It’s the most wonderul time of the year… when we get to go over all your predictions from last year and see how you did. Of course, we need to remember that when you all wrote down your predictions last year, we were just coming off an epic Southwest meltdown. A whole bunch of your predictions were around that mess.
Once again this year, I’m just going to comment on the predictions that came true. If you took the opposite position on one of these, well, then your comment will appear there as well. But if you were on your own with an incorrect prediction, no need to shine a spotlight. You can find yourself in the Graveyard at the bottom.
Remember to leave your predictions for 2024 in the comments. As always, I will only consider the first prediction you make when I evaluate guesses next year. Anything after the first will be ignored in the review. Some of you tried to get tricky this year with run-on predictions, but I still stuck with only the first part on those.
Southwest Meltdown Impact
- Jim M – Some heads are going to have to roll. Or they take the easy route and announce a multi-billion dollar project to bring their systems into the 21st century.
- LUV lost – Gary Kelly will no longer be chairman of the board as it comes to light of his gutting the SWA operation and employee moral. His legacy will be the man that destroyed Herb’s airline.
- Mike G – The DOT does not issue any penalties for the Southwest meltdown (currently) occurring over Christmas 2022 and Southwest will have at least 1 non-weather mass cancellation event in 2023 as their out of date internal systems continue to fail.
- Vickiejanks – There will not be full regulation but the government will step in with some kind of program to help travelers (like EU 261) after the major southwest meltdown.
- Flyguywestend2 – Southwest will have a major management shakeup to to the Christmas meltownI Bob Jordon is out
- PF – Southwest’s Board of Directors reacts to the December 2022 meltdown with a statement of LUV for the leaders managing the crisis. A few months later, the exit doors open, the sides deploy for (voluntary) evacuations to “spend more time with the family”, and golden parachutes appear over Love Field.
- DaveSSSS – Secretary Pete will puff his chest and spend a week on TV trying to demonstrate competence by announcing a “record setting fine” for Southwest’s 2022 Christmas meltdown only to quietly reduce that fine to peanuts three months later while privately apologizing to Bob Jordan for initially being so mean to Southwest.
- Brad Kratz – Southwest will reorganize themselves and return to their roots as a fun loving customer and employee oriented airline that Herb envisioned. Heads will roll and back steps will be taken to return the airline to what it once was. There will be major upgrades in technology and dare I say it……a charge for baggage.
- Sammy – In 2023, Southwest -finally- gets started on a building a real IT Ops infrastructure
- Angry Bob Crandall – The FAA will temporarily assign an administrator to oversee Southwest.
- Isaac Pischer – Following the havoc of the 2022 Christmas holiday, Southwest significantly cuts back their operation, but fails to upgrade IT infrastructure.
- Drew Erickson – Flyers will quickly forget Southwest’s Christmas breakdown and booking will grow as travelers default to the best deal and convenient schedules.
- SAN Greg – In a relatively short amount of time people will forget about the 2022 holiday meltdown and SWA will be just as relevant as ever.
- Austin787 – Southwest will rebound nicely as the holiday meltdown becomes a distant memory and people book on Southwest as long as the price or schedule is right.
- SEASFO – 2023 is not kind to Southwest as a lot of self-inflicted wounds rise to the surface. The airline suffers at least one more major operational meltdown like those seen in 2021 and 2022, highlighting its failure to invest in upgrading its IT infrastructure. The airline also faces an identity crisis from trying to be too many things to too many people-attempting to both compete against the full service carriers and the ULCCs. This results in them retrenching to their bread and butter of intra-state point-to-point service in California and Texas, and continuing to try to duke it out against Hawaiian with interisland Hawai’i services. Medium haul services such as Mainland US to Hawai’i and Transcon are reduced.
- Kilroy – Despite much hot air from Washington and a few “programs” and “initiatives” on airline reliability/cancellations that sound good in the news but which achieve little (think “Pax Bill of Rights” but without much in terms of specifics or consequences), Southwest’s 2022 holiday meltdown will create a minimal/small amount of additional airline regulation, as politicians and airlines know that the majority of voters (i.e., those infrequent fliers who travel < 3x roundtrips/year) show by their actions that they’d prefer much lower fares to much greater reliability & service.
So many of you said that heads would roll in the aftermath of Southwest’s epic meltdown last winter, but that did not happen. No heads rolled, probably because it was already a new operations leader who had just taken over. It took them a full year, but there was a fairly substantial fine that was just announced by the feds along with Southwest agreeing to a policy of providing at least a $75 voucher for delays within Southwest’s control of more than 3 hours. This isn’t de jure regulation here, but I’ll still give Vickiejanks credit.
In general, Drew Erickson, SAN Greg, and Austin787 got it right. People went back to flying Southwest. There’s some question about whether recent revenue issues are related to a meltdown hangover, but I don’t think that’s likely.
JetBlue, the NEA, and the Spirit Merger
- Ryan S – Prediction: AA-JetBlue NEA gets approved in the courts but with serious restrictions on operations out of Boston (Delta has given too much of a competitive response to argue the alliance is anti-competitive). As a result, when B6 and NK are up for merger review, the DOJ says: “pick one… AA or NK”. Then we get to see what really matters to B6. I’d assume they’ll choose AA, declare bankruptcy over the Spirit breakup-fee, and then split off their assets to the prettiest bidder.
- Zack Rules – Jetblue-Spirit merger will be approved but without the Northeast Alliance and will require significant slot divesture.
- Cody c – The spirit/jetblue merger gets approved, but at the cost of the nea
- Professor of Points – The NE Alliance will live.
- Bravenav – JetBlue enters Toronto and Montreal.
- Dan P – I predict JetBlue will announce a new European destination for 2024. my top choices are Dublin and/or Barcelona (if just one of the two becomes true i’ll be happy) but I also think other European cities may be possible like FRA, AMS, or MAN.
- ChuckMO – I predict that if the B6 purchase of NK is finalized in the first half of ’23, the current combined route map will look very different by Dex 31, 2023. At least on the NK side of things.
- emac – I’ll take the under: B6 abandons its NK purchase.
As we all know by now, the NEA is dead. But the Spirit merger? That’s still TBD, so we can’t announce any winners for that. The one prediction that was right for JetBlue? Dan P got a new European destination. Actually, he got two: both Dublin and Amsterdam joined the network.
Boeing Certification and More
- Evan – Boeing will have a major management change after continuing to fall behind airbus.
- Jonathan – Beset by troubles at both its Commercial and Military divisions, Boeing opts for a management shakeup. New CEO is probable; I wouldn’t rule out changes at BCA and BDS.
- 727200 – Boeing does something really dumb like close most of Everett.
- southbay flier – Boeing fails to announce a suitable replacement for the 757/767 angering the three largest US based airlines.
- Tobin Sparfeld – Boeing will announce it will make a freighter version of the 787.
- Greengsg9 – The B737 MAX will get MAX7 certified by the FAA, but certification will be denied by EASA without a cockpit alert system
- Ken W – FAA finally certifies the Boeing 737-700 MAX
The year was not kind for those predicting anything big happening with Boeing. The 737-7 MAX still isn’t certified, and there were no big management shake-ups. Boeing just continues to do Boeing things. But hey, you were right with your negative prediction, southbay flier. Boeing did not announce a middle of the market airplane.
- Brian – I predict that at the end of 2023, at least one of the pilot labor groups at the four largest airlines (AA, DL, UA or WN) still does not have a collective bargaining agreement ratified. There will be no strikes authorized in 2023 and no strike on the horizon for 2024.
- WN – At least one of the major North American based airline pilot groups (American, Southwest, UPS, Air Canada, and/or Atlas) with Independent Unions will switch to ALPA.
- CallScheduling – All of the big 4 will have new pilot contracts ratified by the end of the year.
- Kevin – AFA gets enough cards to call for a vote at Delta.
We have a winner, Brian… or maybe CallScheduling. It was a big year for big pilot contracts, but at the time of writing we had only an Agreement in Principle for Southwest’s pilots. It’s still good news and that means we are getting awfully close to the end, but we won’t quite be over the finish line by the end of the year. So, half credit to each of you?
Edit: Full credit absolutely does go to WN. I missed that Air Canada had joined up with ALPA, so my apologies!
Lufthansa and Its Brands
- Angetenar – Lufthansa buys a stake in ITA and TAP Air Portugal
- Simon – airline consolidation in Europe. Possibly easyjet is absorbed by another LCC, but more likely another flag carrier joining either IAG or Lufthansa.
- Greg M – Lufthansa will create at least one more subsidiary/affiliate for no apparent reason.
Half credit for you, Angetenar. Lufthansa did indeed buy a stake in ITA but the other shoe did not drop with TAP… yet. Simon, we’ll give you some credit too for ITA joining the Lufthansa empire. And Greg M… chef’s kiss for you. Lufthansa is starting City Airlines because it just felt people weren’t confused enough.
New York Gates
- SEAN – In 2023 the PANYNJ will announce new terminal construction at both Newark & JFK. At EWR, a replacement for terminal B & at JFK a replacement for terminal 7. In addition, expansions to terminals 1 & 4 will be under way for much needed gate capacity.
We’ll give you some partial credit here, SEAN. JFK does have the new Terminal 1 underway, and that will be welcome when it’s done. But Newark has not yet settled on its Terminal B replacement plan. And JFK, well, it’s putting Terminal 6 on the footprint of the current Terminal 7, but that was already announced last year.
Northern, er, New Pacific
- Outer Space Guy – Russian Airspace Restrictions will doom Northern Pacific’s business model of running its own 757s to Asia, and Alaska Airlines will prevent NP from having any sort of substantial operation out of Anchorage. They may not make it to year’s end.
- Yo – Northern Pacific Airlines manages to start service to ??? and will disappear about as fast as California Pacific Airlines. Need a 757? They got them up for sale.
Northern Pacific may not have made it to year-end, but that’s only because it had to change its name to New Pacific due to a fight with the railroad. But Outer Space Guy, you were right that the Russian airspace issues doomed the Anchorage Transpacific hub. But New Pacific is still chugging along down in the lower 48.
China Coming Back
- Hammer – In 2023 more nonstop routes from the US to China will be restarted, however a vast majority of those routes will be on Chinese airlines as US airlines realize that adding capacity to China isn’t as profitable as adding capacity to other parts of the world.
- Dolphin – As China reopens, UA will make a massive push back into the country to cover the pent-up demand of Chinese nationals living in the US going back to see family and Chinese tourists visiting the US, even as most Americans still avoid visiting China. UA will restore the majority of its pre-pandemic routes to China and add at least one new market, potentially IAD-PVG, which will require cutting some transatlantic capacity. AA and DL will be much slower to reenter the Chinese market.
- John G – American reintroduces DFW-China flights in the next few months, probably starting with Beijing and Shanghai.
Hammer was right. There was a return to some more Chinese routes, but it wasn’t mostly on Chinese carriers. Government restrictions still have hampered a full return. US carriers restarted five routes while Chinese carriers resumed 7. One of those routes was indeed DFW – Shanghai, so nice work there, John G.
- Eric in ICT – in the second half of 2023, demand stabilizes, bringing fares back down significantly. Not to pandemic levels, but making domestic and European round trips more affordable again.
I’ll give this to you, Eric in ICT. Demand did stabilize and fares dropped… only in the domestic market. It’s the international market that remains red hot.
Southern Airways Express
- Kenneth – Southern Airways Express continues finishes another year as the fastest growing airline in the country, despite a refusal of avgeeks to acknowledge it. SAE and Contour lead the growth, as 135 carriers replace 121 regionals in many small markets. The surge of new pilots recruited in 2020 and 2021 leads the pendulum to shift yet again – not to furloughs (yet) but to regional class dates being suspended. Furloughs by 2024.
- Randolf – 2023 prediction: that sae experiment in the pacific will fail (marianas southern airways)
Southern Airways Express isn’t growing all that fast, but Randolf was absolutely right. Marianas Southern is no more.
Air Canada in Calgary
- Calvin – Air Canada cuts Calgary further but refuses to officially demote it from hub to focus city.
Yessir, Calvin. Air Canada keeps cutting back in Calgary. Four routes that flew in 2022 went away in 2023 (Castlegar, Fort St John, Honolulu, and Yellowknife). Overall, departures in 2023 were down more than 30 percent versus 2022.
British Airways IT Meltdown
- BRMM – BA will have an IT meltdown that substantially delays operations.
This one was apparently too easy, BRMM. There was one in May, and I think there were more. It’s hard to keep track of them all.
Air India’s Big Order
- Vburj76 – Air India finalizes the largest aircraft order in history (around 450-500 aircraft). Includes 777x, 787, a350, 737 Max, and a320Neo.
Vburj76 should be renamed Nostradamus. Air India ordered 470 airplanes including some of every type mentioned in the prediction. Do you happen to run the airline?
Condor Orders More
- Justin L – Condor will announce an expanded order for A330-900neos, due to success in competing against Lufthansa mainline on key business routes
Good call, Justin L. Condor tagged on another three of the airplanes in October.
Delta Makes Plans
- Scott Clausen – Delta exercises options for more A223s and 321neos and orders A350-1000s
- Justin – DL finally picks up the slack that VA left behind: MEL/BNE/AKL, +/- on a season basis.
That’s one-third credit for both of you, Scott Clausen and Justin. Delta did indeed exercise 12 options on the A220-300s and Delta went into Auckland, but the rest did not come to fruition.
The World’s Largest Airline
- Tory – United will be the country’s and the world’s largest carrier during the summer season of 2023 measured by scheduled ASMs, mainly on the basis of its restored international service, while AA and DL will struggle to restore their international service to the same extent.
Tory is back, and this time, it was a win. The IATA summer season ran from March 26 through October 29. United was the largest airline in the world according to Cirium data with 183.3 billion available seat miles. Delta was second at 171.4 billion while American was third at 170.9 billion.
The Graveyard of Failed Predictions
- Billy L. – US Regional operations as we know it will completely collapse due to the continued crew/pilot shortage along with scope. The big carriers would replace these with small mainline (A220, EJet, etc.) as a result.
- Ian L – An airline will announce new regular TATL or TPAC service (so, not a SXSW one-off) from AUS, though flights may not start until 2024. WN and AA will continue to duke it out.
- Jonas – Airbus will announce/launch a new aircraft variant and wreak even more havoc on their numerology – I am just not sure which one: A220-500, A322/A325 (longer 321), A330-1000 (longer -900), or A350-1100 (or -2000?) (longer -1000).
- jan – I think they will re-introduce the 380 with more fuel efficient engines
- GS in PDX – Airbus will launch the A220-500 to compete directly with the 737MAX8
- Mike K – Airbus launches A220-500 and Delta orders 100+
- Bill from DC (aka Cranky Gazelle?) – CLE finally pulls the trigger on a $1B plus mostly brand new airport thus ending decades of partially renovating and piecing together a collection of mostly ancient concourses. Rental cars will be moved back on site ending the ridiculous current consolidated setup located approximately 23.6 miles away from the terminal.
- Wes – FAA finally caves and removes the 1500 hour rule.
- CraigTPA – Porter will throttle back trans-continental Canadian expansion a little as the Canadian LCCs launch a polite, maple syrup-scented, but somewhat brutal fare war to see who (if anyone) survives, but speed up expansion to the US including deeper cooperation with JetBlue, adding at least JFK* and FLL.
- O’Hare Is My Second Home – UA will reveal that 3/4ths of its 737 MAX order will be for the MAX 7 and MAX 10 (split about 1/3rds and 2/3rds). Retirement of their A319s and 757s will be announced to begin in Q4 of 2014.
- Greg – SEA and by extension AS will continue to perform horribly in ice or snow events in 2023
- SkyVoice – I predict that the new FIS office at Grand Rapids, Michigan will result in service to Canada being restored at GRR.
- Ayesha Nicole – A 737 MAX will crash somewhere in the world, causing a panic about another grounding, until it’s clear that it was not related to the plane’s design.
- Chris – Emirates expands their code share relationship with United and announces desire to join Star Alliance.
- BusBlitz – Denver International Airport gains new international service from an Asian airline (EK or TK)
- Noah – United launches a new European destination from Denver
- Brian G. – I predict a major US regional airline (Air Wisconsin, Mesa, Republic, SkyWest, etc.) or a trade group will lobby the government for the establishment of a European-style Multi-crew Pilot License (MPL) for FOs of regional jets. (i.e. accelerated training that is reliant on simulators for a large part). I do not predict the FAA will be in favor.
- BJ – Virgin Australia will have an IPO after reporting ‘outstanding results’. Share price will subsequently tank.
- Douglas – Virgin Australia decides that, seeing as it is partnered with five Star Alliance members already, it may as well go the whole hog and become a member itself. Air New Zealand gets upset as a result.
- David C – United will pass the 700 daily departures at Denver
- MK03 – at least one airline in 2023 will announce it is retiring the A380. Which one? Who knows.
- Isaac – Either Breeze or Avelo will cease operations.
- Specter Koen – Frontier attempts to court (or is courted by) another US LCC into a merger/buyout. Talks will happen, though a firm deal won’t be made by year end.
- Denero – The Romanian government will try to pawn off Blue Air or seek another form of private investment, if it doesn’t cease its operations beforehand due to increased competition or a failure to find investors that is.
- SubwayNut – Pete Buttigieg’s administration approves the Viva Aerobus/Allegiant Airlines joint venture but this doesn’t result in a non-stop flight being launched between South Bend and Cancun, which was only a ploy by Viva Aerobus/Allegiant Airlines to get Pete Buttigieg’s attention. (which would be the South Bend Airport’s first regularly scheduled international flight, U.S. Customs did open a FIS station in South Bend in 2019 so the airport is ready to welcome this type of flight).
- Wingzz – SAS goes bust and the rump is bought by some combination of Finnair, IAG and Qatar, with long haul flying refocused mainly on HEL.
- Mar – At least one Canadian ULCC/LCC ceases operations.
- ktenorman – In 2023 United will reopen a station at OAK with several flights per day to DEN, and maybe a redeye to EWR + summer seasonal to ORD and/or IAH. Would help for SFO diversions and overflow too.
- Magres – China Air will resume both their one stop TPE-NRT-HNL and non-stop TPE-HNL routes.
- Jason Graham – A 2nd major airline will announce switching inflight internet to Starlink.
- Chesapeake Charlie – Elon Musk makes an offer to purchase Southwest Airlines, offering a 50% premium over the prevailing stock price. He vows to solve the airline’s problems by firing half the workforce and introducing a new cabin class called “Blue Checkmark”.
- cx882 – United and Amtrak will rekindle their partnership and United will begin selling Amtrak connections in the Northeast (on the Acela/Northeast Regional) to places like Philadelphia.
- Brett M. – Condor’s new livery will usher in a renaissance of new, colorful airline liveries with “eurowhite” becoming passé and even Delta announcing a new livery.
- Zhuo Andrew – United States air travel demand in 2023 is challenged by economic pressures, international instability and tensions and COVID, so travel bookings will NOT recover to 2019 level, particularly dragged by international sector. COVID continues to limit travel options for many travelers
- Lord Jarvis of Torrance – An American airline will announce their first Pokemon livery for domestic and travel to Japan. I like it to be in American airlines, but Southwest may be in the running. Delta may join but if they win the at Pokemon livery sweepstakes, Delta will suck.
- Ed – Finnair implodes, the wreckage gets bought by some combination of IAG and QR, becomes a Northern European version of vueling feeding traffic to Doha and IAG hubs in the rest of Europe.
And that is a wrap. Remember, leave one and only one prediction in the comments below for what 2024 will bring.