Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: United Dreams Big, AA AAdjusts, and More

Cranky Weekly Review

United Dreams Up Large Aircraft Order

United Airlines announced an order of 200 aircraft from Boeing earlier this week, split between 100 B787 Dreamliners and 100 B737 MAX aircraft. With this large order for Boeing planes, the airline is also pushing its previously announced (and often delayed) order for 45 A350s until 2030 at the earliest – or when Newark has a day when all flights run on time – whichever comes first.

The order for the 200 planes comes at a price of $43 billion based on the list price for the aircraft, but airlines rarely – if ever – pay the rack rate for aircraft when placing such a large order. The 100 MAX aircraft will be delivered beginning in 2024 with the first 44 due between then and 2026. Another 56 are scheduled to be delivered between 2027 and 2028. Including these 100 MAX, United now has a total of 443 MAX on order, all of which will one day be in a conga line, one through 443 on a taxiway in Newark awaiting takeoff clearance.

United has reached the end of the road on its widebody order book with a precious few B787-10s still on order, forcing the carrier’s hand as it looks to grow its long-haul network for the long term. Industry analysts estimate UA will spend $50 billion through to 2032 on 700 new aircraft deliveries – or roughly one billion per United passenger who prefers connecting through Newark.

American AAnnounces AAdvantage AAdjustments

American Airlines unveiled changes for its 2023 AAdvantage program with a headline claiming to offer members more rewards, more often, before and beyond reaching status – which is surely completely true with no catch at all.

The most real change is that it’s AAbandoning AAward charts, now using dynamic pricing for mileage redemptions on AA metal, while partner redemptions will still be based on a chart – for now.  Elite qualification is changing for some, as gold members will require 40,000 loyalty points – up from 30,000 currently, representing a 33% jump. Basic Economy passengers will see their mileage earning slashed – as they should. Basic passengers should consider themselves lucky they’re given a seat belt and an oxygen mask over their seat. Basic fares will now earn just 2x AAdvantage miles per dollar spent, rather than the current 5x, representing a 60% drop.

AA is creating new Loyalty Point Rewards – remarkably similar to what JetBlue unveiled last week in changes for its 2023 Mosaic Program…funny how that worked out. Loyalty Choice Rewards are being rebranded as Loyalty Point Rewards, and the now 11 thresholds – up from five – can be reached immediately, with no requirement to fly 30 (or any) segments. We imagine there are tiles involved in this somehow, but we lost interest trying to figure it all out.

The lowest threshold decreased from 125,000 points to just 15,000 while the highest threshold jumped from 750,000 loyalty points all the way to five million. Those who reach 15,000 will receive Group 5 boarding for the year and can choose between priority check-in, security and group 4 boarding for one trip or five preferred seat coupons. Rewards increase at each threshold and include systemwide upgrades, AAdmirals Club DAAy passes, the ability to gift status, a free pie to throw at a Basic Economy passenger in-flight, and the chance to visit AA headquAArters in Fort Worth, get in the aircraft simulator of your choice and simulate delaying a flight for the mechanical reason of your choosing.

UK to End 100ml Liquid Limit

The UK plans to end its limit of 100ml worth of liquid – roughly 3.3 ounces – by June 2024, when the limit will expand to two liters, and passengers will be able to keep items such as laptops in their bags and not have to remove them at security checkpoints.

The dream of carrying a two-liter bottle of Sprite through a security checkpoint could actually become a reality thanks to new scanners which are more efficient at checking passenger’s baggage and will create a better experience at the security checkpoint. The scanners are currently in-use at several airports in the United States, including Atlanta and Chicago/O’Hare, but are not in nearly wide-enough use for the TSA to consider making the same change here.

The British government is requiring UK airports to have the new scanners installed and operational by June 2024 – the original deadline was pushed back because the UK didn’t want the US to have all the fun in annoucing lengthy delays thanks to its Real ID program.

Charleston Gets Spirited

Charleston, SC is getting more spirited than ever, making Spirit the 13th carrier at the airport when it inaugurates service to three destinations in April.

Spirit will begin 1x daily flights to Fort Lauderdale, Newark, and Philadelphia on April 5 with the FLL flights timed to connect to Spirit’s bank of flights to Latin America and the Caribbean. That timing is based on the idea of both the flight into and out of FLL operating on-time which is about as likely as finding a flight on Spirit where you pay more in base fare than in ancillary fees.

On the flight to Philadelphia, Spirit will compete with American and Frontier, and it’ll challenge United to Newark. The FLL route is one where it’ll be going against itself in a sense, with competition from JetBlue…and Silver. Introductory fares on the PHL route start at a base of $39, but that’s before adding a ticketing fee, the $59 Liberty Bell “fix the crack” fee, $27 “make sure you pick the right Charleston fee,” whereby otherwise Spirit reserves the right to fly to Charleston, WV, and a $10 “at least you’re not flying to Newark” fee.

Atlanta Airport Unites to Open New Gates

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport opened a new gate area at the northern end of Concourse T for United Airlines, the first time the airport has done anything for an airline other than Delta since Eastern Airlines roamed the halls of Concourses B and C in the 70s and 80s.

The extension to the north end of Concourse T added a circular atrium at the cot of $341 million and gives United five new gates which can handle larger aircraft with a more comfortable passenger experience. United currently operates just 24 daily flights from Atlanta, down from 32 or more prior to the pandemic. With the addition of these new gates and flexibility to operate more mainline aircraft to the airport, United says it plans to expand back to the 32 daily flights operated in 2019 with room for even more growth.

The gates also gave United the ability to consolidate its entire operation at ATL onto Concourse T. The carrier previously had to spill over into Concourse E to use common-use gates at peak times to run its full operation. United will now be able to offer better customer service keeping all of its staff in one place, with the exception of Basic Economy passengers or anyone headed to Newark – either of those groups are likely beyond help anyway and will be left to fend for themselves.

  • Air India is unimpressed by United’s order of 100 aircraft.
  • AirAsia‘s next venture will be to create AirAsia Cambodia because what the world needs is another AirAsia subsidiary.
  • American CFO Derek Kerr is retiring at the end of the year and current SVP of Finance Devon May will replace him. May’s first task on his first day will be to see where JetBlue is hiding all the mints.
  • Austrian will resume 2x weekly service between Shanghai and Vienna on January 16.
  • Canadian North, which despite reports to the contrary is an actual airline, is retiring its last B737-200 in Q2 next year. The end of a very, very long era.
  • Delta expects to make a lot of money next year.
  • Ethiopian will resume flying to Singapore with 4x weekly flights beginning on March 25.
  • Eurowings Discover plans to move its entire long-haul operation to Frankfurt and use Munich as a short and medium-haul base only. This comes after careful consideration of other ideas such as bringing back Berlin/Tegel and using it as a long-haul base or shifting its entire operation to Cologne.
  • Finnair isn’t out of cash. Yet.
  • flynas took delivery of its widebody, an A330-300 which it will put into service immediately because when it comes to airplanes, sleep is the cousin of death.
  • French Bee will be buzzing around Miami 3x weekly beginning this week.
  • Hong Kong Airlines won court approval for a HK$49 billion debt restructuring plan which will see its fleet cut from 53 planes to just 20.
  • Icelandair is adding 3x weekly seasonal service to Tel Aviv beginning May 10.
  • JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes was in a spirited mood after receiving a two-year contract extension.
  • Lufthansa will be swapping its A330-300s for A340-300 for its Frankfurt to Austin service beinning May 2. The A340 will be the first four-engine aircraft to fly to Austin since BA did so prior to the pandemic.
  • Mango is closer to being sold.
  • Mesa delayed its earnings release on the theory that nearly everything it does in the public eye is delayed or canceled, so what’s one more?
  • Norse Atlantic is threatening to pull direct flights from Norway due to a 45% air passenger tax increase beginning in January. If the carrier follows through, it’ll change its name to Atlantic.
  • Porter can’t be stopped. we can only hope to contain it. It’s adding four new destinations out of Ottawa for its Dash-8 fleet, three of which have be confirmed as actual places at press time: Boston, Newark, Quebec City, and Thunder Bay. Meanwhile, it’s also beginning service between Toronto/Pearson and Calgary. YYC will mark Porter’s second destination in Alberta, and 2x daily flights will begin February 22.
  • Ryanair uncorked quite a schedule for service out of Cork next summer.
  • SpiceJet is having the heat turned up by regulators from both the ICAO and Indian goverment.
  • Southwest is trialing family boarding at select gates in Atlanta. Families have the option to board together prior to A Group, but with the caveat that they must take seats behind the exit row.
  • SWISS is replacing its aging fleet of A340s with A350-900 beginning in 2025. The countdown is on.
  • TUI is repaying $775 million of bailout money it received back to the German government.
  • Virgin Australia will begin daily service between Cairns and Tokyo/Haneda beginning June 28. For an airline that stopped long-haul flying, this is an awfully long short-haul.
  • WestJet plans to begin cargo operations in March.
  • Wizz Air will begin 3x weekly service between Rome/FCO and Luxembourg on August 1.

A truck loaded with Vicks Vaporub overturned on the highway right at the start of rush hour yesterday afternoon. Amazingly there was no congestion for eight solid hours.

8 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: United Dreams Big, AA AAdjusts, and More

  1. United must have seen that late night Boeing ad that was on during I Love Lucy the other night:

    Buy one 787, get a MAX for 50% off! But hurry, these deals won’t be around forever!!!!

    Ka-ching!

  2. Why are some of the Airline Potpurri in black and pink? Had no idea the black ones were back linked until I accidentally clicked on one

  3. Well, I know that Vick’s VapoRub truck didn’t overturn on any highway in the Bay Area, there’s never not any congestion period on any highway.

  4. How come nothing this week included “or they might not.” I look for that nugget in every post lol.

  5. I got curious and mapped out the distance of Virgin Australia’s CNS-HND route.

    Wow, that is an awfully long “short-haul” route, shorter than many routes from the NYC/BOS to Western Europe (or to Barrow, Alaska, for that matter), and similar to (+/- 100 statute miles great circle distance) NYC-LIM & BOS-FRA.

    But hey, at least pax taking Virgin Australia’s flight on that route will be able to avoid backtracking to SYD or MEL, and won’t have to dodge Godzilla on their way into Tokyo. :-)

    1. Jonathan – Not me! Andrew writes most of this, and I just edit. But Newark is definitely one of the ongoing jokes here from back when it was a subscription product.

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