Good News: Southwest Finds Labor Peace in the Cockpit
Southwest Airlines and its pilots’ union finally have come to a preliminary agreement, ending several months of back-and-forth negotiations between the two and increasingly frequent threats from the union.
Southwest’s pilots will still need to formally approve the deal, which is expected to pay about $12 billion over five years. Pilots have two choices on the ballot — to distribute the $12 billion amongst the entire pilot roster based on hours flown and seniority or to Powerball this thing and pull one lucky name from a hat who gets the whole $12 billion and everyone else is on their own.
The new contract include higher pay for pilots on reserve, better retirement packages, increased per diem rates for pilots, and gives all pilots two free checked bags on all Southwest flights, whether flying for company business or personal travel. (Shhh, don’t tell them….) The contract also includes 2.5% annual bonuses until a new contract is reached between the two parties. The hourly rate for a 12-year captain would be just over $368 per hour — plus all the salty death mix he or she can stand — while first officers would start at $135 per hour by the final year of the deal.
This leaves Southwest’s flight attendants as the only group still waiting on a contract, though they had a pretty hefty new contract and then voted it down. But wait, now they are going to re-vote on it, so maybe this will all be resolved soon enough. Or maybe not.
Bad News: Southwest Fined for Christmas Calamity of ’22
Southwest Airlines reached a settlement with the federal government over its operational meltdown last year, accepting a $140 million fine for its role in forcing thousands of American to overstay their welcome with their in-laws for days on-end.
The fine includes a $35 million cash payment to the government which can be paid over three years, and a fund designed to compensate travelers for future travel disruptions that are considered to be under Southwest’s control. It received a $53 million credit for giving customers caught up in last year’s mess Rapid Rewards points, with the government showing its cards that the Treasury is considering replacing the U.S. dollar with RR points as our national currency.
Southwest paid out more than $600 million in reimbursements for personal items and refunds during last year’s debacle. As the carrier gears up for this weekend’s Christmas travel rush, CEO Bob Jordan vows nothing like last year will ever happen again, and he will personally offer a pinky swear to each passenger* as they board their Southwest flight this holiday season to show just how serious he is.
*unless they live in New York or anywhere where it might possibly snow, then all bets are off
Alaska Raises Checked Bag Fee, Others Likely to Follow
Alaska Airlines is raising its first and second checked bag fee by $5, making the new price $35 and $45, respectively for those who can’t figure out a way out of the fee. The carrier said the decision came because of rising operating costs, but we know the actual reason is to pay for Alaska’s corporate holiday party — those sushi towers don’t come cheap.
This is Alaska’s first baggage fee increase since late 2018 and is potentially to be followed by other lemming-loving U.S. carriers in the coming weeks. The change for Alaska will go into effect on January 2, but those with Alaska’s credit card will still receive a free first checked bag, causing bloggers all over the internet to fall over themselves to report this news with a link to sign up for the credit card.
Overweight and oversized luggage pricing is not increasing on Alaska — yet — but it’s just a matter of time until it does.
Atlanta is #1, Again
As 2023 wraps up. OAG named Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as the world’s busiest, based on seat capacity, the 25th time it’s been at the top since 1998, with 2020 being the lone exception.
Atlanta increased its capacity by 12% this year, leaving it just 3% shy of a full post-pandemic recovery to match the 63 million seats it offered in 2019. Dubai was second with 57 million, while the top five was rounded out with Tokyo/Haneda, London/Heathrow, and Dallas/Fort Worth. Fort Leonard Wood (MO) just missed out on a top 5 ranking, coming in 2,836th place.
New York/JFK led the way for international connections for all U.S. airports while Dubai was the busiest for international flights at 57 million seats. The busiest U.S. domestic route was Honolulu – Kahului coming in first at 3.6 million seats. Atlanta – Orlando was on its heels in second place, followed by Las Vegas – Los Angeles in third.
Air France Reverses Course — But Does Customers a Solid
Air France published dirt-cheap business class fares last week, leading to a reminder that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. The fares, which included flights from North America to Paris in Air France’s lie-flat business product for as few as 5,000 FlyingBlue miles were obvious mistake fares that customers pounced on as word spread across the internet.
Air France said this week that it would not honor the mistake fares and would be cancelling all tickets purchased, and refunding both the miles and taxes paid. This is not unusual, and while an airline occasionally will let the purchases stand, this is the standard result of these mistake sales. But Air France is going one step further than seemingly ever happens, as it is willing to allow customers to reverse transfers into the FlyingBlue program from their credit card of choice.
Generally transfers from credit card programs to partners (airline or otherwise) are a “til death do us part” situation and are completely irreversible. But Air France, while surely annoying some customers by not honoring the mistake fare, is going a step further than generally ever happens, letting customers send their point back to their credit card program. Unfortunately there’s no truth to the rumor that customers can also return annoying family members home early from holiday visits courtesy of Air France, but at press time we are still hoping the airline will implement such a program.
- Aegean signed a long-term wet-lease agreement with Cyprus Airways.
- Air Asia X chairman Tunku Dato’ Mahmood Fawzy Bin Tunku Muhiyiddin stepped down, as he now looks to pursue a career on Broadway.
- American flight attendants deferred their request to be able to strike, a sign an agreement could be in the works.
- Austrian‘s efforts to begin service with its Dreamliner fleet is becoming a nightmare.
- Avianca is resuming service to Caracas, its first flying to Venezuela in six years.
- China Eastern and Etihad are growing closer.
- Delta is adding a new A350 configuration that will increase the premium offerings on the aircraft. To make room, all Basic Economy passengers will crowd together in one lavatory for the duration of the flight.
- easyJet ordered 157 A320neo family aircraft.
- Ethiopian is borrowing $450 million from Citi to buy five new airplanes.
- EVA pilots are voting today to consider a strike.
- Iberia is returning to Tokyo for the first time since the pandemic.
- JAL received delivery of its first A350-1000.
- JSX, the airline which says it’s not an airline, just signed an LOI for a lot of airplanes.
- LATAM is adding five new Dreamliners.
- Lufthansa Group is living up to its reputation of flying every aircraft ever built by acquiring 40 B737-8 MAX aircraft with an option for 60 more along with 40 A220-300s with an option for 20 more and 40 options for A320neos.
- Lynx is adding two new U.S. cities to its route map, beginning to fly from Toronto to Boston (beginning March 28) and San Francisco (beginning May 3).
- Ryanair was a winner in court over pandemic aid given to Air France-KLM.
- Singapore is headed to London/Gatwick in June.
- South African doubled its damp-lease partnership with SunExpress.
- Turkish put in a holiday order for 150 A320neos, 50 A350-900s, 15 A350-100s, 5 A350F, and a partridge in a pear tree.
A gingerbread man went to his doctor to get treatment for a sore knee.
“A sore knee?” the doctor said. ”Have you tried icing it?”