Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Hawaiian Airlines Sets February Date for Alaska Merger Vote

2 months ago

Hawaiian Airlines shareholders will vote in February on Alaska Airlines’ proposed $1.9 billion takeover of the carrier.

Shareholders are set to vote on February 16 on merger plan that would see them receive $18 for each share in Honolulu-based Hawaiian, according to a securities filing on Tuesday. The purchase price is a 270% premium over the carrier’s share price on December 1, the last trading day before the deal was unveiled on December 3.

A Hawaiian Airbus A330 at San Diego Airport
(San Diego International Airport/Flickr)

Under the terms of the deal, Alaska plans merge with Hawaiian but — in a rare move for a U.S. airline — continue to operate both brands. The merged carrier would be based in Seattle and led by Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci.

Approval by Hawaiian shareholders is a key step towards finalizing the merger. However, the deal still must secure antitrust and U.S. Department of Transportation approval before it can close. Both of those are big questions given the Biden Administration’s animosity towards further consolidation in the airline industry; for example, the Biden Justice Department sued to block the merger of JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines.

Alaska and Hawaiian hope to close their merger within 12-18 months, or by June 2025.


Avianca CEO to Lead Latin American Airline Group Abra

3 months ago

Avianca CEO Adrian Neuhauser will take the helm of the Latin American airline group Abra in January. He will pass the reins of the Bogotá-based carrier to its Deputy CEO Frederico Pedreira.

Neuhauser, who oversaw the U.S. bankruptcy restructuring of Avianca into something of a low-cost global carrier, will oversee Latin America’s second largest airline group in his new role. Abra, which includes Avianca and Brazilian carrier Gol, is second only to Latam Airlines in size in the region. Neuhauser replaces Constantino de Oliveira Junior who has led Abra since its creation last year.

“I have full confidence in [Pedreira] and his leadership in executing Avianca’s next steps,” Neuhauser said. “I look forward to continuing to work with him and the entire team for many years to come.”

Avianca plane

Neuhauser’s promotion to Abra, and Pedreira’s at Avianca comes amid a broader management shuffle at the group. Oliveira will become executive chairman of Abra’s board in January, and current chairman Roberto Kriete will step down but remain on the board.

Abra, despite its size, is not as large as initially envisioned. A planned merger between Avianca and Colombian discounter Viva Air ran afoul of competition regulators, and Viva entered liquidation in June. And plans to incorporate Chile’s Sky Airline have yet to occur.

Still, Abra will fly more than 18% of all airline capacity within Latin America this year, according to Cirium Diio schedules. Latam will fly 24% and Volaris, the third largest airline in the region, nearly 12%.


Turkish Airlines to Launch Rebranded Leisure Carrier AJet in March

3 months ago

Turkish Airlines is moving forward with plans to spin off its leisure brand Anadolujet next year as its own airline, AJet.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of Turkish Airlines, AJet will launch as an independent airline with its own operating certificate at the end of March. Anadolujet, while its own brand, has operated as part of Turkish Airlines since its launch in 2008. The new AJet will maintain bases at the Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen and Ankara airports.

“We fully believe that AJet, with its new name, will become an important part of the low-cost aviation industry on global scale,” Turkish Airlines Chairman Ahmet Bolat said.

AJet Airbus A321
The new AJet livery on an Airbus A321neo. (Turkish Airlines)

Turkish has big plans for AJet. Earlier this year, it unveiled a 10-year business plan that calls for significant capacity growth at the discounter and a fleet of roughly 200 narrowbody aircraft — either Airbus A320neo-family jets or Boeing 737 Maxes — by 2033. To put that in context, Anadolujet operated just 87 planes at the end of September. Future AJet destinations include Cairo, Casablanca, Madrid, Muscat, and Shymkent, Kazakhstan.

“The low-cost arm of Turkish Airlines will have quite a growth story to tell potential investors; a growth story impressive even by the superlative standards of its globetrotting parent,” Airline Weekly analyst Jay Shabat wrote earlier this year on the plans for Anadolujet.

AJet, despite having the backing of major global carrier Turkish Airlines, still faces a competitive market. Pegasus Airlines is Turkey’s leading budget airline, as well as the largest at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport, and Lufthansa-Turkish Airlines joint venture SunExpress caters to holiday travelers to Turkey’s beach markets.

And Turkey’s major airports, including main gateway IGA Istanbul Airport, are actively courting budget airlines for new flights.


JetBlue Would ‘Love’ to Partner with Brightline Trains in Florida

4 months ago

JetBlue Airways President Joanna Geraghty said the airline would “love” to partner with passenger rail operator Brightline in Florida.

While she did not provide many details of what such a partnership could look like, it would likely include single-itinerary trips that combine both a JetBlue flight and Brightline train, and protections for travelers if either their flight or train is late. This could make the transfer experience between flights and trains smoother for many travelers. Many European airlines offer similar rail partnerships, including Air France with French rail operator SNCF and Lufthansa with German operator Deutsche Bahn.

JetBlue already offers similar joint itineraries, including protections for connections, with cruise operators and other partners through its Paisly travel products booking site.

Brightline train at Orlando Airport
A Brightline train at the Orlando Airport station. (Edward Russell)

Brightline began passenger rail service between Orlando and Miami in September. The trip takes roughly three-and-a-half-hours with four intermediate stops, including in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The operator’s Orlando station is located at the airport adjacent to Terminal C where JetBlue flights arrive and depart.

Geraghty, who was speaking at the U.S. Travel Association’s Future of Travel Mobility conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, said JetBlue would also be interested in partnering with Brightline at the Fort Lauderdale airport. That, however, would require a new train station and likely airport facilities to connect the two; Brightline’s tracks pass the terminal complex at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

JetBlue has large bases in both Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.


Riyadh Air and Saudia Airlines Partner Up

4 months ago

Saudi Arabia’s two national carriers, Riyadh Air and Saudia have entered a partnership that will start with a codeshare agreement, but go on to include much more collaborative efforts. The pair of Kingdom carriers announced the deal at the Dubai Airshow taking place in the emirate this week.

Along with codeshares, the deal will see each carrier’s loyalty program sync up so that travelers will be able to earn points or credits when traveling on codeshare services operated by the other.

Riyadh Air “Raising The Bar”

Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas stated: “Riyadh Air and Saudia will play a significant part in the growth of travel tourism within the Kingdom and so having the national carriers working side-by-side is the best way to accelerate and manage this growth.”

“We are confident that Riyadh Air will raise the bar in air travel and working in cooperation with Saudia will help us achieve this as we prepare for take-off in 2025.”

Riyadh Air was launched earlier this year by the Kingdom’s crown prince, looking to connect to 100 destinations by 2030 and significantly support the country’s lofty 150 million visitor goal that same year. Headed by the former chief of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, the carrier says it will create 200,000 jobs by the end of the decade and contribute billions to the local economy.


U.S. Senate Confirms New FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker

4 months ago

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed former United Airlines executive Michael Whitaker as the next administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Whitaker, who most recently was chief operating officer of Hyundai-owned urban air mobility startup Supernal, was confirmed with unanimous bipartisan support late on Tuesday. He is the first confirmed FAA administrator since former administrator Steve Dickson stepped down in March 2022.

“Whitaker is the right person at the right time to lead the FAA into the next generation of aviation,” American Airlines said in a statement. “His sterling qualifications in the industry and robust experience as a former FAA Deputy Administrator will be invaluable as the FAA modernizes our nation’s aviation system and maintains the highest levels of safety across the industry.”

The question of qualifications derailed the confirmation of President Biden’s first nominee to lead the aviation regulator, Denver airport chief Phil Washington. Washington, who was an advisor to Biden in the 2020 presidential campaign, was known as an effective leader of transit agencies in both Denver and Los Angeles. Senators, however, questioned Washington’s aviation know how and delayed his confirmation, which eventually led to him withdrawing from consideration in March.

Whitaker, in comparison, has experience at United, as a deputy administrator of the FAA, and in the emerging urban air mobility segment.

“Mike will take the reins at a pivotal time for the FAA,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said. “The national airspace is busier and more complex than ever and the challenges are many, from addressing serious close call incidents that have put the entire aviation community on notice, to the need to keep up the FAA’s momentum on air traffic control hiring and training, to continuing to be creative and collaborative with airlines to keep cancellations low after the spike in disruptions last summer.”

The FAA faces a shortage of air traffic controllers that was a contributing factor in the numerous delays at the New York-area airports this summer. Current forecasts estimate that, barring a government shutdown and a lapse in funding, it will take about five years to close the roughly 3,000-controller shortage across the U.S. Whitaker will lead these efforts in his new role.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with the administrator to address the critical issues facing our National Airspace System, including air traffic control staffing shortages and NextGen [air traffic control] modernization implementation,” aviation trade group Airlines for America said. “These complex challenges underscore why steady, permanent leadership at the agency is necessary, especially given the anticipated growth in demand for passenger and cargo air transportation.”


IDEAS: Emirates Launches New Initiative to Support Neurodivergent Passengers

5 months ago

Emirates and Dubai International Airport are working with local schools, autism groups and key stakeholders on a new initiative in an effort to improve the travel experience for neurodivergent passengers. 

Credit: Emirates

The ‘travel rehearsals’ have been designed to allow neurodivergent passengers to practice their journey through the airport and onboard aircraft, during which they are provided boarding passes and taken through security, to recreate the full travel experience. 

Throughout the process the individuals involved are accompanied by family members and therapists, with the aim of empowering families when navigating the travel process, whilst also providing key learnings for Emirates and the airport.

Credit: Emirates

One example highlighted by the operator is ‘Emirates superfan’ Humza Dabab, who is autistic. 11 year old Humza recently flew from Melbourne to Dubai with his family, and was treated to a ‘a VIP experience from Emirates’ ahead of his flight.

The travel rehearsals join a number of initiatives Emirates and Dubai International Airport currently have in place to support travelers with additional needs, including enhanced employee training, autism friendly routes to navigate the airport, priority boarding, complimentary parking and the ability to pre-order meals.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.


United Pilots Approve Contract with 40% Wage Increases

5 months ago

Pilots at United Airlines have ratified a new contract with up to 40% pay increases.

The four-year accord, worth roughly $10 billion over its term, was approved by 82% of United’s more than 16,000 pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association said Friday. Ninety-seven percent of pilots voted on the pact.

“I’m happy to give them a great contract that ensures we can continue the United Next growth that is creating great careers for everyone here at United Airlines,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of the Chicago-based carrier, on LinkedIn Friday.

United Airlines Airbus plane
Pilots at United have ratified a new four-year accord worth some $10 billion. (BOSSHEP/Flickr)

Pilots at United are the last of the Big Three U.S. carriers to ratify a new contract. Cockpit crew members at American Airlines approved a new agreement in August, and pilots at Delta Air Lines in March. All three accords have snap up clauses that make pilot pay rates equal among the carriers.

While deals give airlines stability with their pilots, flight attendants at at least American, Southwest Airlines, and United remain locked in contentious negotiations. And cabin crew members at American have approved a strike if their union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), cannot reach a mediated deal with the airline.

The new pilot deals at the Big Three, while lucrative for staff, are also driving up costs at the airlines amid increased questions over the travel demand outlook. Neither American, Delta, nor United have reported any worsening but some of their budget competitors, including Breeze Airways, JetBlue Airways, and Spirit Airlines have.

The winter is the period of the lowest travel demand for the major U.S. airlines.


Portugal to Sell Majority Stake in National Airline TAP

5 months ago

Portugal’s Finance Minister Fernando Medina kicked off the long-awaited sale of TAP Air Portugal Thursday with the announcement that the government would sell a 51% stake in the state-owned airline to the highest bidder.

In addition to monetary value, the Portuguese government seeks an investor that wants to grow TAP and its Lisbon hub, guarantee jobs, and bring additional flights to secondary airports in the country, including Porto. The government did not specify how much it values TAP at; Portugal nationalized the airline as part of its Covid aid package to the carrier during the pandemic.

“We want large-scale investors from the aeronautical sector, alone or in consortia headed by them, that are aligned with our strategic goals,” Medina said. “We do not seek to attract pure investments of a financial nature that are looking to get into TAP to then sell it or sell parts of it and we wish to reiterate TAP’s strategic contribution to the country.”

A TAP Air Portugal plane. (Reuters)

Air France-KLM, International Airlines Group — owner of British Airways, Iberia, and other airlines — and the Lufthansa Group have all expressed interest in TAP. The Portuguese airline’s Lisbon hub is the ideally located for Europe-Latin America connections, as well as for connectivity to Africa. The hub is seen as a sought-after prize among the large European airline group’s as they jockey for an ever greater share of the market.

“TAP has a very strong position geographically at the southernmost point in Europe towards South America, and they do have a very strong network to Brazil with 11 cities online nonstop out of Lisbon,” Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith said in May. “So it’s very interesting, and could be potentially eventually accretive to our bottom line performance.”

Portugal will first select advisors for the sale first with the aim to finalize the selection criteria by the end of the year, Medina. Talks with interested buyers will also begin but, based on the timeline he outlined, a deal is unlikely until sometime in 2024.


Allegiant Air CEO Resigns, Former Chief Gallagher Returns

5 months ago

Former Allegiant Air CEO Maurice Gallagher is returning to the top job at the budget airline following the sudden departure of CEO John Redmond.

Gallagher, who was Las Vegas-based Allegiant’s CEO from 2003 through 2022, takes the reins immediately. He is currently the airline’s chairman. Redmond, Allegiant said, resigned effective immediately.

Allegiant did not say why Redmond left.

“I am grateful to the board for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this incredible organization,” Redmond said in a statement.

Maurice Gallagher, Allegiant’s chairman, has returned as its CEO. (Allegiant Air)

Allegiant, which includes both its namesake airline plus the new Sunseeker Resort in Florida, and a travel business, has emerged from the pandemic stronger than many of its budget peers in the U.S. In the second quarter, it generated a $122 million operating profit excluding special items and an 18.6% operating margin. Spirit Airlines, the largest U.S. discounter, turned a 3.3% operating margin and Frontier Airlines an 8.2% margin.

And the outlook for Allegiant looks good. In the second half of the year — the airline does not provide third quarter guidance — it forecasts a solid profit on flat to 3% capacity growth.

Frontier and Spirit, which are growing capacity by double digits, forecast losses in the third quarter.

“We have built a management team headed by Greg Anderson, president, and many other talented and dedicated executives that is among the best in the industry,” Gallagher said in a statement. “This team is well-positioned to lead the company as we continue to set the standard for the U.S. leisure travel sector.”