Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Spirit Cuts Back, Avelo Adds On, More

Cranky Weekly Review

United Makes Elite Qualifying More Difficult

What’s the best way to know if United is about to make a change to its loyalty program? Wait for Delta or American to do it first, and United will usually follow a few weeks later. This time, weeks after Delta made elite status qualification changes, United announced similar changes to its Mileage Plus program for 2023 and beyond.

The 2023 changes match what the airline announced in October 2019 that was supposed to go into effect for 2020. United ended up not being implemented in 2020 for some unknown reason – we welcome any suggestions as to why United was concerned about travel demand in 2020.

The rates to requalify generally increased between 25% and 50% at each level, from Silver now requiring 5,000 PQPs instead of 3,500 last year up to Premier 1Ks requiring 25,000 PQPs, up from 15,000. To help ease the transition, UA is offering a head start for current elites, with 500 PQPs for Silver members, 1,000 for Premier Gold, 1,500 for Premier Platinum, and Premier 1Ks will receive 2,500 and a questionnaire as to why they choose to fly United so much.

On the bright side, award travel on United and United Express will earn PQPs at a rate of one for every 100 miles redeemed and one PQF per flight. Award flights won’t count towards lifetime status in the program, as those require paid butt-in-seat miles, but the soreness in your butt from the rock hard cushioning on-board UA’s aircraft will be present regardless of if your flight is paid or an award.

Spirit Will be Less Spirited in January

Spirit Airlines has pulled at least 35 routes from its January schedule as it attempts to right-size its operation to align itself with its operational capabilities.

Spirit CEO Ted Christie told those willing to pay its “Listen to the CEO on a webcast” fee that the carrier is seeing several supply-chain issues on aircraft deliveries and engine manufacturing. This confirms that receiving airplanes, especially ones with working engines, is crucial to the growth plans for any airline.  Spirit, which has a heavy presence in Florida due to Floridians longtime love affair with paying fees, has been hit especially hard by staffing issues at the air traffic control center in Jacksonville, as well.

Many of the 35 routes being axed operate to Florida, including seven from both Fort Myers and Tampa, six from Fort Lauderdale, three from Orlando, and two from Miami. Passengers previously booked on any of the shuttered flights will be offered a refund or the opportunity to be strapped to the top of a minivan and driven to their destination – that was the closest Spirit could come to simulating its own on-board experience.

This story – and more – was covered in last week’s Cranky Network Weekly. Get more information on how to subscribe today by visiting crankynetworkweekly.com.

Air Canada and WestJet Continue to Show Disdain for Their Customers

In 2021, Air Canada and its chief competitor WestJet mostly flat out refused to compensate customers when flights were canceled due to a staffing shortage, and in 2022 both airlines lost in Canadian federal court forcing them to compensate affected passengers. But both airlines carriers are continuing to try and shadily get out of paying their customers, launching separate appeals challenging the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) ruling forcing them to pony up cash.

Both Air Canada and WestJet claim the CTA misrepresented Canada’s compensation regulations, and that based on current regulations, the only thing they are required to pay customers is four ounces of maple syrup for every hour their flight is delayed – but no cash. Air Canada argues it is being overly generous by allowing customers to receive a case of Labatt’s instead, if that was of interest.

In both situations, the airlines are claiming the exception that compensation is not required for passengers when a delay or cancellation is due to safety reasons. The flights were delayed or canceled because of a lack of staff causing a safety concern – but the government claims the delay is due to the airline’s lack of staffing, keeping the two on the hook. It’s a matter of semantics – if a flight is canceled because it doesn’t have enough staff to operate safely… is it canceled for lack of staff or for a safety exception? The government says one way and the carriers claim another – and back to court they will go. and once again the only winner will be the lawyers.

Vaya Con Dios: Colombia Nixes Avianca – Viva Merger

The Colombian government blocked the merger of Avianca and Viva Air claiming that the combined carrier represents too many risks for competition and would harm customers.

The Civil Aeronautics Board of Colombia said the combined carriers currently hold nearly 94% of the domestic traffic in Colombia, overlap on 29 routes, and are the only operators on 16 routes. The government says the tie-up would regress the Colombian market to levels not seen since the middle of last decade. The government hasn’t completely shut the door on the deal, offering to allow the carriers to make things right by giving up some routes to other carriers. The airlines are considering this or a straight-up cash bribe to members of the Civil Aeronautics Board – whichever would move the needle more quickly.

The carriers have ten days to appeal the ruling but were told by the government not to waste their time unless they came with givebacks to improve the competitive environment (the government representative’s hand was out the whole time but could not confirm exactly what that meant by press time).

Avelo Growing at RDU

Avelo Airlines will open a fifth crew base at Raleigh-Durham International Airport early next year along with beginning service to six destinations in Florida from the North Carolina airport.

Avelo will begin flying from RDU to Orlando (beginning February 2), Tampa (February 3), Fort Lauderdale (February 16), Fort Myers (February 16), Sarasota (February 17), and West Palm Beach (February 17).  On three of the routes: Fort Myers, Sarasota, and West Palm Beach, Avelo will be the only carrier operating the route. It’ll compete with JetBlue, Delta, and Southwest to Fort Lauderdale, to Tampa it will compete with American, Delta, and Southwest, and to Orlando it well face off with Delta, Frontier, Spirit, and Southwest.

The carrier will base a lone B737 at the airport and expects to add a second during Q2 2023. The Florida destinations will join Avelo’s 5x weekly service to its New Haven hub which began in May 2022.

  • Aeromexico still can’t add any new service to the United States, so its going to Europe and Asia instead. AM announced new 3x weekly flights to Rome will begin March 25, while flights from both Monterrey and Guadalajara to Madrid will increase from 3x to 5x weekly on March 27, and then go daily on June 1. It’ll also resume flying to Tokyo for the first time in three years, beginning MEX-NRT daily service on March 25.
  • Air Belgium could use any spare coins you might have in-between your sofa cushions.
  • Air Canada‘s Aeroplan has a new partner and if you find yourself often taking domestic flights in-and-out of Vietnam, you’re going to be very pleased.
  • Air France-KLM paid €1 billion of the €3.5 billion it owes the French government back early. It offered the remaining balance of the debt back to the government in non-transferable travel vouchers redeemable for any intra-Europe flight in economy provided it’s ticketed and flown no later than December 31.
  • Air Serbia expects a profit for 2022 of around €7 million.
  • Breeze is blowing towards both Orlando and Provo from Orange County.
  • British Airways is partnering with Uber to give customers the opportunity to experience the synergy of being cramped, delayed, disappointed, and overcharged on the ground and in the air. The carrier will also allow male staff and cabin crew to wear makeup — but only for the express purpose of covering up the disdain on their faces because they work for BA.
  • Cathay Pacific plans to promote CCO Ronald “Mary Had a Little” Lam to CEO.
  • Delta‘s flights to Buenos Aires and Santiago from its Atlanta hub will now operate daily.
  • Emirates added five new Boeing 777-200LR freighters to its order book. It ordered the planes online, so instead of being in its physical order book, they’re in their order Kindle.
  • ITA managed to scam the Italian government out of another €400 million.
  • JetBlue hired Tomorrow.io to be its new worldwide weather forecasting vendor after its credit card on file expired and its access to the premium section of the Weather.com app was taken away.
  • Jetlines is gambling Las Vegas will work as its first U.S. destination.
  • Loganair sold off some fine-looking airplanes.
  • Norse Atlantic had some seats go unsold last month.
  • Norwegian likes money, so it’s not intrstd in byng Flyr.
  • Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary believes some airlines may end up being purchased, merged, or consolidated. He also believes this winter could be challenging for some carriers.
  • Singapore thinks fares might go down next year. Also they might not.
  • Southwest finally heeded the call of all Honky Tonk fans living in Long Beach, adding daily non-stop service between Nashville and Long Beach.
  • United is bringing back kids meals onboard as a special meal option. The kids meals will be offered on select flights where meals are offered. They will be available to children under 14 and any adult who behaves as if they are less than 14.
  • WestJet suffered a system outage last weekend resulting in cascading delays and some cancelations. Hopefully no passengers dare ask for compensation. There’s no confirmation the outage had anything to do with its recent plunge into the world of sustainable aviation fuel.

Why are professional athletes heavier then prisoners?

Because the pros outweigh the cons.

7 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Spirit Cuts Back, Avelo Adds On, More

  1. Avelo’s move into RDU will attract competitive attention. To date, they have done a good job of avoiding that. I especially like their moves in PHF, which worked well for AirTran but was ignored by Southwest due to its presence in both RIC and ORF. Avelo needs more PHF-type cities. Delta, Southwest, and, to a lesser extent, American will all compete vigorously for RDU. RDU has ALL the characteristics of a major market: state Capitol, big tech area, huge university/college area, very large catchment area, and strong socio-economics, yet it never quite climbs the hill. They should be running the traffic that BNA is getting, but they aren’t. Still, DL, WN, and AA will compete for the market.

    1. Avelo should have considered GSO instead of RDU. GSO has almost no ULCC service anymore except for G4 once or twice a week at best. RDU is about saturated with service to FL on WN, DL, and AA along with NK and F9 less frequently.

    2. I largely agree with your points about there possibly being some untapped demand for flights from RDU, and I’m not trying to start an argument. However, in reading the sentence you wrote (quoted below), I can’t help but think that similar logic “should” (or “could”) also apply to airports like MSN (Madison, WI), LAN (Lansing, MI), or IND (Indianapolis), at least to a certain extent. Some of those may not have quite the same tech/biotech clusters that RDU/SJC/AUS have, but they check many of the other boxes.

      Unfortunately, most of those (as with RDU are also within a ~2 hour drive of a major hub (e.g., ORD, DTW) and/or several other mid-sized cities/airports with significant service.. While it can be tough for cities within a few hours’ drive of global hubs to get a ton of nonstop service, that may still mean that there are a few overlooked markets/niches with opportunities for a carrier like Avelo, just perhaps not the massive opportunities that would be present were it not for the existence of the 800-lb gorilla hub down the road.

      > RDU has ALL the characteristics of a major market: state Capitol, big tech area, huge university/college area, very large catchment area, and strong socio-economics, yet it never quite climbs the hill.

    3. > They should be running the traffic that BNA is getting, but they aren’t.

      Nashville attracts tourism on a scale that Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill just don’t come close to matching. When people in the eastern US make plans for where to go for a weekend trip/bachelorette party/work offsite/etc., Nashville is on the list but Raleigh isn’t. Makes a huge difference for air travel demand.

      To make a comparison to the western US, Nashville is closer to Vegas, and Raleigh is more like Sacramento.

  2. Love the sick burn on United at the beginning.

    ZJX (Jacksonville area) ATC staffing seems like a pretty weak excuse by Spirit, IMHO. At least when I’ve checked it (and I check it out of curiosity multiple times a week), the FAA’s National Airspace System plan hasn’t shown many delays due to ZJX staffing in months.

  3. I have never flown Air Canada (minimal flights to PDX) nor Westjet (No flights to PDX), but the case of Labatt’s sounds intriguing, so I may just have to give it a try sometime!

    I expect UA will be handing out lots of kids meals to adults in the near future!!

  4. > I expect UA will be handing out lots of kids meals to adults in the near future!!

    I’d say that UA should plan to make sure that they have plenty of kids meals on routes that they overlap with Spirit on, but last I heard NK isn’t very fond of putting its pax on other airlines during IRROPs, so maybe not, and I’m sure United has enough pax of its own who act 1/2 or 1/4 their age.

    On a more serious note, yes, I think you’re right, for a variety of reasons. When I worked in the packaged food industry, my employer had to significantly increase the quantity of kid-targeted food items allocated to free sampling events, as many adults wanted to try the kids’ products instead of the adult products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier