Flight Blog

 

"The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that pilots on American Airlines flights would be allowed to use iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit starting Friday, as reported by ZDNet, even during takeoff and landing. But, passengers are still required to shut down anything with the slightest electronic pulse from the moment a plane leaves the gate until it reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet." Read the rest of the story from the New York Times.

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One of the most frequent questions we get from the public is about Southwest Airlines, as in, "When will Southwest come to Springfield?" Our answer, in summary, "Not for a long time, our market is too small."

Recently, the question has changed a bit. Keep in mind that AirTran flies into the Branson airport, and that AirTran was recently bought out by Southwest. So, the question we get today is, "Once the merger is complete, will Southwest keep service at the Branson airport?" Our answer, in summary, "Probably not." Keeping the public's high interest in Southwest in mind, we try to share industry news about the airline. This week we have an analysis of the merger from aviation consultant Michael Boyd. Full disclosure: Boyd's firm is this airport's air service consultant. The analysis begins with this introduction:

"This analysis is a follow-up to the study done by Boyd Group International immediately after the announcement of the Southwest acquisition of AirTran. Compiled independently, the prognosis is clear: Atlanta will experience a traffic decline as a result of this merger. The simple reason is that Southwest is a well-managed company, but its operating system simply cannot take advantage of all of the revenue flows inherited from AirTran."

Here's a heads-up on jargon: "FL" is industry shorthand for AirTran. "WN" is shorthand for Southwest.

Read the entire document here.

 

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"Two New York lawmakers have called for a passenger advocate at airports to immediately act on complaints by passengers over security screenings." That's the lede in an Associated Press story that ran over the weekend. A New York state senator, and U.S. senator Charles Schumer, want the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to create the position at all airports with screening check points. The lawmakers are probably reacting to the steady trickle of passenger complaints that have received national attention.

Two of the most recent ones involve an elderly woman who says she was strip searched, and a young woman who was toting a purse with a gun-shaped applique. Here's an entertaining quote about the purse incident from gawker.com:

"Gibbs (the young woman) told Jacksonville's WJXT-TV that the TSA agent who inspected her "was like, 'This is a federal offense because it's in the shape of a gun'... I'm like, 'But it's a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?'" Gibbs escaped being detained by authorities but had to check her bag so that the fake gun's invisible bullets wouldn't go off inside the cabin, theoretically killing all of her fellow passengers as they ascended into the clouds and entered an alternative universe at 30,000 feet."

Ouch.

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Have you been keeping up with the all the silliness surrounding the Alec Baldwin affair? In case you haven't, here's the story in 140 characters or less!

"Actor Baldwin kicked off AA flight after refusing to turn off electronic device. Twitter wars and media hysteria ensue. Seriously."

If you need more than 140 characters worth of details, try this. Or this. Maybe this, or this one.......anyway,

The whole thing is even sillier when put in the context of a New York Times story that ran about a week before the Baldwin Affair. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the federal entity that came up with the "turn off all your devices" rule. The Times ran this quote from an FAA spokesman:

“There was no evidence saying these devices can’t interfere with a plane, and there was no evidence saying that they can...There have never been any reported accidents from these kinds of devices on planes."

 

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Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, put out an extraordinarily candid letter to employees this week. In it he succinctly summarizes the state of the airline industry, and of Southwest in particular. You can read the letter, in its entirety, here. Here are some key parts to look for...

"If American Airlines emerges from the ashes of bankruptcy, and I believe they will, you can be certain their costs will be substantially lower, especially their labor and aircraft costs. If they can't achieve that, they will cease to exist (like Pan Am, Eastern, Braniff, and TWA). If they do emerge from bankruptcy, as I believe they will, they will join the New United, New Delta, and New US Airways as giant, lower-cost airlines. They are, collectively, much more formidable competition than their predecessors. The term, “Legacy Carrier,” no longer will apply."

Here's the takeaway: contrary to what a lot of people think, the "legacy" airlines have been doing a good job of competing with Southwest. When American emerges from bankruptcy, it will be an even stronger competitor.

"Our labor rates are now, far and away, the highest in the industry. Through bankruptcy, very large New Airlines have emerged with lower rates than us and better productivity. Next to fuel, labor is our highest expenditure. We can't have lower overall operating costs if our labor costs aren’t lower. We can't have lower labor costs if we aren't more productive. The good news is that we have a lot of opportunities to improve our productivity, eliminate waste, and preserve our pay rates and benefits for the foreseeable future. Its crucial that we take advantage of those opportunities."

The takeaway: Southwest needs to get its house in order.

 

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