Welcome to the first Cranky Weekly Review presented by Oakland International Airport. We will publish every Friday, but not early in the morning as you expect from Cranky. Just in case an airline tries to sneak something in on Friday morning, we will wait until 12pm PT before sending emails out.
American and JetBlue Face-Off with DOJ in Court
The Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit to stop the Northeast Alliance between American and JetBlue began Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Boston. The two airlines claim the deal allows them to compete against larger airlines, while the DOJ considers the partnership too close to a merger and believes it will drive fares higher than ever.
The DOJ is joined by the attorneys general of six states and Washington, D.C. in the lawsuit while AA’s lawyers are forced to try the case alone as JetBlue’s legal masterminds are still trying to grasp the never-ending menu of fees Spirit currently has on offer. JetBlue’s $3.8 billion takeover of Spirit – which would create the nation’s fifth largest airline – has JetBlue fighting antitrust battles on two fronts, which goes against the first lesson your professor taught at corporate takeover class.
The two combine for about a third of the seats departing the three major NYC airports together but control a whopping 45% of seats out of Boston. JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes was the first to testify when the case opened Tuesday with other heavy hitters in the industry expected. American CEO Robert Isom was also expected to testify but saw his testimony pushed back after his flight from DFW suffered rolling delays for several hours due to a minor mechanical issue – or as the airline calls it – pAAr for the course.
Ian Wreaks Havoc on Airline Operations
Hurricane Ian made landfall off of Florida’s west coast on Wednesday afternoon as a category 4 storm with wind gusts hovering around 100 MPH. Airlines and airports in the storm’s path spent much of the first half of the week canceling flights and preparing to ride out the storm with as little disruption to their operations as possible, especially since the airlines themselves are perfectly capable of derailing their operations without mother nature lending a hand.
Fort Myers, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Tampa airports all closed up shop Tuesday with TPA announcing it would remain closed through at least Friday, which it did, reopening this morning at 10 a.m. Orlando ceased operations Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., forcing Mickey and Minnie to hunker down in the Magic Kingdom.
Jacksonville closed to all traffic Thursday as the hurricane made its way north, but some airports on Georgia and South Carolina’s Atlantic coast may or may not be spared the worst of what was expected if Ian takes a more easterly path out towards the ocean than previously expected.
Carriers canceled about 3,800 flights for Wednesday and Thursday, 3,200 of those in Florida.
Southwest Shuffles Senior Leadership
Southwest Airlines announced a shakeup in its executive leadership team this week, headlined by President and COO Mike Van de Ven stepping down following more than 16 years leading the airline’s operation. He planned to step down earlier in the year but drew a C group pass to see Southwest’s HR team in its Dallas HQ, forcing him to wait for all the As and Bs in line in front of him.
In Van de Ven’s absence, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan will add the role of President to his CEO duties, a change which will be effective as soon as he’s able to order new business cards. Andrew Watterson is being promoted to Chief Operating Officer. In his previous role as EVP and Chief Commercial Officer for Southwest, Watterson led the network planning team and was the sole person responsible for why Southwest never launched that one flight in your hometown to the one destination you wanted them to fly to.
Ryan Green has been promoted from SVP and Chief Marketing Officer to Watterson’s former role of EVP and Chief Commercial Officer. Green, a 20-year veteran of Southwest will oversee commercial planning and revenue management – so when your flight goes up in price, he’s the one to blame. Linda Rutherford is also receiving a promotion to Chief Administration and Communications Officer. Rutherford will maintain her current responsibilities while also adding leadership of WN’s Technology and Internal Audit departments. For more on this, check out Thursday’s post on CrankyFlier.com.
Virgin Atlantic, SkyTeam Make it Official
After years of casually dating and hanging together at holidays and family gatherings, Virgin Atlantic and the SkyTeam alliance finally made their relationship official, with the carrier joining SkyTeam early next year.
When it officially joins, Virgin Atlantic will become the alliance’s first UK-based member and it will be the first addition to the alliance since 2014 (with the exception of the rotting carcass of Alitalia, ITA). Delta holds 49% equity in the carrier, which also is in a transatlantic joint venture with Delta and Air France-KLM. In Tuesday’s press conference, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss alluded to new routes for the carrier to begin next year when its membership is finalized.
VS hopes to officially join SkyTeam in January but must first learn the secret alliance handshake, spit on an Aeroflot boarding pass in disdain, and pass a 20-question quiz about the history of existing alliance members before being given official recognition. When it does join, Flying Club Silver members will become SkyTeam Elite members, while those in Flying Club Gold will be SkyTeam Elite plus.
Delta, LATAM JV Ready for Takeoff
Three years after announcing their partnership. Delta Air Lines and LATAM received U.S. DOT approval to begin their joint venture for travel between the United States and six South American countries (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay).
The two began partnering shortly after the first agreement in 2019, offering mutual frequent flyer mile earning and burning, shared terminals at hub airports, and a recipe swap where Delta employees showed LATAM staff how to make grits and sweet tea, while LATAM’s group taught Delta staff how to make empanadas and pisco sours. The pair combine to offer premium flyers access to 58 lounges, including LATAM’s five in South America and Delta’s 53 SkyClubs in the United States, some of which are worth visiting.
With the JV approved, the airlines will increase cooperation on things like pricing, scheduling, and getting their stories straight when your bags are inevitably lost.
- Aer Lingus knows better than anyone that Cleveland Rocks as the carrier announced new 4x weekly service from Cleveland beginning May 21. The city is subsidizing the route with a $600,000 grant to Aer Lingus to keep the flight active for at least three years.
- airBaltic announced 18 new routes beginning next year. 10 from its Riga hub, and four each from Tallinn and Vilnius,
- Air Greenland signed a letter of intent to increase strategic cooperation with Icelandair. The first order of business will be to explain to potential customers that Greenland is mostly covered in ice, while Iceland is mostly green.
- Air New Zealand ferried an empty A321 to Fiji with a full B787 crew to relieve the crew working on its return flight from New York that would be forced to stop in Fiji to refuel to avoid having its crew and passengers stuck on the island. So everything is going great on that new flight.
- American agreed to pay moving expenses for any of its 403 San Francisco-based flight attendants being forced to move to one of nine other FA bases for the airline. The FAs who accepted the offering had one caveat — that AA itself not be responsible for actually moving their stuff because they didn’t want it lost forever.
- China Airlines‘s dream came true as it finalized its order of 24 Dreamliners.
- Condor will trial an option for economy passengers to purchase their own overhead compartment up to 48 hours before departure. The program will be offered on A330-200 departures beginning November 1 with prices starting at €9.99. Condor officials would not confirm or deny if this was the first step into determining whether or not it could sell the overhead as a seating option to basic economy passengers in the future.
- Delta President Glen Hauenstein was successful in court after a federal judge ruled that AA could not compel him to testify in the Justice Department’s suit against American and JetBlue’s Northeast Alliance. The judge had no comment as to whether or not the case of Biscoff that arrived in chambers without a note had anything to do with the ruling.
- The DOT announced a proposal that would require airlines and online third party travel agencies to disclose any and all fees prior to purchase. Airlines are hesitant about the policy, as the fines for penalties for non-compliance could get expensive. Spirit, for instance is concerned it has so many fees on offer that no one person at the airline has a complete list of them – they treat their list of fees like Coca-Cola does the formula for Coke; it’s locked away in a vault with each senior executive only knowing their portion of the list.
- Lynx announced four new U.S. destinations — Orlando, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Orlando service will begin first, with flights from Toronto beginning January 27. The other three destinations will follow in February, with service from Calgary, just in time for that big winter rush to tropical Calgary.
- Norse Atlantic can operate to the UK after one of its executives named Bjorn received an AOC for the carrier from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
- Qatar extended its partnership with British Airways to now include 185 destinations to more than 60 countries plus guaranteed tea and crumpets on all flights.
- Singapore was loaded up with Singapore Slings before being offered to purchase a stake in the combined airline that will emerge from the Air India and Vistara merger on the off chance it will mistakenly agree to do so.
- Southwest is hiring FAs at record levels. The wait to be hired is being alleviated by the carrier offering potential new hires the ability to skip their application to the top of the pile for $39-$79.
- Turkish extended its ban on flights to Belarus and Russia through at least December 31.
- United is all of us. It’s leaving New York/JFK for good and never coming back. Which it won’t…until the price is right, just like all of us.
- WestJet is purchasing somewhere between 42 and 64 B737 MAX 10 aircraft.
- Wizz Air Malta is one step closer to being a real airline after adding its first airplane on Tuesday.
One time when I worked on a farm, I was asked to bring all the chickens from all over the farm into one room together and count them. “We have 100,” I said.
My co-worker said “Really, we’re only supposed to have 96.”
“I know,” I replied, “I rounded them up for you.”