal. It’s very much worth reading. But the main point I want to make has to do with language. You wrote above, “I am not shy when talking about how this merger seems nuts.” The operative word is “seems.” So many “armchair CEOs” and airline blog pundits have written that this proposal IS nuts, not “seems” nuts. Language is important. In reading the CNBC article, the analysts and other observers tend to use language that has more of a “seems” tone.

    Your quote from the article is also noteworthy. It reads, “This looks like an airline that’s just run out of ideas on growth.” You’re probably right. But maybe JetBlue has run out of ideas because there really aren’t many that are truly viable.

    Next, I tend to give someone like Gordon Bethune, who’s actually managed an airline, a bit more credibility on this topic than people who write blogs on points and miles. In fairness, I’m pretty sure those who write about points and miles can run rings around Bethune on that topic. And I must also point out that the experience of running an airline doesn’t automatically make Bethune right about this proposal.

    Finally, I tend to buy JetBlue’s argument that it has more impact on competition than Frontier or Spirit, even with its higher costs. The reason: JetBlue’s hybrid full-service business model makes it a more viable competitor in all market segments than a Spirit or Frontier, which serve a very specific market niche. In its early days, Southwest often called itself “The Company Plane” because its schedules were convenient for small business owners who had to travel on a budget. Frontier’s business model completely ignores that market, and Spirit’s is only marginally better. The DOJ/DOT probably don’t concern themselves with which market niche an airline or alliance serves. it only looks at preserving competition.

    Have fun on your adventure next week. Sounds like it’ll be fun – and exhausting.

    1. At the end of this video from CNBC, it’s mentioned that Frontier and Spirt have a 46.4% ASM overlap, whereas JetBlue and Spirit only overlap 29.2%. I thought it was interesting enough to post somewhere, even if no one reads it.

    2. > Finally, I tend to buy JetBlue’s argument that it has more impact on competition than Frontier or Spirit, even with its higher costs. The reason: JetBlue’s hybrid full-service business model makes it a more viable competitor in all market segments than a Spirit or Frontier, which serve a very specific market niche.

      Exactly. B6 competes for a broad spectrum of pax, from business travelers to leisure pax, and is many ways more similar to the legacy carriers in that regard than it is to (U)LCCs.

  3. Allegiant might beg to differ on the notion that F9 will face less competition in Florida – if Spirit winds up merging with JetBlue, Allegiant won’t hesitate to swoop in. Maybe time for them to look at Homestead, or has the door been closed on the combined-use idea permanently?

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