FAA Opens Door to MAX 9 to Return
The FAA established the process for the MAX 9 to return to the air, with both Alaska and United to slowly begin the process of reintroducing the aircraft to their fleets today. As a safety precaution during the first few weeks of its return to the air, both carriers will restrict rows next to the plug doors to Basic Economy passengers, figuring if anyone is going to get ripped out of the airplane, it might as well be them.
The government is requiring a “thorough inspection and maintenance process” before any airplanes can return to service, a process that’s currently ongoing. That process is expected to include checking every bolt on every door, and if something is missing, sending it back to Boeing to sort out. Boeing suggested sending any failed planes to the Airbus factory in Toulouse since Airbus seems to “have a better grasp on the whole keeping doors shut thing.”
Both U.S.-based airlines operating the MAX 9 will not allow any plane to return without being fully-assured of its safely, although United did say if any airplanes were borderline in passing the safety check, those would be the ones sent to Newark.
American, United Post Year-End Earnings
Both American and United‘s Q4 and year-end financial reports showed a profitable year, with American ending the year with just over $3 billion in profit, and United closing up 2023 up about $4.2 billion.
American ended the year with nearly $53 billion in gross revenue, an amount which would have been greater had it not bought all those ‘AA hearts B6’ mugs back in the spring. American’s biggest expense for the year was salaries and benefits — where it spent about $15 billion — most of which went to CEO Robert Isom’s media advisory team for his battle with flight attendants.
AA finished the year with $10.4 billion in liquidity — it would have been closer to $11 billion but it spent several hundred million going over each aircraft in its fleet with a fine tooth comb to make sure none of them are MAX 9s in disguise.
United’s set new records for its passenger totals and load factors — 165 million and 86.4%, respectively — on its $4.2 billion in pretax income. UA saw a 20% jump in Basic Economy sales during Q4 after it reversed its policy of making Basic Economy passengers fly on the wing, with the thinking that if the doors of its MAX 9 aircraft are going to fly off and everyone is going to be flying as if they were outside, it shouldn’t be a perk reserved for Basic Economy passengers only.
UA grossed $53 billion for the year, a 20% increase from a year ago. It ended the year with $16 billion in liquidity, including its fleet of 79 MAX 9 aircraft, currently valued at $39 each.
Frontier Expands its Frontiers
Frontier Airlines saw that Spirit might continue to be a thing, forcing it to leap into action this week, announcing 54 new routes, utilizing 38 airports for the summer, 39 of which are brand spankin’ new and 15 which are being brought back from a bygone era.
Frontier will go head-to-head with American on 33 of the routes, Delta on 24, 15 and 14 for Southwest and United respectively, and 13 for Spirit. The city gaining the most new service is Dallas/Fort Worth where Frontier will nearly double its presence — going from 16 destinations to 30, and 17-18 flights per day to 28 or 29.
San Juan is next with eight new or returning routes, followed by Charlotte — AAnother AA hub. In addition to flying to DFW and San Juan from Charlotte, Frontier will be add service to Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago/ORD, Houston/IAH, and New York/LGA. Frontier is also returning to LAX, a little over two years after leaving the airport and trying to make a go of it in Burbank. To start off its return, Frontier will begin with flying to five cities, with daily service to each: DFW, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Francisco.
For a more in depth look at Frontier’s new frontiers, please visit yesterday’s post at crankyflier.com.
Southwest Pilots Approve Contract
Southwest Pilots approved a new five-year contract this week, earning themselves a nearly ~50% raise over the life of the contract.
The $12 billion contract passed with flying colors, with a 93% approval rate amongst its electorate. Pilots will see a 29% spike in pay immediately with the signing of the deal, and then 4% annual raises for the next three years, followed by a 3.25% raise in the final year. The carrier released its Q4 and 2023 fiscal report on the heels of the pilot agreement, and it reported a $219 million loss in the quarter, but a net positive of $498 million for the year.
Southwest reported record revenues for the year with a gross figure of $26.1 billion, ending the year with a liquidity figure of $12 billion, $10 of which it has set aside for flight attendant raises.
Breeze Announces 11 New Routes
Breeze Airways is blowing into three new cities this summer, adding 11 routes from Denver, Greenville, and Mobile.
New destination Greenville is getting flights to five cities — Hartford, Los Angeles, Orlando, Providence, and Tampa — all of which will see 2x weekly service. Mobile will be introduced to Breeze with service to Orlando in April, while Denver to Providence begins in May.
Other new routes for the carrier include seasonal, sub-daily service on:
- Madison to Los Angeles (2x weekly)
- Akron/Canton to Los Angeles (3x weekly)
- Tampa to Orange County (2x weekly)
- Hartford to Myrtle Beach (2x weekly)
These are routes that presumably someone wants to fly at some point and is willing to pay some U.S. dollars for the privilege, so Breeze is going to give it a go.
- Air Belgium was given another four months to figure its situation out.
- Air Canada added possibly the most boring partner ever for its Aeroplan loyalty program.
- Air Europa‘s acquisition by IAG is under investigation by the European Commission.
- Air France‘s 17th U.S. destination will be Phoenix. 3x weekly Dreamliner service will begin in May.
- Air Moldova may have flown its final flight.
- Alaska moved up its first Max 8 flight to operate on Tuesday, after originally being scheduled for February 15.
- American FAs aren’t happy.
- BA is delaying pre-ordering of on-board meals indefinitely. This means you’ll have to wait until boarding the aircraft to choose the mediocre meal that will leave you feeling neither full or satisfied.
- Cathay Pacific is putting a new business class on its regional A330 fleet.
- Copa is returning its entire fleet of MAX 9s to the air.
- Discover will discover what its like to have both pilots and FAs on strike when both groups begin a labor action today.
- El Al is suspending service to South Africa over that whole “genocide” argument thing.
- Fly Angola will finally be back soon.
- GOL missed its fiscal GOLs and is starting a new chapter.
- Icelandair added two more A321LRs.
- LATAM‘s JV with Delta was approved by the Brazilian government.
- Malaysia Airlines added fancy new BMWs for premium class travelers in Kuala Lumpur to avoid the indignity of shuttle buses.
- Nile Air is adding airplanes.
- Norse Atlantic did a thing.
- Oneworld will begin limited cross-alliance upgrades this year.
- Porter named the sixth member of the Jackson Five — Kevin Jackson — as its president.
- Qantas‘s safety video is really, really long.
- Red Air added wet-leased A320 capacity.
- Ryanair now has its first agreement with an OTA.
- Saudia flew more than 30 million passengers last year, a 21% increase from 2022.
- Sun Country is striking back at Frontier’s MSP-CLE service it just announced with its own 4x weekly flights between the two cities.
- United pilots and FAs will have more options to use their Tim Horton’s gift cards in the coming year.
- WestJet is adding five new MAX 8s.
A detective showed up at my house today and I asked where I was between 5 and 6. I told him “kindergarten.”