Qantas shuts down, third quarter airline financials, inflight food, premium traffic growth slows, Google adds OTAs to Flight Search and café diversions

In other airline, hotel and travel industry news this week…

[Edited last minute to include:] Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has taken severe action and cancelled all flights in response to continued pressure by three union groups at the airline. He states, ”They are trashing our strategy and our brand. They are deliberately destabilising the company and there is no end in sight.” Paging Prime Minister Julia Gillard… would Julia Gillard please pick up the nearest white courtesy phone.

  • All the major air carriers released their third quarter 2011 financial results in the last week. Most missed analyst expectations and all cited the approximate 40% increase in jet fuel prices from the previous year’s quarter as the main reason. Starting with the winners, United Airlines – Continental Airlines posted a combined net income of $653 million, down 23% from 2010, Delta Air Lines posted a profit of $549 million, up from $366 million in 2010 and US Airways netted $95 million, down from $243 million in 2010. Not unsurprising, American Airlines posted a $162 million loss this past quarter compared to a $143 million profit in 2010.
  • The Chicago Tribune recently interviewed the founder of AirplaneFood.net, Luis Ramirez, after the reporter read an announcement that American Airlines will be working with two top chefs to provide in-flight meals on some flights. In my opinion, first class meals today are the free coach meals of 1990 and it’s a favorite gripe among travelers. Not surprisingly, Ramirez’s top three carriers for meals are foreign, namely Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. His bottom three are United Airlines, US Airways and Alitalia. I particularly like his quote about United’s meals: “Uninspired, unattractive, predictable, and most importantly, lacks minimum quality.”
  • Even though domestic airlines claim they’re not seeing a drop in demand in business travelers, IATA – the International Air Transport Association – points to slowing growth for premium traffic. The association reports international premium traffic growth in August slowed to 2.3%, down sharply from July’s 7.5% rate. Routes within North America declined, actually, and were down 13.2%.
  • When Google Flight Search launched last month it only offered links to book a ticket on the websites of the carriers it featured. It seems they’ve had a change of heart and now show the ability to “try this search” on the major Online Travel Agency (OTA) websites. I’m sure they had a bit of pressure from the OTAs and a Google spokesperson stated, “While this is just a start, we look forward to expanding our advertising efforts with partners and to continue experimenting with different formats, placements and targeting capabilities.” I honestly haven’t been back since I gave it a rather scathing review.
  • Flight diversions make for a stressful situation for passengers, but some of the stress was shared this week with workers at Abilene Regional Airport. Dense fog at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport caused seven flights to divert to the small airport, which generally never sees that much traffic. One café ended up selling out of some items and had lines 25 people deep. A kind passenger reportedly helped the café out by changing out the trash bag!

I actually had a lot more to cover from the week, including bonus mileage and point offers from airlines and hotels, but the other fine bloggers here at BoardingArea covered them nicely. As this post goes live, I’ll be listening to View From The Wing’s Gary Leff give his Award Bookings presentation at the Chicago Seminars.

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