Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta’s Pilots Get Paid, AA is the Family-Loving Airline, and More…

Cranky Weekly Review

Four More Years!  Delta Pilots Approve Contract

Delta Air Lines pilots ratified a new four-year contract that will offer up to 34% raises over the life of the contract, likely forcing other major U.S. carriers to match or exceed the deal in negotiations with their own pilot unions.

The agreement runs through December 2026 or when Delta runs out of Biscoffs – whichever comes first.  A whopping 78% of Delta’s chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association approved the contract, with the remaining 22% preferring not to receive a 34% raise because maths is hard. The pay increase will come out to more than $7 billion in increased revenue to pilots over the four years, along with better vacation terms and one annual skip-the-line pass at any Atlanta Airport Starbucks location.

Pilots will see the bulk of the raise this year – 18%, with another 5% bump next year, 4% in 2025 and another 4% in 2026. Then they’ll probably see another 137% the year after just because at some point it doesn’t even seem like real money anymore.

These negotiations first began in 2019 before being stalled during the pandemic. This is the first new contract between Delta and its pilots since 2016.

American Makes it Harder to Travel Family-Free

Those of us who use draconian seating policies on many airlines as a ready-made excuse to get free time away from our families will be out of luck going forward on American Airlines. AA is now instituting a policy which will guarantee that children under 14 will be seated with their parents at no additional charge.

AA is the first carrier to commit to guaranteeing families to sit together, earning an appreciative pat on the head from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. American said it’s been doing this for several years, but is now making it policy to comply with the edict from the DOT to keep young children with their parents onboard.  United and Frontier both recently announced they would automatically assign adjacent seats for families, but Frontier says that any requests by the family regarding the animal on the tail of the aircraft operating the flight would have priority over seating people together.

American’s policy includes those booked in basic economy but fails to mention that it only guarantees the family will be seated together – it doesn’t specify where.  Families which book basic can expect to be crammed together in a lavatory or be seated together in a new seating pod placed on each wing.  

KLM, Delta, and Others Go to Court

A group of airlines led by Dutch flagship carrier KLM and its good buddy Delta Air Lines are suing the Dutch government over its plan to continue to cut flights from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. IATA – the trade association for most of the world’s airlines – is also joining the lawsuit.

The government put a series of temporary flight reductions in place at AMS last year as the airport suffered historic operational issues and staffing shortages.  The government now plans to make permanent reductions in traffic maximums at Schiphol in what it claims will reduce the impact on the environment surrounding the airport. That is a very convenient excuse for just not having to figure out how to actually staff the airport properly.

The goal is to cut the airport down from about 500,000 annual flights to 440,000. The reduction of 60,000 annual flights comes out to about 160 flights per day – a significant number for the economic health of the airport and its surrounding areas. The carriers – which also include easyJet and TUI – say the reduction violates EU and international law.

KLM and its subsidiary airlines account for abut 60% of traffic at the airport, before accounting for its overlord/partner Air France and Delta. 

BA Preserves Wet-Lease Loophole

The British Home Office nearly closed a loophole to prevent British-based airlines from wet-leasing planes and staff from an EU-based carrier, but BA and other airlines successfully lobbied to keep the loophole open.

Since Brexit was finalized, British immigration officials have wanted to close the loophole permitting the hiring of foreign crews who do not possess a British employment visa. The law was expected to go into effect this spring but will now be delayed until at least the fall to give the Home Office more time to figure out exactly which countries are in the EU and which one’s aren’t.

BA has entered into several wet-lease agreements for the summer to help fill gaps in its operation to keep up with expected record demand.  The largest deal is with Finnair which will provide BA with four aircraft and the crew to operate the flights beginning this month and continuing though March 2024. 

British Airways skirted around the rule last year by hosting two crew bases in Spain, but that was never considered a long-term solution because the Spanish-based crews refused to work any flights between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. as to not interfere with their daily siesta.

Viva Says Adios

Viva finally suspended operations this week, blaming Colombia’s civil aviation authority – Aerocivil.  The carrier blamed the government’s slow and deliberate manner in reviewing its potential takeover by Avianca as the cause for the suspension, with the airline running out of operating cash.

Viva said the Colombian government’s decision to acknowledge five other airlines within the region as “interested parties” to the sale and antitrust review led to the slowdown.  Viva claims it made it clear that the only thing that could save it was operating capital – something only Avianca was willing to provide.  As the review process began to drag on, it had two aircraft repossessed last November after the first merger proposal was rejected by the government.

Following the two aircraft repossessions and groundings, the Viva group – composing of Viva (Colombia) and Viva Air Peru – is down to just 15, down from its high of 24 planes in 2021.  Aerocivil says it will continue to review the takeover bid despite Viva shutting down its operation with Colombia president Gustavo Petro hinting that a government takeover of the flailing airline is potentially on-the-table as an option.

  • Air India is dropping the Vistara brand once the merger between the two is complete. It’s also hiring.
  • Air New Zealand was forced to delay a flight due an adorable runway incursion.
  • Air Serbia told its fleet of ATR72-500 aircraft “it’s not you, it’s me” before dumping them and moving on.
  • American has a plan to cut its debt. A lot of it.
  • Atlas Air had a weak Q4 in what is likely its final earnings report after being purchased by Apollo Global Management and going private.
  • Cathay Pacific Cargo is making a dramatic rebrand, now calling itself Cathay Cargo, thus relieving itself of hate mail from fans of the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian, and Southern oceans.
  • Cebu Pacific, in an effort to solidify its name, is ramping up service from its Cebu hub adding flights to three new destinations: Naga (WNP), Hong Kong, and Tokyo/Narita. It has no plans to rebrand itself as Cebu, choosing to stay loyal to the Pacific ocean.
  • Egyptair took delivery of Africa’s first A321neo.
  • Flair named Maciej Wilk its new COO. Wilk joins the carrier 10 years at LOT and beat out many fine candidates for the job including the man for whom the airline is named.
  • Greater Bay Airlines ordered 15 B737-9 aircraft.
  • IAG could potentially grows its empire further by tapping into TAP. Also it might not.
  • JetBlue‘s flight attendants are against its carrier’s merger with Spirit for several reasons, including the economics of the deal, the disruption it will cause integrating the two FA staffs, difference in service standards, and the fact that yellow and blue almost always clash and never go together nicely.
  • Korean‘s purchase of Asiana was approved by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.
  • Lufthansa unveiled its new long-haul premium cabin seats — named Allegris — a vague name surely to bring a smile to the face of every United Polaris fan.
  • Porter decided serving the “other airport” in Toronto isn’t enough, so it plans to develop a terminal and passenger facility at Montreal/St. Hubert (YHU).
  • Qantas named former Air New Zealand executive Cam Wallace in charge of its international and freight divisions.
  • Ryanair flew 10.6 million passengers in February.
  • SAS entered into a sale-and-leaseback for ten A320s.
  • SpiceJet is peppering the industry with a new brand, spending $300 million to spin-off its cargo unit –Spice Xpress — into a separate unit.
  • Southwest flight attendants are going to be able to express themselves while working.
  • Thai is grinning from ear to ear as it considers a merger with LCC Thai Smile.
  • Turkish ended 2022 with a $2.7 billion profit.
  • Virgin Atlantic is planning to do its new SkyTeam partner Korean Air a solid with antitrust regulators and use seven of KE’s LHR slots to begin serving London/Heathrow to Seoul. The service will check off one of the boxes against Korean’s merger with Asiana that the combined carrier is the only flying between London and Korea. The carrier also officially joined SkyTeam yesterday, and spent its first day finalizing its schedule and getting its locker combination.
  • Wizz Air is suspending service to Moldova.

As I get older, I can’t help but think about the people I lost along the way.

Sometimes I also wonder if being a tour guide was a poor career choice.

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9 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta’s Pilots Get Paid, AA is the Family-Loving Airline, and More…

    1. Tulips don’t exactly package themselves, you know… ;-)

      (Though they may have to, if the Dutch expand their “environmental” restrictions to account for the environmental impact of bulb & flower production…)

  1. Wizzair is not the only airline dropping Moldova. Flag carrier Air Moldova is having trouble with lessors demanding aircraft not fly to Moldova… which makes life a little awkward

  2. Nice completely incorrect assessment of the Delta pilot contract, it’s for a 7 year period, and it was about a lot more than pay. But keep on writing about things you know little about. Bravo.

    1. I agree with the inaccurate information on Delta pilots. Did you take into consideration the raises the other employees recieved during the pilots negotiations? 3 pay raises and another coming April 1st. I’m sure the other employees are not happy with this large amount, but they need to consider the raises they received while the pilots got nothing and also need to consider their future raises. Which they will be seeing in 2024 and 2025. BTW I’m not a pilot.

    2. Steve – Thank you for your very rational, thoughtful, and kind response.
      It’s people like you who make me love having a comments section.

      The contract becomes amendable in just under 4 years. You can look backwards if you want, but this is a 4 year contract going forward. And of course it’s about more than pay. If anyone is relying on a brief, comic blurb to get the full story on anything, that’s a really bad idea.

      1. Contract was for the period that began in 2019, it’s a 7 year period actually. Yes, the contract is signed now, and covers the next 4 years, but that pay raise covers a 7 year period. Take a 4% raise a year, over 7 years and what do you get? 31.5%. So let’s not pretend this is some windfall, it barely stays above inflation while addressing a huge shortage of pilots in the industry.

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