Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: JetBlue’s Redacted Nightmare, Pilot AAgreement, Frontier Adds Frontiers, and More

Cranky Weekly Review

JetBlue Says the Quiet Part Out Loud

A redaction error in documents submitted by JetBlue while defending against the lawsuit brought on by customers in Massachusetts on its takeover of Spirit revealed that part of JetBlue’s post-merger strategy is to raise Spirit fares as much as 40% on some routes. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds: some of this will naturally replace Spirit’s many, many ancillary fees, but it’s still a bad look for an airline about to go to court to say it’s not being anti-competitive.

Despite being released in error, the document presents a significant problem for JetBlue, as the airline previously claimed that the merger wouldn’t result in higher fares in defense of its acquisition. The improperly redacted document is no longer available for public viewing, but unfortunately for JetBlue, once something appears on the internet, it’s there forever…just as my college roommate found out.

“JetBlue plans to increase fares on aircraft it acquires from Spirit by at least 24%,” one of the documents said. “That fare increases may be as high as 40%. … Thus, there is direct evidence in the form of party admissions that the merger will have anticompetitive effects.”

JetBlue spokesperson Derek Dombrowski had the unenviable position of publicly stating the documents misrepresent JetBlue’s plans, which, if you believe, we’ve got a whole bunch of first class seats on Southwest we’d like to sell you at a deep discount.

AA’s Pilots AApprove New ContrAAct

American Airlines pilots approved a new labor agreement, avoiding a possible (though unlikely) work stoppage and bringing home salary increases both immediately and into the future.

AA’s pilots will receive 21% raises now, with their comp scheduled to go up by nearly 50% over the life of the four-year contract when including 401(k) contributions.  Future raises will be 5% next year, 4% in 2025 and 2026, and then 3% in 2027.  Pilots will have the option to take their raise in cash, or in the equivalent value in Buc-ees’ gift cards valid at all locations in Texas and Oklahoma.

The two sides tentatively reached a deal prior to this week, but then ripped it up when United and its pilots reached a more lucrative deal. American says it will take a $230 million hit on its Q3 balance sheet to retroactively make the pilots whole on the new contract. 

This agreement caps a potentially tumultuous year for the big-3 airlines in the the United States with the entire trio signing new labor agreements with their pilots’ unions, ensuring labor peace until the next bankruptcy when they’ll get the judge to allow them to slash pay. It’s the circle of life.

Frontier Debuts Newest Frontiers

Frontier Airlines announced an addition of 14 routes, all but one which connect northernish U.S. destinations to warmer climes in the Caribbean, Florida, and Mexico.

The biggest winner — if you can call it that — is Fort Myers, which will now get hordes of frozen travelers from five new cities including Detroit (3x weekly), Minneapolis/St Paul (daily), New York/Islip (daily), Buffalo, and Syracuse.  Four of the five launch on November 16, with RSW-BUF beginning one day later on November 17.

Santo Domingo (SDQ) will receive two new flights, to Miami and Philadelphia, while Cancun will add Chicago/Midway, Detroit, and Minneapolis/St. Paul.  All three will operate daily, beginning November 16.

Other new frontiers are:

  • Baltimore: Tampa (daily)
  • Cleveland: Miami (3x weekly), Sarasota (daily)
  • Orlando: Minneapolis/St Paul (daily)

Red Way Goes the Dead Way

University of Nebraska fans did not have a great week as Lincoln-based money laundering scheme carrier Red Way announced it would cease operations. This just moves up the pain of a “bad week” to be one week earlier than normal with football season starting shortly.

Red Way was a uniquely challenging idea, designed to provide non-stop service to leisure destinations to the good people of Lincoln, Nebraska. In a move that shocked (checks notes…literally no one), the LNK market did not turn out to be enough to sustain an entire airline, and Red Way announced its shutdown earlier this week after just three months of flying.  Its final flight will be on August 31. 

Those suckers passengers who booked travel on September 1 or later are completely SOL will supposedly receive a refund and will need to rebook themselves on a real airline.

Frontier Feels Your Student Debt Pain

Frontier Airlines is running a sweepstakes (apply here through Sunday) for anyone with student debt and a Frontier Miles account.  The carrier is offering to match up to 100 winners with Frontier Miles equal to the dollar amount of their student loan debt, up to 100,000 miles.

The carrier touts that one-way domestic flights can be booked for as little as 10,000 miles which, while technically true, is about as easy to find as it is to find someone to pay off your student debt with no strings attached.

Delta previously thought about holding a similar contest, but its SkyMiles are worth so little, that sometimes a large balance can feel more like a debt than an asset, and so the carrier thought it best to sit this one out.

  • Air Koryo flight 151 landed in Beijing on Tuesday morning — marking the airline’s first international commercial flight since the onset of the pandemic three and a half years ago. Our sources inside North Korea say that all passengers were served a five-course meal including a main course of chateaubriand, the finest caviar, and exquisite wine. North Korean leader Kim Jung Un reportedly did the pre-flight maintenance check himself, flew the plane on his own in the cockpit with no other assistance, and then landed the plane in Beijing while parking at the gate perfectly with no ground staff assistance. To book your next adventure on Air Koryo, the official airline of the Cranky Weekly Review presented by Oakland International Airport, please visit
  • Air New Zealand is in the black with its aircraft livery and its books.
  • Air Premia says aloha.
  • American is tired of the kids and all their hidden city ticketing skiplagging.
  • ANA is fulfilling the dream of many, replacing its B777 fleet with B787-10s on many domestic routes.
  • Arkia pumped the brakes on a potential merger.
  • BermudAir is getting closer to being a real airline. With flights and everything.
  • Challenge Airlines accepted the challenge of taking delivery of its first B767-300ER.
  • City Airlines, Lufthansa’s latest offshoot is having its launch delayed while Lufthansa decides if it wants to launch another four brands first.
  • Delta would like its lawsuit over carbon neutrality claims to go away.
  • Ethiopian is increasing its service to Seoul/ICN to up to 6x weekly.
  • Finnair CEO Topi Manner is Finnished with the company.
  • Flair is doing great, just ask Flair’s CEO.
  • French Bee named former TAP CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener to buzz around its offices in the same role.
  • Garuda Indonesia‘s potential merger with Pelita Air is being reviewed by the Indonesian government.
  • Korean will begin weighing passengers.
  • Kuwait Airways is still losing money, just not as much as it was earlier.
  • LATAM is receiving extra scrutiny from the Chilean government’s antitrust oversight division.
  • MIAT would like to join oneworld’s connect program, beginning a pathway to full membership in the alliance.
  • Norwegian announced a $50 million profit for the year’s second fiscal quarter.
  • Porter is headed to Florida.
  • Qantas dreamed up a new airplane order.
  • SAS will remain in bankruptcy protection through at least next year.

On our wedding night, my wife and I agreed to never go to bed angry with each other.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now we’ve each been up for four days straight and I’m starting to get pretty tired.

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13 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: JetBlue’s Redacted Nightmare, Pilot AAgreement, Frontier Adds Frontiers, and More

  1. So, I’m really curious how you get by the Treasury Department since you’re Air Koryo is your official airline.

    That being said, Can I get a Southwest First Class Itinerary to Beijing via Pyongyang?

  2. Eh, also FWIW the AA/Skiplagged article is just an AP article, not an AJC article.. But its behind a bit of a paywall at AJC.. Perhaps it’d be best to just link to these at in the future?

  3. Wait, did JetBlue actually try to claim that acquiring Spirit wouldn’t raise fares? I get that’s the sort of thing they need to say to try to get the merger approved by regulators, but I thought they’d also been pretty clear that Spirit’s planes would be reconfigured to JetBlue standards and the Spirit brand would be going away. At least to outside observers, it seemed clear that JetBlue service at Spirit prices is not a sustainable business model and that fares would be going up and that markets that really only work at Spirit prices would be going away. The merger is about planes and crews, not network growth.

    1. Spirit service at Spirit prices isn’t a sustainable business model, Spirit has lost $1.5B in last few years alone and is likely headed for bankruptcy if it doesn’t find a merger partner. And it turns out the redacted text was from the class action attorneys making claims against JetBlue, not from Jetblue itself. I look forward to crankyfliers correction.

      1. Please don’t take my comments the wrong way; they’re coming from the perspective that we’re both random commenters on the Internet and it’s not worth the time for me to dig in and try to find out if what anyone is saying is true.

        Interesting if true about the redacted comments being from the attorneys suing JetBlue rather than from JetBlue themselves. Your comments about Spirit’s lack of profitability also emphasize the point that if Spirit service at Spirit prices isn’t sustainable, then JetBlue service at Spirit prices is even less workable.

        Ultimately I don’t have much of a dog in this fight. At my local west coast airport, JetBlue only flies to their east coast hubs and Spirit’s service is duplicative of Southwest. I have flown JetBlue a couple of times but not Spirit, though I’m not against flying them if they’re the best option, as I have flown both Frontier and Allegiant.

  4. Does anyone know if the full JetBlue discovery document is out on the Internet somewhere? The one direct quote I’ve seen is the one in item #1, and it says “…increase fares on AIRCRAFT…” (emphasis mine), not on currently served routes. This could be reassignment of planes and crews to more lucrative (or even just longer) routes than Spirit has them on right now. It’s not illegal in an acquisition to plan to redeploy assets to more profitable uses, and it hasn’t been a secret since this merger was first announced that JetBlue wants the planes and the crews and will be dropping at least some of the Spirit routes.

    Or it could mean exactly what it first sounds like and JetBlue plans on increasing fares on some existing routes, or a combination of the two. Again, is this actually illegal? JetBlue has never said it will run two brands, and when the planes are reconfigured to JetBlue’s product and customers receive JetBlue’s service, that level of service usually carries a higher fare. As far as I know JetBlue has always said “increases competition” mainly in regards to competition to the Domestic Big Four.

    Or…I could be flat-out wrong. We need more information before anyone can start predicting how this will play out in court, although JetBlue just made their job a lot harder. You can bet the DoJ is going to try to get this included in the merger suit…and JetBlue deserves the pain.
    But good news for those of us sweating in Tampa right now: the Raccoon is coming!

    1. The redacted text wasn’t from JetBlue, it was written by the opposing attorneys. Though its a reasonable assumption they will have to raise prices in order to start offering more comfortable seating, and also because Spirit’s pricing is economically unsustainable. It is losing massive amounts at their current pricing levels and is likely headed to bankruptcy court if they don’t find a merger partner.

  5. Yes, JetBlue is gonna raise Spirit fare by 40%. But, hear me out, before all the tax and the infamous “Passenger Usage Charge”, last I checked, my Spirit fare was only $20 + tax and fees. So a 40% increase will make that $28 + tax and fees. The $8 increase is just one rotisserie chicken and hot dog combo at my neighborhood Costco. It really isn’t that much.

    1. Somewhat off topic, but… I’m pretty surprised that the feds have let the ancillary fees collected by airlines go untaxed (or not taxed to the same extent as the regular fares) for so long.

      Given the political might (and lobbying power) that major legacy airlines have, I would have though that the legacy airlines (including Southwest, given that it charges relatively few fees) would have pushed hard enough to close that loophole years ago. Sure, charging taxes on ancillary fees would hurt airlines like Delta & American, but it would probably hurt Frontier, Spirit, & Allegiant far more (in relative terms), and likely help to relieve competitive pressure on the lower end of the fare spectrum for the legacy airlines.

  6. Spirit loses over 20 cents for every dollar of fare they sell. Without raising prices they are going out of business.

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