JetBlue’s Deflated Spirit
When U.S. District Judge William Young ended the merger of JetBlue and Spirit on Tuesday, the fate of both airlines became as unstable as a first-time traveler attempting a 1-hour connection on a split ticket, international-to-international connection in Paris.
The nearly-$4 billion takeover of Spirit by JetBlue was blocked on the grounds that it would reduce competition in the United States, with the judge agreeing with the Department of Justice that elimination of a ULCC like Spirit would be a bridge too far. As a result of the decision, both carriers face an uncertain future with Spirit looking as if a major restructuring is its best-case scenario with some suggesting that a bankruptcy declaration and possible liquidation could follow if it isn’t successful.
Spirit’s shares have tumbled more than 67% this week, hitting a record low of $4.04 on Thursday before rebounding slightly. Despite its love of fees, Spirit has not turned a profit since before the pandemic. JetBlue has begun the post-merger world reducing its operation, with reports the carrier is ending its operation in Baltimore, reducing its footprint at New York/JFK, and more. For more on the failed merger, please visit Wednesday’s post at crankyflier.com.
FAA Completes 40 MAX 9 Inspections
The federal government completed inspections of the first 40 B737-9 MAX aircraft, marking a key milestone in eventually getting the planes back in the air.
The FAA now plans to review the findings of its investigations to inform its maintenance plan to get the planes back in the sky, preferably with two plug doors intact. FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker indicated his investigators are zeroing in on not just the immediate safety issues, but the challenges Boeing has faced over a long period of time. The FAA has stated it believes the door plug incident was only one component of a larger issue requiring a more long-term fix.
Alaska extended its suspension of B737-9 MAX flights through Sunday as it awaits completion of the FAA’s plan.
The NTSB is looking into how the plug door was produced by Spirit AeroSystems and the installation process on the aircraft. The panel itself was manufactured in Malaysia, causing some focus to shift to Boeing’s global supply chain. When questioned about its global supply chain, Boeing officials refused comment, saying the exact reason it outsourced so much overseas was to wash its hands over incidents just like this one.
Mesa, United, Put New Deal on the Table
Mesa Air Group continues to find a way to survive, as the regional carrier announced a series of agreements with United designed to keep it from going out of business.
Mesa’s block-hour rate for United is going up, a change that is going to add about $63 million on the table to Mesa’s bottom line in the next year. The regional carrier then hired a magician who managed to make its $12.6 million outstanding bridge loan from United disappear. All it cost Mesa was $139 to hire the magician for two hours plus its $5 million stake in Heart Aerospace.
Lastly, it released its stake in Archer Aviation as collateral. Mesa currently possess 2.27 million vested shares in Archer and 1.17 million unvested shares, at a value of a penny each — or roughly three times the value of a Delta SkyMile.
JAL Names First Female President
Japan Airlines named Mitsuko Tottori as its president Wednesday, becoming the first female to lead the Tokyo-based airine. Tottori is a former flight attendant for JAL who has been with the carrier in various roles since 1985. The current president, Yuri Akasaka will become the chairman of the airline while chairman Yoshiharu Ueki will retire from his role.
Japan has some of the largest gender gaps amongst first world countries when it comes to both salary and executive roles. Tottori says she hopes to be a trailblazer and role model for women and girls in the business world in Japan, while longtime readers of Cranky Flier just wish she’d do something about Godzilla always haunting JAL’s home airport.
She will become president effective on April 1, and will also be the first president of the airline who was previously a flight attendant.
Kona Shows the Cracks in its Armor
Kona International Airport (KOA), the largest airport on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, was forced to close this week due to cracks on its runway. The decision to shut down came Monday afternoon with the Hawaiian Department of Transportation making the decision. Airport staff noticed an 8″ x 2″ crack early Monday morning and continued to monitor it until it became a full-blown 3-foot hole by midday, forcing the closure.
HDOT contracted with resurfacers to clean up a 10’x10x area and were able to reopen the runway on Tuesday. HDOT says it has plans to reconstruct the entire 11,000 foot runway later this year. During the brief shutdown, 26 flights to the airport were either canceled or diverted since the flight crews insisted on being needy and required a functioning runway to land on.
DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg is visiting Hawai’i next month for a
boondoggle vacation fact-finding trip to inspect the state’s transportation infrastructure, including Kona’s runway. Despite claims that Kona’s airport is safe to use again, reports say he plans to fly into Hilo just in case.
- Air India opened a fancy new training center.
- Air New Zealand flew nearly 16 million passengers last year.
- Air Premia will be adding San Francisco as its 4th U.S. route. 4x weekly service from Seoul/ICN begins May 17.
- American did the unthinkable.
- Azul‘s partnership with Emirates will now include earn and burn opportunities for frequent fliers of both airlines.
- BA is taking a pair of customers, the perfectly-named Brits Mr. and Mrs. Lipton to court over a £440 compensation claim.
- BRA is considering a corporate restructuring to give itself better and fuller support.
- Delta is nearly doubling its service into Augusta (AGS) from April 7-15 for the 2024 Masters.
- Emirates is hiring.
- Ethiopian is adding a 4th weekly flight from Addis Ababa to London/Gatwick.
- Garuda Indonesia is offering a status match to Qantas customers.
- Global Airlines, the global airline that isn’t, just delayed its launch. Again.
- Kenya Airways won’t be flying to Tanzania anytime soon.
- KLM will debut its A321 ops this fall.
- Lion Air‘s thoughts about an IPO have roared back.
- Lufthansa plans to hire 13,000 new staff this year, most of which will be tasked with coming up with the carrier’s next subsidiary.
- Norwegian took a stake in a SAF producer.
- Qantas surely pissed these customers off.
- Ryanair is resuming Israel flights on February 1.
- S7 is done flying the A319.
- SAS has Georgia on its mind.
- SATA is doing more than just sitting on its ass-a when it comes to its fleet.
- Singapore had a good December.
- SpiceJet may finally be cooked.
- TAP had a good 2023.
- Thai AirAsia won’t be a part of the AirAsia Group consolidation, along with its cousin Thai AirAsia X.
- Turkish will begin flying between Istanbul and Melbourne on March 15.
- VietJet is adding wet-leased A320 capacity for the Lunar New Year.
- Virgin Australia linked up with Link Airways to increase its regional network by nearly 50%.
- Wizz Air is headed back to Israel in March.
I’ve always thought if we had it all to do over again, gonorrhea would make a great name for a diarrhea medicine.