Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: The MAX 10 Conundrum, Delta Spikes Medallion Qualifications, and More

Cranky Weekly Review

B737 MAX 10 Approval Not Imminent

Boeing doesn’t expect to receive approval for its B737 Max 10 fleet anytime soon, with next summer seemingly the earliest approval would come from the FAA.

The manufacturer is currently under the gun to meet a December deadline for approval. If it’s unable to make that timeline work, it must meet new cockpit-altering requirements that would delay the planes from entering service even more and cause all sorts of other problems — provided it does not receive an extension from Congress. Boeing recently took new MAX 10 orders from several airlines including Delta and WestJet, both of which made the deals with the expectation they would actually receive the airplanes some day.

Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee proposed extending Boeing’s deadline until September 2024 to buy more time, but it’s unclear if the proposal will be approved. Another suggestion of extending the deadline by about 45 minutes with a vague promise of “further updates” in about an hour, then repeating that process over and over again for about six months, was rejected.

Delta Spikes Medallion Qualification Requirements

Delta Air Lines announced tougher Medallion qualification guidelines for 2023 which will make it more difficult for a handful of fliers to earn their elite status for 2024.

First the good news — qualifications for earning Silver Medallion status will remain unchanged, which makes sense because Delta executives would rather sit on a toilet seat made of hot coals than even recognize that peon Silver Medallions even exist. For Gold and above, the number of segments or miles to qualify will remain the same, but the amount of spend required is going up.

To qualify for Gold, the new MQD threshold is $8,000 (up from $6k), Platinum is $12,000 (up from $9k), and Diamond is $20,000 (up from $15k). Our astute readers will recognize that’s a 33% bump across the board. The MQD waiver with a Delta-branded American Express card is not changing probably because Amex threatened Delta that it wouldn’t bail it out of its next bankruptcy if it tried to mess with the benefits. So for fliers who qualify on their card spend, the change will have no effect.

Delta is also updating choice benefits for Platinum and Diamond members, something it hasn’t done in a while. New options include a statement credit on a Delta-branded AMEX ($500 for Diamond, $200 for Platinum), a $250 SAF contribution for members who are also suckers, a “head start” on MQD earning for next year, the option to punch a Basic Economy passenger once per flight segment, or free entry into Delta’s annual Biscoff cookie eating contest which takes place next to the Hudson News across from Gate B16 in Atlanta every November.

FAA to FAs: Thou Shalt Rest

The FAA announced greater mandatory rest periods for flight attendants are coming to an airline near you before the end of the calendar year.

The government increased the required rest period for FAs to ten hours for a shift of 14 hours or less. The current guidelines only require a rest of nine hours, with eight being permitted in some circumstances. Flight attendant unions lobbied hard for the change which was actually approved by Congress in 2018 but not put in place by the Trump administration. The nine — and now ten — hours of rest include commute time to and from their layover hotel, time to sleep, eat, and ensure that seats in the back for basic economy passengers are packed as tightly together as possible.

This announcement ends a 28-year quest for flight attendants to earn longer mandatory rest periods. The movement started so long ago that when it began, Frontier still thought it had a shot at merging with Spirit.

Airlines were reportedly told the change was coming late last month, with some airlines applauding the move with an eye to recognizing that well-rested FAs means a safer flight experience, while others (Spirit) were busy investigating how it could use the new rule to invent a new fee. The new rule takes effect in 90 days or when taxi time for your late afternoon flight from JFK ends — whichever comes first. For a deeper dive into this story, please visit Thursday’s post from crankyflier.com.

London/Heathrow to Drop Passenger Cap

London/Heathrow is expected to end its artificial cap on passengers later this month as scheduled and will not be extending the limits into the holiday travel season.

The airport first introduced the artificial limits in July when asking airlines nicely to restrict capacity and cancel flights worked about as well as you’d think it would. The airport originally planned to end the limits in September, but chose to extend them a month as it did not improve enough operationally to go back to pre-pandemic passenger levels.

The cap limits the airport to 100,000 passengers per day, down more than half from the approximately 220,000 passengers it averaged in 2019. Prior to the implementation of the cap, LHR was expecting between 104,000 and 110,000 daily passengers in July and August, forcing the airport to work with airlines to cut between four and 10% of passengers each day. United offered to move all of its flights out of the airport to Newark, figuring enough passengers would be mortified at the prospect of flying to EWR that it could do LHR a solid and get it under 100k per day. The airport ended up running a data analysis from each airline, cutting each passenger that spent an average of £100 or less per trip in duty-free.

LHR officials claimed the cap actually was beneficial to airlines as it resulted in “fewer last-minute cancellations, better punctuality and shorter waits for bags,” which may be true, but last-minute cancellations and long waits for baggage are some of LHR’s most well-known attributes and robbing passengers of that experience left some feeling confused and short-changed.

Jamaica, Mon: Frontier’s Newest Frontier is Montego Bay

Frontier Airlines is adding three new nonstop flights to Montego Bay (MBJ) with service beginning on consecutive days in February.

The carrier will begin flying to Montego Bay from Denver, Chicago/Midway and St. Louis. DEN service begins on February 23, followed by MDW on February 24, and last and possibly least, STL service will start on February 25. Frontier will be the only airline flying the route to Denver while Frontier will have to compete with frenemy Southwest on the Chicago/Midway and St. Louis routes.

These three additions make it eight cities for Frontier to the Jamaican airport, complementing existing flights to Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Tampa.

  • Aer Lingus is proving that you can go home again, as the carrier plans to resume service to the Irish entertainment capital of the world — Hartford — beginning March 26. Service will operate daily through the end of October.
  • Air Canada announced two new flights to the United States — Halifax to Newark and Vancouver to Houston. Both routes begin December 16 and will operate daily.
  • Airlink purchased a stake in FlyNamibia. Rumors the airline will change its name to FlyNamibiAirlink are unconfirmed.
  • Asiana could use any spare change you are willing to part with.
  • Delta is moving its operation at Chicago/O’Hare from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5, effective Tuesday. It will use gates M2 through M11 and open a fancy new SkyClub located near Gate M11. The SkyClub comes with eye-pleasing stanchions designed to sooth DL passengers while waiting in line to access the overcrowded lounge.
  • Emirates made several changes to its commercial operation departments. If you were one of the people brought on, Emirates HR would like you to reach out by COB today.
  • Fedex and its pilots requested federal mediation to determine what exactly is the absolutely, positively, fastest way to ship a package.
  • Flyr is redcng its opration by about hlf this wntr. Most dmstc flights within Nrwy will be sspndd and it will rduce its fleet to just five or six arplns.
  • Jetstar Japan will resume flying from Manila to Tokyo/Narita on December 16.
  • KLM is less than thrilled that Schiphol Airport plans to continue capacity caps through March 2023. The carrier said if it didn’t have “Royal Dutch Airlines” in its name, it might consider moving out of the country, but it’s not worth the hassle of rebranding everything.
  • Norse Atlantic is ending all service to Los Angeles later this month after one of its executives named Bjorn was displeased by the never-ending traffic in the metro region. Berlin and Oslo service to LAX will end on October 16. The carrier is reducing Oslo to both Fort Lauderdale and New York/JFK from 3x to 2x weekly, and is suspending Oslo to Orlando two weeks earlier than planned — on October 15 instead of the 29th. Other than that, everything is going well for Norse Atlantic.
  • Pakistan International Airlines leased eight of its London/Heathrow slots rather than lose them for this winter. Turkish and Kuwait were the beneficiaries of the offer which came after PIA realized the UK CAA still required actual, qualified pilots to operate aircraft into the country.
  • Qatar delayed the start of its Canberra-Melbourne-Doha triangle route to December 2. Service to Canberra was originally supposed to begin last Saturday. Airline executives delayed the flight after discovering Canberra, and not Sydney, was the capital of Australia.
  • Royal Jordanian is adding airplanes to its fleet.
  • Ryanair is threatening to leave the UK market altogether, which isn’t gonna happen but makes a cute headline.
  • SAS might consider adding more joint venture agreements with other carriers. Also it might not.
  • Spirit will begin serving Norfolk on March 8 with service to both Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. Norfolk-area residents interested in the new service to Florida can find out what the carrier is charging for flights by paying a $9 new destination fee on spirit.com.
  • United is resuming regular service to Cape Town after canceling two flights earlier in the week because it couldn’t find a gas station that was open.
  • Virgin Atlantic is ending service to Hong Kong and closing its ticket offices in the city.
  • WestJet is now in cahoots with the government of Alberta and will double its capacity in Calgary within the next ten years. Don’t miss the Cranky Network Weekly the week of October 6, 2027 for an update on this developing story.
  • Wizz Air is shifting service from the shuttered Doncaster Sheffield airport to Leeds Bradford (LBA).

Why don’t skeletons get mad?

Because nothing gets under their skin.

10 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: The MAX 10 Conundrum, Delta Spikes Medallion Qualifications, and More

  1. Nothing of substance to add, but I am enjoying the Potpourri! There’s some real gems in there.

  2. The Frontier ads smell like Apple Vacations…. didn’t Alaska Air operate these routes for Apple at one point, including Pittsburgh & Baltimore to Cancun?

  3. I’m not sure what an SAF contribution is but I’m extremely intrigued by the opportunity to punch a basic economy px in the head on each flight. That would actually get me to purchase extra flights to places where I generally dislike people. Where do I sign up?

    1. Also bravo for the “$9 new destination fee on spirit.com” which actually did make me laugh out loud!

    2. Boxing/wrestling/UFC matches aren’t usually my thing, but… I would pay good money to see a fighting match take place on a worn-out airplane that has been gutted, covered with padding, and converted to “vomit comet” (reduced gravity) use. I’d pay even more money to see such an event if (instead of professionals) the fighters were “show me your manager”-style Karen characters swinging their heavy purses at each other in zero gravity.

      /Then again, a somewhat similar experience could probably be had simply by taking a seat on a much-delayed Spirit flight forced to cross a storm front with heavy turbulence.

  4. > KLM is less than thrilled that Schiphol Airport plans to continue capacity caps through March 2023.

    The caps are a fairly insane move for the Amsterdam region and the Netherlands generally. Other cities would kill to have the hub for a global airline, which helps attract and develop clusters of business, tourism, etc.

    Pushing an existing one away for “environmental” reasons is just kooky.

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