Back in June 2008, I attended an airports conference in New Orleans. It was my first trip back to the Big Easy since Hurricane Katrina. I had some time to kill at the gate, so I took some random shots. Mexico’s Aladia was a low-cost charter carrier that went out of business in October 2008. Below is an Aladia Boeing 757.
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.
Uh, the flight attendants are leaving but you want US to stay on this plane? An Air Canada pilot found himself trying to convince passengers to stay on a flight from Ottawa to Vancouver despite the flight attendants walking off over a smell from the air filter system, reports the Globe and Mail. Mail columnist Gary Mason happened to be on the flight as the drama played out over Twitter. Mason and most of the passengers (and 1 of the flight attendants) decided to stay on the flight.
There’s a difference between walking and flying? American-Iranian Muslim U.S. citizen Kavon Iraniha is back in the USA after a year studying law in Costa Rica — and finding himself on the No-fly list, reports NBC San Diego. As Iraniha tried to return to San Diego, he was told he was on the no-fly list. He was questioned by the FBI, but still not allowed to fly home. So he decided to fly to Tijuana, Mexico, then walk across the border.
No more snow in Puerto Rico. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 36 people at San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport after breaking up a drug ring that smuggled more than 61,000 pounds of cocaine on passenger flights since 1999, reports MSNBC. The sting managed to capture some current and former American Airlines employees.
That’s not the right way to do a pat-down. Five Transportation Security Administration screeners at Southwest Florida International Airport were fired and another 38 were suspended after an investigation found that passengers weren’t being properly screened, reports NaplesNews.com. Another screener saw the problem and reported it to TSA.
Can you sue dead people? Ok, you have to follow this CNN Travel story closely, kids. Melissa Schram lost her common-law husband in a plane crash where a drunk passenger allegedly kicked the pilot’s seat, which caused the crash. You with me so far? Now Schram is suing the estate of the dead pilot, claiming he shouldn’t have let the drunk pilot on the Cessna-185F floatplane that crashed.
For the umpteenth time – drinking and flying don’t mix!! Grandmother Frances Macaskill has been ordered to repay Qantas A$18,245 after her flight from Melbourne to Perth had to return after her drunken behavior, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Macaskill was seen drinking duty-free liquor and began fighting with passengers and shouting profanities aboard the flight, which led to her arrest and a sentence of four months in jail and a A$3,500 fine.
Dude — you can’t sail on the runway!! A runway at Boston-Logan International Airport was temporarily closed after an empty sailboat broke away from its mooring and running aground at 9/27, reports NYC Aviation.
So I guess the hookers, booze and poker are out too? Airlines starting service out of Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport are traditionally greeted with showgirls and an Elvis impersonator. But Dutch carrier ArkeFly won’t get that deal because the arrival of its first flight is too close to the arrival of President Barack Obama, who is coming to town for an official visit, reports USA Today.
The were really “stuck” on this flight. An Allegiant Airlines flight from Phoenix to Central Nebraska Regional Airport got stuck in the dirt after the pilot made a sharp turn off the taxiway, reports the Omaha World-Herald. The return flight was delayed nearly five hours while a new plane was brought in.
FOAM PARTY!!! Workers at an Eagle Aviation hangar based at Texas’ Abilene Regional Airport got a surprise when they arrived at work: a facility filled with foam, reports ReporterNews.com. A fire suppressant system went off, causing the foam to fill the hangar and the surrounding outside area.
I’m sorry, but you need to create your own caption on this one, kids. Dutch artist Bart Jansen was distraught over the deal of his cat Orville, named after Orville Wright. So he decided to keep the dead cat with him forever by turning him into a flying helicopter, reports the Daily Mail. He called Orville ‘half cat, half machine’, adding he had become a visual art project to pay tribute to the dead animal.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Delta Air Lines has begun testing rock-bottom “basic economy” fares on selected routes — and you, the traveler, have no one but yourselves to blame.
Why is it your fault? Because you refuse to pay the higher fares that Delta and other airlines want you to. And since you refuse, they are going to get the money out of you other ways, by hook or by crook. Take a look at what fees have been introduced in the past 10 years: checked bags, food, drinks, change fees, phone booking fees and fuel surcharges, to name some.
So Delta for the past two months has been testing fares that are remarkably similar to those offered by Spirit Airlines, on some of the routes that the ultra-low-fare carrier flies, including Detroit to Orlando, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. With basic economy, travelers can’t make any changes to their itinerary, nor can they choose seats in advance.
You may hate what Spirit does (see why in this guest blog post), but you can see how other airlines have followed some of the things they do. And someone does like the airline, because they have full flights and regularly make a profit.
So if Delta is successful with this test, look for it to expand the basic economy fares into other markers. And don’t be surprised if other airlines follow.
It was raining parts! An Air Canada flight taking off from Toronto to Tokyo had to make an emergency landing after parts from its engine fell to the ground, reports KHOU-TV. No one was injured during the landing.
He *didn’t* have a ticket to ride, but he didn’t care. A man who had just been released from jail managed to get onto a flight at San Diego International Airport — without a ticket, reports MSNBC. He entered the airport through an emergency door at the airport’s commuter terminal and was discovered after a flight attendant realized there were too many passengers on the plane.
You must behave on your flight! Ryan Snider was arrested when his American Airlines flight landed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, after becoming unruly during the flight, reports MSNBC. he refused to follow crewmember instructions and had to be restrained by two passengers.
No buckle, no ride. Mark Yanchak and his toddler were kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight leaving Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after the child refused to buckle his seat, reports CBS News. The father said the pilot was overreacting, but the pilot said he’d rather “deal with it on the ground than in mid-flight.”
Don’t you need a pole to pole vault? Pole vaulter Kati Davis got an unpleasant surprise when her Delta Air Lines flight arrived in Pueblo, Colo., for a major track and field event — her poles were not there, reports KOMO-TV. Davis paid $200 to check the poles, but they were lost, and she blames the airline for her poor performance. Delta did refund her$200 fee.
Interesting joy ride. A man was arrested after stealing a jeep and a motor home and crashing them both through the fence at Mississippi’s Segars Field/Iuka Airport, reports WTVA-TV. He was charged with two counts of grand larceny.
She was left to her own “devices.” A French woman born in Cameroon caused a US Airways flight from Paris to Charlotte to divert to Bangor, Maine after claiming to be carrying a surgically implanted device, reports Reuters. The woman was questioned by Customs and Border Protection and taken into custody by the FBI.
Maybe Breathalyzers might help. India’s civil aviation minister reports that 14 pilots and 31 crew members were caught reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol between January and March, reports the Times of India. Most of the offenders worked at Jet Airways, it added.
It looks like things flared up in Philly. A US Airways Express flight from Elmira, N.Y., to Philadelphia experienced a close call when allegedly a flare was shot up around 50 feet of the Dash 8 turboprop, reports USA Today. The flight landed safely.
A change might be due. Officials at Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport say they are looking at making changes as their security checkpoint after a Piedmont Airlines pilot managed to bring a loaded gun onto a flight, reports the Daily Progress. The pilot was charge with attempting to carry a weapon or explosive on an aircraft.
FORE!! Staff at Florida’s Hallandale Beach golf course found a big surprise on the greens — an aircraft door, reports the Daily Mail. The door had fallen off a Canadair CL60 jet that had just taken off from Opa Locka Executive Airport.
Watch what you say! A female flight attendant on Brazil’s Trip Airlines had a male passenger tossed off a flight after he was heard making disparaging remarks about the crew’s woman pilot, reports MSNBC.
Hot DOG! Detroit-based American Coney Island restaurant decided to celebrate its 95th anniversary in a unique way. It teamed with a local radio station to rent a helicopter to dump almost 1,000 hot dogs and have 25 contestants stuff as many of them on their persons as possible, reports ABC News. The winner received $1,000 and a year’s supply of hot dogs.
We’ll end the week with a video from our good friends at the New York Aviation website. In this video, a passenger records how the engine cover on a TAM Airbus A320 traveling from Natal to Sao Paulo breaks off and hurls itself into the side of the plane.
I am the mother of a six-year-old. I’ve been traveling with my daughter since she was 10 days old. So when I read in USA Today that United Airlines recently decided to drop pre-boarding for children, my first thought was “good for them.”
I regularly fly on Southwest Airlines, which stopped pre-boarding for children under age 5 back in 2007. I would set my clock 24 hours in advance to get an A pass for my flight. But since Southwest started the $10 Early Bird fee, I just buy that, ensuring that I get the time I need to get my daughter settled (she wears a CARES harness).
When pre-boarding was still available on Southwest Airlines, I saw travelers abusing the system regularly, with children much older that 5 boarding, or entire families with older children taking advantage of pre-boarding.
With a little advanced planning, I believe that parents can make the adjustment accordingly. So what do you think? Did United make the right call here, or should they continue allowing pre-boarding for children?
Who’s next? Condoleeza Rice? You’ve got to give it to the Transportation Security Administration — they play no favorites when it comes to pat-downs. The latest to get the full treatment were former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, reports MSNBC’s Overhead Bin blog. The wheelchair-bound 88-year-old Kissinger reportedly got “the full Monty,” while
Dude! There are better ways to try to own the world. Ram Porat was arrested at Nashville International Airport after allegedly climbing a fence in the middle of the night and broke into an American Airlines jet, reports NBC Chicago. Why did he do it? he told police that he “owned the world,” and saw the stunt as an “obstacle to overcome.”
Take a picture at the airport, go directly to jail as a terrorist. Nancy Genovese’s act of taking a simple picture of a helicopter shell out in plain sight near Gabreski Airport in Suffolk County, N.Y. turned into a nightmare, reports Aero-News Network. She was stopped by a local police officer who questioned why she was taking pictures, accused her of being a terrorist threat. Long horrible story short, she was jailed for several days but was released without charge. She is suing the city for $70 million.
One of my last duties before leaving Delta Air Lines was working on the events surrounding the retirement of The Spirit of Delta, a Boeing 767 bough by the airline’s employees, retirees, family and friends in 1982. I left before the plane was brought to its final home at the Delta Heritage Museum at the carrier’s headquarters campus in 2006. So I was so excited to see it in the museum during a visit to Atlanta in April 2011. Enjoy!
Back on May 2, in my Rolling Aviation Thoughts post, one of the items was about how Toledo Express Airport is still looking for an airline to provide service. The airport received a $750,000 Small Community Air Service grant seven months ago with the goal of bringing in a carrier, with no luck. The problem is the city’s close proximity to Detroit Metro Airport, where folks can — and do — just drive from Toledo for lower fares.
In that article, air service consultant Mike Boyd was quoted saying that “it’s time for air-service hospice” at Express. And I agreed with him 100%. But in a letter to the editor of the Toledo Blade, Jerry Chabler, Chairman Airport Committee Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, took exception with Boyd’s blunt assessment about air service out of the airport.
“That kind of talk is reckless. Read by representatives of airlines with whom we are in talks, or by passengers flying into and out of Express, those words will not be helpful.” Chabler wrote. He also took exception with Boyd’s comment that “the local airport is a lost cause.”
I can understand how Mr. Chabler feels. It’s his job to try to get air service into Toledo Express. But I also don’t think he’s being realistic about that facility’s chances of getting air service anytime soon. Even Toledo’s mayor — theoretically the facility’s biggest booster — was caught driving to Detroit.
Chabler needs to take a look at his airport’s own numbers. The airport reached its peak traffic in 1997, when AirTran was offering direct service to Orlando.
Since then, it’s been a revolving door of airlines at Toledo Express, including Delta Connection, Continental Express, American Eagle, Northwest Airlink and Direct Air, which abruptly ended service in March. Airlines have been cutting service to marginal and low-performing markets since 2001, and they have become very picky about where they put their resources.
The fact that despite receiving $1.3 million in federal Small Community Air Service grants in the past five years (giving back $750,000), the airport still can’t attract an airline.
When I worked at Mesa air back in 2001-2002, one of my jobs was to do presentations to communities for their Essential Air Service contracts (read about my thoughts on that program here). It was always interesting to meet with city officials, because they would make these outrageous service demands, knowing full well they could barely justify the service they had only because of the largess of the federal government. They felt like it was their right to have air service in a post-deregulation world.
And Mr. Chabler seems to feel the same way about Toledo Express despite the reality of a new airline world order where smaller cities will continue to fight just to keep what little service they still have. Travelers in the region have voted — they prefer to drive to Detroit and make their own connections to the global air transportation system.
Another letter to the editor applauded Boyd’s frank assessment and suggested that the Port Authority focus on providing a shuttle service to Detroit instead of chasing after airlines. I agree, and a good model of how well it works is operating in my own back yard.
I was talking with John Presburg, an old friend from my regional airline days. He retired from US Airways Express carrier Piedmont Airlines and created a BayRunner Shuttle, a van service to Washington National, Washington Dulles and BWI Airport from Maryland cities, including several that no longer have air service. I hope Toledo Express looks at doing something similar instead of chasing after something that will probably not be coming back.