Cranky Weekly Review Presented by San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport: Delta’s New Lounge Means Business, Southwest’s Fiscal Outlook Goes South

Cranky Weekly Review

I know I said yesterday that the WestJet episode of The Air Show would go live, but… I lied. Instead, after Jon Ostrower spent two days at Boeing this week, we decided it was better to get that news out quickly. Have a listen, and if you love Canada, you’ll just have to wait one more week for that episode.

Delta Opens Fancy New Lounge in New York

What’s old is new again for Delta – about 15 years after closing its exclusive business class lounges, it opened its first Delta One lounge at New York/JFK this week with at least three more to follow, and it sure looks fancy.

Located in Terminal 4, the Delta One Lounge debuts at about 40,000-square feet and features a sit-down restaurant, grab-n-go food options, a wellness area with nine relaxation pods, an outdoor terrace, a roving staff member with a beverage cart, and a special viewing area where customers can watch Basic Economy passengers arrive at the airport and wait in line to pay for their checked bags all while betting who will get stuck with middle seats on their flight to Akron.

The lounge has a lot of New York-inspired elements, most of which won’t be clear to anyone unless they have Delta’s press release in front of them, but it’s nice nonetheless. Access will be limited to passengers flying in a Delta One cabin, Delta 360 members in any premium cabin, and international business class passengers from other SkyTeam carriers — until American Express eventually talks Delta into letting anyone in who’s ever used an AmEx card before, including those had something bought for them by someone else using an AmEx.

Delta is expected to open similar lounges, likely without the NYC touches, in Boston and Los Angeles later this year, with Seattle to follow.

Southwest Cuts Q2 Revenue Expectation

Southwest Airlines cut its revenue expectation for Q2 in a filing this week, projecting a drop of as much a 4.5% of its RASM for the three months ending June 30.

The carrier previously expected a drop — but only 1.5 to 3.5% — for those non-math majors, this is now worse. The airline said the revised projection is primarily from complexities in adapting its revenue management to current booking patterns in this dynamic environment, which is a very fancy way of saying it’s been getting its butt kicked. The news isn’t all bad for Southwest — it’s expecting an all-time company record for operating revenue when the quarter is over, but that wasn’t enough for a positive overall outlook.

Looking to the rest of the year, Southwest is expecting Q3 capacity to increase slightly, with Q4 capacity to fall slightly, and full YoY capacity to be up about 4%. The airline will release its full Q2 earnings report on July 25, and it’s sure to be a doozy.

Spirit Pens Spirited Response to DOT over DCA Slots

Spirit’s expectation that it would be considered a limited incumbent at Washington/National airport with regards to access to the five new slots the government is awarding to operate beyond the 1,250 mile perimeter — despite not currently operating at the airport — did not come through this week.

The carrier fired back at the DOT with its belief that it is a limited incumbent — and should be permitted to apply for the two slots designated for a carrier with that designation. Spirit had four slots it won in an FAA lottery from 21 years ago — it sold those to Southwest in 2012 — but technically the rules say that still counts. A limited incumbent is defined for slot purposes as a carrier which has more than one slot but less than 12 in recent times, which Spirit did technically have.

Spirit figures if it’s in for a penny, it’s in for a pound, because not only does it want in on the limited incumbent party, but it wants Alaska, the presumptive winner DQ’d for its codeshare agreements with American.

While Spirit’s arguments seem to have a point, it’s not like the DOT didn’t already know this when it ruled earlier this week, making Spirit’s work seemingly more about getting its objection on the record than thinking it’s going to actually do anything. The carrier’s proposal that each airline wanting a beyond-perimeter slot pick four passengers at random on a Thursday morning and have a Battle Royal fight to the death, with the last customer standing winning the slots has not be ruled on yet by the government.

Qatar Eyes Stake in Virgin Australia

Qatar Airways is considering a 20% ownership position in Virgin Australia, as it looks to make an end run into Australia after failing to break through in the market from its Doha home.

This is a second bite at the apple for Qatar, as the carrier Etihad was previously an investor in Virgin Australia, owning a nearly-4% piece back in 2012, with its stake growing to as much as 25% before Virgin Australia filed for bankruptcy early on in the pandemic and Bain Capital emerged as the new owner of the airline.

Qatar has been trying to increase its presence in Australia for a while now, but it has been held back by the Australian government. Taking a 20% share of the country’s second-largest airline would surely shake things up down under. A deal could be announced as early as next week, but would be subject to approval from those pesky antitrust regulators.

TSA’s Busy Day

Last Sunday, June 23 was a record breaking day for TSA as it screened an all-time high of 2.99 million passengers, begging the question why it couldn’t round up and make it 3 million…although that day is surely coming soon.

The previous record was set last month at about 2.95 million, with seven of the 10 busiest days in TSA history coming in the last month. We’ve come a long way from the dreary days of 2020 when the number of travelers in the U.S. even dipped under 100,000 for a brief period. The exact number for Sunday was 2,996,193 travelers, meaning we missed the 3 million mark by just under 4,000 — or about how many travelers stayed home when learning they’d be connecting through Newark for the day.

  • Air Canada is expanding its offerings in the winter to warm beach destinations because Canada in the winter is not warm.
  • Air France is adding 3x weekly flights to Kilimanjaro this November.
  • Air India is putting its A350-900 on its flights to London/Heathrow beginning in September.
  • Air Serbia will begin 2x weekly service to Guangzhou, its second Chinese destination.
  • Alaska will begin its codeshare with Starlux on August 16 if the government approves its request.
  • British Airways passenger Edie Barnes went into cardiac arrest last fall going through security at London/Gatwick airport. Once it was confirmed he was not a Basic Economy passenger, medics and other staff at the airport immediately leapt into action saving his life.
  • Breeze is blowing into three new routes in Florida — Burlington (VT) and New York/Islip to Fort Myers and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to Tampa.
  • Cathay Pacific flew a bunch of people to a bunch of places in May.
  • Condor signed a codeshare agreement with WestJet.
  • easyJet is making it easier for its staff to keep onboard technical logs.
  • Emirates opened a new lounge in Paris.
  • Etihad will begin a cargo route to Madrid next month.
  • Fiji Airways AAdopted a new loyalty program.
  • flydubai will begin flying to both Islamabad and Lahore in Pakistan beginning next week.
  • Frontier is adding much-needed capacity on the underserved NYC-Atlanta market, flying between New York/JFK and Atlanta at (checks notes) 5:45 a.m. Luckily for Frontier, there’s only about 55 daily flights between Atlanta and NYC’s 3 airports, so this flight is definitely needed.
  • Icelandair is beginning service to Lisbon.
  • JSX is undeterred by the FAA coming for its business model, adding service to Florida and going back to Salt Lake City.
  • KLM is replacing JV partner Delta on Portland (OR) – Amsterdam, launching 3x weekly flights in October.
  • Kuwait Airlines is beginning a codeshare partnership with Thai.
  • Lufthansa is adding a fuel surcharge to cover SAF’s rising price.
  • Neos is wet-leasing a Dreamliner from Norse Atlantic, for flights beginning in December.
  • Qantas is adding 14 gently-used Q400s.
  • Qatar was named the world’s best airline by Skytrax. Air Koryo and Aeroflot are demanding a recount.
  • Royal Air Maroc is adding flights for the summer.
  • SWISS named former Lufthansa exec Jens Fehlinger as its new CEO. His first week on the job he plans to host a symposium for airline staff to give an insider’s view on the difference between Lufthansa CityLine and Lufthansa City Airlines.
  • Transavia is opening a new base this December in Bordeaux. Remember, it can’t be called Transavia unless it comes from the Transavian region of The Netherlands.
  • United fixed everything. It also has an early leg up for a nomination for Most Clever Flight Number at the 2025 Cranky Network Awards.
  • Volotea signed a JV agreement with Abra Group, the parent company of Avianca and Gol, amongst others.
  • WestJet is expanding in Minneapolis/St Paul to add a daily flight to Calgary beginning in April.

Do you think in a parallel universe they just call it parking?

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6 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport: Delta’s New Lounge Means Business, Southwest’s Fiscal Outlook Goes South

  1. The comment about QR previously having owned a part of VA is incorrect. I assume you were probably thinking of Etihad, not Qatar. Qatar has never owned any portion of any Australian airline.

  2. “””””Do you think in a parallel universe they just call it parking?”””””

    Not Andrew’s best. Poor guy having to say San Francisco Bay Oakland Internation Airport must have rattled him this week……LOL

  3. Consultants hired by the state of Virginia released a report recommending that Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) discontinue commercial service and pivot to a focus on attracting aviation R&D businesses:

    Background context: The airport is down to a single carrier (AA 5x daily to CLT on Piedmont ERJ-145s). Various other airlines have served the airport, but have all pulled out. Delta had 3x daily to ATL pre Covid, but that’s not coming back. Avelo tried direct flights to Florida in winter 2022-2023, but discontinued that, likely due to low yields.

    Because of the low volume (so low total fees) the airport is losing millions of dollars per year due to the operational costs of running the passenger terminal.

    There are a lot of politics here, and I think it’s more likely that they find a way to subsidize continued passengers service rather than taking the consultant’s recommendation to discontinue.

    I thought it was an interesting case study of the challenges smaller airports are having in the new environment where small regional aircraft are so expensive to operate.

    1. In that area, don’t forget that ORF (Norfolk International Airport, which is closer to Cheaspeake, VA & Virginia Beach, VA, two of the most populous cities in Virginia) is < 30 miles (< 36 minutes) driving distance from PHF, and RIC (Richmond, VA's airport) is ~60 miles/minutes on the other side of PHF. ORF is a far more successful airport and more convenient to the bulk of the area's population. It's also worth noting that traffic backups on the bridges/tunnels that cross water are common, and locals largely try to avoid bridges/tunnels whenever possible.

      Given the above, as an outside observer with no skin in the game, I find it quite hard to rationally advocate for subsidizing (propping up) the Newport News airport at taxpayer expense. Should the Newport News area wish to subsidize airport access, this is a case where a dedicated, secure bus service from the PHF area (to ORF, RIC, or even IAD) would probably be a far more economical and useful service than propping up its own airport.

      There may also be 12- or 15-passenger private airport shuttles making frequent runs on regular schedules from the Newport News area to ORD, RIC, and/or IAD as well, especially given the military population in the area (similar to how Groome operates a shuttle from ATL to Fort Moore [formerly called Fort Benning] in Columbus, GA). If such a service doesn't exist, to me that would suggest that people in the Newport News area are fine driving themselves to catch a flight, and that the demand may not be there.

      As you noted, however, the local politics on each side of the James River (the Newport News area obviously wants "its" commercial airport to still have service) are such that I imagine that Newport News will continue to have subsidized (albeit largely unnecessary) commercial air service for some time to come.

      1. All good points.

        Also, of the ~1.8 million people in the metro area, ~1.25 million (~70%) live south of the James River (known as “South Hampton Roads” locally). The peninsula only has ~545k people, which is pretty small to sustain commercial service, even before considering alternatives that are within fairly easy driving distance.

        The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel across the James is a major chokepoint, and delays through the tunnel can easily add 30 min or more when driving from the peninsula to ORF during peak times. At the same time, that situation should improve a lot in the near future. There is an ongoing project (expected to open in 2027) to double the number of lanes in the tunnel, and add high-occupancy toll lanes to I-64 for almost the entire distance between PHF and ORF. For anyone who has at least 3 people in their car or is willing to pay the toll, driving to ORF will become much quicker and more predictable. That will obviously significantly reduce the appeal of PHF relative to ORF for residents of the peninsula, though it might make South Hampton Roads residents somewhat more likely to drive up to PHF if it somehow had a flight they preferred.

        There’s not much demand for bus service to the airports – almost everyone has a car, and driving to a central parking place to catch a bus to the airport would be more hassle than just driving to the airport, or taking an Uber there.

        My impression is that leadership sees the airport as a driver for certain kinds of economic development, and will likely find a way to continue to subsidize it on that basis. But I think the long-term economics, population trends, and infrastructure improvements point to consolidation at ORF.

        Anyway, mostly shared it as an interesting example of what I assume is a much wider trend. A lot of smaller communities should expect to lose air service as the current fleet of 50-seaters ages out.

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