The Latest Volley in the Frenemies Fight Between Alaska and Delta

So I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Alaska/Delta frenemies fight, and it has.  An email from Alaska Airlines this morning spells out mileage accrual changes for elites flying on Alaska, and anyone flying on Delta.  Elites on Alaska will be earning even more miles, which is awesome for us!  And then there’s the situation with Delta.

Basically, if you fly Delta on an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan with a cheap ticket, get ready to start losing miles!  Seriously…  Here’s the chart (click to embiggen)

as-dl-frenemies-mileage

This is getting interesting!

Even more interesting is that Alaska is strengthening their relationship with Skywest.  Not only did Alaska announce two new destinations and three new routes, but those routes are on Skywest using the new Embraer 175 (which is personally my favorite regional jet).

In a situation like this, it seems the the real winners are us flyers.

Posted in Airlines | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I am neither a good reporter, nor prognosticator

So I recently had some questions and posited some opinions in the Alaska vs. Delta frenemies shuffle that’s been going on the last few months – and I got some stuff wrong.  But not only that, I got some prognostication wrong as well.  So now I’m here to hopefully fix all that.

First thing is, Alaska has a good presence of people, all wearing Alaska clothing and manning the D8 gate at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  But just because they’re in Alaska clothing doesn’t mean anything.  I talked to one of the people that seemed to be in charge there as we were boarding the ATL-PDX flight, and she said that besides her, everyone else was outsourced.  They may look like Alaska employees, but they gate people are just as outsourced as the people handing the ground operations (tug, pushback, etc).  Well that sucks!

Not only that, but Alaska just recently announced that they are going to nix the Atlanta to Portland routes – I’m assuming because of load factor issues.  I normally travel on busier days – days where business travelers are out in full force (Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays), and the plane seems to be mostly full.  But I’ve taken the flight on a Tuesday where there are a good 50 empty seats in the back of the plane – not good if you want to keep a route profitable.  And obviously the route isn’t because Alaska just announced – in the small print when they said they were going to add SEA->BWI and SEA->ABQ to the route map – that they were discontinuing four city pairs, including ATL->PDX.

SUCKS!

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t suck for you.  But as someone who is on PDX->ATL on an almost weekly basis, it’s really going to suck for me.  At least I think it’s going to suck; the Atlanta employee said that they were lobbying to try and keep the flight.  I hope Alaska at least keeps the dual round trip frequency in Atlanta, even if they don’t keep it from Portland (the previous frequency was two round trips daily, one morning flight and one redeye).  Whatever the case, I’m going to have to start looking for more options when it comes to my weekly travel.

So there we have it.  A bit mea culpa from me.  But then again, if you’re relying on me to be the standard bearer of news, I’ll be laughing over in the corner.  ::grin::  I’m not bad – I just write that way.

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Who will make the next move in the Alaska Airlines vs Delta frenemies shuffle?

So there’s been a bunch of new developments along the lines of Alaska Airlines and their partner Delta.  When Delta started expanding into Alaska’s territories, things got bad.  Alaska started to retaliate, with some pretty bold moves into Salt Lake City, going from service just from Seattle to nearly every big airport in the West.  And just this morning, Today in the Sky is reporting that Alaska is offering double miles on British Airways flights between Seattle and London – while Delta starts that same route in a few days.

Delta and Alaska terminated their agreement for Delta to handle their ground operations in airports where Alaska isn’t as prominent, like Atlanta, Boston, and the like.  And what was Delta’s reaction?  They were all, “Fine!  I didn’t want to help out anyway.  Let’s terminate this thing early!”  And in Atlanta, they did just that.  Starting 2 weeks ago, Alaska has hired their own people to run the Alaska gate (moved to D8 from D14, though Atlanta airport still gets it wrong on the readerboards), and – I believe – Menzies to run ground operations.

But here’s the curious thing…  Why did Alaska hire their own people for two incoming and two outgoing flights per day in Atlanta?  Wouldn’t it be cheaper if they outsourced it?

Not if they’re going to increase flights to and from Atlanta!

I’m predicting that, like Salt Lake City, Alaska Airlines is going to ramp up their Atlanta flights, especially from Alaska stronghold markets like Boise, San Jose, and the like.  It just makes sense for them; they’re still keeping their partnership with Delta, and feeding passengers to Delta continuing flights, but they’re also making sure that they’re going to stay dominant in the airports that they count as strongholds.

Not sure if I’m right or wrong, but history will tell us.  But thing is, it just makes sense…

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Probably the ugliest volley in the Delta/Alaska “frenemies” game

So everyone’s probably already heard about how Delta and Alaska – once great friends, have slowly been turning into enemies.  And while they still are cordial to each other, the heat is getting turned up – but quick.  Delta has decided to expand their West Coast presence with flights going from Alaska hubs Seattle and Portland down to the Bay Area and Los Angeles.  Alaska volleyed back with majorly expanding their presence in Salt Lake City.

But the biggest volley by far (in my personal opinion) is the fact that Delta is going to start a shuttle between Portland and Seattle (end of the article) – a la Horizon Air, Alaska’s sister airline.  The Portland/Seattle shuttle is a breadwinner for Alaska because those that can’t “get there” from Portland (or the surrounding communities), almost always can get there from Seattle.  In my 1.25 million miles, the most popular route that I fly has been between Portland and Seattle.

And while I think at first, if it actually does come to pass (I’m wondering if Delta’s version of the “Seattle Shuttle” will ever really get off the ground), I don’t think it will be all that long lived.  Or if it does, I can’t see Alaska’s partnership with Delta lasting all that much longer.

A quick side note: With Delta coming back for flights between Portland and Seattle, the first thing I thought of was D. B. Cooper.  He’s the man that hijacked a Northwest Airlines (now Delta) Boeing 727 out of Portland, headed for Seattle, then disappeared from the plane and was never heard from again…  Hey – maybe Delta can dub their flights the D. B. Cooper Express!

Posted in Airlines, Airports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scuttlebutt on the AA/US merger – Thoughts?

So it should be no secret to those that follow me on here or on Twitter that I primarily fly Alaska Airlines.  I’ve been curious about the announced American/US Airways merger since day one – mostly because American is a partner with Alaska Airlines.  Not as strong a partner as Delta, but still – a partner.

As I was traveling on the new AS route PDX->ATL yesterday, I was talking to some folks on my flight, and the merger came up.  Specifically, there was scuttlebutt that, if the AA/US merger goes through, the new AA would drop the partnership with Alaska.  I’m wondering if this is true or not.

I couldn’t see Alaska dropping the newly merged AA, because it opens so many doors for them.  Hell, if they did, there’d be virtually no reason to fly from SEA or PDX to DFW, because there wouldn’t be any more continuing tickets (AS to DFW, AA or AE DFW to final destination).

This has me thinking…  So what do you think?  Think the merger will go through, and if so, do you think they’ll stay partners with AS?  Or do you think new AA management will force AS to drop the contract?

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let the merger-mania speculation begin!

So American Airlines came out and said that, instead of looking at options after they emerge from bankruptcy, they may start to look at merger options now.  Oh, the games that are just about to start…

Everyone knows that US Airways is out to gobble up American, but what about the crap that America West went through after they bought US Airways?  Just because they shed that America West skin doesn’t mean that they shed the attitude and other issues.  It actually got worse when you think about all the union problems and fights.  But can a merger with American do any worse?  Probably not.

And I can’t see American being allowed to merge with Delta, nor United; I think Delta is just spouting off, to be honest.  So that really leaves the only other large carrier, US Airways.  Otherwise, companies like Republic, Alaska, or Jetblue are just too damned small to justify a merger.

Unless …  I know that movement into Asia is the key to making money for a lot of airlines.  The only thing I could see useful for going with a smaller carrier – or rather two – would be if American bought out Alaska and Hawaiian both.  That would give them a toehold into Asia from both Hawaii as well as the Pacific Northwest bases of Portland and Seattle of Alaska.  But I’ll say it again – don’t touch my Alaska Airlines!!!!

Thoughts?

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

HRC Rankings of Airlines, Hotels, etc. and a Word about United

For those of you that aren’t familiar, HRC stands for The Human Rights Campaign, which is the leading LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) rights organization.  Okay, so you’re not part of the LGBT community.  That’s fine.  There’s 10% of the population that is, and there are people who will often choose organizations based on their corporate actions (how they treat women and minorities, including LGBT workers).

I’m happy to say that my 3 primary airlines (Alaska Air, American Airlines, and Delta) and my primary hotel chain (Marriott) all have a 100% rating from the HRC.  If you look down the list, there are others; Southwest has a 95 rating, United has an 88 rating, Hertz Rent a Car has a 70 rating, with Skywest one of the lowest at 15, and Frontier and Midwest both with big honking 0 ratings.  (Personally, I didn’t know that about Frontier; I was going to fly them in January to see how they’ve changed since the last time I’ve flown them in 2010; now I know I won’t even bother!).

Now talking about United specifically.

So they have an 88% rating with the Human Rights Campaign, which means they can do better.  And what’s the first thing they should do?  They should address the ugly issue that came up this past weekend where a gay couple was denigrated when trying to use a United Club in Denver, including being called “faggots” and “idiots”, among other stuff.

So come on, United.  Denounce this manager’s action and use it as a teaching opportunity for your entire organization.

Personally, I don’t see this happening.  I’ve flown United a dozen times over the last ten years, and every time (without fail), the customer service is downright horrid.  I mean talking down to passengers, at a minimum.  Last time I flew them, I was standing near the gate desk in SFO, and the 3 flight crew were ten feet from me – and were talking smack about passengers.  It’s like a trained thing for United flight crews; day 1 is emergency training, days 2 through 5 is “creative customer insulting”.

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shame on every airline – except Alaska, Hawaiian, and Spirit

This is disgusting.

Because of the House GOP having a temper tantrum and shutting down the FAA, taxes of 7.5% were no longer able to be charged to tickets purchased from the airlines.  And what did almost all of the airlines out there do?  Increased their fares by 7.5%.  That’s bullcrap.  Bullcrap, wrong, nasty, short-sighted, and just plain wrong.

But not Alaska, Hawaiian, and Spirit.  They passed the savings on to the consumers.  I actually purchased an Alaska Airlines ticket this morning.  And because the full-fare ticket (without the 7.5% tax) was less than the value fare tickets that I usually buy, I purchased a full fare – meaning more money for the company that’s being FAIR to their customers, and not just trying to make a buck.

So thank you, Alaska, Hawaiian, and Spirit.  Keep up the good work.  And the rest of you guys out there?  Shame on you!

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Filed under WTF?

Okay, so we all know that the airlines went fee-happy.  They’ve collected $5.7 billion in fees, which is “keeping the industry afloat”.  So you give them a bag to go in the cargo?  Fork over $25 or so, please!

But when they lose that bag?  They apparently AREN’T automatically refunding those fees.  I had no idea, whatsoever.  It’s just common sense that they would.  But they’re not.  At least not until new rules go into effect in August.  But Senator Schumer (D-NY) wants to go even further – if the bag is delayed, do it, too.

Alaska Airlines is pretty damn good about it, with their $20 credit or 2,000 frequent flyer miles for bags delayed more than 20 minutes after touchdown.  How about the big boys?  Wanna match it?

Posted in Air Travel, Airlines | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

So Alaska Air Wants To Stay Independent

At least according to something the CEO just said.  He wants Alaska Air Group to be independent while others consolidate themselves out of existence.

I think it’ll happen, but there’s a catch.  And that catch is, there isn’t an airline CEO with the gumption to try and out-size United Continental.  Let me explain.

Back when Delta and Northwest went to merge, that was huge.  Until then, American was the largest US airline, followed by United, then Delta and the rest.  Overnight, Delta became the largest, with American shrinking to number two.  Then came United and Continental; honestly it was just a matter of when, not if, once Continental jumped SkyTeam and went with Star Alliance.  See, United wants that old “feeling” back, but it couldn’t get there with a merger with US Airways.  Honestly, the government did United a favor, saving them from an arranged marriage with the ugly stepchild of the big-boys.  Say what you want, but US Airways is lowest in the consumer ratings.

So who’s left that’s independent of the big boys?  US Airways and American.  US Airways is global, but like I said – ugly stepchild.  American did the honest and respectable thing by staying OUT of bankruptcy and keeping promises to their people and the world by being obligated to the debts they have.  And how are they rewarded?  By having a stock price that is in the toilet, and being so unattractive to the market because they decided the honorable thing of not filing bankruptcy.  (Remember United did it like THREE TIMES in a very short period of time!).  The only investment/takeover that they can even get is from some guy who’s now under investigation by the SEC.

So here’s the thing.  American needs to make themselves over, and US Airways needs to get out of the gutter.  I don’t think that they’d ever merge; it’s just too different.  But I do think, if one of the CEOs gets enough gumption to want to compete with the big guys, they’re going to go for not one, but TWO takeover targets: Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Air.  Here’s why:

Alaska is big in the West; probably the biggest carrier up and down the West Coast.  They have 10% of their market in Hawaii; they went in to an already saturated market, established themselves, and are making a profit.  Who wouldn’t want to have those routes and that much liesure traffic that always seems to be there?

Hawaiian Airlines.  Sure, they’re up and down the West Coast to Hawaii, and they’re the dominant player there.  But they’re also making a major push into Asia.  And every airline CEO will tell you, if you want to grow, Asia is the market to tap into.  Hawaiian is doing just that.  But can they do it with a moniker of “Hawaiian”?  Not as successfully as if the name were “American”.  See where I’m going?

I would never see Hawaiian and Alaska hooking up.  But I could see them being taken over (Alaska probably through a hostile takeover, Hawaiian through some big wheel & deal).

So who knows…  The CEO of American has got to be itching to do something to compete with the big boys, and US Airways could do with a thorough identity makeover.  It could happen!

Posted in Airlines | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment