Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: JetBlue Gets Angry, UK ATC Fails, More

Cranky Weekly Review

JetBlue’s Redacted Nightmare

JetBlue and its legal team are none too pleased about the gaffe last week which saw a filing by plaintiffs attorneys reveal improperly redacted documents as part of a lawsuit by a group of JetBlue customers unhappy with the carrier’s potential merger with Spirit.

The document released last week said JetBlue planned to increase — something — by 40% when its takeover of Spirit is complete.  Whether that is ticket prices it’s planning to increase is up for debate, but what’s not up for debate is that the story damaged JetBlue and its efforts to complete its purchase of Spirit.  

The carrier’s legal team is seeking sanctions implying that last week’s mistake wasn’t necessarily a mistake after all.  In a filing, JetBlue called the plaintiffs serial litigants who are only hoping to force JetBlue to “pay a ransom,” while ignoring JetBlue’s requests to fix the redaction error. Suggested remedies from JetBlue’s lawyers for the alleged “mistake” include holding the plaintiffs attorneys in contempt of court, issuing monetary sanctions, forcing the attorneys to fly exclusively fly Spirit for a period of four years, and confining the legal team to the grounds of Newark Liberty International Airport for a period of no less than 90 days.

A judge is expected to rule on the request within the next 10 days.

UK ATC Failure Leads to Chaos

More than 2,000 flights were canceled this week, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers across Europe and the UK as NATS — the UK’s ATC system — melted down due to a “glitch” caused by one singular “rogue” flight plan. We think this is a huge cover-up, and the truth is someone just tripped over a cord and unplugged the whole thing.

The glitchy flight plan was reportedly filed by a French airline — no one seems to want to name the actual airline, so feel free to speculate amongst yourselves.

The trojan horse supposedly set a course of events shutting down NATS, forcing all flight plans to be entered manually, dramatically slowing the process and grinding the entire British air system nearly to a halt. The effects were felt across Europe and the world, with IAG estimating that the gaffe cost airlines about $125 million in lost revenue. Then again, Lufthansa spent that much this week on contemplating a dozen new rebrands and new subsidiaries, so as always, ya win some, ya lose some.

Both airlines and travelers are asking why NATS did not have a backup or redundant system, leaving itself vulnerable to something like this. The government hasn’t yet commented, leading some to wonder if it’s because there is a backup system but it was being used to see if there was any way to bring the Queen back to life.

Qantas’s New Path to Record Profit

The Australian government is accusing its flag carrier of selling thousands of tickets to customers for flights it knew had been canceled — which some might consider still to be a better value than most Delta SkyMiles award redemptions.

Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission filed a lawsuit against Qantas for allegedly selling tickets on more than 10,000 canceled flights between May and July of last year. The government says the airline sold tickets for more than 80% of the canceled flights more than two weeks after cancellation — with the average being nearly seven weeks. Qantas declined to comment on the litigation as its lawyers were busy checking to see if any of their own flights had been canceled before purchasing their tickets.

Qantas posted an A$1.75 billion profit last year, after posting an A$860 million loss the year prior, which makes sense when you realize it was selling tickets for flights that don’t exist. With the operation of the flight (labor, fuel, airport fees, airplane lease payments) taking up the bulk of the airline’s expense sheet, it has found a loophole to profitability. If it’s able to continue to sell tickets to flights with literally zero expense, then Qantas could truly be the airline of the future.

Spirit Blows Towards the Breeze

Spirit Airlines announced six new routes this week, all of which will directly compete with Breeze, adding flying to both Tampa and Fort Myers from three airports.

Charleston (SC), Norfolk, and Richmond will all see the addition of new Spirit service to the two Florida airports beginning this fall. To Tampa, Charleston will operate 3x weekly beginning November 15, while Richmond will operate 4x weekly beginning November 17. The carrier hasn’t announced a start date or frequency for TPA-ORF, leaving all of us waiting with baited breath.

Fort Myers flights to Charleston and Norfolk will each go 3x weekly beginning November 16. This time it’s Richmond that will have to wait for a frequency and start date reveal, expected in the coming weeks.

France Considers Pricing Floor

The French government is considering a proposal to limit how low airline ticket prices can go in the country, as it continues its crusade to lower carbon emissions through less domestic air traffic while combining the fun of playing the limbo with its business community. The country already requires French residents to travel by train on several domestic routes previously served by airlines, and now looks to potentially go one step further.

Clement Beaune, who is the French Minister of Transport, and not the leader of a corrupt spy orginization plotting against Jean Claude van Damme as his name suggests, says the country needs a minimum ticket price.

“Airline tickets for 10 euros while we are in the midst of an ecological transition are no longer possible; this does not reflect the cost to the planet,” Beaune said, as reported by the newspaper Le Figaro.

The airlines and consumer groups will surely contest the proposal both in courtroom and the court of public opinion. Arguments are already being made that this would only divert customers to other modes of transportation (buses, trains) without actually reducing any travel. As always, the biggest winners are expected to be the lawyers.

  • Air Antilles lost more than an airplane when it crashed it St Barts recently. It has now been barred from operating there.
  • Air Burkina said don’t call it a comeback.
  • Air Canada can add its pilots union to the never-ending list of people it’s pissed off lately.
  • Air Moldova had its AOC suspended by the Moldovan government because the carrier is plum out of working airplanes.
  • Alaska now offers mobile passport verification which is likely to work just fine until you need it.
  • American flight attendants voted to authorize a strike, one of those things that isn’t as big a deal as it sounds.
  • Cayman Airways, along with French Bee, Titan Airways, and ZIPAIR are the newest members of the TSA PreCheck family.
  • Czech Airlines will begin serving Yerevan with 2x weekly service beginning Oct 2. We czeched and this will be a resumption of this route for the first time since 2018.
  • Delta is launching new airplane-only service between Honolulu and Tokyo/Haneda. Passengers will be responsible for getting themselves to and from the airport in Tokyo.
  • Emirates will begin providing bus service to Tokyo/Haneda. To be clear, the bus will pick passengers up in the metropolitan Tokyo area, presumably to then be flown to Dubai. It will not be providing bus service to or from Dubai.
  • Hawaiian has a decision to make.
  • Icelandair is undergoing a streamlining of its leadership team.
  • Korean now has working WiFi on its A321neo fleet.
  • Monarch Airlines, which you’ve definitely heard of before just now, has a new livery, but it won’t be flying anytime soon.
  • Norse Atlantic had a profitable summer.
  • Norwegian is not just evaluating adding B737 MAX 10s to its fleet, but it is seriously evaluating it. That’s the same thing as evaluating, but done with a scowl.
  • Pakistan International Airlines request for a ~$78 million bailout was denied by the Pakistani government. We will be setting up a GoFundMe for the airline by the end of the weekend in order to help pay all its fake pilots.
  • Porter‘s flight attendants are unionizing.
  • Rex is launching a frequent flier program.
  • Ryanair signed a 5-year maintenance agreement with Amman-based Jormaco.
  • Shenzhen Airlines celebrated its inaugural flight to Barcelona earlier this week.
  • SKY Airlines might add a second base in Peru. As always, it also might not.
  • Smartwings is beginning 2x weekly flights between Prague and Cairo beginning November 1.
  • United hired 460 residents of Guam to join their ramp team in Denver. Other than the climate, altitude, beach access, and annual snowfall levels, the new employees are finding Denver to be just like home. United also completed a slot swap at London/Heathrow with both Austrian and Brussels.
  • WestJet scooped up C$3 million from an Aviation Skills Grant provided by the government of Alberta.

I tried donating blood this week, but never again. They ask so many questions: “Where’d you get it from? “Why is it in a bucket?” “Who smeared it on your shirt?”

No good deed goes unpunished.

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12 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: JetBlue Gets Angry, UK ATC Fails, More

  1. The UA slot swap is weird (and by the way, it’s with Brussels not Singapore). If I’m reading this correctly, they are requesting an 11pm departure from LHR to EWR? That would presumably arrive at 2am and be a very weird pattern for a westbound transatlantic flight. Also weird that they are moving the daytime IAD-LHR trip to a redeye – they already have two redeyes for only two evening banks, and this trip would be a wingtip in both directions versus the current flight that hits different banks.

    1. Looks like the flights in question aren’t selling on UA’s website. Does this mean that they aren’t changing flight times with SN/OS, but rather cancelling flights? How do those deals work?

    2. Dolphin – Yeah, it’s odd-looking. Chances are it’ll be filed this weekend if it’s actually happening. I wonder if there’s some kind of weird double-swap horse-trading or something.

      1. Makes sense. Probably a double swap, to your point. I’m sure if they actually do that reverse redeye from LHR to EWR, it’ll make the news :)

      1. Cranky, Spirit never announced them? I just checked their newsroom and there’s nothing new this week.

  2. Confining…well, anyone…to Newark Airport for 90 days is cruel and unusual punishment. 90 minutes is probably pushing it.

    CF, on the Hawaiian 717 replacement, how much cargo does Hawaiian carry on its interisland routes? I’ve always presumed it was what is technically described as a “cubic buttload”, which it would seem to me justifies a plane with larger cargo holds than an E195-E2.

    1. It’s a good question on cargo. There is some belly cargo for sure, but Hawaiian had tried to do the all cargo operation that it ended (with props). There are a lot of flights that are cargo only down there.

  3. JetBlue just seems to have no clue how to manage this acquisition. All this bluster over fare hikes. It would have been so easy to point out that the fare changes aren’t comparing apples, since JetBlue isn’t a ULCC. So the $59 DTW-FLL fare becomes a $99 Blue Basic fare that includes a carry-on. The carry-on gets charged at Spirit and is around $55 one way. So the JetBlue customer actually comes out ahead in this case.

  4. Actually no, it’s the other way around. The pilots pissed off Air Canada. They signed a ten year contract and the company was hoping for labour peace. Not a chance. There’s a clause in there that says the pilots can pull the pin at nine years so that’s what they just did. Clearly, they can see the raises that WestJet and the U.S. carriers have been getting so screw the passengers, fellow employees, management and owners and to hell with our signed agreement.

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