Airline of the year, fuel stops, American’s cuts, airfare by weight, attendant assault, Southwest expands and Hawaiian breaks a record

In other airline industry news this week…

  • Air New Zealand was named Airline of the Year by Air Transport World Magazine as part of its 38th Airline Industry Achievement Awards. ATW bestowed the honor to NZ due to “industry-leading innovation and motivation of its staff which resulted in exceptional performance across market position, customer service, financial performance, fiscal management and operational safety.” The only U.S. carrier to receive an award was Alaska Airlines – the Joseph S. Murphy Industry Service Award – for service benefitting the airline industry and being involved in numerous environmental and corporate-giving initiatives.
  • United Airlines, read Continental Airlines, received a lot of heat this week for their numerous amount of flights from Europe to the East coast that have recently required fuel stops due to unusually strong headwinds. The Wall Street Journal reports that United confirmed 43 flights operated with Boeing 757 aircraft had to stop for fuel last month due to the winds and limited range of the aircraft, up sharply from 12 the year earlier. That caused delays and misconnections for thousands of passengers and brought using the limited range jet into question. To the airline’s credit, though, the headwinds are the most extreme they’ve seen in the past 10 years.
  • American Airlines will cut their Chicago-New Delhi nonstop March 1st and totally withdraw from Burbank effective February 9th, as well as lay off 150 employees citing “operational and business changes” resulting from its bankruptcy filing. The carrier is also hoping to delay their lawsuit against Sabre, a GDS, by three months while it focuses on reorganization. The still separate regional entity American Eagle, meanwhile, has hired Bain & Co. – to the tune of $525,000 per month – to assist in labor-cost assessment and negotiations.
  • Tony Webber, a former Qantas executive, has boldly come out and proclaimed, “People weighing more than average should pay more for their airfares than slimmer passengers.” Ouch. He claims the extra fuel needed comes out to about $472 per plane and is affecting the airlines’ profits. As it stands, the airlines have an average weight they predict per passenger and while I don’t remember the figure from my days in Flight Dispatch with United Airlines, I do recall it being awfully low. Instead of an airfare increase, airlines need to up their average passenger weights and adjust their loads accordingly. Would you step on a scale at an airport?
  • Horrible airplane etiquette continues in 2012 with a 65-year old man having been arrested for allegedly assaulting a Delta Air Lines flight attendant on a Tokyo to Honolulu flight. He was forced to surrender his passport and stay on Oahu to appear at a hearing on January 20th. His bad behavior was apparently due to over imbibing on multiple glasses of wine.
  • Southwest Airlines will launch a daily flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles beginning June 10th. This is in addition to AirTran’s existing three daily flights already in the market. Southwest officially launches service February 12th with 15 daily nonstops to five cities: Baltimore, Chicago (MDW), Denver, Houston (HOU) and Austin. Las Vegas and Phoenix service from Atlanta commences March 10th.
  • Finally, Hawaiian Airlines set a new company record for the most passengers carried in a single year – 8,666,319 in 2011 – a 17% increase from 2010. I imagine 2012 will be another record year as the airline continues to expand on the mainland with new service to JFK beginning in June.

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