Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Pilots Say No All Over, Avios Sells Out, More

Cranky Weekly Review

American, United Pilots United in Rejecting Offer

Both American Airlines and United Airlines pilots rejected offers from management this week, sending both carriers back to the drawing board in negotiations with their pilots unions.

Nearly 10,000 of the 14,000 UA pilots voted on the proposal with 94% of the electorate choosing to vote no. The United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association now awaits a new proposal from United. AA’s pilots boAArd, which represents the ~15,000 pilots at the AAirline rejected the deal by a 15-5 vote, not even allowing the rich contract to go the membership despite some vocal disagreement. It seems the unions all want the other one to go first, so they can then leapfrog them, but with an expected recession coming, this may be a very bad game of chicken.

United said it is continuing to work with the union on a new, industry-leading agreement that it expects to include improved pay rates and other enhancements. The carrier did not disclose what the other enhancements are, but industry insiders believe they include hazard pay for overnight layovers in Newark, the ending of all early morning flights out of San Francisco, and the carrier establishing a new pilot base on Maui.

American’s pilots rejected a deal which included 12% raises for pilots upon ratification, and a 5% raise after one year, a 2% raise after two years, and free psychological services for any pilot still traumatized from DCA’s Gate 35X.

BA Changing Avios to Revenue-Based Program

British Airways and its Avios loving, IAG compatriot Iberia are changing the way Avios are earned to a revenue-based model which will align them with much of the industry including major carriers in the United States.

Iberia Plus will take the plunge first, awarding Avios based on spend this month, with BA to follow when the calendar turns to 2023. With the new plan, Iberia Classic members will earn 5x Avios per €1 spent, Silver will earn 6x, Gold 7x with Platinum, Infinity and Infinity Prime Members earning 8x spend.  Taxes, fees, charges, and other ancillaries will not be included.

Iberia’s Client Loyalty Director Silvia Morán described the new earning scheme as “a more fair and transparent way to reward our more loyal members,” Moran was reported as having her fingers crossed behind her back while giving the statement.

BA declined to give details on its changeover to the revenue-based model, including when in 2023 it will make the transition and what the earning rates will be. Other than that it was very forthcoming. Rumors abound that BA wants to first see how Iberia customers react to the changes, figure out the absolute lowest they can go, then drop the earning rates by another 10% below that before making an announcement.

Delta Pilots Vote to Authorize Strike

This is one of those stories that sounds worse than it really is, unless the whole thing comes to fruition at which point it’s just as bad as it looks, and potentially worse.

A vote of the nearly 15,000 pilots employed by Delta overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing a labor action, with 96% of its pilots taking part in the vote, and 99% voting to authorize. The vote itself does not mean the pilots are planning to strike – but it does show management that they are prepared to do so if negotiations go nowhere in the coming weeks.

In order for a strike to actually occur, the National Mediation Board would have to formally declare that further mediation would not be successful between the two parties, then release both sides from mediation and send them to an arbiter, which would then be followed by a 30-day cooling off period. If all that fails, President Biden would have to decide not to stop the strike, so… yeah, it’s probably not happening.

The union – the Air Line Pilots Association – said Delta’s most recent pay proposal fell “substantially short” of expectations. The offer was not made public, but rumors say the carrier offered a major raise, but only if pilots agreed to take all compensation in the form of SkyPesos and Biscoffs. Pilots were willing to take one or the other as compensation along with cash, but not both.

Talks between the two parties began as early as 2019. The pandemic slowed discussions down for a couple years, with negotiations resuming early this year. The two are attempting to come to terms on an agreement together for the first time since 2016.

FAA Doesn’t Waver to Wave Goodbye to Slot Waivers

The FAA ended its slot waiver program which had been in place for more than two years at the nation’s slot-restricted airports, with the change effective at the beginning of the IATA winter season this past Sunday, October 30.

The federal government will no longer look the other way on airlines not flying their full allotment of slots even internationally, putting carriers at risk of losing them if they don’t use them. Three airports are fully slot controlled: New York/LGA, New York/JFK, and Washington/National, with another four having IATA Level 2 Status meaning they have restrictions on runway usage: Chicago/O’Hare, Los Angeles, Newark, and San Francisco.

The FAA did leave one loophole – it will consider offering slot waivers on a case-by-case basis – with no guarantees. Some international airlines may file for such a waiver, including Cathay Pacific which is operating just one daily round trip from HKG, down from four per day before the pandemic, every Chinese airline, and Aeroflot who is not flying any because…well, Russia.

United, which pulled out of JFK entirely for the second time in less than a decade earlier this year, did so because it could not gain access to permanent slots. But the ending of slot waivers could provide a backdoor for United to return to JFK if the slots do come available. Still, we expect United would have realized this before leaving, so we aren’t holding our collective breath.

IAG Considers Tapping TAP

IAG, the Madrid-based owner of British Airways and Iberia is potentially in the market to scoop up TAP Air Portugal to add to its growing portfolio of airlines.

Last week, IAG reported a €1.2 billion profit for Q3, a figure that could have been even higher if so many of its customers didn’t hate flying BA so much. IAG’s portfolio also includes Aer Lingus and Vueling, and the group has been in a never-ending battle to purchase Spanish-based Air Europa. It had an agreement to buy the carrier for €1 billion just prior to the pandemic, but the deal fell through last year. Despite not purchasing Air Europa outright, IAG has purchased a 20% stake in the carrier to get its claws in the airline.

TAP would potentially be a good fit for IAG as the group looks to increase its stranglehold on the market between Europe and South America. Rumors also abound that it’s interested in easyJet, potentially along with a TAP acquisition and not necessarily in place of it. EasyJet shares shot up more than 20% earlier this week on the news IAG was poking around, with the stock expected to settle back down once investors realize it means more BA in their lives and not less.

  • Aeroitalia took delivery of three new B737-8 aircraft.
  • Air Asia X acting CEO Tony Fernandes is no longer acting as the CEO after resigning his position to presumably devote himself full time to taking acting classes.
  • Air Canada announced the activation of its codeshare partnership with Emirates on Tuesday. The partnership includes access to 46 destinations between the two carriers, future earn and burn points opportunities, a maple syrup trough on all Emirates aircraft, and a communual vat of hummus aboard all Air Canada planes for one year.
  • Air New Zealand will resume nonstop service to Bali in March. But don’t bring your AirTag with you when you take your trip.
  • Air Serbia is launching its first direct flights to China, with once weekly service between Belgrade and Tianjin (TSN).
  • airBaltic is beginning new winter service to Marrakech.
  • Alaska linked its Mileage Plan program with Lyft and will now offer free Lyft rides to your final destination if your flight is over 2,000 miles and canceled.
  • Albawings is definitely an airline, and it now is an airline that has permission to operate to the United States.
  • Antigua Airways is a thing that’s apparently now a thing. It’ll try to connect St. John’s (ANU) with Accra, Lagos, and Toronto. Godspeed.
  • BRA has the needed support to operate its first service outside of Scandinavia. The carrier will connect Gothenburg (GOT) and Lyon (LYS) 2x weekly between February 20 and March 24 at which point it will unhook itself from the city pair.
  • Cathay Pacific will resume using Russian airspace on its Hong Kong to New York/JFK route, and American is not happy about that.
  • CommuteAir is adding an E175 for training purposes. What it’ll be training for is unclear at this point, but rumors include an airplane-based amusement park, a do-it-yourself airplane fueling station, or setting up Microsoft Flight Simulator in the cockpit.
  • Delta is offering free Wi-Fi for some elite members of its Medallion program. Access is only permitted if the SkyMiles member agrees to use their online access to mock non-elites on selected social forums.
  • Finnair confirmed it would continue its 2x weekly service to Tokyo/Narita this winter after previously planning to shift the flights to Haneda.
  • Flyr needs csh.
  • Frontier is adding five new frontiers from Dallas/Fort Worth: Baltimore, Montego Bay, New York/LGA, Orange County, and Raleigh-Durham. It’s also setting up a crew and aircraft base at the airport.
  • ITA is for sale. Again. If it first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try again.
  • JAL turned a profit of $118 million in Q3, its first quarterly profit in three years.
  • Jetlines received permission to operate to the United States.
  • LATAM exited bankruptcy. It plans to celebrate by throwing a very large, but fiscally responsible party.
  • LOT received its first B737 MAX since the grounding of the aircraft in 2019.
  • Lufthansa agreed to pay increases for its 19,000 cabin crew. Pay will be increased by about $250 per month beginning January 1, and then an additional 2.5% on July 1. Each FA will also receive one complimentary admission to Wheneverfest in 2023.
  • Norwegian will launch a new base in Riga next summer — which at last check is not in Norway.
  • Ryanair flew a lot of people in October.
  • Starlux took delivery of its first A350.
  • Thai will see the Thai government maintain at least a 40% stake in the carrier going forward.
  • Turkish plans to add service next year to Detroit, Osaka, and Tokyo/Haneda.
  • Virgin Atlantic is in the market for more slots at London/Heathrow. If anyone reading this controls a slot at LHR that they aren’t using, please feel free to reach out to Virgin Atlantic or its daddy Delta.
  • Wizz Air wants more people to fly on its airplanes and thinks they will.

Me: “I’m an expert at identifying birds.”

My friend: “Ok, what are those flying in a group over the oak tree?”

Me: “Birds. All of them.”

6 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Pilots Say No All Over, Avios Sells Out, More

  1. Still traumatized from many years of operating out of 35X. Oh the joy of boarding with a rickety stair thingie in rain and snow! The buses bringing the wrong passengers to the wrong airplane… people’s bags left to soak on the ramp in a downpour…
    Brilliant setup :-))

  2. Can’t wait for a certain Delta loving poster with the initials TD to explain why its pilots voting to authorize a strike is just further proof of its industry leading excellence.

  3. RE: United’s pilot negotiations , “they include hazard pay for overnight layovers in Newark” .

    Cold.

    Accurate, but cold! LOL

  4. They won’t listen, but the pilots may over reach in the ask…and if/when a recession hits, they’ll scream over furloughs or pay reduction requests.

    Seems to me best option is to tie it to revenur sharing and take the pressure off of guaranteed payroll payout.

    Taking into consideration that there are usually quality-of-life issues that need to be hammered out, I am also tired of companies in 2022 not taking that into consideration for their employees.

  5. Regarding the moment of levity, there was a case recently (Oct 25th) where an engine cowling separated from a FedEx B757 in Mobile, AL, and the ATC identified the cowling as a “bird standing up” on the runway… He was not corrected until the plane landed, the pilots drove past the “bird”, and essentially told the ATC, “Yup, that’s our cowling, not a bird, please have the firetruck pick it up and bring it to the ramp, as our mechanics may want to re-use it or at least examine it.” Great video from VAS Aviation on YouTube on the incident.

    To be fair, it can be really, really tough to identify objects in different lighting conditions from far away, and I doubt that tower controller are issued with bird identification guides or insanely high quality / high power binoculars, but I imagine it will be a while before his colleagues let that poor ATC forget the mistake.

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