Sunday, March 15, 2009

Internet Airline News Links #3


Southwest Air Considering Food Sales to Boost Revenue
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Southwest Airlines Co., the discount carrier that made free peanuts a symbol of no-frills flying, may start selling food to boost revenue as travel demand dwindles.

JetBlue, Southwest Among Top Twitterers
Brand-management company Electric Artists came up with a Twitter tracker that ranks accounts by followers--that is, how many users have clicked on a specific account to follow its Tweets. Here's their blog. JetBlue's ranks in third place, with 161,000+, and Southwest is in seventh with 15,600+.  For context note that the top brand is Whole Foods, with 218,000.  A separate Media tracker has CNN breaking news (one that I follow) on top with around 464,000 followers. (My new Things With Wings account has 68. So, less).8550d

Airline Twitter List
My colleague and digital ace Benet Wilson tweeted earlier today this list at of airlines with Twitter accounts, put together last summer. Kudos to the site that compiled it. A lot of them are  dormant accounts, including the American Airlines page with a grand total of three posts, all on Aug. 21 last year.

U.S. Investors Sell Virgin America Stakes (subscr reqd)
The U.S.-based investors in Virgin America, the discount airline founded by Sir Richard Branson, recently cashed in their stakes in the startup carrier, according to people familiar with the situation -- raising new questions about whether the airline can continue to comply with U.S. airline "citizenship" rules.

Virgin UnAmerica(n)
Today the Wall Street Journal ran a story which seems to confirm what we had assumed was going to happen, as we had discussed in PlaneBusiness Banter a number of times over the last several months.
The two "U.S." firms that invested in Richard Branson's Virgin America operation have apparently taken advantage of the fine print in their investing agreement with the airline and headed for the hills.

Virgin America halves fourth-quarter operating loss
Virgin America reported limited 2008 fourth-quarter financial figures yesterday and said it posted a $27 million operating loss, narrowed from the $59.9 million deficit in the year-ago period, its first full operating quarter. Revenue more than tripled to $109.7 million and expenses rose 42.5% to $136.7 million. Load factor soared 19.1 points to 81.2%, unit revenue was up 86.7% to 9.28 cents and operating CASM fell 12.7% to 11.57 cents. VX released limited nine-month figures last month (ATWOnline, Feb. 3). It now operates 28 A320s.

Alaska Airlines challenges Virgin America's Americaness, Part II
Armed with fresh press clippings, Alaska Airlines again urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigation Virgin America and whether its foreign ownership exceeds the 25 percent legal limit.

Alaska Sees Rising Costs on Capacity Cuts
At the JP Morgan Aviation & Transportation Conference, Alaska gave us some numbers on the rising unit costs that we knew would result from capacity cuts. The cost increase shows why you only cut capacity if it’s absolutely necessary. Clearly, it’s absolutely necessary right now.

Airlines May Suffer From Increasing Danger in Mexico
Most Americans have now heard about the increasing drug violence occurring along the Mexican border towns. While it hasn’t spread to resort towns, the negative publicity is already starting to hurt Mexican tourism. Airlines are bound to suffer from this, and some will suffer more than others. [Ed. Note: I just booked my PVR timeshare for July.]

News and Notes From United's 10-K
The hit parade just keeps coming. Today I’m taking a slightly deeper look at United’s annual report. Here are some interesting bits for you.

Why Exactly Did United End E-fare Emails?
According to Today in the Sky, United is no longer going to send E-fare emails to its customers. E-fares, the ones that are for last minute weekend travel, will still be around on the United website, but they just won’t proactively tell you about them anymore. So what’s up with the customer unfriendly policy? I’m guessing it’s related to United’s new corporate motto, “If it’s broke, don’t fix it.”

American Pulls Out of Dallas/Love Field, Turns on the Spin Machine
Why would they bother to renew a lease on the terminal if they clearly don’t want to be there for the next four years? Well it all goes back to the whole Love Field fight. When DFW opened, traffic restrictions were put in place at Love Field (by the Wright Amendment) to force airlines to move to DFW. Southwest refused to move, and the battle was born.

Deciphering Hawaiian’s February Traffic
I think I’ve discussed why Hawaiian’s results can look kind of weird in the past, but I wanted to re-visit the topic since the February traffic numbers were just released. Passengers carried in February 2009 were up 15.1% compared to the same month in 2009, but RPMs are only up 0.9%, and ASMs were up 2.4%, bringing load factor down 1.2 points to 83%. What gives? It’s because of the way load factor is calculated.

Spring Break in Moscow - $200 Roundtrip
At 1:00am this morning American added another 100 cities (all the smaller ones in their route system) to the list with these once in a lifetime prices — maybe it isn’t a mistake …Recently Hillary was handing out “Reset” buttons to thaw relations with Russia
, but this is ridiculous.

TSA to Require More Info from Travelers Soon
I know, I know - it already feels like we’re under a microscope.
But starting soon (no dates have been announced), the Transportation Security Administration, better known as the TSA, will be taking over the responsibility of the “Watch List” from the airlines.