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.
The United States may not fund airlines directly, but its laws help them succeed. Just look at Mesa Air Group, a regional airline that filed for bankruptcy protection eight years ago.
Back then, it was in rough shape. Its aircraft were dirty, and its flights were tardy so often that Delta Air Lines canceled a contract with one of its subsidiaries. Perhaps worse, Mesa operated an antiquated fleet, with too many turboprops and 50-seat jets, both of which had fallen out of favor among major carriers.
But in the United States, bankruptcy can cure all. And now, according to a new filing, Mesa is a profitable private company with a modern fleet and substantial growth opportunities. So Mesa, with the same CEO as eight years ago, wants to go public again.
This is not rare. All three major U.S. carriers have filed for bankruptcy protection within the last 13 years, and they’re now successful publicly traded companies. Some investors have refused to return, but many have given airlines another chance.
If Mesa goes public again, it’ll be interesting to see how investors respond. Regional airlines can be sustainable profitable businesses, but they have less upside than major carriers, which can earn $1 billion or more in profit in a good year. And regionals have been struggling to find qualified pilots, a problem that could get worse.
What do you think? Should investors give Mesa another chance?
Stories of the Week
Mesa Air Wants to Try Again for an IPO 8 Years After Bankruptcy: U.S. bankruptcy law is funny, right? Less than a decade ago, Mesa Air Group filed for bankruptcy and investors lost out. But now the airline, which flies as American Eagle and United Express, wants investors to give it another chance. Will they bite? Or do they have long memories?
Can JetBlue Cut Costs and Maintain Margins While Fuel Prices Keep Rising? JetBlue reported a loss in the second quarter, but that was because it took an impairment charge of more than $300 million for early retirement of its E190 fleet. Still, it’s not clear whether JetBlue is as strongly positioned, financially, as some of its U.S. rivals. Can JetBlue make up ground? Or is it too small to compete in an industry where bigger is almost always better?
JetBlue’s First Female President Wants More Diversity and Higher Profits: JetBlue’s new No. 2 executive is a woman. We know that shouldn’t be a big deal. But there are remarkably few women running major airlines. “It’s discouraging when you sit around a table and you look and you realize there aren’t more women in the room or people of color, without quite understanding why, because you look around and there’s nothing in that room that a woman couldn’t do as well as a man,” JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty told me.
American Airlines Legend Bob Crandall on How Mergers Led to Increased Inequality: Former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall hasn’t run a carrier in more than two decades, but he follows the industry closely, and the man has opinions. In an interview, he told my colleague Dennis Schaal he thinks the government permitted too much consolidation among U.S. airlines. “Every consolidation that occurs in every industry is accomplished for one purpose, and that is to reduce competition,” Crandall said.
Ryanair’s Summer of Strife Dents Profits: Ryanair is still making a lot of money considering it has faced air traffic control strikes, labor unrest, and increasing fuel prices. The European discounter made about USD$400 million in the first quarter of its fiscal year, my colleague Patrick Whyte writes. Ryanair might be in better shape if it made labor peace with its pilots, but it doesn’t seem imminent. “We cannot allow our customers’ flights to be unnecessarily disrupted by a tiny minority of pilots,” it said in a statement.
Aeroplan Announces New Loyalty Strategy After Air Canada Split: Aeroplan has been Air Canada’s loyalty program for decades, but in recent years, after a spinoff, it has been owned by a third party called Aimia. In 2020, Air Canada will start fresh with a new program, leaving Aeroplan without its key airline partner. But Aimia won’t close the program. Instead, it says Aeroplan will continue as a standalone loyalty scheme. How will it work? Skift contributor Grant Martin has some details.
United Airlines Is Winning Over Some of the Doubters: United may still need some help with its customer service and its onboard product, but financially, the airline is doing fine. Investment analysts are beginning to praise the carrier, not only for making money, but also for hitting its financial targets. I’m not surprised, because United President Scott Kirby is among the best in the business for maximizing revenue.
Nigeria Reveals Plans for a New National Airline: This has all the makings of a disaster, doesn’t it? Nigeria has tried for decades to produce a home-grown airline, without success. Will this entrant be better? I doubt it. Bloomberg has the story.
When Airline CEOs Try the Cheap Seats: This is a neat idea and impressive execution from Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal. He interviewed Ed Bastian of Delta Air Lines and Doug Parker of American Airlines, sitting with both CEOs in coach on one of their airline’s retrofitted Boeing 777-200s. The CEOs defended their segmentation strategies, saying the product is fine, but adding if passengers want a better experience, they should buy it. Oddly, Oscar Munoz of United was asked to participate but declined.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Skift Aviation Business Editor 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.