The Skift Airline Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter on the business of airline innovation. We look closely at the technological, financial, and design trends at airlines and airports.
Brian Sumers writes and curates the newsletter, and we send it on Wednesdays. You can find previous issues of the newsletter here.
If you want to impress your friends with aviation trivia, tell them about Qantas flights 11 and 12, operating the carrier’s daily route between New York and Los Angeles.
You can only buy them if you combine the legs with a nonstop to Australia, a trick that allows Qantas to sell one-stops, with a connection in L.A., to travelers going to and from New York.
The route was in the news last week, with the U.S. Department of Transportation fining Qantas as much as $125,000, because in 2015 and 2016 instead of flying only its own passengers between New York and L.A., it carried passengers with onward long-haul tickets on two partner airlines. Qantas argued those passengers could fly on its U.S. domestic route because they had bought international itineraries through Qantas and the partner flights carried Qantas flight numbers.
This is a minor matter. But the incident highlights what’s probably the most unusual U.S. domestic route. The United States, like most countries, bans foreign carriers from selling tickets to exclusively domestic passengers.
Why does the route exist?
New York is too far from Australia for a nonstop flight, and while Qantas could put its passengers on partner American Airlines, it would lose revenue. Plus, a few Qantas aircraft sit at U.S. West Coast airports all day, in between redeye flights, so it makes sense the airline flies one to New York in the morning, and then back at night, in time for the next journey to Australia.
Sadly for aviation nerds, this route may disappear next decade, as Qantas has challenged Boeing and Airbus to build a plane capable of reaching New York.
Are you surprised these Qantas flights remain? Send me an email [email@example.com] or tweet me [@briansumers] with your thoughts.
—Brian Sumers, Airline Business Reporter
Stories of the Week
Boeing’s Newest Dreamliner Is More of a Regional Aircraft Than Its Predecessors: Boeing delivered its first 787-10 last week to Singapore Airlines. This is an important aircraft, but for different reasons than previous model 787s. With the 787-8, and 787-9, airlines have used the long range and relatively small seating capacity of both aircraft to launch new and unusual routes, such as Perth, Australia, to London. The 787-10 can’t fly as far, but it fits more people. Singapore plans to use its 787-10s on regional routes.
DOT Slaps Qantas for Violating Obscure U.S. Law: Qantas is still arguing it did nothing wrong, believing it has the right to carry domestic U.S. passengers, not only for its own flights, but also for its long-haul codeshare partners. The U.S. government ruled differently, taking a more narrow view of who can fly the airline’s New York to Los Angeles route.
U.S. Pilot Shortage Claims a Casualty: Will More Airlines Shut Down? Great Lakes Airlines shut down last week, saying it no longer could attract enough pilots for its Embraer Emb120 and Beechcraft Beech 1900D fleet. The Regional Airline Association, a trade group representing U.S. regional carriers, is warning some of its other members might meet the same fate. But will they? And how serious is the problem?
Alaska Airlines CEO Outlines New Measures to Prevent Sexual Harassment: Alaska Airlines has had two recent high-profile incidents with sexual harassment and assault, so it’s not surprising the carrier taking concrete steps to address the problem. Employees will receive more training.
Sabre Searches for Deal as the Air France-KLM Distribution Surcharge Looms: As my colleague Andrew Sheivachman points out, it seemed — at least when he wrote the story — Sabre was not yet ready to make a deal with Air France-KLM. “One has to wonder what the terms of Air France-KLM’s deal with Amadeus and Travelport really are,” he wrote in his Skift Take. “For now, it looks like the global distribution systems that took the new distribution capability seriously are reaping the rewards.”
Need the Toilet? LAX Bathroom Lights Tell Travelers if Stalls Are Free: Who says U.S. airports can’t innovate? Los Angeles International Airport has installed new notification lighting — green and red — outside some toilet stalls that inform passengers whether a stall is empty or in use. “We’ve all been there. You’re in the restroom and someone shakes the door, peeks through the crack, or looks under the stall partition to see your feet,” Allen Klevens, CEO and founder of Tooshlights (yes, that’s a real company name), told Harriet Baskas of USA Today.
The Qantas High-Flyer Who Wants Alan Joyce’s Job: The race to replace Qantas CEO Alan Joyce — who as far as I know hasn’t announced plans to retire — is a little like Survivor, the TV show. There are few internal candidates, and Joyce rotates them around different jobs at the company to train (or test) them. Alison Webster is the new CEO of Qantas International, and she said last week she wants to win. “Without a doubt I would aspire to be Alan’s successor,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Hawaiian Air CEO Talks About Service, Reaching Investors: Hawaiian Airlines has been on a roll, but there’s reason to think more challenging times may be ahead. Soon, Southwest Airlines plans to start flying to the islands, and fares may fall. In addition, Hawaiian has staked much of its future on the A321neo, a great airplane that’s having engine issues, keeping Hawaiian from adding all the flights it wants.
About Airline Breakfasts
This newsletter broke readership records last week, because apparently many of you have strong feelings about whether long-haul airlines serve breakfast too often. You’ll remember I wrote about how airlines tend to serve coffee and eggs on all overnight flights, whether they land at 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. It’s one of those aviation traditions.
I learned a lot from your emails and tweets. First, many of you prefer breakfast after an overnight flight, even when it lands in the late afternoon. You’re freshly awake, you say, and you want breakfast, no matter the local time. Second, I learned, there might be a financial angle. A few readers noted breakfast is cheaper for airlines to buy than lunch or dinner. Plus, it doesn’t pair with most alcohol, so a passenger served pancakes at 3 p.m. is unlikely to ask for a beer — another cost savings.
Skift Airline Business Reporter Brian Sumers [firstname.lastname@example.org] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.