Skift Travel News Blog

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


JetBlue Pilots Back Spirit Airlines Merger

2 weeks ago

Pilots at JetBlue Airways are the latest to back the carrier’s proposed $3.8 billion merger with Spirit Airlines. The combination, if it wins antitrust approval, would create the fifth largest airline in the U.S.

The decision to support the merger was recently approved by the JetBlue chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents pilots at the airline. ALPA also represents pilots at Spirit, however, the support is limited to the union’s JetBlue chapter at this time.

“The financial and market strength of the combined carrier represents an historic opportunity to protect and advance the careers of JetBlue pilots through the continued growth of the airline,” JetBlue ALPA Chapter President Captain Chris Kenney wrote in a motion viewed by Skift and approved by the union’s board on Tuesday.

(Ryan McLean/Flickr)

Whether the pilots backing will get the JetBlue-Spirit merger over the line is unclear. The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block the deal on competitive grounds, and a trial is scheduled to begin in October. The regulator argues that the combination would eliminate a competitor from the market that drives airfares down, which could hurt consumers.

A recent accidental disclosure in a separate civil suit to block the merger provided evidence that supports the DOJ’s argument. Lawyers for the plaintiff, in an incorrectly redacted summary of JetBlue internal documents, said the airline plans to raise airfares 24-40% on Spirit routes. JetBlue has denied the disclosure, and said that it was an “inaccurate picture of the facts.”

The backing of ALPA’s JetBlue chapter comes the same week that the airline reached a deal to divest Spirit’s assets in Boston and Newark to Allegiant Air if the merger happens. The aim is to reduce antitrust concerns at the key airports. JetBlue will also work with the operator of the Fort Lauderdale airport to make five gates used by Spirit there available to Allegiant.

ALPA is the second labor group to back the deal after the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents cabin crew members at Spirit, opted to support it in February.


Mexico’s Airlines Can Resume U.S. Growth Following Safety Upgrade

2 weeks ago

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the safety rating of Mexico’s aviation regulator to its highest rung, Category 1, on Thursday. That allows Mexican airlines to add new flights to the U.S. and resume their partnerships with U.S. carriers, including Aeromexico’s joint venture with Delta Air Lines.

The move has been expected for months with Mexico’s three main airlines — Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris — all eager to resume growth to their largest international market. They have been barred from adding new flights and destinations since the FAA downgraded Mexico to Category 2 in May 2021.

Volaris and Aeromexico jets at the Morelia airport
Volaris and Aeromexico can resume growth to the U.S. (Rod ajl/Wikimedia)

TD Cowen analyst Helane Becker, citing conversations with Volaris management the week before, wrote Tuesday that she expects the budget airline to add flights on existing routes and expand U.S. flying from its Guadalajara hub following the safety rating upgrade. New flights would likely begin in the fourth quarter, or by December. Volaris is Mexico’s largest airline.

In addition to new flights, Volaris is expected to begin a delayed codeshare partnership with Frontier Airlines with the safety rating change. And Viva Aerobus could now implement its proposed joint venture with Allegiant Air if U.S. authorities sign off; U.S. review is on pause due to concerns over Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s efforts to move cargo airlines to Mexico City’s new Felipe Angeles airport from Mexico City International Airport.


IDEAS: Air France to Celebrate 90th Anniversary With Fashion Exhibition in Paris 

3 weeks ago

Air France is set to commemorate its 90th anniversary with a fashion exhibition that will take over the window display at the Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann.  

The exhibition, which will run from 28 September to 10 October 2023, will showcase five dresses designed by Xavier Ronze, head of the costume design workshops at the Paris Opera Ballet. 

Credit: Air France

The designer took inspiration for the dresses from the signature hallmarks of the airline, including aircraft and technology, uniforms and fashion, its iconic posters, fine dining and tableware, and design and architecture.

In addition to the window display, the exhibition will also feature a selection of vintage Air France memorabilia, as well as a number of pop-up stores carrying items that have been specially created or reissued to commemorate the anniversary.

Visitors will also have the chance to attend real fashion shows retracing the company’s uniform heritage, with models dressed in the uniforms of pilots, cabin crew, airport staff and mechanics taking over a dedicated area of the store.

Air France boasts a rich history of collaborating with famous fashion houses to design its crew uniforms, encapsulating the essence of ‘French elegance’, as demonstrated in the video below:

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.


IDEAS: Oman Air Introduces Eco-Friendly Alternative to Plastic Cabin Packaging

4 weeks ago

Oman Air has introduced a new initiative across its fleet, which sees the plastic used to wrap passenger blankets and mattresses in its premium cabins replaced with an friendly, paper-based alternative.

Credit: Oman Air

The introduction of the paper bands will result in a reduction of up to 21.6 ton of plastic per year, according to a release from the carrier.

“In a concerted effort guided by our in-house experts and bolstered by collaborations with partners and vendors, we have successfully achieved another milestone in our sustainability efforts. This pivotal step aligns seamlessly with our corporate strategy to reduce waste and choose more environmentally friendly products, reflecting our commitment to national sustainability goals,” said Captain Nasser bin Ahmed Salmi, acting chief executive officer at Oman Air.

The initiative forms part of a wider initiative for Oman Air, as it aims to phase out the use of single-use plastics on board its aircrafts, including plastic sleeves used to load cutlery and reducing plastic water bottles and cuplets by up to 50% on certain routes. In 2023, it has also replaced 80% of its in-flight service carts with lightweight alternatives, providing a considerable boost to fuel efficiency.

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.


TSA Expects U.S. Summer Flier Numbers to Beat 262 Million Record

4 weeks ago

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration expects the number of travelers passing through airport checkpoints to beat, if only slightly, the record of 262 million set four years ago.

The TSA screened nearly 228 million travelers from Memorial Day through August 29, or an average or roughly 2.5 million people a day, it said on Tuesday. The agency forecasts another 14 million more travelers passing through airport checkpoints over the six-day Labor Day holiday weekend from September 1-6. That equals roughly 242 million travelers from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The balance of screenings needed to exceed 2019 numbers by roughly 1% — the agency’s growth forecast — are likely to come from adjustments between initial reports and final volumes, a TSA spokesperson said.

BWI TSA Security
A TSA checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. (Edward Russell/Skift)

For the Labor Day weekend holiday, the unofficial end of summer in the U.S., the TSA expects 11% more screenings than last year, Administrator David Pekoske said.

“We are prepared for the increase in travel volumes and are working closely with our airline and airport partners to make sure we are maintaining our wait time standards of 30 minutes and under for standard screening lanes, and 10 minutes and under for TSA PreCheck lanes,” he said. “There are occasions where wait times may be longer, so we encourage you to arrive early, pack your patience and reach out to us before arriving to the airport if you have any questions on our security procedures or items you may bring.”

American Airlines forecasts carrying 3.5 million travelers from August 31 through September 5, and Untied Airlines 2.8 million travelers over the same period.


AirAsia in the Black But Recovery Slowed by Aircraft Market Shortages

4 weeks ago

Southeast Asian budget airline AirAsia was back in the black in the second quarter but its rebound was slowed by the global shortage in aircraft parts and other supplies.

The aviation business of Malaysia-based Capital A, which includes subsidiaries in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, posted an earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) profit of $87 million (405 million Malaysian ringgit) in the June quarter. That was more than double the result last year, and down just 7% from its 2019 profit. The group took full control of its four subsidiaries, consolidating them under the AirAsia Aviation Group name, during the quarter.

The profit growth was buoyed by unit revenues, or the amount AirAsia makes flying a passenger one kilometer, that were up 32% from 2019 levels. Lower than expected capacity, which stood at 74% of pre-Covid levels, helped drive the unit revenue increase.

An AirAsia plane
(Laurent ERRERA/Wikimedia Commons)

The airline flew just 146 aircraft at the end of June, or about 54 fewer than in 2019. It attributed that number to the supply chain shortages affecting the industry globally and added maintenance needs as it fleet ages.

AirAsia plans to reactivate its remaining 54 aircraft by the end of the year, it said. A new subsidiary in Cambodia, AirAsia Cambodia, is set to launch imminently, AirAsia Aviation Group CEO Bo Lingam said.

The airline is preparing for its seasonally stronger third and fourth quarters, with unit revenues expected to rise through the end of the year. That could drive higher revenue and profits at Capital A as long as potential cost increases do not exceed the revenue improvements.

Capital A as a whole reported an EBITDA profit of roughly $100 million. And while its airlines were by far its largest businesses, newer segments like its Superapp saw revenue double from last year to $19 million; EBITDA profit for the app business was $8.6 million.


American Airlines Pilots Approve New Contract Worth Nearly $10 Billion

1 month ago

Pilots at American Airlines approved a new contract Monday worth $9.6 billion over its four-year term, making the carrier the second of the major U.S. carrier after Delta Air Lines to finalize a new pilot accord.

But the deal was hardly a slam dunk for the Allied Pilots Association (APA) that represents the roughly 13,900 pilots at American. Only 72.7% of crew members voted for the deal, according to the union with the balance voting against. Ninety-five percent of pilots voted.

One sticking point among pilots was the failure of the deal to provide them with additional scheduling flexibility.

The contract will raise wages 44% over its term, but it is expected to boost wages by 47% once a snap-up provision is implemented to match rates at Delta and United Airlines. Pilots at American will see an immediate more than 21% pay jump under the deal. It also includes $1.2 billion in retroactive pay and bonuses.

American CEO Robert Isom called the ratification a “great day” for the airline and its pilots in a statement Monday. He added that it would allow the carrier to expand its training capacity, something that was a chokepoint for American to fully recover from the pandemic in 2021 and 2022.

A previous tentative agreement between the APA and American was put on hold after United reached its own tentative deal in July. Following additional talks between the airline and union, the carrier agreed to match the wages offered by United and Delta.

Pilots at Delta ratified a four-year contract of their own in March. That deal included up to 34% pay increases, as well as a snap up provision that meant Delta would match any higher rate set by either American or United. Roughly 78% of pilots at the Atlanta-based carrier voted in favor of the accord.

While the pilot deals were needed to secure labor peace for the airlines, they are also a big contributor to rapidly rising costs. Unit costs, excluding fuel and special items, at American were up 16% from 2019 levels in the second quarter and are forecast to increase another 2-4% in the third quarter. The outlook includes the new labor agreement.

American and other airlines have largely offset the cost increases they’re seeing with higher fares. But fares have begun to fall and the industry has yet to pullback on its post-pandemic capacity growth, which puts further downward pressure on airfares if travel demand does not keep rising.

(IMF Photo/Cory Hancock)

Updated with additional details of the new agreement, statement from American CEO Robert Isom, and background on the negotiations.


Finnair CEO Resigns for Job in Digital Sector

1 month ago

Finnair CEO Topi Manner will end his nearly five-year tenure at the helm of the airline to lead Finnish telecom and digital services company Elisa.

Manner will continue in his role until a successor is named or March 1, 2024, whichever comes first, Finnair said Friday. The airline has begun the search for a new CEO, it added.

Finnair CEO Topi Manner. (Finnair)

Manner took the helm of Finnair in 2019 and led it through, first, the Covid-19 pandemic that shut many of its main markets in Asia to international travel. Then, second, he faced the closure of Russian airspace that drastically altered where and how the airline could fly. Despite these challenges, it is widely agreed that Finnair is succeeding at restructuring its business; the carrier posted a €66 million ($72 million) operating profit and 8.8% operating margin in the second quarter.

Part of Finnair’s transformation includes pivoting away from some its bread-and-butter routes to Asia, and adding new flights to North America, India, and the Middle East. The airline has forged a new partnership with Qatar Airways, as well.

“Topi Manner has done a stellar job with his team in leading Finnair through the double crises of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of Russian airspace,” said Sanna Suvanto-Harsaae, the chair of Finnair board of directors. “Finnair has emerged from the double crises as a strong airline, as witnessed by our [second quarter] financial performance.”


American and Delta Add China Flights as Restrictions Ease

1 month ago

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines will both add more flights to China this fall and winter as geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China begin easing.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American will add three weekly nonstops for a single daily flight on the Dallas-Fort Worth-Shanghai route in January, an airline spokesperson said Wednesday. And Atlanta-based Delta will add six weekly flights for a total of 10 — once daily Seattle-Shanghai and thrice-weekly Detroit-Shanghai — on October 29, the carrier also said Wednesday.

The additions come less than a week after U.S. and Chinese officials agreed to double the number of nonstop flights between the two countries to 48 a week — 24 for airlines of each country — from October 29. A sticking point in negotiations has been U.S. demands that flights on Chinese airlines to the U.S. avoid Russian airspace, which U.S. carriers are barred from crossing. Flights were capped at 24 a week since China eased Covid-19 travel restrictions in January.

Delta plane lands in Shanghai
A Delta Boeing 777 lands at Shanghai’s Pudong airport in 2018. (hans-johnson/Flickr)

Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and United Airlines have also outlined plans to add more flights since the new frequency limit was unveiled. The three Chinese carriers each plan to operate five weekly flights through October 28, while United plans to offer at least eight weekly flights between San Francisco and both Beijing and Shanghai from November.

The flight limits have been blamed for stymieing the recovery of Chinese visitor flows to the U.S. The segment generated some $35 billion in annual spending in American cities before the pandemic.

“There won’t be a post-Covid recovery without China because it’s our number one spend market,” Brand USA President and CEO Chris Thompson said earlier in August.

Foreign airlines, like All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air, that lack the frequency restrictions their U.S. and Chinese competitors face have picked up connecting traffic on their China flights. ANA President and CEO Shinichi Inoue said in June that the U.S.-China restrictions had created “new demand” for the airline.

In 2019, there were more than 50 daily nonstop flights — or more than 360 weekly frequencies — between the U.S. and China, according to Cirium Diio schedules.


Devastating Maui Fires Likely to Dampen Airline Demand for Extended Period

2 months ago

The deadly wildfires on the island of Maui are likely to affect visitor — and airline — demand to the island for the “foreseeable future,” analysts at T.D. Cowen said Friday.

“Resort destinations in Maui are likely to disappear from plans for the foreseeable future, but we believe Hawaii overall will remain an aspirational vacation destination for travelers,” they wrote in a report. The analysts expect the recovery to “take years,” citing as an example the two-year recovery in air travel demand to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma hit the island in 2017.

The wildfires, believed to have been fueled by high winds from a hurricane that passed near the Hawaiian islands, leveled the historic town of Lahaina, killing at least 55 people and displacing thousands on Wednesday. The region of West Maui affected is isolated with just one road in and out.

Relief supplies for Maui being loaded on a Hawaiian Airlines plane. (Hawaiian Airlines)

The outlook is tough news for Hawaiian Airlines, which is the largest airline on the island and operates a secondary hub at Maui’s main airport of Kahului. T.D. Cowen expects the impact the be “meaningful” for the carrier. Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines — the second, third, and fourth largest airlines to the island — are also likely to feel the affect of less demand to Maui.

“We expect capacity to shift away from Maui as a destination and to Oahu, [and] the Big Island,” the T.D. Cowen analysts wrote. “Kauai may also benefit.”

Most airlines have stopped carrying non-essential travelers — or all passengers in some cases — to Maui. Instead, they have been transporting supplies to the island from the mainland U.S., and filling departing flights with those eager to leave the island after the fires. Hawaiian and Southwest are offering seats for just $19 between Kahului and Honolulu.

Airlines have all waived change fees for certain previously booked tickets to Maui, and some are offering rebooking flexibility, including allowing travelers to change their destination in Hawaii free of charge. As of Friday morning, American Airlines‘ waiver applied to trips scheduled by August 13; Alaska and Delta Air Lines by August 15; Hawaiian and United by August 31; and Southwest by September 4.

Non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged for the time being.




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