Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta’s Damage Control, United’s Quarter was Profitable, AA…Not So Much

Cranky Weekly Review

Delta Walks Back SkyMiles Changes

Delta Air Lines shared the changes it is making to the changes it announced to its Medallion Program last month.  The carrier is still sticking with its full-revenue concept — MQMs are not coming back — but it did go for a softer landing, make the earning of elite status easier while returning slightly more value to its credit cards… for next year at least.

The top line change is a reduction in the MQDs required to reach each level of elite status – Silver is down from $6k to $5k, Gold from $12k to $10k, Platinum from $18k to $15k and Diamond from $35k to $28k.  It’s also adding a head start for holders of its various branded American Express cards of $2,500 per card, and with four branded cards, theoretically, one could earn $10k MQDs and the Gold status that comes with it without stepping foot on an airplane.

Other walkbacks include increased benefits for million milers, with 1 Million Milers now receiving Gold for life (or until Delta changes its mind again) as opposed to the current offering of Silver for life.  It also rolled back its SkyClub access restrictions, increasing annual visits (beginning in 2025) for Reserve card holders from 10 to 15 and for Platinum holders from six to 10.  It also announced that multiple visits within one day would all count as one visit, so a customer visiting a SkyClub at their home airport and then again at a connecting airport on the same day would count as just one visit, not two.

Overall, this should placate some of the incredulous, outraged Delta customers who claim they’re never flying Delta again (which is true until DL is exactly $1 cheaper than another airline) for now, or at least until 2025 or 2026 when it puts it right back where we started with all this.

United’s Q3 Ends $1.1 Billion in the Black

United Airlines finished Q3 a cool $1.1 billion ahead of where it started the quarter on $14.5 billion gross revenue, a 12.5% jump compared to Q3 in 2022. Passenger revenue accounted for $13.3 billion of its revenue, a 27% increase from last year while it spent $3.3 billion on fuel, an 11% drop from a year ago.

International travel led the way for United, with revenue over the Atlantic jumping 15% from last year and a whopping 70% from prior to the pandemic.  Travel to the Pacific was up slightly from 2019, despite a reduction in capacity.  Its premium Polaris option revenue was up 20% year-over-year while UA is succeeding at convincing passengers to have no shame at all, as revenue on Basic Economy is up more than 50% YoY.

UA operated to 436 domestic markets during the quarter, up from 367 in Q3 2019 – and most of those 436 were people willing to take the first flight out regardless of destination if it meant leaving Newark. It ended the quarter with $8.1 billion in cash, which should be enough to keep things running for the rest of the year if it ever follows through with its plan to just stop flying to Newark one day and pretend the place never existed.

American Finishes Third Quarter in the Red

American Airlines finished the three months ending September 30 down $223 million including special items on a revenue figure of $13.5 billion. AA brought in $12.4 billion in passenger revenue, $193 million via its cargo operation, and another $868 million through other sources including its credit card partners. Excluding special items, American squeaked out a profit of $263 million.

Its $13.7 billion in expenses were led by $4 billion on salaries and $3.2 billion at the fuel pump,  two figures that show mismanagement from its leadership – if it just stopped paying staff and stopped buying fuel for its airplanes it could eliminate those expenses and it would have earned a record profit of $6 billion. 

On the bright side, it did reduce its total debt by $1.4 billion, saw its credit rating upgraded, had a record completion factor, and in a real triumph, got the food truck that parks outside its Fort Worth headquarters to run a promotion for a free soft drink with any entrée purchase over $15 on the third Thursday of each month.  The carrier ended the quarter with $13.5 billion in total liquidity including a Texas-sized ten gallon hat it’s planning to offer Delta in exchange for access to the Biscoff tunnel in Atlanta.

Southwest Makes A-List Easier to Obtain

Southwest Airlines revealed changes to its 2024 A-List Loyalty Program, and amazingly, it’s making its elite status easier to earn next year while adding additional perks.

Starting next year, A-List will require just 20 one-way flights or 35,000 elite qualifying points, down from 25 one-way flights.  A-List preferred will require 40 one-way flights or 70,000 qualifying points, down from 50 one-way flights in the past. So while the qualifying points threshold will remain the same, those qualifying on segments will see a full 20% reduction in the number of flights required to earn or maintain status.

Those qualifying points will also be earned more rapidly for Rapid Rewards members through credit card spending – customers with a Rapid Rewards credit card will receive 1,500 points after $5,000 in spending, cutting the current $10,000 threshold in half.

The carrier is also offering its top-tier elites what they really want – more booze – beginning in a couple weeks.  A-List Preferred members will see two complimentary drink vouchers – valid for Southwest’s premium offerings – per flight beginning November 6.  The vouchers will be added directly to the mobile boarding pass and will be valid for a double if there are any screaming children located within two rows of the A-List Preferred member, while those with an empty middle seat will be required to forfeit one of the two vouchers.

Sun Country Adds 10

Sun Country Airlines is adding service to 10 new destinations from its Minneapolis/St. Paul hub, which will give it 98 unique markets it operates to and from MSP. The new flights will launch in June with a goal of convincing people that it’s not always freezing cold in the Twin Cities.

The new destinations include both Montréal and Toronto and eight domestic destinations, a few of which people may actually want to visit:

  • Albuquerque
  • Billings
  • Boise
  • Grand Rapids
  • Missoula
  • Oakland
  • Syracuse
  • Washington/Dulles

The domestic routes will all operate seasonally and twice weekly, except for Washington/Dulles which will operate 4x weekly from MSP. In addition to launching these new destinations, the carrier is moving its flying in the Houston area from Houston/IAH to Houston/Hobby beginning next spring.

  • Aeromexico is expanding to Europe.
  • Air Canada bought 36 GE engines for its Dreamliner fleet.
  • Air France is surrendering to someone, with a plan to end service from Paris/Orly by 2026, consolidating all of its Paris flying at Paris/CDG.
  • Air Greenland is finally launching service between Nuuk (GOH) and Iqaluit (YFB), the city pair you didn’t know you needed to be connected.
  • Air India Express has a new livery.
  • Air New Zealand‘s former CEO Christopher Luxon is going to be the next Prime Minister of New Zealand. NZ citizens should get ready for taxes to go up, services to go down, but be told its an “enhancement,” and for national legislation requiring all meals in restaurants to be served on a tray.
  • Alaska is adding nonstops from Anchorage to both San Diego and New York/JFK.
  • American has a fAAncy new Admirals Club in Denver. It’s also ready to start flying to Ocho Rios in Jamaica with 2x weekly flights from Miami beginning in February.
  • Avianca is undergoing a trAnsformAtion.
  • BermudAir is ditching its business-class only plan.
  • BRA is in need of more financial support to keep holding the airline up.
  • British Airways is returning to Abu Dhabi, flying daily Dreamliner service from London/Heathrow beginning April 20.
  • Delta figured out exactly what its customers want.
  • Emirates wants to fly to Berlin, but the current Germany-UAE Air Services Agreement limits the carrier to operating to four German cities at a time. EK currently operates to Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich.
  • Greater Bay Airlines plans to operate to Mainland China next year.
  • JSX is adding three new routes from the northeast down to Florida.
  • Korean is willing to spin off Asiana’s cargo division to keep EU regulators happy.
  • LATAM will increase its frequency on Lima – Atlanta from 3x weekly to 1x daily beginning March 31.
  • Lufthansa is offering half of its 80 narrowbodies to City Airlines.
  • Porter is gambling that starting a new flight from Toronto/Pearson to Las Vegas will work out. The flight launches March 5 and Porter will become the fifth entrant into the YYZ-LAS market.
  • Qantas ended its flirtation with Alliance Airlines.
  • Rex is leasing a 10th B737-800 as it prepares to launch Adelaide – Brisbane service.
  • Royal Air Maroc plans to grow, according to Royal Air Maroc.
  • Ryanair‘s $545k fine was upheld by Hungary’s supreme court.
  • SAA is damp-leasing two aircraft.
  • SWISS is suspending service to Beirut through October 28.
  • TAP is gearing up to go hard after points-and-miles bloggers.

Eye Doctor: Good news sir, your results are back.

Patient: Great, can I see them?

Eye Doctor: I doubt it.

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7 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Delta’s Damage Control, United’s Quarter was Profitable, AA…Not So Much

  1. Has United really added 69 domestic markets since Q3 2019? That seems like a VERY large amount especially since the beginning point of the comparison was prior to the outbreak of COVID. Hence the 69 markets would not include any airports dropped during COVID and readded subsequently.

  2. I’m slightly amazed that JSX is managing to start up service out of Morristown – they may have had an advantage in being able to operate from the FBO but when I lived in New Jersey anytime anyone even hinted at scheduled service out of MMU you could hear the NIMBYs mobilizing from the other side of the state.

    And after his strident defence of Delta’s SkyMiles changes, it’ll be fun to watch a certain frequent commenter walk back his position. At least he’ll have AA’s magnificent loss to comment on.

  3. On the Air France move to CDG, all of their flights will be moving except the ORY-Corsica flights.

  4. I wished I understood the financials better, but AA used to be number one in revenue generation. Now, they’re number three. I think they screwed themselves when they parked the A330s, 757s, and 767s during the pandemic. Hindsight is 20/20 but they’ve got some catching up to do.

  5. The best thing Delta could do for me is give me no status next year then push all of my status rollovers into 2025 and beyond. I am very excited to be Alaska MVP 100K next year. At this point the majority of my business is Alaska’s to lose.

  6. Not sure how the AF move to CDG will help the environment. CDG is further than ORY from the center so more carbon emissions on those long taxi rides!

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