Tag Archives: Airbus

Will $1 Million Help Improve Air Service Prospects At Delta’s Memphis Hub?

12 Jun

A Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 lands at Memphis International Airport. Photo courtesy of Scott Sherrin via Flickr.

At the beginning of my career, I wrote for a newsletter that covered economic development among other things.  I wrote regularly about the efforts of states, counties, regions and cities to bring new companies, which, in turn, bring in more jobs.

On some of those stories, airlines were included in presentations to show how well a new business could get to the places they needed to be as part of the business.  But it was inevitable that they’d want a piece of the action, either to expand existing flights or add new ones.

So I say all this to comment about an article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal about the efforts of that city’s airport to keep the service they have and expand to more cities.  You may remember that Memphis was one of three hubs for Northwest Airlines (No Town, Snow Town (Minneapolis) and Motown (Detroit)).

But after the Minneapolis-based carrier merged with Delta Air Lines, it was no surprise when the carrier started balancing its combined route network, which included cutting one-third of its service out of Memphis.  The airport has also seen average fares rise to the point where locals are complaining – vociferously.

So the airport authority decided to hire DC-based INTERVistas, a firm that specializes in travel and tourism, to help it bring in new service and lower air fares.  In a report presented last month, the firm recommended creating a $1 million fund to offer incentives to airlines for new domestic and international service including free landing fees and terminal rent, along with cooperative advertising aid.

The Commercial Appeal article included quotes from airline consultant Mike Boyd of The Boyd Group that really hit a note with me.  He noted that while the incentives might speed up efforts by Southwest Airlines to expand or maybe JetBlue to start service out of Memphis, it wasn’t likely the city would get enough service to replace what Delta has cut.

According to the Commercial Appeal, the new incentives were called “the right response at the right time,” by airport president and CEO Larry Cox and “bold” by Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane.  But what else would they say? Their backs are up against the wall with locals getting angry about the service cuts, as outlined in this article.

I don’t entirely disagree with these new incentives.  I think targeted correctly, Memphis could see some new service — but it will never be at the levels it had when it was a Northwest hub. My recommendation is that they let go of the past and look at what other dehubbed airports — like Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and San Jose — have done to survive when their major carriers — US Airways and American Airlines, respectively — have made cuts.

Frontier Airlines To Denver: Show Me The Money!

8 May

Back at the beginning of my journalism career in the late 1980s, I wrote for the Employment and Training Reporter, a newsletter that covered federal job training programs.  Under that broad umbrella fell welfare reform, education and economic development.

My favorite thing to write about was economic development, because back then, the country was recovering from the Reagan recession and states were throwing around money like drunken sailors to lure new companies to bring in jobs and taxes.  Two of the biggest battles I got to watch was the fight for German luxury automaker BMW’s first U.S. plant (it went to South Carolina) and two United Airlines maintenance bases (Oakland and Indianapolis won, but eventually lost as both plants were closed).  Looking at a more recent example, we recently learned that bankrupt aircraft manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft turned down $500 million in incentives from Louisiana to leave Wichita, Kan., reports the Wichita Business Journal.

States, counties and cities worked hand in hand to offer everything from tax breaks to infrastructure changes to subsidies to bring in companies and jobs.  Some states were so desperate they made deals they knew they could never see a return on their investment.

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

So it was with great interest that I read this story in the Denver PostFrontier Airlines wants tax incentives to bring jobs to Colorado — with great interest.  The airline was created in 1994 by executives of the original Frontier, which was bought by Texas Air in 1986 and folded into Continental Airlines.  The idea was to fill the gap left when Continental Airlines decided to shut down its Denver hub.

The carrier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2008, and was bought by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings in August 2009.  After that purchase, the company moved some of Frontier’s operations to Indianapolis.

Now Frontier executives are asking the city and state to come up with incentives in order for them to stay put.  The company wants to bring back approximately 430 call center, mechanical, dispatcher and headquarters jobs to the state. In exchange, it wants breaks on state and local taxes on jet fuel, parts and software, according to the Post, adding that they wanted “appropriate” incentives to bring in the jobs.

But the state and city, probably seeing what has happened across the country when others have opened the incentives spigot, are in no rush to open its pocketbook to Frontier, not wanting to upset hub carrier United and Southwest Airlines.  Plus they want to ensure that Frontier will stay in the state long enough to see a return on their incentives investment.
So I’ll be watching to see what happens, but what do you think — should the city and state give Frontier what it wants, or is Frontier being greedy and unreasonable?

GUEST POST: Top 10 Reasons Why I Avoid Spirit Airlines

23 Apr

Editor’s note: today, we have a guest post from one of my favorite travel peeps: Meena Thiruvengadam. I met Meena in September 2010 when we both took a week-long multimedia storytelling course at the Poynter Institute. We found we had many things in common, the big one being a love of travel.

You all know how I feel about Spirit Airlines (see my Jan. 3, 2011, post here). I’m not a fan but I understand how they appeal to a certain type of traveler.  But Meena has her own opinion. Enjoy!

A Spirit Airlines Airbus A319 at Washington National Airport. Photo by Adam Fagen via Flickr

I have flown a lot of airlines in my life, but Spirit Airlines is one I will go to great lengths
to avoid. Here are 10 reasons why:

10) Other airlines might charge you to check a bag, but Spirit will charge you to carry
anything larger than a laptop bag on board.

9) Want a soda or a sip of water onboard? You’ll have to pay $3 for it. Coffee and tea are
cheaper but will still set you back $2.

8) You weren’t expecting free peanuts, pretzels or cookies, were you? You’ll pay at least
$2 for a snack.

7) Unless you a pay a fee – yes another fee – don’t expect to pick where you’ll sit or
whom you’ll sit with.

6) There are no pillows, blankets or entertainment systems on board.

5) Looking for an in-flight magazine to entertain you? You’re not going to find one in
your seat back pocket.

4) Running late? Better not when you’re flying Spirit. Spirit Airlines requires customers
to check-in at least one hour before flight time. Most airlines won’t cut customers off
until a half-hour before departure.

3) Toward the end of your flight, a flight attendant will ask you to pull up your seat back.
This is just a tease. Spirit seats don’t lean back.

2) As if sitting upright through an entire flight isn’t bad enough, most passenger seats are
attached to one another, and legroom is especially tight.

1) By the time you’ve paid for your bag, a bottle of water and to sit next to your
sweetheart, you may find you could have flown a far more comfortable airline for around
the same price.

Random Aviation Photo

15 Mar

In July 2011, I got to attend the celebration of United’s first 10 million mile flyer. My Aviation Week Things With Wings blog post on that event is here. The event was held in a Red Carpet Club lounge at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, but we had time to wander around. Sitting at the gate right across from the party was an Airbus A320 painted in United’s Friendship livery. I just happened to catch the pilot giving the windshield a pre-flight cleaning.  Enjoy!

Random Avation Photo

9 Feb

Back in November 2008, I was working on a story for Aviation Week on the opening of the new fourth runway at Washington Dulles International Airport.  I was there to do an interview and photo shoot with Bobby Sturgell, who was then the acting administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration.  One of the bonuses was that we got to go up in the Dulles tower.  The view up there is grand, and I snapped the photo of a United/TED Airbus A320.  Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

9 Jan

This is always the week I look forward to.  The holidays are completely over, and it’s back to work for everyone, including the airline/aviation industry.  So Happy New Year one last time, and let’s get to it.

  1. Normally, this pair of stories would have gone straight to Strange But True Aviation News on a Friday, but I thought it warranted being an interesting story.  California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), a strong opponent of gun control, says he “forgot” he had a loaded .45 caliber pistol in his carry-on bag, which was discovered by Transportation Security Administration (TSA), reports NBC Los Angeles.  The TV station followed up with a blog post: The Guns of Tim: Five Lessons, including: Donnelly was allowed to board his flight while others were detained and even arrested.
  2. During my time as Aviation Daily’s airports and security editor, I wrote about — and saw — my fair share of airport scanning machines.  So I found this story from Pro Publica comparing millimeter and backscatter machines.
  3. Speaking of security, this story in Aviation International News talks about how TSA Administrator John Pistole is starting to respond to critics, including House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), over his agency’s policies and way of doing business.  “[To] those who say that we’re inefficient or bloated, I’d be glad to sit down and go through the books and say, ‘OK, how would you staff this differently?’” Pistole said in an interview with Bloomberg News last month.
  4. I’m one of those aviation geeks that could spend my life visiting aviation museums.  I didn’t know about the Carolinas Aviation Museum until I heard it was receiving US Airways’ “Miracle on the Hudson” Airbus A320 for its permanent display. Which is why I really enjoyed this blog post over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — complete with pictures — about the museum.
  5. I’m old enough to remember the mini controversy that ensued when United Airlines paid for the rights to use George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in its branding and advertising campaigns.  But now the song has become so closely affiliated to United that my daughter knows it as the UAL theme song!  So I was happy to hear from our friends at the Chicago Tribune that the Chicago-based carrier will continue to use the song.

Let’s end this post with one of my personal favorite commercials United Airlines used with “Rhapsody in Blue.”  It’s called “Dragon,” and it was created for the Beijing Olympics.  Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

12 Dec

Yes, kids, it was another interesting week in aviation.  We lost an FAA administrator but gained the right to hide aircraft tail numbers. So let’s get on with the news.

  1. I was doing my regular Twitter search when I saw someone had posted this Aviation Week story — Airbus Expects United To Place A380 Order. Written by my former colleague Darren Shannon, I first thought it was a gag.  I’ve never been quite sure about the economics of that plane, but there are people much smarter than me out there who have made it work.
  2. Right after American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the chatter about it merging with US Airways began.  Last week, I linked to a post from Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder, who gave his reasons on why he thought this was a good idea.  And now, US Airways CFO Derek Kerr agrees with Brett, being quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that “there is possibly room for more.” (If you get the subscribers only link, just copy the headline, paste it in Google and click on the link that has online.wsj.com in the URL to see the full story.)
  3. The Air Transport Association of America — the lobbying group for major U.S. carriers — recently changed its name to Airlines4America.  When I first heard the name, I wasn’t impressed, thinking it was just too cute for words.  And it looks like Scott McCartney, the Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat Terminal blog agrees with me in this post — Does Cutesy Name Change Limit Credibility of Airline Group?
  4. Back when I worked at Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, I still traveled regularly to the East Coast.  I had my choice of flying America West to Los Angeles and catching a flight to Baltimore or flying US Airways to Pittsburgh, then Baltimore. Nine times out of 10, I chose the US Airways flight to go shopping in Pittsburgh, back when it still had hub status.   But since it was dehubbed back in 2004, the airport has fallen on some tough times. So their solution?  Try and attract new turboprop service, reports Pittsburgh Live.
  5. I love it when airlines try to show the love to their very best customers.  Check out my Aviation Week Things With Wings blog post on how United Airlines showed the love to 10 million mile customer Tom Stuker in July.  So I just loved this post from Chris McGinnis’ The Ticket travel news blog — Delta picking up pax in Porsches at ATL.  So you get off your flight and a man in a suit waits in the jetway holding a card with your name.  You’re taken out the side door and driven directly to your car — in a Porsche Cayenne SUV.  How cool is that?

I had the pleasure of being a guest Saturday on Flight Time Radio with Milford Shirley and Charlie Willwerth.  I met these gentlemen back in June when they were broadcasting live from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center during Be a Pilot Day (my posts on that event are here and here).

And those crazy Taiwanese animators are at it again.  Below is a video with their thoughts on the situation with “30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin.  And just ignore the fact that the “Alec” cartoon looks absolutely *nothing* like the actor!


Top 5 Interesting Aviation Stories For The Week

7 Nov

First, an apology. For some reason, Friday’s Strange But True Aviation News didn’t post (despite me writing it) thanks to some glitch I’m still trying to figure out.  I’ll work out the kinks, and we’ll have it on Friday.  Now, onto the news!

  1. Guy Norris of Aviation Week blogged about an uncontained engine failure on a Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 flying from Detroit to Tokyo. His Things with Wings post contains some dramatic pictures of the engine after the failure.
  2. I really enjoyed this CNN story — Nerve-racking ‘go-arounds’ routine for pilots — for two reasons.  One, it’s a great primer on what happens when a plane has to do a go-around.  Two, it was written by Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder, and quotes my friend Mark Rogers.
  3. Speaking of Mark, I thought of him when I read this story — O’Hare Worker Hurt in Baggage Incident — on the NBC Chicago website.  The story is about how an industrial battery packed in checked luggage on a United Airlines flight from Lafayette, La., that stopped at Chicago O’Hare where the accident happened. Mark has done a lot of work on this particular issue.
  4. When Airbus announced back in December 2000 that it was launching the A380 double-decker jumbo jet, I remember hearing all kinds of possibilities for the plane, from bowling alleys (not yet) to showers (see Emirates).  The Airbus website says the jumbo jet can “seat 525 passengers in a comfortable three-class configuration, and up to  853 in a single-class configuration.” Transero isn’t quite at 853 seats, but says it will put in 700 seats on its recently ordered A380s, reports Reuters.
  5. We’ve all done it (unless we fly Southwest Airlines) — start flocking toward the jetway when the gate agent announces boarding for a flight. We wait anxiously as they call the premium passengers, folks needed assistance, families with small children and travelers seated in exit rows.  Then we make the mad dash onto the plane to get that valuable overhead bin space.  The New York Times has an article about what airlines are doing to tame the boarding process.  I, for one, am happy to pay a fee that allows me to board early in the process.

In other news, I’m now doing freelance work for Aviation International News, so please go over and check out what I’m doing.  Again, I’m still trying to catch up on my Airplane Geek podcast episodes, and I really enjoyed Episode 170 – GE Aviation Looks to the Future.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a question. JetBlue recently got a rare PR black eye after stranding passengers for seven hours on a plane parked at Hartford, Conn.’s Bradley International Airport. Below is a 1:18-minute video from COO Rob Maruster on the incident. Was it enough or should the airline have done more? See my poll, below.

Top Five Interesting Stories – Oct. 17-21

24 Oct

Welcome to what used to be the Friday news roundup.  Even though I was busy finishing my last week on the job, I still managed to find some interesting aviation stories for your reading pleasure.

  1. My first story is one from my former employer, Aviation Week, entitled “Airbus CEO Bemoans Slow Pace of Change.” In the article, London Bureau Chief Robert Wall quotes Airbus CEO Tom Enders: “Somewhere in the last 40 years we learned to save fuel and forgot how to take risks and manage them properly. We forgot how to turn our ideas into reality before they were out of date.”
  2. Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) says that the Transportation Security Administration is one of the agencies he’d eliminate if he won the election, reports The Hill’s Transportation blog.  He also accused the agency of humiliating women, molesting children and abusing disabled people in a radio address this summer, the publication adds.
  3.  I never got to fly on Concorde, but I did get to sit inside one operated by Air France.  I know the ongoing fascination that people have with supersonic flight, so I read this story in Budget Traveler Chicago to Tokyo in Two Hours? — with great interest and some trepidation.  I’ve read stories for years on commercial and business aviation efforts to build Concorde’s successor, and the quest continues, as KLM  announces it is investing in a new technology for supersonic flight, Space Tourism Curacao.
  4. I was chatting with Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder last week as he was driving to speak on a panel about the air travel experience at the annual Airports Council International-North America conference.  We got into a conversation on what airports are doing to keep passengers in their facilities longer, and Brett then did a blog post on what travelers REALLY want from airports.
  5. Capitol Hill was feeling Hollywood when actor, pilot and general aviation advocate Harrison Ford spoke before the Senate General Aviation Caucus on how aviation has enriched his life, reports Politico.

I finally caught up with all my Airplane Geeks podcast episodes, and highly recommend listening to episode 169, with Martin Rottler.  And don’t forget — Random Aviation Photo is now on Thursdays.  Enjoy!

Random Aviation Photo

3 Oct

Back in the day I spent a lot of time traveling in and out of US Airways’ Charlotte hub. I just love those rocking chairs that offer great views from the big picture windows in the center concourse across from the food court. But I digress.

I took this shot of Airbus A320 a Boeing 737-400 (ok, I’m going to the eye doctor) after I got off, staggering, from a red-eye flight from San Francisco. You can still see a bit of the morning light off the fuselage. Enjoy!


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