Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: A Shockingly Competent FAA Nominee, A Shockingly Unqualified Delta Advisor, More

Cranky Weekly Review

Michael Whitaker Nominated to Head FAA

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it is nominating Michael Whitaker to be the next administrator of the FAA, a position that’s been vacant for nearly 18 months since former administrator Steve Dickson left the post on March 31, 2022.

Whitaker is currently the CCO for Supernal, a Hyundai-owned company developing an electric air vehicle.  Whitaker is not new to the FAA, having served as a deputy administrator during the Obama administration. Assuming he’s confirmed, he’ll start on his first day already tapped with the knowledge of where the supply closet is and which break room has the good coffee.

ALPA and Airlines for America came out in support of the Whitaker with other groups waiting to see how the confirmation hearings go before taking a side. Whitaker needs to be confirmed by a simple 51 vote majority of the senate to be confirmed. Confirmation hearings are expected to begin soon whenever the Senate damn well pleases.

Down Under CEO Goes Under

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce stepped down Wednesday, two months earlier than previously planned, amidst the controversy that Qantas sold tickets to thousands of flights that it had already canceled.

Joyce spent 15 years in charge of Qantas, but is now wondering the Australian desert for 40 days and 40 nights attempting to survive on nothing but Tim Tams and Vegemite until he’s inevitably hired by Rex as a consultant. CFO Vanessa Joyce was scheduled to take over the airline in November but will begin her new role now. One of her first challenges will be leading Qantas through a battle with Australian regulators over its dominance of the Australian market while also figuring out what happened to the airline’s stock of Tim Tams and Vegemite.

She’ll also become the public face of Qantas’s defense against the allegation of selling tickets to canceled flights. The Australian government is seeking a fine of $162 million from the carrier if the allegations are proven in court.  Qantas has countered by offering government officials $162 million worth of tickets for flights that are absolutely, definitely, not canceled.

Air France-KLM & Etihad Grow Closer

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Air France-KLM and Etihad this week with the stated goal of growing their partnership. New collaboriation will potentially include reciprocal loyalty program access, talent development, and shared maintenance and ground handling. The carriers have had a limited codeshare and interline agreement since 2012, but this would be a dramatic expansion of that partnership.

As part of the new MoU, the two are considering expanding their codeshare agreement to cover as many as 40 new routes across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. Neither North or South America was considered for the agreement as both parties agreed to stay as far away from Newark as possible.

Etihad currently flies to both Amsterdam and Paris, and Air France will begin operating to Abu Dhabi this fall.  When the loyalty reciprocity begins, Flying Blue members will be able to earn and redeem miles on Etihad, while Etihad Guest members will be offered the same on both Air France and KLM. Both parties agreed to the shared loyalty programs as an effort to stave off the need for anyone to have to use Delta’s SkyMiles program for as long as possible.

Avelo Gambles on New Base

Avelo Airlines opened its sixth operating base this week, putting its money on the line in Las Vegas while increasing its operation from the airport. The carrier is beginning three new routes from LAS this week, two more in the future, and is doubling the frequency on another.

New service from Las Vegas on Avelo will include Redmond/Bend (2x weekly, began Thursday), Brownsville, TX (BRO) and Eureka, CA (ACV) (2x weekly, begins today), Dubuque (2x weekly, begins Wednesday), and Salem, OR (2x weekly, beginning October 5).  Sonoma (STS) will see a doubling of flights from Vegas, from 2x to 4x weekly, with the new frequency beginning today.

Avelo is currently hiring new crew members to fill out its Vegas base, preferring candidates who favor flying to the storied streets of downtown Dubuque as opposed to far flung locations like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

Delta Adds Completely Rational Strategic Advisor

Delta Air Lines is adding Tom Brady as a strategic advisor, a personnel move that makes total sense and is definitely money well spent. Brady’s not just a strategic advisor, but a long-term strategic advisor, and one that will be involved in “strategic initiatives alongside Delta’s global employee base, customers and other key stakeholders.”

The former NFL star is making a difference early in his tenure, as he was seen loading luggage into an A350 prior to Delta Flight 283 from Detroit to Shanghai. He’s also spent some time working at SkyClubs in Atlanta and New York, laughing at customers who thought they would actually be granted access to the overcrowded clubs.

The carrier says Brady will develop and advise on strategic training and teamwork tools for its more than 90,000 employees while supporting Delta’s brand identity.  We too would like to get paid a lot for doing nothing useful.

Brady had identified Delta as a potential post-playing career employer months ago, but the the announcement was held up by the two parties haggling over comp.  Delta wanted to pay Brady in SkyMiles, but he insisted on cash compensation. Delta then countered with SkyMiles and SkyClub passes but Brady was wise to that scam as well. The partnership was finalized with they finally agreed on combination of cash and access to the secret tunnel underneath the Atlanta airport where Delta stores its Biscoff supplies.

  • Air Canada is increasing service to Europe next summer to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Madrid, and Rome.
  • Air Congo could be back.
  • Air India Express will unveil a new brand before the end of the year.
  • Allegiant carried 1.9 million passengers in July.
  • Avianca will launch 4x weekly flights between San Salvador and Oakland beginning January 29.
  • Biman Bangladesh is planning a return to New York, via Izmir, Turkey.
  • Condor will add new service to Miami next summer.
  • Discover Airlines, come on down!
  • Emirates is expanding its codeshare with United to increase opportunities for its customers going to and from Mexico.
  • Fly Gangwon did not find a bidder to purchase the airline.
  • flydubai will begin daily service to Cairo on October 28.
  • Hawaiian will initially operate its Dreamliner aircraft on routes to Los Angeles from both Honolulu and Maui, plus Honolulu to San Francisco.
  • Hong Kong Airways returned its final A350 to its owner, four years after ending its operation of the aircraft type.
  • ITA is hopeful its savior Lufthansa’s takeover will be complete in the next two months.
  • JAL finally listened to its customers.
  • LOT has a plan. And it’ll tell us the plan later this year.
  • Mango might not be totally dead.
  • Qatar is resuming cargo flights to Bahrain.
  • Ryanair carried 18.9 million passengers in August, an 11% jump from August 2022.
  • Sky Airlines is returning to Uruguay.
  • Thai might be adding some new airplanes.
  • Thai AirAsia X‘s restructuring was approved by a Thai bankruptcy court.
  • United‘s pilots will vote on its deal with the carrier through September 29.
  • Vietnam Airlines is launching 3x weekly service to Perth on December 7.
  • WestJet is adding Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith to its board of directors.

A detective showed up at my house today and asked me where I was between 5 and 6.

I said “Kindergarten.”

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13 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: A Shockingly Competent FAA Nominee, A Shockingly Unqualified Delta Advisor, More

  1. The bit about Hawaiian’s 787 inaugural service could be clearer. The initial route will be between Honolulu and San Francisco in April 2024, with service to Los Angeles from both Honolulu and Maui starting the following month.

  2. So do you think Etihad will become part of the Skyteam, then, after this partnership with AF-KL?

    Which – I find the partnership kind of ironic, as I remember in the mid 2000s when Leo van Wijk stood up at an AEA (now replaced by the ERA) CEO meeting lambasting the Middle Eastern carriers that they were going to have the European carriers’ for their breakfast because the oil-rich countries were supporting them, while the European airlines were standing on their own….. How times have changed!!

    1. Karen – They’ve all said that about middle east carriers until they realized that it was stupid not to work with them. Whether Etihad eventually joins SkyTeam or not, I have no idea. But it would probably be worthwhile for them to try.

  3. Avelo in Vegas is…something. Interesting? Yes. Wise? Questionable. Are there really enough cities that aren’t served by Allegiant (from its HQ base) and…well, everybody else for them to become a player in Vegas? Can they get enough of the greater Portland market to go to Salem to keep the service running when the incentives run out? I have my doubts about this one.

    Lufthansa sets a bale of money on fire rebranding Eurowings Discover, no big surprise there. The new livery is…Eurowhite meh. But it’s got a dot! And more dots? I guess Condor beat them to strange stripes?

    And Tom Brady doesn’t eat Biscoffs. I’m not sure the guy even eats.

    1. I think they’ve been doing quite well on the East coast but are still trying very hard (perhaps a little too hard) to make something stick out West.

  4. The secret Biscoff tunnel is at the end of the north side of the B gates behind a large wall of monitors, where if you thought about it for a minute, you would realize that is a lot of monitors for just a single gate with no other gate around. Pulling the secret lever to open the wall transports you to Narnia, er, a dimension where Eastern Airlines is still operating.

    1. The “Eastern shortcut” tunnel between B and C is still there, right? Or was it between C & D? Either way, that would be the perfect space to stash billions of Biscoffs.

      1. It was (is?) an underground walkway between B&C. Delta had all of A, and Eastern had all of C, and they shared B. But the Eastern pedestrian tunnel connected near the end of Eastern’s part of B straight across to C. This is different than the mid-concourse central walkway alongside the train.

      2. I actually took the “secret tunnel” many years ago (mid 90’s?) just to try it. Didn’t see any Biscoffs though.

  5. “Joyce spent 15 years in charge of Qantas, but is now wondering the Australian desert for 40 days and 40 nights ……”

    Maybe he’s ‘wandering’ the Australian desert instead of wondering it…..LOL

  6. If you want an entertaining bit of research, look into Thai’s fleet history. They have owned a few of just about every Boeing and Airbus model imaginable over the past 30 years but get surprised that it’s expensive and inefficient. Not to mention the continuous corruption and bankruptcy cycles they go through.

  7. Maybe it’s just me, but I see Delta’s addition of Tom Brady as a thinly-veiled marketing effort to pander to BOS/TPA fans & employees and (to a much lesser extent) parts of the NFL & NFL fanbase.

    I’m sure that the “support the company’s brand identity in select elements of Delta’s marketing and customer engagement” piece of the announcement as the most honest/important part of the announcement, at least in terms of direct impact on Delta’s bottom line. Charter flight revenue (including that for sports teams) is undoubtedly rounding error relative to Delta’s total revenue, and the Pats don’t charter planes, as they own a pair of 767s.

    It would not surprise me to see one of the 738s that frequently flies the BOS-TPA route get repainted with a special “TB12” livery. I could also see Delta producing a Super Bowl commercial (or viral video series) similar to what Dunkin’ did with Ben Affleck, showing Tom Brady and friends serving as gate agents, rampers, and giving on-board welcome/safety announcements. I’m sure that the rank and file employees (especially in the BOS & TPA stations) will appreciate the ability to meet Tom Brady, and maybe that gets extended to super elites as a special perk/prize as well.

    I personally am neutral (at best) on Tom Brady, the Pats, and the Bucs, but if viewed in the light of a (likely very overpriced) marketing/employee engagement initiative instead of a true consulting/strategy initiative, perhaps the Delta / Tom Brady announcement starts to make a little more sense.

  8. You mentioned Delta scamming with Skymiles, etc. What about United Plus Points!!! I’m 1K and have never been able to use plus points to “Skip the Waitlist.” When I asked a 1K CSR if she had ever seen it work for an international business class trip she thought she had seen it once in the last six months. Plus Points Skip the waitlist appears to be a complete waste of time – or am I doing something wrong?

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