Friday, November 9, 2001
Its the end of an era (again).  From 1 December, American Airlines will be removing TWA signage and placing its brand on the former TWA.

Were you a member of the TWA Aviators frequent flier program?  This ends on 30 November, but your miles will be automatically transferred into an Aadvantage account (just so long as American knows who you are and can match accounts).  Details are on TWA's website.

If you don't have an Aadvantage account, or if you want to match your accounts, you can do it all from American's website.  Here's a helpful hint from a friend :  The Aviators Club (800) number is very hard to get through on at present - it is much easier to call the Aadvantage number (800)882-8880 - an AA representative there can immediately access your Aviators account information and do whatever you want.

Don't automatically assume that just because the former TWA mileage program was best for you, so too will the AA program.  It might be a good time to research the different programs and determine which airline and frequent flier program is most suited for your current travel patterns.

This week's lead story The Sound of Silence :  Suitable as a gift or a minor personal indulgence, this bargain priced $40 gadget turns silence into a virtue.  I take a set of Noisebuster active sound canceling headphones for a test flight - read the results of my trial.

Another reason why the traditional European carriers are failing.  As I write this, it appears 99.9% certain that Belgium's flag carrier Sabena - an airline that has lost money for 39 out of the last 40 years - has ceased operation for good.  Meanwhile, Swissair lurches from challenge to challenge in a struggle to survive, and other carriers are making public pronouncements of the likely consolidation of European carriers down to perhaps just three.

Of course, 11 September is being tossed around as an excuse just as liberally in Europe as it is in the US.  But.  A couple of days ago lowcost carrier Ryanair announced their first half of year profits (through 30 Sep) had increased 30%!  Today lowcost carrier easyJet announced that its October traffic was 33% up on the same month last year, with an average load factor of an incredibly high 82.2%!  Just a week earlier it had announced its previous financial year's profit had increased 82% on the previous year.  As of today, Ryanair's market capitalization is one and a half times as large as British Airways.

There seems to be a 'sea change' afoot in terms of what it takes to run a profitable airline, and few of the traditional carriers have yet responded to the new market requirements.

Winners and Losers :  Many airlines are prophesying gloom and doom.  Others are experiencing it.  But some are reporting record growth - not only in Europe, but here in the US as well.  JetBlue has just announced incredibly positive results and future projections, including making a profit for the quarter ended 30 Sep, the best load factor in October of all the US airlines, and on target plans for continued strong growth in flights.  Well done, JetBlue!   I've added a page to my website that tracks movements in leading US  airline share prices.  I'm not quite sure what it tells us, but there are several different charts to study!  I'll be updating this every week.

More problems at PHL.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about an innocent young man that was not allowed to fly out of Philadelphia due to the book he was carrying to read on the plane.  This week, a pilot, upon having his nail clippers confiscated while passing through security at PHL allegedly made a 'reference to a firearm' (we're not told what he said, although an airport spokesman tells us that it was 'definitely an inappropriate remark'.).

The slow thinking security screener let him pass without reacting, but after thinking about it some more, contacted police who then sealed off the entire Terminal B and evacuated 1000 people out of the terminal and from planes that were loading at the gates.  They spent 90 minutes searching the terminal with dogs and 'other methods' but (surprise surprise!) found nothing suspicious.  Unfortunately the security screener did not remember what the pilot looked like, but the FAA are reviewing security videos in the hope of identifying him.  I have three questions :

  • Why is it that a pilot, who has a huge big fire axe in the cockpit, isn't allowed to take his nail cutters on board the plane?
  • What exactly did the pilot say (and why aren't we told this - is it possible that the whole incident is just another ridiculous overreaction)?
  • Am I the only person that thinks part of the improved training for security screeners should be an understanding of the phrase 'get a life'?

As a post-script to the ongoing subject of security run amok, here's a story that the national media have chosen to ignore.  Last week, a woman was prevented from boarding an American Airlines flight, surrounded by military personnel armed with automatic weapons, and ordered to leave the airport in Bangor, Maine, with all airlines refusing to transport her, and not being allowed  a refund for her legally-purchased ticket.  Her major offence appears to have been that she was a member of the Green Party USA, on her way to a party conference, and known to have anti-war views!  More details here.

Another loss for Boeing.  Dubai based Emirates Airline announced on Monday an order for 25 Boeing 777s.  Why is that a loss for Boeing?  Because it also ordered 22 of the new Airbus A380s (intriguingly the quoted price of the A380s is almost the same as the quoted price of the vastly smaller 777) plus eight A340s and 3 A330s.  Boeing's market share of new plane orders continues to drop below 50% with this latest announcement.

The other intriguing part of Emirate's announcement is their statement that they want to more than double the size of their fleet so as to 'meet an expected surge in tourists visiting the Gulf state'.  Hmmmm - I hope their pilots haven't been smoking whatever it is that their Board of Directors has been!

They really don't get it.  Let's understand one very simple thing.  The airline industry's problems started long before 9/11.  Their main problem was and still is that in the slowing economy, they were pricing themselves too high and so people were either flying in a cheaper class of service or reducing their flying entirely.  So, what are we now seeing post 9/11?  Yes, exactly the opposite of what you'd expect.  Although fuel prices are dropping, although passenger numbers are dropping, the airlines - you guessed it - are raising many of their published fares!  Sure, there were and still are some great specials out there, but as a counter-current to that, some of the airlines are quietly raising their core fare levels.

I'll let BA's no-nonsense CEO, Rod Eddington, enjoy the last word this week.  Flush with the success of the return of Concorde (BA has sold over $71 million worth of seats on Concorde since announcing its return to service less than a month ago), he had some strong words to say about the Hollywood set.  Speaking on Concorde's comeback flight to New York, the BA chief executive said he was "disgusted" that celebrities were refusing to take to the skies.  Referring to action movie hero Bruce Willis, Mr Eddington said: "This is a guy who makes movies like Die Hard in which he's always the hero who races into skyscrapers saving the world. But in real life he's too scared to fly in a plane. At the first sign of trouble they cower under their beds like gutless cowards."

Hmmmmm......  ☺  Until next week, please enjoy safe travels.....

David M Rowell aka The Travel Insider
ps :  Don't forget to visit Joe Brancatelli's site for his weekly updates, too.

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