Airbus factory in Alabama?

Okay, so I know I’ve ranted in the past about navigate to this web-site.com/2011/07/19/hey-american-air-how-about-you-buy-your-namesake/”>“patriotically named” airlines that don’t fly American planes.  It’s a particular pet peeve of mine.  I mean “US Airways (brought to you by a European consortium)” and “American Airlines (soon to be brought to you in part by a European consortium)” – that bugs me.  We make planes here in the United States; airlines, how about you buy them?  Alaska and Southwest has been doing rather well standardized on the Boeing 737.  Continental was all Boeing, until United grabbed them up.  But hopefully with Continental’s CEO at the helm of United, that “Buy American” attitude will continue.

But all that may change soon…  Airbus has factories in France and China, but they’re about to build a plant in Alabama, in Mobile – the town I was born in.  This is cool – but still, it’s still not an American plane.  So it bugs me, but not as much as it did before.

Don’t listen to me…  I’m bitter since my two favorite planes – the Boeing 757 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 – were put to pasture.  There’s just something about being a passenger on one of the classic birds; just on your taxi out, you can feel how much the plane wants to escape the bonds of Earth, and glide along the wind.

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Paying Our Respects

I originally posted something similar to this over at CatastropheCast.com, but thought it should go here as well…

I’m not only a regular business traveler, but I’m an airline geek as well.  I have been my whole life; when other 7 or 8 year olds wanted to be astronauts and firemen, I wanted to be an NTSB aircraft crash investigator.  Seriously.

But I digress.

There’s something to be said about paying proper respect to those that deserve it.  It’s something nice, but doesn’t get done that often.  For example, did you know that one of the most horrific, largest loss of life airplane crashes on United States soil was American Airlines Flight 191, a DC10 that crashed in Chicago back in 1979?  There were 273 souls lost in that crash.  But as for a monument or memorial for these people?  It didn’t happen.  Not until a group of schoolkids got together and did a 2 year project, raising funds for it.  The memorial didn’t officially exist until 2011.

Another noteworthy crash, the crash of Continental Airlines flight 11, en route from Chicago to Kansas City to Los Angeles, happened in 1962.  The crash is noteworthy because it was the first time a jet (not turboprop) plane was brought down as an act of terrorism; a man bought a life insurance policy and then blew up the plane with 6 sticks of dynamite, the result of which started the era of passenger screening that we all yammer on about to this day.  But that crash didn’t have any type of memorial, either.  Not until fifty years later, when 100 people – including the surviving family members of victims and other townsfolk – gathered in Unionville, Missouri, and dedicated the memorial on May, 2012 on the 50th anniversary of the crash.

We owe these people something.  Something more than they’ve gotten.  For every significant crash (and where possible), these people shouldn’t be forgotten to history.  They should be honored, because their lives were not lost in vain; their lives, and the subsequent loss, has reshaped all of our histories.

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Who’s Buying Who And Merging And What Now?

So what in the hell is exactly going on these days?

First, AMR, the parent company of American Airlines (but then again if you’re an airline junkie like I am, you already knew that!), filed for bankruptcy.  And almost immediately, there were rumors swirling around about Delta possibly putting together a bid for AMR.  And then there were rumors about another group (TPG Capital), a private equity firm, also looking into buying AMR with the help of British Airways.  Finally, there was a rumor of US Airways buying American Airlines.

Now there’s a rumor that Delta is thinking about buying US Airways.

What the hell?

Honestly, now that Delta is tied up with Northwest, SkyTeam Alliance (474M pax/year) is very well positioned in the United States.  American, now the third largest airline in the United States (and probably going to shrink considerably based on their bankruptcy) is oneworld (303M pax/year), which is having all sorts of problems.  I mean JAL, long-time OneWorld partner almost bailing?  Wow…  And on the other hand is United/Continental and US Airways as part of the Star Alliance (604M pax/year).  And with United/Continental being as gargantuan as they are, is it really doing US Airways any good being part of Star Alliance?

What should probably happen (in my personal airline-geekdom opinion) is that any bid by Delta be tossed out.  Delta is already huge; should the be allowed to get even bigger?  But US Airways?  If they want to stay viable with the big boys, I think they need to do two things.  First, they need to bail on Star Alliance and join up with oneworld.  This would make the playing field a little more equal with Star Alliance (minus US Airways) at 543M pax/year, SkyTeam Alliance still at 474M pax/year, and oneworld upped to 365M pax/year alliance-wise.  That would be a first good step.  And then, just like Continental bailing on SkyTeam and then United buying them (keeping the United name but the Continental brand, thereby shedding a bad image since Continental was more well liked than United), US Airways needs to buy American Airlines, and shed their US Airways image (though take over the company, again a la Continental CEO Smisek taking over United post merger).

Just my personal opinions about what needs to happen with the big guys.  We’ll see how it plays out.  And in the meantime, maybe I should put together some ideas for the smaller carriers.

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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!

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The “ugly girl”?

Wow.  You know, for all that is wrong with US Airways, it’s weird that the CEO of Continental apologized for calling them “the ugly girl”.  I mean, there is honestly so much more that could be used.  First off, they’re not called US Scareways for nothing.  Sure, they have the hero, Sullenberger.  But every time I’ve mentioned having to fly them, people always ask if I’m going to be landing in a corn field.  Funny, I have no idea where the corn field idea came from (after all, it was a United DC10 that crashed in Iowa, leaving parts in a corn field nearby), but it just goes to show.  Not a lot of good press for US Airways.

But being called the ugly girl?

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What is United getting out of the Continental merger?

In a word: EVERYTHING

When you hunt around chatrooms and talk to people who fly regularly, there is not a lot of good that is often said about many of the major airlines (United, American, etc).  The thing is, though, Continental always bucked that trend.  They always ended up on the good side of the customer loyalty and comment section of airline surveys.

United?  They were always in the toilet.  They deserved it, though.  My flight on Horizon got canceled due to mechanical once, and since I’ve got status with Alaska/Horizon, they put me on a United flight, with a connection in San Francisco.  I got to my gate and proceeded to listen to the gate agent bad-mouth United passengers for 10 minutes — LOUDLY — before boarding said passengers.  And it’s not like she did it behind a curtain or anything.  She was standing AT the service desk, talking to other United people.

Yes, there are travelers that like United, I’ll give you that.  But they were the exception, not the rule.

Now it’s coming out that United is going to merge with Continental.  Honestly, it’s not a huge surprise.  Continental, United, and US Airways made up “Star Alliance”, once Continental bolted from Delta’s Skyteam (which the writing was on the wall when Delta and Northwest both went into bankruptcy the SAME day).  Continental bolstered Star Alliance.  Now with the merger, two big facts have come out.  Yes, the United name is staying.  BUT:

  1. The CEO of Continental, NOT United is going to run the combined airline
  2. The new livery for the airline, which does include the word “United”, is the old Continental livery (you can see it here).

This is going to allow United to turn itself around, both inside and out.  The old visual feel of United is going away, and the old way of thinking of United is going away.  So in a word, this is the surrendering of United, and a takeover by Continental — just not in name.

A couple of years ago, I predicted United would file for bankruptcy one more time, and then fade away.  Only half of that prediction is coming true.  With the loss of the leadership and the livery, United will be a thing of the past.  And you know what?  That may be a good thing for the airline industry.

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