October 2012 Archives
"Our San Francisco network, for lack of a better word, is completely covered now by Virgin," said Andrew Harrison, vice-president of planning and revenue management at Alaska, during an earnings call on 25 October. "They have launched on top of us in every market. So we're seeing some challenges there."
Where did all those gentle people with flowers in their hair go?
Alaska is not necessarily a large carrier at San Francisco - it only flies to Cabo san Lucas, Palm Springs, Portland, Puerto Vallarta and Seattle from the airport - but, as the primary facility for the bay area, it is an important destination for the airline.
Virgin has rapidly expanded its hub at the airport since its launch in 2007. It began service to Seattle - its first duplicate route from San Francisco with Alaska - in 2008 until it fully covered Alaska's network from the airport with Portland service in June.
This is not the first time Alaska's ire has focused on Virgin. The carrier led the push questioning its ownership structure with the US Department of Transportation in 2009, and maintained capacity in markets it shared with Virgin even when it cut capacity elsewhere during the 2008 recession.
Virgin did not respond to a request for comments on Alaska's comment.
With invested interests in maintaining their operations at San Francisco, both airlines have a competitive road ahead as they try to maintain their edge in the market.
The USA is about to make a big decision. Voters will choose largely between the continuation of the economic policies of president Barack Obama or those of challenger former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in a neck-and-neck race on 6 November.
US airlines, for their part, are expressing concerns. Executives at Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and US Airways - three of the country's largest carriers - mentioned uncertainty and a dip in bookings around the elections in their respective third quarter earnings calls this month.
"We're seeing positive trends in November [bookings] despite difficult comparisons and slow demand during the election week," says Ed Bastian, president of Delta.
"Corporate and business travel still feels like they're waiting on some certainty on the election and resolution of the fiscal cliff," says Scott Kirby, president of US Airways. He adds that the carrier anticipates a positive demand environment in the days following the election.
Southwest chief executive and president Gary Kelly probably puts the concern best: "We all know the political uncertainty. We all know the fiscal issues that the country faces and the debt, and the elections are upon us. And I don't think any of us can predict exactly where the economy is going to go from here."
"I think all the economic signals, as we see them, are very mixed," he concludes.
One thing no executive mentions is the possibility, however remote, of an electoral college tie. The resulting economic uncertainties could be just enough turn what is beginning to look like a positive fourth quarter into a negative one.
Here's to an uncertain next 11 days.
...really ought to be the name of Jordan's new year-round unified time zone after the country's government, in a fantastic demonstration of impulsive decision-making, gave everyone two days' notice that it's cancelling winter, at least chronologically.
Jordanian standard time is two hours ahead of UTC but, instead of reverting back to this time zone on 26 October, the government has decreed that the country will remain on summer time, pushing its clocks 60min further east.
None of which is likely to endear the cabinet to travellers on Royal Jordanian Airlines whose passengers are being advised that, as a result of the government's plan to extend summer to include, er, winter, they'll need to mentally add an hour to the times on their tickets.
"[Royal Jordanian's] instructions are meant to save passengers' time and not disrupt [its] international flight schedule," insists the airline.
Since the government hasn't really explained its reasons, it's hard to say what it's trying to achieve, so make up your own minds whether this is about brighter evenings round the Dead Sea or refusing to share the same breakfast time as neighbouring Syria.
Formed by the combination of three local service carriers following deregulation of the US domestic market in 1978, the airline formed the basis for what was Northwest Airlines' domestic network and Delta Air Lines' current hubs in Detroit, Memphis and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The new coffee table book The Republic Airlines Story: An Illustrated History, 1945-1986 by Terry Love (Schiffer Publishing, 2012) details the history of the carrier and its 11 predecessors over four decades. The picture and route map heavy book is a wonderful visual history of an important piece of US commercial aviation history that is quickly receding into the past.
Republic was formed by the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways in 1979, and grew with the acquisition of Hughes Airwest in 1980. While North Central and Southern grew organically, the merger of Bonanza Airlines, Pacific Airlines and West Coast Airlines in 1968 formed Hughes Airwest (Air West until 1970). Northwest Orient Airlines acquired Republic and dropped the Orient from its name in 1986.
Just think of the possibilities for retrojets at Delta, which acquired Northwest in 2008.
Love's text presents a detailed, if brief, history of the airlines with a strong focus on visuals. It is peppered with interesting historical facts, for example Southwest Airways (a predecessor to Pacific) testing the first commercial passenger aircraft instrument landing approach in the USA at Arcata, California, in 1947 or Southern's 30-hour long hijacking saga in November 1972 that prompted the beginning of security screening for metal in airports in January 1973.
However, Love is prone to statements of certainty. For example, he says that when North Central began looking for merger partners in the late 1970s the "only one that made any sense was Southern". He cites the two carriers' lack of overlapping routes, 11 common destinations, compatible equipment and that together they would cover two-thirds of the continental USA as support for this statement. However, other local service carriers existed that could have been merger partners with North Central at the time, including Frontier Airlines, Ozark Airlines and Piedmont Airlines, and plenty of airline mergers have occurred that do not necessarily "make sense", to the varied results of history.
The certainty in parts of Love's text reminds one of David Mitchell's comment in his novel Cloud Atlas: "All revolutions are the sheerest fantasy until they happen; then they become historical inevitabilities" - where 'revolutions' is replaced by 'mergers'.
Love also tends to overuse exclamation marks, which appear abundantly in the text.
Despite these points, the book does a good job at celebrating the history of one of America's well respected though short-lived airlines. It was subsumed into Northwest Orient in the midst of the airline merger spree of the 1980s, which saw venerable names including AirCal, New York Air, Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) and Western Airlines also disappear into larger carriers.
The Republic Airlines Story is a glossy and enjoyable addition to any airline history lover's bookshelf.
We know that it will use the 787 to launch new international routes where a Boeing 777-200 is too big and a 767 does not have the range, as well as on existing routes during off-peak seasons. The only new route that has been announced is Denver to Tokyo Narita from 31 March 2013 but more are expected.
The other planned international services for the aircraft fit the off-peak plan and include: Houston Intercontinental to Amsterdam (4 December to 29 March 2013), Los Angeles to Tokyo (from 3 January 2013), Houston to Lagos (from 7 January 2013), Houston to London Heathrow (4 February 2013 to 29 March 2013), and Los Angeles to Shanghai (from 30 March 2013). It will also fly daily between Houston and Denver, as United's 787 crews are based at Intercontinental for the time being.
United could really go anywhere next with its 787s. With its first five tied up through at least April 2013, I would expect some new low season routes, perhaps Newark to New Delhi, and maybe the launch of something like San Francisco to Auckland - a city that the airline clearly wants to serve - in the third quarter.
"We have been awaiting this day for a while and it's worth every bit of the wait," said Dave Hilfman, senior vice-president of sales at the carrier, during the rollout of its first 787 in August. "It's going to be extraordinarily successful for United."
But what is it about this event that makes it so vital to airlines and airports? Graham Dunn investigates this and how the Gulf region is so vital for route growth and expansion. On the way Graham also reveals some of the more interesting sights from the show, including meeting cricket legend Brian Lara.