US Airways sues pilots, mechanic steals; new airline routes; GDS extensions and profits galore

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

  • Late last Friday US Airways filed a lawsuit against… its own pilots. Upset with what they’re calling an “illegal slowdown” by some East (read: US Airways) pilots, the carrier claims their West (read: America West) pilots are far more efficient in minimizing delays that impact on-time performance. Having taken weather and other non-pilot factors out of the equation, US Airways claims the percentage of flights arriving on schedule by East pilots has declined 11% since May. As it is, both geographic pilot groups have been at odds with each other since the merger of America West & US Airways over seniority issues. Still though, is a lawsuit against your own pilots the productive way to resolve the issue?
  • Staying with US Airways news, one of the carrier’s former mechanics was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay full restitution for stealing $586,000 worth of equipment, some of which he sold on eBay for approximately $350,000. Items included torque wrenches, headsets, airplane landing lights, seat belts and a large hydraulic jack. Sadly, he had a 30-year career with the carrier and an otherwise clean record. Claiming disgust with being demoted and having his pay and retirement cut, he sought to reclaim his losses through theft.
  • The battles between American Airlines and Orbitz are ongoing, but both parties have entered into an agreement that will keep the carrier’s flights on the OTA “into 2012.” The court order that required American to restore flights on Orbitz dictated it be maintained that way until a new court order, or September 1, 2011. In likely cooperation with each other to avoid additional litigation, they appear to have agreed for a mutual extension for the time being.
  • In coincidentally related news, Travelport (who has a 48% controlling stake in Orbitz) has extended a content deal with American Airlines ensuring the carrier’s full availability, fares and other content will continue beyond the current expiration in the Worldspan global distribution system (GDS). Travelport operates three GDSs, namely Apollo, Galileo and Worldspan, and the day after the Worldspan announcement, they confirmed full-content agreements for Apollo and Galileo would also be extended. The GDS world is often confusing to the regular traveler, and I intend to devote a future post into explaining the systems, their origin and current controversy in the industry. Oh, and separately, United Airlines Economy Plus seats can now be sold by agents booking through Travelport GDSs.
  • Delta Air Lines began new nonstop service on the Los Angeles to Oakland route on Monday. Operated by SkyWest, Delta is hoping to capture some of the Southwest Airlines traffic in that market and offers five round-trips daily. American Airlines via their Eagle regional subsidiary will begin daily LAX-Aspen flights this ski season beginning December 15, 2011, continuing until April 2, 2012. Lastly, Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of Abu Dhabi (UAE), is looking to expand their Australian presence beyond Sydney & Melbourne to possibly include Perth and Adelaide in the future. My opinion… probably an add-on segment to existing flights.
  • Finally, I was pleased to see many companies in the industry I follow post profits for this recent quarter and/or half-year. In addition to the major carriers (sans American), Allegiant Air posted a net income of $11.9 million for the second quarter and the carrier is all but certain to begin service to Hawaii in 2012. Hertz saw a $55 million profit in the same quarter compared to a $25 million loss in the same quarter of 2010. Hyatt Hotels citing strength in “select-service brands” (e.g., Hyatt Place and Summerfield Suites) posted a net income of $37 million. To finish, and perhaps to American Airlines’ digust, GDS provider Amadeus saw its six-month net income grow 12.2% to a whopping $377 million.

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