Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta Puts the Squeeze on SkyClub Access, More ITA Drama, More

Cranky Weekly Review

Delta Puts the Squeeze on SkyClub Access

Access to Delta SkyClubs since the summer has been in higher demand than Taylor Swift tickets, and getting into one has been harder than buying a ticket to the Eras World Tour on Ticketmaster. Delta knows it has a problem, and it is cutting access around the edges, trying to control capacity without addressing the American Express card-sized elephant in the room.

Delta is eliminating access for its own elites on international itineraries when not flying in a premium cabin – SkyTeam Elite Plus members from other airlines will still keep their access on Main Cabin international itineraries, but Delta’s own elites will be SOL beginning in February 2. Beginning in January the airline will sell club memberships only to elite members of the Medallion program, meaning general members won’t have the right to pay the newly inflated price — $695 for individual membership and $1495 (a whopping 71% increase) for executive memberships.

Also, effective February 2, those elite members who still chose to pony up for a club membership will not be granted access when flying on a Basic Economy ticket. Instead, they’ll be asked to wait for their flight in a janitorial closet located in a Wi-Fi dead-zone.

Delta is also adding a real-time occupancy tracker to its app, showing live capacity of each lounge in both Atlanta and Detroit giving customers an idea of what they’re facing to get into the club. The tracker will display four occupancy levels ranging from “hurry and you might get in, but won’t find anywhere to sit” to “no freaking chance, dude, are you serious?” The tracker will be live in mid-December with expansion to include all SkyClubs in the system in the first half of 2023.

New Entrant Emerges in ITA Sweepstakes

The show that never ends – the Italian government’s attempt to pawn off ITA Airways to an unsuspecting corporate conglomerate – has a new contender as the Italian-state owned rail company Ferrovie Dello Stato (FS) apparently has money to burn – perhaps quite literally.

The Italian government seems to be doing everything in its power not to sell to Delta and Air France-KLM but instead to Lufthansa and whatever group it can get to team up on a bid. Lufthansa previously entered the bidding with shipping giant MSC, but MSC finally walked away several weeks ago after being frustrated by the purchase process. The current plan is to sell 51% of the airline to Lufthansa for €250 million, and 29% to the railway with the Italian government retaining 20%.

FS took a shot in purchasing ITA’s predecessor – Alitalia – along with Delta in 2019, with the idea of creating air and rail synergies for travel beyond the airport. Now it’s back – proving that companies throwing good money after bad is a concept that’s still alive and well.

Air India and Vistara to Merge

India’s two leading airlines – Air India and Vistara – will be merging to create a mega Indian carrier, with the goal of completing the transaction by March 2024. Prior to the announcement, Tata Group was the majority shareholder in two Indian carriers outside Air India, owning 51% of Vistara and 84% of ULCC AirAsia India.

Singapore Airlines, which had the other 49% ownership stake in Vistara will remain in the mix on the combined airline, investing an additional $250 million in exchange for 25.1% of the new carrier plus a free set of hand towels. Air India is expected to be the brand that survives since it is such a premium, beloved bra…. sorry, we almost finished that sentence without laughing too hard, but we failed.

The new airline will boast a fleet of 218 aircraft, and a total of 90 destinations served – 52 domestic destinations in India and 38 international. The combined carrier will still face significant competition in the country on the LCC front – but the only real threat from a full-service carrier would be Jet Airways which can’t seem to get out of its own way in its attempt to resume operations. For more on this, please visit yesterday’s story on CrankyFlier.com.

Saudi Arabia Plans New Airport

The Saudi government released plans on Monday for what will one day be King Salman International Airport in Riyadh, featuring six parallel runways and 22 square miles of land.

The government says the new mega-airport would be able to accommodate 120 million travelers by 2023 and as many as 185 million by 2050. For comparison, the busiest airport in the world in 2019 was Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, and it handled just over 110 million passengers, with Beijing Capital being the only other airport in the world to eclipse 100 million passengers in 2019. New York/LGA also gets to 100 million if you’re willing to count the rats living beneath the terminal as passengers but not all jurisdictions do so.

The new airport comes as Saudi Arabia also looks to launch a new airline – RIA – which would serve as Saudi Arabia’s own version of Emirates, connecting the world from east to west via its Saudi hub. RIA is expected to set the world standard…on how to lose money as fast as possible.

EU Bringing 5G to the Sky

The European Union is going to require airlines to install a “pico-cell” on aircraft which would provide traditional 5G connectivity on airplanes while in-flight, lessening the need for Wi-Fi, but also bringing the annoying guarantee of nonstop phone calls from your seatmate during flight.

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said “the sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity”. If this comes to fruition, putting cell phones in airplane mode could become a thing of the past, a relic pointing back to a time when phones and other electronics had to be turned off during takeoff and landing.

The FCC put a stop on allowing in-flight voice and data in the United States in 2020 after receiving strong opposition from pilots, flight attendants, and every U.S. traveler who’s sat next to a medical sales rep on a cross-country flight. In theory, voice calls via WhatsApp, Skype, Teams, and similar platforms are blocked on Wi-Fi connections in the United States, but the bigger deterrent is the shame that would result from fellow passengers if someone were to hop on a video or voice chat at 30,000 feet.

  • Air France took delivery of its 20th A350-900. One more and it gets a free soft drink or side item with its next widebody purchase.
  • Air Serbia is going to have to stop drinking from the fire hydrant of federal funding, with the Serbian government announcing it’s going to cut off the airline like a parent with a college graduate living at home.
  • American moved its quirky British friend British Airways into its home at New York/JFK’s Terminal 8 earlier this week. The Terminal features three lounges, cleverly named Greenwich, Soho, and Chelsea, and the two airlines have a complicated flow chart at all entrances to help passengers determine which lounge they are permitted to access. Oneworld buddy Iberia also began operating from the new terminal this week with JAL expected to join in May.
  • Boutique Air pilots are reportedly considering a forming a small, sophisticated, or fashionable union.
  • British Airways will double its presence at London/Gatwick after discovering dozens of aircraft that landed across town at Heathrow that have never been heard from since getting lost in the maze of duty free shops at the airport.
  • China Southern might join oneworld. It also might not.
  • Delta will be hiring between 4,000 and 6,000 new flight attendants next year. Applicants must be able to distribute patience and understanding when dealing with lunatics from the public, be willing to distribute Biscoff cookies for a living, and get real comfortable changing planes in Atlanta.
  • Eastern Airlines (not the old one, and not the British one, but the other new one) wants to fly to China.
  • Etihad might return its A380s into service. But as always, they also might not.
  • easyJet made the easy decision to grow its base in Belfast with the addition of an 8th aircraft to the base.
  • Flyr named Brede Huser its new CEO. In the role, Huser plans to change his name to Brd Hsr.
  • GhanaAirlines hopestodebutin2023.
  • Hawaiian is finally stepping into the kitchen, adding service to the Cook Islands. Once-weekly flights between Honolulu and Rarotonga (RAR) will begin May 20.
  • KLM has the Dutch government knocking on its door asking for repayment of several hundred EUR the carrier owes the government.
  • LATAM Brasil exceeded its pre-pandemic capacity levels.
  • MYAirlines, YOUR newest carrier based in Malaysia, began passenger ops on Thursday.
  • Norse Atlantic will become the 3,485th airline to think beginning service between New York/JFK and Paris is a good idea. Flights begins on March 26. The daily service was announced by one its Bjorns.
  • Ryanair passengers discovered the best way to get through a Ryanair flight was to host a rave.
  • SAS posted a $161 million loss during its Q4 but is hoping to distract you from that by also announcing 15 new routes including a return to Miami to thaw out from the Scandinavian winter.
  • Southwest also plans to hire 8,000 more staff next year, but it’s expecting to be a different group of 8,000 than who Delta is hiring,
  • SWISS will debut a new first and business class in 2025. The product is expected to launch right on time.
  • Thai promoted CFO Chai “Latte” Eamsiri to the role of CEO, effective February 1.
  • United is opening pilot bases in Orlando and Las Vegas next summer of part of its “anywhere but Newark” strategy of placing crew bases across the country.
  • Volaris is finally filling the traditionally underserved East Bay to El Salvador market, announcing new 4x weekly service between Oakland and San Salvador next March.

I finally quit my job at the chemical factory. I got tired of being in a toxic workplace every day.

10 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta Puts the Squeeze on SkyClub Access, More ITA Drama, More

  1. Technically, Hawaiian’s flight to Rarotonga is not a new service, but a resumption of a route they flew many years ago. Using the DC-8.

    Is the bit in KLM off by a few significant figures, or is the Dutch government really asking for just a few hundred Euros?

  2. ‘American moved its quirky British friend British Airways into its home at New York/JFK’s Terminal 8 – neworld buddy Iberia also began operating from the new terminal’

    Buddy my foot; Iberia and BA are brother and sister of the same parent. This move is just another taunt by airlines to demonstrate to the public and ineffective, blind politicians that monopolies and cartels run the airline industry to the detriment of the flying public.

    It’s s beyond comprehension that politicians are so stupid they can’t see the conspiracies so it must mean they receive hidden, undisclosed perks to remain blind and apparently are stupid.

    1. So much angst Anthony.

      You obviously hate the airlines. Let’s hear what changes you would make.

      And while you’re making them tell us how much it will add to airfares.

    2. Antony – That’s an odd stance to take since the reason they’re moving to T8 is to allow for the construction of a new T6 which will be used by JetBlue and Lufthansa Group. If they really wanted to kill everything, they’d refuse to move and keep gates to themselves.

  3. Maybe I’m not flying at the right times, but I’ve never encountered lines at the SkyClubs (in ATL & DTW), except occasionally at the bar. Yes, the clubs are pretty full, but I’ve always been able to find a group of seats with no one at them to relax. Again, perhaps I’m not traveling at the crowded times, or through the crowded clubs (LGA/JFK?), but I wonder how much of this is image management.

    1. I’ve seen the Atlanta DL Clubs have lines of people waiting outside the door. Inside I saw an airport staff person (not DL) counting people in and out to monitor the permitted capacity (which is all seats taken, standing room only). The airline clubs are far from the original concept of a quiet, relaxing, somewhat exclusive lounge. I’ve seen UA in Chicago & Denver and AA in Dallas very crowded.

  4. Will the new RIA airline have special accommodations for Saudi royal family members’ peregrine falcons, or will those birds be reduced to flying with the unwashed masses in business class, like they often do on other Middle Eastern airlines?

  5. You never know… SWA’s new strategy to go after the competition might be to hire the same 8,000 new workers that Delta is!

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