Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: JetBlue and Spirit Back in Court, Southwest Hits Pause

Cranky Weekly Review

JetBlue, Spirit Forge Ahead

JetBlue and Spirit will continue to grasp at straws appeal their loss in court in an effort to revive their potential merger which currently is on life support. Many are lining up to be the one to pull the plug.

The two carriers filed with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Judge, did not recognize that the merger would “improve competition, and thus reduce prices, for the vast majority of consumers.” The carriers told the Appeals Court that “this one’s for you, JetBlue and Spirit customers,” hoping to pass themselves off as the customer and competition-friendly alternative to the big-4 carriers.

The pair claim that Judge William Young improperly elevated the interest of a small amount of hypothetical customers over the interests of everyone else — which seems like a rough way to call customers of Spirit “hypothetical”, but whatever it takes, right? The Justice Department must respond ot the appeal by April 11, with a ruling expected in June.

All parties are working against a clock that expires on July 24 — that’s the deadline set in the merger agreement for the deal to either happen… or not.

Southwest Pauses Pilot Hiring

Southwest Airlines is adjusting its pilot hiring efforts by suspending training for new First Officer hires for the rest of the year and deferring job offers, beginning with its April classes of potential pilots. Those who purchased the carrier’s Early Bird or Business Select offerings when entering pilot training to ensure them an earlier spot at a job offer are exempt from the suspension.

Delays in the certification of the MAX 7 and inability of Boeing to ramp up production of the MAX 8 have hit Southwest, and are a leading factor in its weakening demand for pilots.

Pilots with conditional job offers will be moved to a deferred candidate pool and will be the first to be offered jobs when hiring begins again. In the meantime, they’re welcome to pursue other roles at the airline, including solving the mystery of what actually goes into its Salty Death Mix.

Southwest hired 1,916 pilots last year according to pilot recruitment advisory firm Future & Active Pilot Advisors and then agreed to a new CBA with its pilots union — SWAPA — in January. Based on what it’s already hired so for this year, the airline plans to hire 345 pilots in 2024.

’23 Was Safest Year Yet

2023 was the safest year ever for commercial air travel, with no fatalities* reported amongst any IATA airlines for the entire year. The lone flight to involve fatalities was a turboprop operated by Yeti Airlines in Nepal, which saw 72 deaths last January.

The total accident rate for the year was 0.80 per million flights, down from 1.30 per million in ’22 and the lowest in more than a decade.

In North America, the accident rate did rise from 0.53 per million sectors to 1.14, but still remained below the 5-year average of 1.21. The largest proportion of accidents in North America were related to landing gear collapses. “Doors literally flying off the handle” is the early leader in the clubhouse for 2024.

*IATA’s figure of no fatalities does not include any Basic Economy passengers as it does not track whether or not they survive commercial flights due to their general frugality and the lack of caring about anything they do.

Spirit Adds, Subtracts

Spirit Airlines announced a slew of schedule changes for summer, with good news for some (Baltimore, Louisville), and bad news for others (Boston, Cleveland).

Additions for the carrier include:

  • Baltimore (Boston, San Diego, Portland, New Orleans)
  • Boston (Newark)
  • Houston/IAH (San Diego, Charlotte)
  • Louisville (Newark, Dallas, Miami)
  • Myrtle Beach (Columbus, Indianapolis)
  • New York/LGA (Columbus, Pittsburgh)

And the routes that refused to pay Spirit’s ‘continuation of service fee’ and were canceled are:

  • Atlanta (Fort Myers)
  • Boston (Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Miami, Tampa)
  • Cleveland (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (Oakland)
  • Detroit (Miami)
  • Memphis (Los Angeles)
  • Raleigh/Durham (Orlando)

FAA to Stay in Business a Little Longer

The House of Representatives voted this week to extend its funding for the FAA through May 10 while giving Congress more time to figure out a long-term solution. With the bill passed in the House, it will now go to the Senate where it’s expected to pass and then to the president’s desk for his signature.

This is the third time that the FAA’s funding authority has been extended after its five-year authorization expired on September 30 of last year. The long-term bill that currently sits in the House authorizes $4 billion for the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, instructs the 4 to develop a plan to add ATC staff, addresses safety on runways, and further chips away at the rights of passengers who choose to fly in Basic Economy.

  • Aer Lingus has to figure out what its doing with its pilots.
  • Air Incheon is bidding for Asiana’s cargo division.
  • Air New Zealand‘s alliance with Singapore will continue another five years.
  • Air Transat flight attendants ratified a new contract with the carrier.
  • AirAsia‘s merger with AirAsia X is x-pected to create a financial windfall equal to X. X in this case equals about $400 million.
  • Allegiant and Viva Aerobus would really, really, like to get back together.
  • American is probably about to order a bunch of narrowbody plains from Airbus.
  • Asiana will retire its final B747 — HL7428 on March 25, marking the end of passenger B747-400 service in Korea.
  • Austrian‘s dreams are being delayed briefly.
  • Cathay Pacific is off to a good start in 2024.
  • Delta is offering a second eclipse flight in the path of totality. The carrier is reportedly using the eclipse flights to see just how much it can devalue SkyMiles in front of customers without them noticing.
  • easyJet celebrated five million passengers in Birmingham — it’s unclear if the airline meant England or Alabama.
  • El Al has been profitable lately.
  • Emirates is headed back to Cambodia.
  • Etihad added three Dreamliners.
  • Ethiopian is beginning 3x weekly service to Freetown, Sierra Leone on May 31.
  • Go First is potentially close to being sold for just under $200 million.
  • Gol scored in bankruptcy court.
  • Hawaiian showed off its first Dreamliner.
  • Hong Kong is turning to mainland China to hire pilots.
  • IAG completed a round of Musical Chairs CEO. Marco Sansavini moved from CEO of Vueling to CEO of Iberia. Fernando Candela moved from CEO of Iberia to LEVEL. Carolina Martinoli is the new CEO of Vueling, being promoted from her role as IAG’s Chief People, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer — or as its often known as, the much easier to pronounce — CCPCASO. The carrier is expect to draw a flight at random during Leap Day on Thursday, and then pick a seat at random from the selected flight — that passenger is expected to be named the new CCPCASO replacing Carolina Martinoli.
  • ITA is increasing service to Buenos Aires to 9x weekly.
  • KLM is increasing its schedule from its Amsterdam this summer, much to the chagrin of both the airline and the airport.
  • Lufthansa‘s newest subsidiary — Lufthansa City Airlines — will initially fly to Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Hanover within Germany and to Birmingham, Bordeaux, and Manchester outside the country.
  • New Pacific laid off about 130 people from Ravn Alaska.
  • Norse Atlantic lost $169 million last year, but has a “clear path to profitability” according to the person who’s employment is conditional on Norse Atlantic turning a profit.
  • Norwegian has a new logo.
  • Qantas left a compressor turning tool in an engine while it flew around the world for two months. The real tragedy is that it was discovered the day after the new one arrived from Amazon.
  • Qatar is going to go to the newer Goa airport.
  • Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary is fired up about something someone in government did.
  • Saudia was a winner in court.
  • Spirit received its 10th A321neo. Once it receives its 12th, it receives a free 6-inch sub.
  • SriLankan‘s sale isn’t going well. The carrier is expected to be found on the seasonal clearance shelf at the entrance of Target by the end of March.
  • TAP will tap in 10 more times this summer to North America.
  • Thai is leasing three more Dreamliners.
  • United is adding new daily flights between Guam and Tokyo/Haneda this summer.
  • Volotea added three airplanes. Presumably someone there thinks this is a good idea.

I’ve always wondered, are people born with photographic memories, or does it take time to develop?

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11 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: JetBlue and Spirit Back in Court, Southwest Hits Pause

  1. “Lufthansa’s newest subsidiary — Lufthansa City Airlines…”
    How many subsidiary airlines do they have now? It seems as if anyone is going to keep the ‘airline within an airline’ concept going, even though it should probably have been dead long ago, it is Lufthansa.

    1. GS – So, so many.
      Austrian Airlines Brussels Airlines City Airlines Discover Airlines Eurowings Lufthansa Cargo Lufthansa Regional Air Dolomiti Lufthansa CityLine Swiss International Air Lines Edelweiss Air ITA Airways (pending), (41%) AeroLogic (50%) SunExpress (50%) LSG Sky Chefs Lufthansa Consulting Lufthansa Flight Training Lufthansa Industry Solutions Lufthansa Systems Lufthansa Technik Global Load Control

      1. The Bundestag needs to focus its next session on passing a law to prohibit any company in Germany from having more than 14 subsidiaries. That would make them more productive and impactful than the US House of Representatives this year.

  2. Spirit is pulling back in Cleveland because Frontier is pummeling them. From a customer perspective, there is no difference. What matters to most NE Ohio passengers is that any given F9 or NK route is so successful that United will add it back.

  3. Is American’s order of “plains” a joke I’m not getting or a typo?

  4. Going from CEO of Iberia to CEO of LEVEL can in no way, shape or form be construed as a good thing. Fernando Candela is most likely working on his resume at this very moment

  5. JetBlue and Spirit are doing the legal version of “Hang Up, Call Again” with this appeal – the original trial judge put an emphasis on impact to individual markets and the loss of a LCC in the short run, and may have underweighted possible long-term impact on the aviation market in the US as a whole, that other judges might not. (I haven’t had a chance to read the entire ruling…stupid job, getting in the way of my fun…but I think this is a simplified – perhaps oversimplified – summary of the ruling.)

    I don’t think it’s going to work, the removal of the seats from the ex-Spirit planes and the probable cutting of some smaller markets creates a short-term loss to Spirit’s current customers that’s relatively easy to quantify, and the present value of future competition to the Domestic Big Four is harder to quantify accurately. “A bird in the hand…”, so to speak. And with pilot shortages and the delay a new entrant (existing or start-up) would have getting aircraft, new entrants have issues going into even non-restricted (slot/runway timing/terminal space issue) markets.

    I’m still not sure the merger should be blocked, but the DOJ has the ultimate deep pockets and can keep appealing. Time for JetBlue to give up, just enter into a regular codeshare with AA or join OneWorld if they think that’ll help, or just go with internally-generated growth. and move on. And if Spirit wants to go back and pursue merger with Frontier again, that’s a whole different animal. (But it would still mean one fewer LCC, so that’s not a sure thing either.)

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