So why am I so hard on Delta Airlines?

If you follow my twitter feed, then you’ll note that as of late, I’ve had some not very nice things to say about Delta.  Now don’t get me wrong; they are a big airline, and they have a very nice route map.  But I have to say it’s not the route map or the size of the airline that you get to know – it’s the people that fly with you in the sky.  And I have to say that the experiences I’ve have had over the just the last two weeks is enough to make me say, “ENOUGH, ALREADY!”

It’s no secret that I give each flight crew that I fly with a bag of chocolates.  Just a little $3.50 bag of Hershey’s Miniatures that I buy every week, and then give them to the crew.  As you’ll find out in the official AirSnark book that’ll be out late this year or early next year, I’ve had only a handful of bad experiences.  For instance, I was boarding a flight and handed the lead FA (flight attendant) that was greeting us boarding passengers a bag of chocolate.  They look at it, looked at me, and then said, “Well okay then,” and then tossed the bag in the trash.

I thought that was a one-off, but no, Delta tries to go that much further.  When I flew out of Portland last weekend, I handed the lead FA a bag of chocolates, which they accepted with a smile.  When that FA found me ten minutes later, she turned to the FA behind her and said, “This is the nice gentleman that brought us the chocolates.”

The second FA just looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, “People’ll do anything for a free drink these days.”

Listen, asshat – screw you.  I don’t do it for a drink.  You can ask FAs that I’ve flown with on many, many occasions; I actually rarely ask for anything, food or drink.  I’m probably one of the most low-key/low-need passengers that you’ll ever fly with.  But no, this guy just knew that I was trying to “gain the system” or something for a free drink, when all I was trying to do was do something nice to brighten up someone’s day.

Coming home Thursday, the unthinkable happened again.  Except this time, the lead FA didn’t say a work – they just dumped the bag of candy in the trash.

Just because you’re one of the biggest airlines, and you have a monopoly on the busiest airport in the world doesn’t mean you have the right to be an asshole to your passengers.  Unless you’re trying to alienate them and get them to fly your competitors.  But at least in my case, it’s working.  I’m going out of my way (and saving the client $450/week in airfare) by flying into a secondary airport for my final destination, all because Delta has probably the worst reputation of any one of the majors when it comes to customer service in the sky – where it matters.

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The AA/US Merger Is Finalized!

So if you’ve been a frequent flyer of either American or US Airways, you probably just got notice that the merger between the two giants, making the largest airline in the world.  But it’s only done on paper; there are going to be years before anything really substantial happens.

The letter emailed out today says that the biggest change will be that US Airways will join oneworld Alliance on March 31st, 2014.  I knew that was going to be the case, but it’s still good to see it in writing.  Otherwise you’d have two of the three largest US airlines in the Star Alliance network – which wouldn’t be good.  And finally we’re going to see a beefed up answer to Skyteam and Star Alliance with the newly formed AA/US merger and oneworld Alliance.  Other than that, there shouldn’t be too many visible differences for a couple of years.  It took a couple of years for TWA to be fully absorbed by American, so I foresee the same thing happening with US Airways and American.

And now the real speculation begins.

So there’s always been scuttlebutt about the fate of Phoenix.  I think that, like Northwest’s Memphis hub, it will slowly become a focus city, with more flights funneled through DFW.  Whenever I’ve talked to people who work for America West (because AW/US still haven’t integrated crews, etc, even after all these years), they’ve acknowledged that the Phoenix hub doesn’t make a lot of money.  So honestly, I think there will be lesser emphasis on Phoenix, and more on DFW.  That means good things for carriers like Alaska and Southwest, both of which have expanded in the Phoenix market.

Speaking of Alaska Airlines, I’m wondering how this is going to affect them,  especially with the way they are maintaining their ‘frenemy’ relationship with Delta.  Delta is taking aim at Alaska, expanding in their primary Portland and Seattle markets, with Alaska taking aim at Salt Lake City.  Right now in markets where Alaska has a smaller presence, they contract with Delta to do a lot of their groundwork (checkin, luggage handling, boarding, etc.).  But say this merger with American and US Airways goes well, and Alaska – hedging their bets – keeps strategic partners with both Delta and the new American?  Maybe Alaska will move gates in Dallas /Ft. Worth and Atlanta and have American do the work that Delta is doing now?  And with the big expansion in SLC, I can foresee Alaska hiring their own employees in Utah instead of outsourcing to Delta; they’re going from 4 flights a day (2 incoming, 2 outgoing) all the way up to 18 flights a day (9 incoming, 9 outgoing) starting in June 2014.  With that much time to prepare, and with flights coming & going from 7am to 10:45pm, I bet those will be AS employees, and not DL.

Finally, are we done with merger mania?  Or is there any more consolidation to come?  The only thing I could possibly see myself is Alaska taking over Hawaiian – and making a commanding lead in Hawaiian flights (retiring the Hawaiian brand state-side and operating only Alaska 737s between the mainland & Hawaii), while letting a Hawaiian Air subsidiary concentrate on flights between Asia and Hawaii.  And we’ve still yet to find out the fate of beleaguered Frontier Airlines; have they been sold yet?  And what about once-darling jetBlue?  They’d better compliment a carrier like Alaska, but if jetBlue and Frontier somehow combined, that might let Frontier bow out of the super-dominated Denver market and focus more on less hub & spoke, giving jetBlue a better route network.  Or maybe even jetBlue marrying Virgin; might make getting Virgin out of the red a little easier.

So here’s to US Airways and American, and hoping the merger gets off on the right foot.  And I’m raising my glass to all the other speculators out there as well, who probably have their own ideas about what to expect next in the wild & crazy world of commercial passenger aviation.

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About this electronics stuff…

Okay, so first it was Delta and jetBlue that got the okay to go gate-to-gate with electronic gadgets.  Then it was American.  I had a question from a friend on this new policy, because he flew Delta mainline, where they announced the new policy, and then flew a Delta Connection flight, where the flight attendant nearly came unglued when he wouldn’t put his iPhone away during taxi out to the runway.

Try as they might, airlines aren’t telling their customers the distinction between “mainline” flights and those that are subcontracted.  Indeed, my friend’s Delta Connection flight was on ExpressJet, though it was branded a Delta Connection flight.

Earlier this week I got an email from US Airways saying that they were rolling out gate-to-gate electronic use – but they were actually freaking helpful!  They said that the new policy applied only to mainline US Airways flights, and that the policy didn’t yet apply to US Airways Express flights; that would come at a later date.  And just now, I got an email from Alaska Airlines saying that starting Saturday passengers on mainline flights would be able to use electronics, with sister carrier Horizon coming up soon, as well as subcontractor SkyWest, pending FAA approval.

From what I can tell, US Airways and Alaska Airlines are the only ones to roll out this new policy correctly.

So congrats you guys!  Travel is just about to get a little more interesting.

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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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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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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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Welcome to Air Snark!

I started Air Snark after a liveblogging a flight from ATL to PDX. Man, that was a lot of fun! Mostly. Ugly naked husband video chat from the lady sitting next to me, political blogging from my seat, and workerbees continuing their office work – all from 42,000 feet.

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