This week’s Cranky Weekly Review is coming out two days early due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll be back at our regularly-scheduled time next Friday. If you’re flying this week, bring snacks, empathy, and a lot of patience. Have a restful holiday!
DOJ Northeast Alliance Lawsuit Wraps Up Closing Arguments
The month-long trial filed by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division against American and JetBlue wrapped up with both sides presenting their closing arguments before turning the case over to U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin.
The government concluded its case with the claim that the alliance would harm consumers to the tune of $500 million to $700 million in higher fares on routes in the agreement plus a domino effect causing higher fares across the country. The closing argument from the airlines was delayed for vague reasons, with attorneys giving an update every 30 minutes on when they’d be ready to go. After rolling the time back 30 minutes at a time for several hours, the airlines legal team was finally ready, but the judge timed out and both parties were forced to try again the next day.
When Richard F. Schwed and Daniel M. Wall, the lawyers for the alliance did present their final argument, their claim was the government did not prove competition or consumers would be harmed and that the government’s analysis didn’t make sense. Then they said something about Chewbacca but were cut off after the judge illuminated the seat belt sign in anticipation of the case beginning its descent to come to an end.
Judge Sorokin said he would finish reviewing the evidence and schedule a hearing if there were any remaining questions. He gave no timeline on when he’d rule on the case, just saying it would depend on when space on his calendar at the appropriate redemption level became available.
Virgin Atlantic Pulls Support for Third Runway
Virgin Atlantic, the second largest carrier at London/Heathrow, withdrew its support for the airport to build a third runway after Heathrow proposed increasing landing fees by 120%.
During the pandemic, the carrier was a major supporter of expansion plans at LHR but changed its tune after seeing how the airport planned to implement its expansion. The CAA (this one, not that one) told Heathrow officials over the summer it would be permitted to raise fees by about 56% – to over £30 per passenger – but the airport proposed increasing fees by more than double what the CAA proposed purely out of spite and not for any other reason.
Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said the deal was “great for the airport and its mostly foreign shareholders” – including Qatar and China’s sovereign wealth fund – but “a bad deal for consumers, airlines, and the UK economy”. Weiss said he would back expansion – including a third runway – if his airline’s conditions were met which include lower charges, a renovation to its home in Terminal 3, and a 5% discount card to be used at airport duty-free shops.
Peru Takes LATAM Pilots Into Custody
The two pilots operating the LATAM A320neo aircraft last week that crashed into a fire truck on a runway at very high speed were taken into custody by Peruvian officials Friday night.
The crash tragically killed the two firefighters who were struck in the incident Friday night in Lima. The two pilots of LATAM Flight 2214 were detained nearly 24 hours before being released Saturday night. This occurred despite the initial investigation showing the pilots were not at fault for the incident. According to the Peruvian Corporation of Commercial Airports and Aviation, the following details were known and confirmed shortly after the incident:
- The LATAM A320neo had clearance and permission to takeoff on the runway where the incident occurred
- The firefighters were participating in a safety exercise
- The firefighters did not have permission to cross the runway, and that the safety exercise was supposed to be held off the runway
The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations admonished the arrest of the pilots saying the pair instead should have been offered medical care for both physical and mental concerns. The investigation into the incident will continue in the coming weeks.
Government Holds Off on Korean/Asiana Merger
The United States Department of Justice kicked the can down the road a little further on the merger between Korean Air and Asiana, the two largest carriers in South Korea.
Many believed the DOJ would rule last month, and with the case dragging on, the government ended the possibility of deciding anytime soon. The CEO of both carriers are now being asked to join DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg at his home for Thanksgiving Dinner where members of the secretary’s family will pepper the duo with a wide-range of questions designed to make the pair as uncomfortable as possible.
In the proposed merger, Korean would acquire 64% of Asiana and fold it into the Korean brand. The deal is awaiting anti-trust approval in the EU, UK, China, and Japan in addition to the United States. If approved, Korean would become the seventh largest passenger airline in the world and would overtake KLM as the number one airline with planes painted bright blue.
Korean operated to 11 destinations in the United States with a 44% market share on U.S. – Korea traffic. Combined with Asiana, the combined carrier would control two-thirds of traffic between the two countries, leading the airline to already concede it will need to lessen its control on the market to allow the deal to go through.
New Entrant Plans to Enter Transatlantic Market
Fly Atlantic announced plans to offer discounted long-haul flying from Belfast, Northern Ireland to the United States and Canada when it begins operating around 2024.
The new carrier did not announce what destinations it plans to serve as it hasn’t purchased a wall map for its new offices yet. It will begin with six aircraft based in Belfast – expected to be either the B737 Max or A321. It hopes to grow to eight or more planes by 2028. When fully operational, it claims it will operate to as many as 35 destinations across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
If the airline does actually give it a go, it will be challenging easyJet which is the dominant carrier at BFS by a wide margin. Granted, none of easyJet’s destinations cross the Atlantic, but Fly Atlantic says it has intra-European flying in its plans too, and easyJet is sure to put up a fight once it stops laughing at Fly Atlantic’s plans.
- Aeromar is not going to be bailed out by the Mexican government.
- AirAsia India will be adding in-flight Wi-Fi. It’s expected to work perfectly from the beginning and have no issues with speed or connectivity.
- Air Belgium will operate an A330-200 freighter on behalf of Emirates as part of a wet-lease agreement between the two.
- Air Botswana has one last ATR 42-500 it needs to sell. If you’re interested, the aircraft is only available “as-is,” so you’ll have to take it in its current condition. That includes several passengers stuck on the plane from a delayed flight last month and lavatories that really, really need to be emptied.
- Air Canada completed a slot swap at London/Heathrow with AA.
- Air India might buy some new airplanes. It also might sell some old ones. Stay tuned for more.
- Air New Zealand promises to make its food suck less in its lounges.
- Alaska plans on expanding and renovating its lounges in its Seattle hub.
- Breeze is kicking around the idea of blowing into international service.
- Cathay Pacific cabin staff, or what’s left of it, will receive a 3.3% raise.
- Emirates is warning passengers traveling through London/Heathrow over the holidays to not pack any liquids, creams, and gels in their carry-on luggage.
- GlobalX received DOT permission to increase its fleet from eight aircraft to 11. Its next goal is to receive government permission to use the restroom because its been holding it in for a while now.
- Kenya Airways had the Kenyan government repay its US debts.
- LATAM‘s first new flight under its new JV with Delta will be 3x weekly B777-300ER service between São Paulo and Los Angeles.
- Lufthansa still might recklessly spends million and millions of dollars.
- Ryanair‘s summer 2023 schedule is now available for sale. This comes on the heels of former Ryanair CMO Kenny Jacobs becoming CEO of the Dublin Airports Authority.
- Singapore is returning A380 service to Melbourne.
- Swoop‘s 6th B737 MAX 8 of 2022 swooped into its fleet this week.
- United‘s first B737 MAX 10 took its debut certification flight this week.
- Wizz Air owes a bunch of money to a bunch of people.
What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter?
A Pumpkin pi.