Cranky Weekly Review: United Needs a New Pilot Boss, Boeing’s About to Get Lucky, More

Cranky Weekly Review

Publishing Note: We’ll be taking some time off during the holidays, so we are pre-scheduling some posts and going quieter than usual. Any comments that are moderated will take longer to approve, and we won’t be responding to comments frequently if at all during this time. Here’s the plan:

* No post Monday, December 26 due to Christmas holiday
* 2022 prediction review on Tuesday, December 27
* Airlines We Lost on Thursday, December 28
* No Cranky Weekly Review on Friday, December 29
* No post Monday, January 2 due to the New Years holiday
* 2022 Flying Summary on Tuesday, January 3
* Regular schedule resumes on Thursday, January 5

United Unites Through Pilot Boss Resignation

United Captain Neil Swindells resigned late Wednesday from his new post as the leader of UA’s pilot union, deciding he would be better off returning to his previous position of mean-spirited, online troll. He had been narrowly voted into the union role by the carrier’s nearly 15,000 pilots, probably in an attempt to get him off his computer as much as possible.

The aftermath of Swindells’ election earlier this week led to the revelation of a series of vile, racist, and misogynistic comments that made him seem to be a pretty awful human being. In his resignation letter, Swindells says his comments were “taken completely out of context and publicly weaponized against [him].” It seems his point is that a seemingly innocent comment such as “I hope they all died slow painful deaths of a anal cancer requiring multiple surgeries, and copious amounts of seepage from weeping wounds,” was taken out of context. We’re not sure what context would make this look appropriate, but if anyone figures it out, please let us know.

From a practical standpoint, United’s pilots will now need to hire a new head of their Master Executive Council (MEC) of the Air Lines Pilots Association (ALPA). Swindells was voted in by the UA pilots executive council by just a 9-8 margin, so it’s not as if he had a landslide victory. Hopefully whomever the pilots pick next is at least a little less awful of a human being.

Boeing Saved by the Bell

Current federal law would require Boeing’s production of two new B737 MAX models to contain a new cockpit-alert system designed to help pilots solve emergencies. But Boeing says if its required to include the new measures by the government’s December 27 deadline, it will cancel production of the planes instead. It appears the manufacturer successfully lobbied Congress to give it a reprieve, a major victory for the manufacturer heading into 2023.

A provision in a spending bill unveiled on Tuesday in the Congress would give Boeing the out it’s looking for despite requiring some safety enhancements, while stopping short of forcing the new alert system on it.

Boeing’s efforts to push the deadline back has the support of Southwest’s pilots union, while American’s oppose Boeing. Despite having no Boeing aircraft, JetBlue’s pilots said they would do whatever AA told them to do, while Spirit and Frontier’s pilots said they would do the opposite of whatever JetBlue did. United’s pilots were a bit busy kicking their leader out of power to weigh in while Delta’s union was waiting to see what the delay in the rule would do to Biscoff supply chains.

American, Mesa Go Through Ugly Breakup

We’ve covered this extensively this week, but we can’t call it a weekly review without another mention.

American Airlines and Mesa have finally called it quits with the regional carrier no longer flying for American after April 3. Mesa contends it wanted out of the relationship first, but regardless of who broke up with whom, the two are headed to an ugly divorce. Either way, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and United was more than happy to swoop in and serve as a rebound relationship for Mesa beyond April 2023.

Mesa flew on behalf of AA predecessors America West and US Airways with those contracts eventually being folded into American through mergers. Mesa’s recent struggles are due to a shortage in pilots — similar to other regionals — while only flying 20 airplanes on behalf of AA. When American snatched Air Wisconsin from United earlier this year, that served as one of the last straws in the embattled relationship between American and Mesa.

As of September 30, 2021, Mesa earned about 52% of its gross revenue from United, 45% from American and the balance from DHL (flying for the airline, not stealing packages off doorsteps… we’re pretty sure). When the transition is complete next spring, United will account for as much as 97% of Mesa’s revenue, and potentially up to 100% as DHL’s checks keep getting lost in transit.

For more on this story, check out Monday and Thursday‘s post on CrankyFlier.com.

BA Suffers Britain’s Biggest American Failure Since 1776

British Airways was unable to operate any of its departures from the United States Monday night as a “technical glitch” in its long-haul flight planning systems kept its airplanes on the ground. Short-haul flights were not affected by the issue, although it helps that evening time in the United States is the middle of the night in London, when few short-haul flights are operating.

The delays extended beyond the U.S. to BA’s flights departing Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. BA flights at New York/JFK were delayed well into the night with passengers handling the delay well and definitely not complaining or confronting frontline airport staff who had nothing to do with the issue. BA’s second nightly departure from Washington/Dulles, scheduled to depart around 10 p.m. finally departed the gate just after 3:30 a.m., arriving at Heathrow at 3:09 p.m.

The issue was eventually fixed and BA’s flights took off as normal, with cold service from the flight attendants and mediocre food. Upon landing in London, passengers were afforded the opportunity to wait in interminable queues to be rebooked by angry staff. 

Canadian Airport Unprepared for Winter Snowfall

Vancouver International Airport is limiting the number of international flights to operate at the airport over the next couple days as the airport recovers from an unprecedented backlog of delayed and canceled flights due to a Tuesday snowstorm.

The airport’s decision affected more than two dozen flights which were scheduled to land between Wednesday afternoon and tonight. YVR suspended operations Tuesday after a snowstorm late Monday night through Tuesday piled up on runways, taxiways, and roads leading to the airport. Most flights were canceled Wednesday as well, with the airport slowly beginning the path back to normal on Thursday.

WestJet canceled more than 200 flights in the middle of the week In British Columbia and Alberta alone, knowing it will be into next week at the earliest before its operation is fully recovered. Air Canada says it’s waiving rebooking fees for passengers scheduled to fly in or out of YVR through Christmas Day, but knowing AC’s track record, passengers should expect to see a bill for the flight change shortly after the holiday.

  • Air Canada did one of those things you need an economics or finance degree to really understand.
  • Air New Zealand is returning the B777-300ER on its service between Auckland and Houston/IAH.
  • American confirmed 50 delivery slots for vertical eVTOL aircraft that will absolutely, definitely fly one day.
  • Canada Jetlines received FAA approval to operate to the United States. The government did say the approval was conditional on only serving U.S. destinations from actual cities in Canada, not made up places that no one’s ever heard of.
  • Delta is getting closer to providing free Wi-Fi so that passengers in first class can complain online about not receiving a pre-departure beverage while in-flight and not having to wait until landing.
  • Fiji Airways might begin flying to South America. Also, it might not.
  • Finnair is beefing up summer flying to Asia.
  • Flyr wants to fly chartrs and wet-lease operations to the United States and is guarantteed to face resistance from U.S. carriers of all shapes and sizes.
  • Garuda Indonesia scored a bag cash from the Indonesia government.
  • JetBlue selected Peacock to be its exclusive in-flight streaming partner.
  • ITA appears to have a winner loser winner in the sweepstakes to purchase a stake of the carrier from the Italian government. Lufthansa, come on down! The airline also announced new summer service to both San Francisco and Washington/Dulles.
  • Lufthansa Group and SAS are expanding their codeshare relationship.
  • Porter continues to grow at Toronto/Pearson, adding 2x daily service to Halifax on February 28.
  • Qantas‘s lounge in Honolulu reopened on Monday.
  • Ryanair announced it will begin 2x weekly service between Cardiff and Belfast beginning in April.
  • SAS is adding two sassy new routes from Newark to both Aalborg (AAL) and Gothenburg (GOT).
  • Star Alliance named SAS VP and Rising Star herself Charlotte Wieland as its interim CEO after former CEO Jeffrey Goh Gohed away.
  • Turkish will be hiring, so brush up that resume.
  • WestJet CFO Harry Taylor is retiring. The retirement party will be Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the conference room on the fourth floor. Light refreshments will be provided. We ask that you RSVP with Bill from HR no later than COB Monday.

What do you call someone afraid to meet Santa Claus?

Claustrophobic.

10 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review: United Needs a New Pilot Boss, Boeing’s About to Get Lucky, More

  1. I hope everyone has a great holiday season no matter which ones you choose to celebrate, if any.

  2. Cranky, the HTML for your links is inconsistent. Some are pink (strong then a href) and some are black (a href then strong). You probably want them all using the first (pink) format. (Repost without brackets because HTML was lost in original)

    1. Frank – Yes, thanks to a helpful reader this week we were able to isolate the problem. Unfortunately, there was an error in the latest update to the plugin which prevented me from fixing. That’s now fixed as of this morning and it’s right.

  3. It gets worse. Westjet has cancelled all flights out of YVR today. Plus, I believe lots of flights elsewhere too. Billy Bishop airport in Toronto has shut down for the day.

    1. Yeah, but Cardiff and Belfast are two of the three British capitals that Ryanair actually service.

  4. Cranky, an interesting analysis would be how many large RJs Mesa must shed because United pilot scope disallows additional airframes.

    1. Cranky touched on this in Monday’s post. Ultimately, United is already maxed out on large RJs (E-175s). However, not all of those E-175s are actually operating since Mesa and SkyWest don’t have enough crews to fly them. United would need to revise the Capacity Purchase Agreements to remove some of those parked E-175s to add the Mesa CRJ-900s; presumably the number of E-175s they’d remove is the same number of CRJ-900s Mesa is able to operate. While an E-175 is likely generally preferable to a CRJ-900, a CRJ-900 with pilots is preferable to an E-175 without.

    2. Had a sidebar conversation with Simone in Mesa operations, they may have 40 large airframes that can’t be operated. Interesting to also note their pilot group has grown from 800 to 1000. With high attrition, I doubt United would RIF.

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