Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: United Heads Down Under; Earnings for Alaska and United, and More…

Cranky Weekly Review

G’Day Mate: United Grows Down Under

United airlines will see major growth to both Australia and New Zealand later this year, expanding its offerings from the United States to the two counties by adding new destinations, new routes, and added capacity on existing city pairs.

In New Zealand, United will begin serving Christchurch (CHC) with 3x weekly flights from San Francisco beginning December 1, just in-time for southern hemisphere summer. The flights, which will be operated by B787-9 Dreamliners, will represent the first nonstop flights between Christchurch and the United States since 2006.  American announced plans in 2019 to begin LAX-CHC service in 2020, but…pandemic.  United is also adding a second city to serve Auckland, pairing its pre-existing SFO flights with 4x weekly Los Angeles – Auckland service.

For Australia, Brisbane will also gain a second city, getting 3x weekly Dreamliner flights beginning November 29 from LAX, complementing the daily BNE flights that currently fly from San Francisco.  It will then also boost its capacity on San Francisco to Melbourne and Sydney, upgauging to the B777-300ER for its double-daily flights SYD and flights to MEL.

United Takes Small Loss in Q1, Expects Q2 to be Better

United Airlines reported a loss of $194 million from January to March of this year on revenues of $11.43 billion.  Despite the small loss, this performance is leaps and bounds better than Q1 a year ago when the carrier lost $1.4 billion – with a “B” – on less than half the gross revenue from this year.

United’s RASM – revenue per available seat mile – was up 22%, a key indicator for the airline that things are looking up. Costs went up for UA to the tune of 4%, but actually dipped about 0.1% on all expenses other than fuel.  The airline paid $3.30 per gallon at the pump, a $0.45 increase from a year ago, and that’s despite deciding to upgrade to super unleaded from regular.

Looking ahead to the start of summer, it expects revenues to rise about 15% in the second quarter compared to 2022, with capacity up nearly 20%. Much of the Q2 optimism comes as leisure travel is expected to continue to grow with UA CEO Scott Kirby saying corporate bookings remain “weak when compared to leisure” though with solid gains recently.

UA reduced its debt by $4.6 billion over the last 12 months, ending the quarter with $7.6 billion in cash and cash equivalents, up slightly from the $7.2 billion it ended 2022 with.  The carrier grew its cash stocks by selling five of its “never ever have to connect at Newark no matter what” cards for $100 million each to some of its most high-value flyers, all of whom say they’re thrilled with the value for the money and they’d recommend the purchase to all their family and friends.

Alaska Also Suffers Q1 Loss

Alaska Airlines’ Q1 earnings report showed a loss of $142 million on $2.196 billion in gross revenue, blowing away Wall Street’s projection of $2.195 billion revenue.  The net loss was, however, below expectations at $142 million, which is leaps and bounds better than Q1 2022 when the carrier posted a loss of $143 million.

Fuel nearly doubled YoY, jumping 92% for a total of $665 million spent to gas up its aircraft this quarter at $3.39 per gallon.  Nearly all its expenses went up except for aircraft maintenance and aircraft lease payments. Alaska carried 9.8 million passengers in Q1, a 13% increase from 2022’s 8.7 million – that entire jump occurred on its mainline product as its regional subsidiary Horizon actually saw a 5% drop in passengers down to just over 2 million.

AS ended the quarter with $516 million in cash and cash equivalents – up from the $338 million it had in the bank at the end of 2022.  Most of the increase was attributed to money earned from the sale of its check-in kiosks at its Portland (OR) hub and other outstations, while it also had to spend $99 at Home Depot to get its home airport – Seattle – new measuring tapes.

Southwest Shuts Down Briefly on Tuesday

Southwest Airlines asked the FAA to put a pause on all its departures Tuesday morning while the carrier attempted to solve what it described as a “technical glitch,” giving airline executives very painful flashbacks to Christmas of last year.

The glitch caused about 1,700 flights to be delayed despite only lasting 12 minutes from start to finish.  Even with that many delays, the carrier only canceled nine flights all day on Tuesday – amounting to less than 1% of its Tuesday operation. The carrier would blame the issue on “data connection issues resulting from a firewall failure,” which we took to mean someone in its Dallas operations center forgot their password and tried incorrectly three times, forcing them to be locked out for 12 minutes.

Anyone impacted by Tuesday’s halt is expected to be offered a one-cabin upgrade certificate for use on any future Southwest flight between now and the end of 2024. 

Oceans 747: $15 Million Stolen From Toronto Airport

Nearly $15 million in gold and other valuables including several oxygen masks and mini bags of snack mix were stolen after being offloaded from an Air Canada aircraft that had arrived in Toronto.  The gold and valuables were in the cargo hold of the commercial flight – which flight and aircraft it was has not been identified at this point.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been brought in from their regular beat of investigating counterfeit maple syrup rings to investigate. Bloomberg reported an RCMP spokesperson saying: “We are still trying to get accurate information on the heist,” while the Toronto Sun reported that police believe the robbery was likely pulled off by local organized crime groups, and due to the size of the haul, a truck was likely used – that’s some police work right there.

It was reported today that the overall shipment contained more than $100 million of gold, so the local organized crime unit only got away with a small portion in their alleged truck. The shipment was part of an intra-bank transaction, but the specific bank has not yet being identified. The plane arrived early Monday evening and was unloaded as normal with the cargo transported to a cargo holding facility.  The error occurred when the airport failed with the holding of the cargo.  Anyone can take cargo, but it’s really the holding that’s the most important part. 

The most important thing to take away from this is to remember not to use Toronto/Pearson when shipping more than $10 million worth of gold.

  • Air Canada is expanding its offering to Australia’s east coast, adding a 2nd daily flight between Vancouver and Sydney during December and January. It’s also upgauging Vancouver to Brisbane from a Dreamliner to a B777-300ER beginning in November — while also increasing to 1x daily between December and March.
  • Air France-KLM signed two revolving credit facilities for about €2.2 billion. For more information on this, find someone smarter to ask.
  • Air India parent company Tata Group applied for regulatory approval to merge Vistara into Air India.
  • Air Malta, we hardly knew ye.
  • Air New Zealand is considering removing a cookie from its economy class snack options and the fact this isn’t the biggest story in aviation this week is a crime.
  • Alaska is being sued along with Delta and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport over jet pollution created by check-in kiosks.
  • American pilots are considering having their union — the Allied Pilots Association — merge with the Air Line Pilots Association, which at least would create less confusing names. Also, they might not.
  • Austrian is acquiring 10 new B787-9 Dreamliners, which is probably a good idea after a flight from Vienna to New York/JFK was forced to turn around earlier this week due to an awfully shitty situation.
  • Avelo is adding service to nine new cities from Wilmington, DE (ILG), including starting up 2x weekly flights on the criminally-underserved route known in aviation circles as the “Double Dub” between Wilmington, DE and Wilmington NC (ILM).
  • Avianca is looking at an IPO in New York on London by the end of 2024. Or maybe not.
  • Breeze will blow into both Portland (ME) and Raleigh-Durham twice-weekly this summer.
  • Delta had a B757 badly damaged when it was clipped by the wingtip of an Aeromexico B737 earlier this weekend. The AM aircraft’s wingtip collided with the DL airplane’s horizontal stabilizer causing major damage. Delta flight 624 which was bound for JFK was canceled. We can confirm that no Biscoffs were damaged in the incident.
  • easyJet expects the future to be easier.
  • ITA CEO Fabio Lazzerini says there is still potential in the Alitalia brand, which, yeah, that seems about right.
  • JetBlue‘s TrueBlue loyalty program will officially turn into a pumpkin on May 10 when its new Mosaic scheme — tiles and all — will begin. The airline is also adding two new routes to Puerto Rico with daily service beginning July 5 on Raleigh-Durham to San Juan, and Tampa to Aguadilla.
  • Madagascar Airlines acquired its very own AOC.
  • Malaysia Airlines reported its best Q4 since the turn of the century and ended the year losing just $77 million, better than the more than $400 million it lost last year.
  • Qantas‘ takeover of Alliance Air was denied by Australian antitrust watchdogs after a process that took so long that when it started Qantas had the image of a joey on its aircraft, not a full-grown kangaroo.
  • Qatar is resuming flying to both Casablanca and Marrakech with 4x weekly flights beginning June 30.
  • Ryanair is opening a new €40 million maintenance facility in Dublin.
  • RwandAir will begin flying to Paris for the first time with 3x weekly service beginning June 27.
  • Spirit‘s flight attendants reportedly agreed to a new contract that will give them raises between 10 and 27% simply by removing the fee previously required by the airline that the FA’s had to pay for each segment worked.
  • WestJet piloted politely voted in favor of a strike mandate in their battle with the carrier over a new contract.

I told my wife I was building a model of Mount Everest, and she asked, “Is it to scale?”

I replied, “No, it’s to look at”

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8 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: United Heads Down Under; Earnings for Alaska and United, and More…

  1. The “dream” I have long joked about with Avelo and it’s potential for Wilmington-to-Wilmington flights has come true! I may live nowhere near either of those two cities, but I still love it, and enjoy the “Double Dub” nomenclature suggested for this route.

    If this route doesn’t at least get a nomination for a fun/tongue-in-cheek Cranky Network Award next year (may I suggest the, “Most Confusing/Redundant New Route” category?), something is wrong. :-)

    1. If making connections are included, is there a clever name for flying between Charleston (SC) and Charleston (WV)? What about Portland (ME) to Portland (OR)?

  2. I think the link to the Air New Zealand cookie thing is wrong. The link just says “v” instead of an actual link.

  3. If one had a strong enough case or bag (presumably with wheels), that amount of gold could easily fit not just in a suitcase, but in the “personal item” that Air Canada allows pax to carry above the wing.

    Some quick fun math, assuming the value of the stolen was USD $15 million (reports aren’t super clear about the exact amount, or about CAD vs USD, but let’s go with that)…
    USD $15m / (USD $64.01/g value of gold) = 234,338g of gold (roughly 517 lbs). At 19g/cm3, that works out to less than 12,200 cm3, or a little more than 1/2 of the maximum 33cm x 16cm x 43cm dimensions that Air Canada allows for passengers’ personal items.

    Another way to put this is that if you could carry it (or drag it, without the bag or its wheels falling apart), USD $15 million of gold could easily fit in many briefcases.

    1. Nice Seinfield callback in the Pearson gold story. And while I’m not sure the RCMP has ever had maple syrup detectives, they did at one point (and might still) have a task force stamping out trade in counterfeit Cuban cigars.

  4. I told my wife I was building a model of Mount Everest, and she asked, “Is it to scale?”

    I replied, “No, it’s to look at”


    Good one Andrew

  5. So Air Malta wants to show that it can out-Alitalia Alitalia. The government of Malta in 2019 partnered with Ryanair to create JV Malta Air to provide low-cost service to compete with flag carrier Air Malta, after Air Malta had finally showed an annual profit for the first time in decades. Now, since the Malta government is forbidden from further propping up Air Malta (so much for that one year of profit in 2019), they’re going to do the dissolve-and-reconstitute routine with a new flag carrier that will take Air Malta’s employees and assets. What a circus!

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