Cranky Weekly Review Presented by San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport: AA Hungry to Strike, JSX Should Be Nervous

Cranky Weekly Review

AA FAs Step Closer to Strike

‘Final’ negotiations between AA and its flight attendants union ended Thursday without an agreement, moving the union ever closer to a strike, with labor saying it does not believe federal mediators will require them back to the bargaining table before legally declaring an impasse.

If an impasse is granted, a 30-day cooling off period would follow at which point a strike would likely follow. The union warned its members yesterday to prepare for a strike in a statement that was part preparation, part rhetoric, like all aspects of these negotiations. Barring an agreement, there is one last way to stop a strike: President Biden could convene a Presidential Emergency Board to stop it, but his strong support of labor makes that a less likely outcome.

The two sides have made progress on many issues, but remain far apart on retroactive pay for its FAs — who have not seen a pay raise in five years. There is also a dispute over starting salaries for new-hire flight attendants and whether FAs will be required to smile when interacting with passengers or if they can stick with American’s trademark scowl. Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

FAA Moves Closer to Causing a Lot of Problems for JSX

The FAA on Monday announced plans to close the loophole that allows certain carriers — such as JSX — to operate as public charters, provided they fly airplanes with 30 seats or less.

Companies using this scheme are able to operate from private terminals and FBOs, bypassing TSA, and can hire pilots with fewer than 1,500 flight hours — or that are beyond the standard retirement age — by using Part 135 operators instead of Part 121 like everyone else. (Not all opt to use all of the relaxed standards, it should be noted.) The FAA says it plans to initiate a rule to amend the defintions of “scheduled,” “on-demand,” and “supplemental” operations, with the goal of having the application of the rule more closely match the spirit.

As with anything that the federal government does, this change won’t come quickly. The FAA will first issue a notice of proposed rulemaking, and that will be followed by a commenting period. The commenting period will be followed by a commenting period to comment on the comments, with a review group then formed to explore creating a blue-ribbon panel to look at the issue, followed by a peer-reviewed analysis of the blue-ribbon panel. There will probably be an Environmental Impact Review as well, just because. Finally, a Congressional hearing will take place once experts on the subject have been identified, confirmed by both houses of Congress and sign off on the findings of the peer-reviewed analysis of the blue-ribbon panel that explored the comments on the commenting period.

Southwest CEO Resists Resignation Rumblings

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan has no plans to resign despite the very subtle suggestion from hedge fund Elliott Investment Management which recently took a nearly $2 billion stake in the airline and has been sharing with the world what it finds displeasing about the carrier.

Southwest has suffered from “poor execution and leadership stubborn unwillingness,” according to Elliott, but it sounds to us like someone from Elliott just forgot to check-in for its most recent WN flight at T-24 hours, got stuck with C11 and is blaming the executive leadership instead of looking in the mirror.

Stock for the airline is down about 25% over the last two years and is lower than it was prior to the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. For more on Elliot’s proposed hostile takeover of Southwest, please check out previous posts at, including yesterday’s as well as this week’s The Air Show podcast.

JetBlue’s Blue Basic Becomes a Little Less Basic

JetBlue Airways made the curious decision this week of returning a little dignity to its Blue Basic fares, allowing its lowest fare-loving customers to begin carrying-on a bag at no additional charge beginning September 6. It is the official stance of this publication that Basic Economy passengers should be shamed at all steps along the travel journey, and we condemn this decision by JetBlue to try to better align with its core values of treating people with dignity.

The complimentary bag for basic customers complements the one TrueBlue point earned per dollar spent, as opposed to all other fares from JetBlue that accrue at a 3x multiplier, but it’s better than most airlines that don’t allow any frequent flier earning on the most basic fares. Overhead bin space is not guaranteed for the free carry-on as Blue Basic customers will still board last, giving customers with more premium fares a reasonable shot to shame those as they board.

Alaska Makes SFO Move

Alaska Airlines’ move to the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 in San Francisco is nearly complete, and the carrier began operating from its new home on Wednesday. The two-year move from Terminal 2 was slowed because the airline lost its luggage filled with moving boxes earlier in the process and then later on became confused as to where San Francisco Bay’s closest airport actually was.

The new terminal for Alaska in San Francisco is now home to the second-largest lounge in the system, which will open in July. The lounge is expected to be about 11,000 square feet with pancake machines as far as the eye can see. Terminal 1 is also the home of Alaska’s oneworld buddy American, providing easier connections for customers between the two airlines, reminding them of the old days when they shared Terminal 2.

Alaska says the new location of its gates will offer up shorter taxi times and faster access to runways which will save time and money by burning less fuel, savings that will surely be passed along to the customer. Alaska passengers will have the option of two TSA checkpoints, one on the mezzanine level near the exit for the SFO AirTrain, and one on the main level. You will always choose the one that looks like it’ll move more quickly but in fact, will not.

  • Aer Lingus is bracing for a pilot strike.
  • Air Arabia began flying to Poland.
  • Air France will begin 3x weekly flights to Kilimanjaro via Zanzibar in November. It’s also opening a new lounge at LAX today.
  • Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith emoted wildly while telling its Paris/CDG hub it needed more jetways.
  • Air India became the latest carrier to mistakenly serve a Main Cabin passenger a meal that was intended for someone in Basic Economy.
  • Air New Zealand flight 99 to Tokyo/Narita made an unscheduled stop in Brisbane to pick up its CEO and 30 of his friends. He made it up to the passengers by serving drinks from the drink cart. Okay.
  • Air Serbia added its 10th and final — for now — ATR 72-600.
  • airBaltic had a good May.
  • Alaska will begin seasonal service from Portland to New Orleans next spring.
  • AlbaStar plans to add more B737s beginning in 2026.
  • Allegiant is pushing back its introduction of the MAX into its fleet to later this year.
  • Austrian Airlines operated its first Dreamliner flight late last week.
  • Bahamasair is looking to merge.
  • Beijing Capital Airlines operated its inaugural flight to Melbourne earlier this week.
  • Cebu Airlines is preparing to add as many as 150 A320neos.
  • China Southern will begin to codeshare with Qatar.
  • Croatia Airlines finally updated its visual identity, making many readers of this space very relieved.
  • Delta is finally getting Missoni to make its amenity kits, answering the cries of millions.
  • Global Airlines still intends to be an airline. Eventually.
  • Iberia is adding its A321-200(XLR) fleet to its Madrid-Boston route beginning this November.
  • JAL is improving its internet offerings.
  • JetAir, it’s been real.
  • Korean will divest Asiana’s cargo business to Air Incheon.
  • Lufthansa is beginning cargo ops from Munich.
  • Lufthansa City Airline replaced Lufthansa CityLine. Finally.
  • Mesa tabled a nearly $12 million profit in Q2.
  • Neos will wet-lease a B787 Dreamliner from Norse Atlantic this winter.
  • Nok Air is noking on the door of a $54 million loan.
  • Sun Country will add eight B737-800 cargo jets from Amazon. Presumably the aircraft came with two-day free shipping provided Sun Country’s Prime membership is active.
  • Vueling will return to Budapest this December.
  • WestJet is adding two more B737 MAXs. It’s also gearing up for a potential mechanics strike.
  • Wizz Air turned 20.

I told my neighbor I saw a deer on the way to work this morning. Upon hearing the news, he asked me, “How did you know it was on its way to work?”

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17 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport: AA Hungry to Strike, JSX Should Be Nervous

  1. “As with anything that the federal government does, this change won’t come quickly. The FAA will first….” A perfect summary of our government in action, and why nothing gets done timely. Unless there are (golden) pancake machines involved for the politicians.

    IMHO, Bob Jordan should not resign. And, Elliott should not assume that they know how to run an airline based on 2000 customer interviews plus a few others. The airline business is very complicated, thanks to the amount of government involvement around every corner (some of it necessary i.e. safety, some not). I agree with the post yesterday in that Southwest needs to maintain some differentiation ala the free checked bags. That is one of the primary reason that I fly them, particularly when you look at the fees that all the other majors charge. If you remove all of the subtle differentiators, what’s left but another major plying for the same passenger group.

    1. I will say that I do fully agree that Southwest needs to make some improvements to its operations, particularly in the technology area.

  2. The words ‘Southwest’ and ‘Elliott’ (the pirate, not ET’s pal) bring to mind ‘Texas International/Continental/Eastern’ and ‘Lorenzo’ (sorry for the curse word).

  3. What’s with all the stupid sarcasm on this blog now? The posts used to be fun and interesting to read, now they are just cringey and lame. Are you using ChatGPT to try and add humor?

    1. I mean it’s really only the Friday weekly review that Cranky adds humor to, which I do enjoy. The rest of the weeks post are serious.

  4. “Alaska passengers will have the option of two TSA checkpoints” – Is it correct to call the checkpoints at SFO, TSA checkpoints? My experience is that one of the smartest moves SFO made was to get the exemption to retain contracted security personnel aka “TeamSFO” as opposed to being forced into the federal TSA screeners post 9/11. SFO is my primary home airport, and over the last 20 years the screening there has been reliably faster and more pleasant than most other airports. (FWIW If OAK really wants to be the airport of choice they need to get the same screening arrangement as the airport on the West side of San Francisco Bay.)

  5. A few points to offer:
    1. A lack of flight attendant retirement age contributes to career stagnation.
    2. Anti labor mindsets were a catalyst in Boeings recent demise. I’m shocked to read, “President Biden could convene a Presidential Emergency Board to stop it.” Cranky, on one hand some are totally cool with people’s rights being waived via executive action, but isn’t this mindset part and parcel for the problems at Boeing? Boeing, the same company who shifted production to South Carolina and outsourced labor. But to be fair, FA labor is not as technically demanding as aircraft production, so on many levels the two are not as comparable.
    3. US inflation is insane, fueled by Covid bailouts, lock downs (less productivity), war, social programs, bailouts… flight attendants are not the problem for wanting their pay to track inflation. Labor is not in the wrong for trying to preserve spending power. Who am I kidding it’s not about right or wrong, this is just business right? Why can’t we all go back to touting DEI to pretend we care so much about people, which is the business of right and wrong. Ironically, MLK was a labor leader. He marched to improve working conditions.

    1. Current U.S. inflation is at 3.27%. Just below the long term average of 3.28%. Directly and negatively correlated to the fed reserve rate.

      And he mentioned DEI, so everyone – take a drink!

      1. The contract for American Airlines flight attendants, managed by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), expired on December 31, 2019.

        The average annual inflation rate in the United States over the last five years is:
        • 2023: 4.1%
        • 2022: 8.0%
        • 2021: 4.7%
        • 2020: 1.2%
        • 2019: 1.81%

        The cumulative inflation rate over that last five years was 21.28%. This means that, on average, prices have increased by about 21.28% over the period from 2019 to 2023.

        The DEI humor is a nod to conflicting priorities, on one hand we need skin deep diversity, because diverse opinions are a strength, but when that diverse people’s opinions prefer labor action, the executive branch should disregard their diverse opinion. It just does not work when these two opinions are in conflict. Does it?

        Special thanks to Cranky for doing such a good job. This post is to provoke thought, not bicker. Cheers.

        1. For the record, I have participated at the table in negotiations under the Railway Labor Act, on the management side. FYI, under the RLA contracts do NOT expire. They only become amendable. That’s why this process takes forever. Neither side has any motivation to settle early. Settling early is seen as either the company gave too much, or that the union settled for too little.

          The only time anything is going to get done is after the 30 day cooling off period has been approved. What really isn’t being reported (including here), is that at the end of the 30 day period, BOTH sides are released to what is called “self help”. Yes, the union can outright strike, or call for CHAOS action. But the company can choose to impose a new contract, or can simply “lock out” the work group and attempt to replace them with new hires. Given that there are some 20000 AA FAs, that’s unlikely. But, Northwest did actually do this when AMFA mechanics and cleaners struck in 2004.

          The union negotiates in public, the company does not. There won’t be any real action until both sides are released, and it gets close to the end of the colling off period. Our opinion was that a contract negotiation is like dividing a pie. There’s only so much pie. Question is, how does it get divided? The union has many factions. They might complain about starting pay, but they can’t not get wage increases for senior crew. Which seniority group has the most members. That’s where the union gets it’s money, from the dues. They will toss a seniority group under the bus to protect as many dues paying members as possible.

          AA has already offered to match DL pay. APFA still wants more, and they want retro pay. It’s easy to demand everything when there’s no chance of a job action. If they get released, APFA is going to have to get realistic about what they will agree to. I think you’ll see them agree to DL pay, if the company will agree to match any future DL increases during the contract. Retro pay is a non-starter. Even the Southwest FAs didn’t get it. I see a signing bonus of some kind, but that’s it. It’s time to release both sides. It’s the only way to get a contract. Personally, I’d like to see the RLA eliminated, but neither side would agree to it.

  6. “There is also a dispute over starting salaries for new-hire flight attendants and whether FAs will be required to smile when interacting with passengers or if they can stick with American’s trademark scowl.”

    Ah yes, the trademark American Airlines FA AAtitude. One of the many reasons why I don’t use this particular airline.

  7. So what becomes of the terminal 2 D gates at SFO? I assume Delta will stay on their little stub knows as the C gates. While D was usually overcrowded, it seems like it will be empty now.

    1. Bill – So Delta does keep C for its operation. D now has just Air Canada and Breeze. I assume more cats and dogs will roll in over time, eventually.

  8. So if there’s a strike at AA, what’s the date where this become likely? Aka when should I avoid AA?

    (I know the answer is aalways, but here I’m asking specific to the possible strike?)

    1. HSaxa – There is no known date. It would be 30 days after the National Mediation Board declares an impasse at the earliest. And we have no idea when that might happen.

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