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.
Usually, when television news investigates a U.S. airline, insiders mock whatever the reporter has uncovered, complaining the segment got the story wrong.
But after CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a report Sunday about Allegiant Air’s safety record, the response was different. For the most part, insiders asked, “What took them so long?”
The program showed the airline has had more than its share of mid-air engine failures, smoke and fumes in the cabin, rapid descents, flight control malfunctions, hydraulic leaks, and aborted takeoffs during the past three years.
Perhaps the piece was sensational. Maybe it glossed over the fact that Allegiant is improving, by updating its fleet and changing its priorities. But it did tell the public what insiders have long known — Allegiant is less reliable than U.S. major carriers.
I’ve spent considerable time with Allegiant employees, and once visited headquarters for a briefing about safety. I doubt the Allegiant culture is as bad as the CBS piece suggests, and I suspect the airline is getting better. But the data CBS cited is real, and Allegiant has some explaining to do. It came out swinging this week, calling the piece a “one-sided narrative,” but perhaps that’s not the best long-term messaging.
Will this blow over? Or will Allegiant have a long-term revenue problem as people avoid it? Read my story and email me [firstname.lastname@example.org] or tweet me @briansumers.
— Brian Sumers, Airline Business Reporter
Stories of the Week
How Damaging Will a 60 Minutes Report Be to Allegiant Air? It is difficult to determine how the public will react to anything, but it’s possible Allegiant’s low prices and unique route structure will insulate it from major trouble. As I mention in this piece, the airline has no competition on about 80 percent of its routes. And it flies from airports, such as St. Cloud, Minnesota, that have no other airline tenants.
Southwest’s Engine Type Considered Among Most Reliable Despite Recent Issues: The Southwest Airlines engine that failed Tuesday, leading to one passenger death — the first for a U.S. airline since 2009 and the first for Southwest since it began flying in 1971 — has long been considered among the most reliable, and until recently, had almost a perfect record, experts said.
Virgin America as Standalone Brand Disappears Next Week: Virgin America lost its operating certificate in January, so it hasn’t been a real airline for a few months. But most passengers don’t know that. They will, however, figure it out next week, when the airline’s reservations system disappears. “It’s the single biggest milestone of the merger integration,” an Alaska executive told me. Some airlines make mistakes when this happens. Will Alaska?
World’s Largest Car-Seat Manufacturer Wants to Disrupt the Airline Business: Adient, which makes car seats, has entered into a joint venture with Boeing to produce aircraft seats. Why? “The reason we are in the airline industry now is because manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus have long been having trouble with seat suppliers being not accountable and not delivering on time,” an Adient executive said last week.
Delta’s Basic Economy Push Is Paying Off: My colleague Andrew Sheivachman covered Delta earnings, while I played around in mockups of new aircraft seats at a trade show in Hamburg. Andrew focused on Delta’s segmentation strategy.
Qatar Airways Takes a Stake in a Small California-Based Airline: Qatar Airways now owns a minority share — no one said how much — in JetSuite, a company that operates private jets and public charter services. This is an odd investment, but it should help JetSuite grow. “We don’t think we are going to raise additional capital soon or anytime ever,” a JetSuite executive told me. (Related: Read my interview from last year with JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox.)
JetBlue’s Venture Arm Invests in a Startup That Predicts Flight Delays: The company is Lumo, a Boston-based travel technology startup that has been telling airlines it can peer into the future and know which flights are likely to be delayed hours — or even days — in advance. Is this something the industry needs? I wouldn’t think so, but who knows. Skift’s Sean O’Neill has the story.
Meet me at Skift Tech Forum
If you know me, you know I can’t fake excitement.
So when I tell you I’m looking forward to the first Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley this June, I mean it. We’ll have speakers from all segments of the travel industry, but I’m most excited by the airline lineup.
Scheduled to speak are Andrew Watterson, chief revenue officer at Southwest Airlines; Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures; Mark Nasr, vice president, loyalty and eCommerce at Air Canada; and Linda Jojo, chief digital officer at United Airlines. I’ll be interviewing most of them on stage, and I promise to ask tough questions.
The event is June 12, in San Jose, California. You can find more information, including ticket prices and the other speakers, on our website.
I’m heading on vacation. We’ll still produce a newsletter next week, but it might not be as packed as usual. Bear with me. I’ll be back soon.
Skift Airline Business Reporter Brian Sumers [email@example.com] 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.