FedEx, Southwest Near-Miss Under Investigation
Both the FAA and NTSB are investigating a near-calamitous incident in Austin last Saturday when a FedEx B767 and Southwest B737-700 came within 100 feet vertically of each other. The incident occurred when the FedEx aircraft aborted its landing on the same runway from which the Southwest aircraft was cleared to depart
NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said it appears that the FedEx plane flew over the Southwest 737 during its takeoff role, only to have the 737 speed past the FedEx 767 as its speed increased during the takeoff roll.
The Southwest aircraft was granted takeoff clearance when the B767 was 3.32 nautical miles from the end of the runway, and the FedEx pilot received clearance to land when it was 2.19 miles away. Southwest’s Cancun-bound plane took off safely with its 123 passengers and five crew none-the-wiser as the FedEx pilots expertly pulled up to avoid a catastrophe despite the poor visibility.
Southwest Adds Five, Brings Back 16
Southwest Airlines’s latest schedule extension includes five new routes and the return of 16 routes which had previously been cut.
Long Beach was the victor in the schedule extension after awarding five new daily slots to Southwest. Three new cities will be served 1x daily from LGB, some that people might actually want to visit: Colorado Springs and El Paso (beginning June 11) plus Albuquerque (beginning September 5). Additionally, the seasonal daily flight to Maui will return and the daily flight to Dallas/Love will double to 2x daily.
The other two new routes in this go-’round start operating on September 9, when it begins Saturday-only nonstop service between Austin and Jacksonville and El Paso to Orlando.
Of the 16 returning flights, many were pandemic-era cuts. They all return this fall between September 7 and September 10. The resumptions are:
- Austin: Pittsburgh
- Baltimore: Oakland
- Denver: Richmond
- Houston/Hobby: Charlotte, Lubbock, Ontario, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham
- Houston/IAH: Phoenix
- Las Vegas: Little Rock, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Portland (OR)
- Los Angeles: Portland (OR)
- Long Beach: New Orleans
- Nashville: New York/Islip, Omaha
If your preferred flight was not brought back, your options are to fly Southwest and connect, fly another airline and connect, or send a big bag of money to 2702 Love Field Drive, Dallas, TX 75235, c/o Network Planning.
Spirit Releases Spirited 2022 Earnings Report
Spirit Airlines, the fee-loving airline which found itself the apple of both Frontier and JetBlue’s eye in 2022 announced its Q4 and full-year 2022 earnings this week, and the carrier with yellow planes had a lot of red on its balance sheet. Spirit posted a $600 million loss for the full-year on $5 billion in gross revenue. Of the $5 billion, $2.45 billion was described as coming from airline fares and $2.53 billion coming from “non-fare.” We’ll leave it to you to guess what non-fare income Spirit might be pulling in.
Spirit also promoted five people on its executive team after each won the airline’s fee submission contest where employees are encouraged to propose new, out-of-the-box fees and the winning selections are given a promotion and a raise. Scott Haralson was promoted to EVP & CFO – it’s his job to count the cash made from fees at the end of each day. Other Spirited promotions include Allen Messick to VP, Supply Chain Operations and Technical Operations, Kirk Thornburg to VP, Fleet and Power Plant, and David Klein to Vice President, Talent.
Spirit ended 2022 with $1.8 billion in cash, most of which was found lying around its offices in green envelopes with a Denver postmark.
DOJ Gears Up to Battle JetBlue/Spirit Merger
The Department of Justice Antitrust Division is preparing to battle JetBlue and Spirit over their potential $3.8 billion merger which the two carriers agreed upon last fall. Should the agreement past muster, it would create the fifth largest airline in the United States and a color pallete of yellows and blues as far as the eye can see.
In addition to the government, an antitrust lawsuit trying to block the merger is currently before the US District Court in the Northern District of California from 25 customers of the two airlines and travel agents. This suit is seeking a jury trial to prevent the merger claiming it a violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act, passed by Congress in 1914. The trial is on hold while lawyers on both sides attempt to dig up the Clayton Act and confirm it’s actually a real thing.
The DOJ’s suit against the Northeast Alliance between JetBlue and AA is awaiting a ruling from the judge following the end of the trial in September. Ironically enough, a loss by JetBlue and AA would make this merger more likely to pass scrutiny, putting JetBlue in the awkward position of potentially having to choose which partnership it prefers over the other.
United Not Fine After Receiving Million Dollar Fine
United Airlines received notice that the FAA is proposing to slap the carrier with a $1.1 million fine for allegedly neglecting to perform fire system safety checks on its fleet of B777s.
The government claims that in 2018, UA removed a fire system warning check from its preflight checklist, leading to over 100,000 flights in three years operating without the safeguard. UA said in a statement that the safety of its flights were never in question and that it only suggested cutting out the check so that crew and staff could avoid a far greater hazard — spending more time in Newark.
UA says it changed its preflight checklist “to account for redundant built-in checks performed automatically by the 777” and that its decision was approved by the FAA. The carrier has 30 days to respond to the FAA.
- Air India scored a cool $2.2 billion in short-term funding.
- airBaltic is beginning 2x weekly service in May from Tampere, Finland to both Nice and Milan.
- Avelo will base a second B737-800 in Raleigh-Durham this summer. It’s also reducing RDU to Fort Myers, Sarasota, and West Palm Beach from 3x to 2x weekly.
- British Airways is back in the game in South Africa, signing a codeshare partnership with Airlink. This is BA’s first partner in South Africa since its previous beau Comair passed away.
- Delta is giving 5% raises to flight attendants and ground staff. Staff can accept the raise in cash, Sky Club vouchers they aren’t allowed to use anymore, or truckloads of Biscoff.
- Flybe isn’t dead quite yet.
- Global X received FAA permission to begin charter ops.
- IndiGo is flying high.
- ITA abandoned its London/Heathrow slots leased from Etihad reportedly because the airline’s senior leadership forgot about them.
- Jazeera Airways finished the year with a $65 million profit.
- JetSMART still plans to live a little and acquire Viva Air.
- KLM is adding new service to Hong Kong and China.
- La Compagnie will double its A321neo fleet by 2025. Or maybe it won’t.
- LATAM announced three new routes beginning in April: Bogota – Guayaquil, Santiago de Chile – Porto Alegre, and Lima – Brasilia.
- Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr received a five-year contract extension. The carrier would not confirm or deny if the extension is contingent on Spohr developing another three sub-brands for Lufthansa to operate during the term.
- MIAT is coming to America (maybe). What’s not known at this point is if the carrier loves LA, or if it’s going to San Francisco.
- Mesa reported a $9.1 million loss in its fiscal Q1 and that’s before accounting for money it keeps under the table.
- Norse Atlantic is finally diversifying its senior leadership team beyond people named Bjorn, as it named Charles Duncan its new president.
- Norwegian is adding six B737 MAX 8 aircraft to its fleet.
- Qantas is considering taking another shot at nonstop service between Brisbane and Chicago/O’Hare. The route was scheduled to launch in April 2020 before becoming a casualty of the pandemic.
- Ryanair canceled flights in and out of France due to a strike by French ATC.
- Southwest COO Andrew Watterson confirmed to Congress on Thursday that the carrier’s performance during Christmas was sub-optimal.
- SWISS believes March 3 is precisely the right time to resume 1x weekly service between Zurich and Shanghai, upgrading to 3x weekly in April.
- United has no qualms about kicking someone while they’re down, as the carrier will take a shot at Southwest in an ad running during Sunday’s Super Bowl in the Denver market.
- Vistara is beginning service between Mumbai and Mauritius on March 26.
- WestJet pilots say their contract negotiations with the carrier have reached a very polite and courteous impasse.
Officer: “Sir, I have some terrible news. It appears your wife was hit by a bus.”
Husband: “I know officer, but I can assure you she has a great personality.”