Differences in cabin crews

After yesterday, I felt I really needed to post this.

I fly primarily Alaska Airlines.  I think I’ve said this before, but I’ve never fully said why.  My flight on Delta yesterday should give you a good reason as to why.

Whenever I fly, no matter what airline, I always bring a $3 bag of Hershey’s Miniatures for the flight crew.  It’s just something that I do.  I have many flight attendant friends, and I know what they go through on a daily basis.  Trust me, it’s not always glamorous and fun.

So when I get on, say, a Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air flight, the reaction is always the same.  The person I hand the chocolates gets a big smile on their face, and they ask something to the effect of, “For me?  For us?  Really?”  And at that point, I either get a thank you or the biggest hug possible.  When I was flying American Airlines every week, I usually had the same flight crews – and often I would come down the jet bridge, and would here someone on the plane get on the PA and say, “Here comes the candy man!”  The flight crews on US Airways were almost as animated and thankful.

So I flew on 4 Delta flights this week.  Two of the times that I gave chocolate, absolutely NONE of that happened.  What happened?  The first time, the flight attendant basically rolled their eyes and took the chocolate, then turned to throw it away.  When I said that it was a treat for her and the crew, she “got it”, and said thanks.

Yesterday when I was flying home, I handed the bag of chocolate to the lead FA as I was boarding the plane.  What did he do?  Without asking or anything, he just turned around and threw the bag in the garbage.  I stood there kind of stunned for a second, then shook my head and walked to my seat.

I get people who tell me I should fly Delta all the time.  Why?  Seriously, why should I put up with the vapidity of a flight crew that many times a week?  It’s just not worth it.  As my seatmate on the plane yesterday told me, “I get treated better in Coach on Alaska Airlines than I do in First Class on Delta.”  And you know what?  He couldn’t be more right.

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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?

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My first prediction: There will be blood!

So it turns out that Delta is trying out a self-boarding process in Las Vegas and Atlanta.  I don’t know how the damn thing works, but it’s to “free up the boarding agents to deal with passengers other issues”.

Translation: We can fire more people and make more money.

This is gonna be ugly, I bet.  And as I said, there’s going to be blood – somehow, somewhere.  People are going to board out of order, take on a dozen carryons, etc, and this whole system will just gum up the works even more.

Automation is good.  Just not this kind of automation.

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Dear Aeroflot: YOU SUCK!

I knew that things weren’t all that good for gays and lesbians in Russia, but I didn’t know it was this bad.  In 2011, a gay male flight attendant started a GLBT organization for Aeroflot in response to the denigration of gays and lesbians in Russia, as well as at Aeroflot.

What did Aeroflot do in response?  They gave the man an ultimatum: Either get married to a woman, or lose your job.

What the frick, Aeroflot?

I know that I’m not in the Russian Federation, and honestly will probably never fly Aeroflot.  But I also know that Aeroflot is part of the SkyTeam Alliance.  Hey Delta, Air France/KLM?  Do you want to be associated with these people?  If you want to keep your business with the GLBT community in the United States and Europe, how about you dissolve your partnership with Aeroflot?  I know that I’m personally more apt to work with companies that support GLBT causes, and shun companies that either support or turn a blind eye to the abuse of minorities.

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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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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”.

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Hey Delta – want to make us happy?

I understand the Middle East is a hotbed of religion and stuff nolvadex tablets online.  But religion and business should never mix.  Ever.  That’s why I think Delta should tell Saudi Arabian Airlines to FOAD, then not enter the joint partnership.  Let me explain.

Delta is the main carrier for Skyteam in the US.  It’s a huge global network.  And Delta’s new partner in Skyteam is Saudi Arabian Airlines.  But what’s coming out now is that, while the article states “Jews” can’t fly to Saudi Arabia on Delta nor bring in any Jewish items, it should really say that any religious symbology isn’t allowed.  Other than Islamic.

Delta agreed to this.  And that’s wrong.

I know that I would never go to Saudi Arabia, though I’ve A) been to the Middle East many times and B) been requested to go to Saudi Arabia.  (Instead of traveling there, I made my Saudi Arabian customers come to me in Abu Dhabi).  But still; it’s the principal of the thing.  And companies still have principals besides the all mighty dollar, don’t they?

So Delta?  Dissolve your relationship with Saudi Arabian Airlines.  For the good of us all.  It’s the right thing to do.

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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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Why I think we’ll be saying goodbye to Horizon Air soon

I alluded to this in a previous post, but now wanted to provide the proof/thought behind my reasoning.  I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m a big Alaska Airlines and Horizon Airlines fan; I’m MVP Gold 75K, and travel at least one of these two carriers weekly.  That’s what saddens me so much to report this.

My last trip PDX -> ORD came just days before I started a regular PDX -> SEA -> EAT routine.  I always read the inflight magazines (Alaska Airlines is here, and Horizon Air’s is here).  Mostly not for the features or articles, but for the airline information in the back.  I was particularly struck with the route mapping in the back of the Alaska Airlines magazine as opposed to the Horizon Airlines magazine.  So much, that I’ll show you what I mean

Horizon Air and Alaska Air Route Map from the Horizon Air Magazine

This is the route map that everyone is used to.  It’s the Alaska Airlines and Horizon Airlines route map, clearly distinguishing who goes where.  The PDX->SEA Shuttle, of course is in red meaning Horizon Air.  While SEA-DEN is in blue meaning Alaska Airlines.  This is the route they’ve used for forever.  And the ones that customers are used to.

Alaska Airlines route map October 2010

The above is the route map in the latest Alaska Airlines magazine.  Notice anything?  Yeah.  Everything is in blue.  And the map indicates that these are “Alaska Airlines Routes”.  PDX -> SEA Shuttle.  SEA -> DEN.  All of it.  Alaska Airlines.  No indication of Horizon Airlines at all.  The only red on the map is now what’s shown of partner routes (Delta out of MSP, DTW, ATL, and American out of DFW and ORD).

I may be reading into this, but I think I’m not.  With all the hints of Horizon changing (Alaska Air Express, anyone?) that I’ve heard from my flight attendant buddies, I’ve been waiting for this.  Not happy with it, but knew it was coming.  This is just one more bit of conclusive evidence to that fact.

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When good business decisions go bad

Usually a company will make a business decision, evaluate, and then implement. I’m going to pick on a company that I personally love, because they are about to do this very thing. But they made the wrong decision. It’s about Alaska Airlines and their commitment to WiFi aboard all of their planes.

Yeah, on-board servicing is good.  Airlines make billions of dollars in “add on” fees.  In 2009, the largest airlines combined to make almost eight BILLION ($8,000,000,000) in fees ALONE!  So adding something like WiFi, which is a nominal amount of capital for a large return, is a no brainer.  Alaska tested a service called Row 44 for their WiFi service on N644AS, a 737-800.  And it was GOOD.  Excellent service, because it was satellite based, not ground-transmitter based.  I used it, several times.  Blazing speeds, perfect results.  I was even able to stream video from my home television via my Slingbox, and had PERFECT service.  How’s that for watching an NHL playoff game on a plane that has no onboard entertainment, sans digEplayer units that contain static content?

All was perfect.  Customers were happy.  Customers were able to use the service no matter where Alaska flew.  And then Alaska grew.  They weren’t only going to be in Alaska and the “lower 48” (plus Mexico and Canada), but as of this fall, 10% of their market will be service to Hawaii, from several West Coast cities.

And then Alaska threw out Row 44 in favor of Aircell.  A service that is LAND based.  A service that means NO service on flights to Hawaii.  And problems outside 100 miles of the 48 states, so as for Mexico and Canada service, not so much.  And even flights to the namesake state of Alaska will be hampered until you are in US airspace.

What kind of plan is that?  It’s a plan that’ not so good.  When you are going to admit that you are already going to cut out profit potential by about 15% to 20% (10% Hawaiian service, probably another 5% to 10% in service to Mexico, Canada, and travel to Alaska via Canada), that is a business model couched in failure.  But why are they doing  it?  Well Southwest wants to get their planes outfitted with Row 44.  So Alaska is going to get on the Aircell/GoGo In Flight Internet bandwagon along with American, Delta, blah blah blah.

Add WiFi to planes.  Good.  Sacrifice a good business plan for an asinine reason?  Come on, Alaska.  You’re better than that!

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