Monday Insight – July 3, 2023

The Media:
Another Major Co-Conspirator In The Air Meltdown

The major meltdown of the air transportation system last week, primarily in the Northeast, particularly affected carriers with high concentrations of operations in the region – JetBlue and United. As a result, the choke spread across the nation as airliners got mired in the operational quicksand caused by an incompetent ATC system.

When double-digit percentages of departures and arrivals are restricted on the East Coast, it affects the entire nation.

United: Telling It Like It Is. The CEO of United stood up and pointed out that the weather situation itself was not extraordinary in comparison to those in the past. It was the continuing and deepening collapse in the air traffic control system, particularly due to lack of staffing, that flummoxed millions of passengers across the nation.

The Media: Telling Like Buttigieg Says It Is. In response, the embarrassing creature that’s sitting in the front office at the DOT fired up his media cronies to get lots and lots of time on the air to refute United’s claims and tout his exemplary performance for America. The M.O. has worked well in the past, and did so here, too. Just toss out the official jive, and the usual network suspects respond like fish tossed at trained seals.

And, it worked. Do a search. The talking heads on the networks just sat there nodding away – resembling glazed donuts, accepting and smiling at everything he babbled out.

Asking for hard details was not on the agenda. Just smile, toss softball questions, thank him profusely for coming on.

The guy could have been selling defective Vega-Matics and gotten away with it.

Actually, he did. ‘Cept the defective product was a lot more than a kitchen appliance. It’s our entire air traffic control system.

The Track Record Is Clear. So Why Doesn’t It Get Covered. Butigieg’s performance over the last two years is a shamble of political nonsense. (Remember, he claims some roads are racist. On-the-fringe crackpot stuff that nobody on the nightly news ever questioned.) So, it’s not a surprise that the media gives the guy a walk with this ATC scandal.

This includes the righteous correspondents who are competing with what’s on the rack at Men’s Wearhouse. The ones who posture themselves as experts. (This is not to imply that there aren’t any truly competent media experts, but they get denigrated by toady colleagues who have less than stellar ethics. On no ethics.)

Pander, Or It’s No More Access. It’s a fact that if the high-level politicians have an experience on the air with less fun than a Tupperware Party, well, they won’t be available to come on the air again anytime soon. They will go to other more friendly channels.

Here’s a revelation, media: when you treat the politicians as being above accountability – as most have done with Buttigieg in this case — you are suborning and encouraging political dishonesty.

You bear some responsibility for the meltdown because the ATC mess has been there for years, and you give the political appointees a walk, with the excuse that “they inherited it.”

They never mention that Buttigieg has been there for two years – long enough to train a lot of controllers. It’s his mess, and the media is being dishonest, allowing the guy to get a walk on it.

Point: a lot of the media is simply his cheering section. By not reporting directly and clearly, the public is misled into thinking that bad, dishonest politicians are actually stand-up guys.

Aviation leaders need to be careful. On one hand they have to play ball with the politicians in charge. On the other, comments like from United are imperative to keep the narrative honest.

Which is hard to do when the reporting doesn’t take it seriously.


Monday Insight – June 19, 2023

The FAA Reauthorization –
Defrauding Small Communities of The Truth

Yes, I know.

Virtually every aviation alphabet organization, labor union, and random association within a couple of zip codes of an airport have come out lauding the wondrous work done by the respective congressional committees on FAA Reauthorization.

Come on. Let’s face realities. Most of these organizations have no choice but to generally applaud what powerful politicians propose. It’s the nature of the system. Understandable.

It is unless there are major problems that need to be addressed. And that’s the case here.

Charlatan Solutions, Sloppy Work. When it comes to the Small Community Air Service section of the Senate bill, it has lift-off into fantasy. It would be refreshing to see somebody in aviation at least question the nonsense these politicians are peddling. In fact, in all the searches done, there isn’t one mention by any organization regarding the Small Community Air Service section. They babble and gush about other parts of the bill, but not the air service section.

It’s a major issue, and yet the silence is deafening. The likely reason is that most readers can tell right away that the Small Community Air Service section is nonsense.

So, let’s put out some truth about this section of the bill. It’s not politically correct. But it is the truth.

There were some variances in the Senate and House versions. But when it comes to Small Community Air Service, these politicians in both houses have shifted completely into ethical good-bye gear. It is not acceptable to proffer legislation on matters they obviously know nothing about.

No Attempt To Address Air Transportation Realities. The Senate committee has spewed out glowing descriptions of how the bill will be the magic for small community air service. But for anyone with modicum of knowledge of air transportation, this missive descends into a disgusting wallow in slapdash inaccuracies concocted by politicians who know nothing about aviation, and worse have no problem misleading the American people.

Instant Solutions. Just Add Money. The magic elixirs of rural air service: more EAS money, and more funding for the Small Community Air Service Development program, a cadaver that never has really worked for small communities, anyway.

EAS Is Not A National Solution. And SCASD Is Now A Pathetic Misfire. In short, these irresponsible politicians are lying to the public by maintaining that just tossing money at expanding EAS, and also adding dough to the now useless Small Community Air Service Development program will bring out a “variety” of airlines to serve local airports at small communities.

It is disgraceful that they made no effort to learn about air service and consumer realities. No understanding of what “air service” is, or how EAS is a only a limited tool, not a magic cure, based on today’s fleets and airline players. There is indeed a role for the EAS system. But these guys don’t know what it is.

Legislation Based On Ignorance. This bill has no understanding of the difference between “air access” and just having airplanes at a rural gate. Not a clue about airline fleets or capabilities. No understanding of consumer trends or the truth that often air service at an alternative larger airport is more time-efficient than a couple flights at the local aerodrome.

If these Senators were doctors, they’d be in jail for malpractice.

Coming This Friday, June 23: A Video Covering The Facts. Clear your calendar. We’ve decided to do what other consultants avoid: telling the facts about small community air service, about the realities facing these airports, and then outline the policy changes needed.

This Friday will be a special edition of Aviation Unscripted™, our growing video channel.

The “we” will be Bill Swelbar and myself. Most folks know that neither of us suffer fools gladly and as far as rural air service is concerned, these politicians are a latter-day version of The Gong Show. (Google it, if you must.)

Swelbar-Zhong has done extensive research on small community air access. The data are unshakable – the current policies are completely obsolete and not based on the real world. In addition, BGI has extensive experience with the SCASD program. In fact, we earned over $20 million for our clients in the early years. But we know how changes in air transportation have relegated it to being useless.

Preview of Bad Policy. As a hint of what to expect, let’s go over the four key points the Senate folks are trying to put over on the US public.

Bogus: Bringing More Air Service to Rural and Underserved Areas”

This is based on complete hype. Won’t happen. They are claiming that all small communities must have local air service, or economic disaster will ensue. Not a shred of facts. No understanding of air service access realities or of the air transportation industry,

Instead, they deliver the dishonesty that more EAS gelt will save the day. At Aviation Unscripted™ Bill and I are going to inject an antidote to this nonsense. It’s called facts.

Assumes Airlines That Don’t Exist: Broadens Eligibility Requirement for EAS Airlines.”

They’re implying that there are lots – in their words, a “variety” – of airlines ready to serve small communities just as soon as EAS funding goes up and certain other changes are made.

Remember, these politicians think “air service” is fundamentally the same as stringing an extension cord into the electrical grid, or running a pipe to the sewer main. Just get “flights” at the local airport, and voila! the community is connected to the world.

This is completely irresponsible. Not sure what planet they are on. We’ll do a solar map check on Friday.

Then, Threaten Those Airlines That Don’t Exist: Protects Service to Small Airports.”

With this “protection” they are dishonestly implying that some carriers have arbitrarily dropped EAS markets, and in the future, once awarded, airlines will be prohibited from getting out of a contract, regardless. We’ll talk on Friday about just how this ought to have their fantasy “variety” of airlines just come a-runnin’ to get snared into EAS contracts like this.

Total Ignorance: It Funds Needed Service Improvements for Small Airports.”

Seems that these senators have stumbled across the “Small Community Air Service Development Program” and are telling us that it brings air service to, well, small communities. They are completely ignorant. Today, the SCASD program is almost totally useless, particularly for what anyone awake and sober would define as a “small community.”

They probably don’t know that the SCASD program over the past 10 years has done virtually nothing – nothing – for the truly small communities these politicians think will be beneficiaries of a peanut award budget of $20 million.

To be clear, the SCASD program has been great and beneficial for airports that are not actually serving anything vaguely close to being a “small community.” Albany, Spokane, Sarasota are examples. But it’s been a dud in attracting true lasting connectivity to legitimately rural and small airports. Reason: the SCASD program is based on appalling misconceptions of the economics and structure of today’s air transportation.

But, see, the name is “Small Community Air Service” and that’s as far as the numbskull staffers in Senator Snort’s office went in their research.

Join Us This Friday For Facts. In summary, what these proud bipartisan politicians are proposing just panders and misleads the nation from seeking future solutions.

What the nation needs is an honest and complete program that recognizes that scheduled air service is a lot more than a couple of departures at the local airport. ‘Course, this type of dishonest legislation will probably go into effect. But it’s critical that honest folks in aviation are not misled that it’s a solution.

Join Bill and I on Friday – bookmark the link and take a look at our channel by clicking here.

Monday Insight – June 26, 2023

Electric Aviation.
Becoming A Victim of Hype?

McKinsey just came out with a glowing report on the future of “regional air mobility” that’s being made possible primarily via introduction of small electric aircraft.

Sounds wonderful. Intra-regional air transportation will be coming back, is the message. Not a lot of research on actual demand volume. Great assumptions, though.

But there’s a bigger story between the lines that airport planners need to consider before changing Master Plans to accommodate what’s been mostly unquestioned hype about RAM and AAM modalities.

Before we start, let’s look back. Aviation has been here before. There have been a couple of past concepts that were absolutely guaranteed to fundamentally change aviation. Not many folks questioned the dogma of their huge future success.

A Sure Thing: Four Seat Jets For $850K. Anybody remember the concept of the “very light jet?”  Lots of excitement. Really disruptive stuff. It was a genre of 4-6 seat aircraft where new manufacturing systems could deliver them for under a million dollars. Compared to existing turboprops priced at least four times that much, these VLJs would revolutionize general aviation.

There was the Eclipse Jet. There was Adam Aircraft. We worked at various project levels involving both of these companies. Exciting. There were new uses of carbon fiber. New manufacturing techniques like “stir welding” and other magic. Big name billionaires were involved. Hundreds of sales were predicted.

Oops. The one major advantage of these machines was price. And as things progressed prices went up to the point of erasing most of the demand for these VLJs. The glowing me-too predictions were empty air. No telling if the billionaires got financially hosed.

Huge Volume Concentrated On One Airplane. Remember the Airbus A380? The concept was that a 500-seat airliner was a future slam-dunk. There were glowing stories about how it would change air transportation, including throw-away assertions in places like the Wall Street Journal that all major airlines would be ordering the super-jumbo.

In the mid-1990s, large airports were modifying long-term facility plans to accommodate the certain inclusion of hundreds of these behemoths into global fleets.

And here we are today. A great airplane but dismal demand. The special gates and ramps and taxiways modified for A380s weren’t needed.

Missed in the game plan were issues like airport facilities, changes in consumer trends, and the low diversity of mission capability for an airliner that large. It was all ignored in the enthusiasm of seeing a big new airplane.

Lesson: When it comes to the projections of thousands of electric aircraft, airport planning will need a lot more data before investing big dollars into AAM-related operations.

In particular, it was two things that took down the circus tent for these supposed sure-thing aviation miracles.

One was completely misjudging the market role and market need. The second was raw costs. The financial investment didn’t make as much sense as the (unquestioned) hype promised.

Anybody see the similarities with electric air taxis and small airliners?

AAM & RAM. Following The Same Path? Okay, let’s move to today, and consider the concepts of “regional air mobility” and “advanced air mobility.” Very exciting. In some cases, even the most enthusiastic proponents of these concepts have missed several huge corollary leaps in enhancing efficiency of existing aviation infrastructure.

But Don’t Ask Questions. Increasingly, however, any factors, issues or questions that may throw a bit of rain on this parade are not just ignored, but even misconstrued to be advantages. McKinsey’s glowing article on the wondrous future of regional air mobility unfortunately is in that genre.

They included the following illustration, ostensibly as support for the concept. Actually, it does the opposite. Consider these “hassle factors”and ask if they represent just “factors” or “reality.”

Please note that cost comparisons are not considered in this analysis. That might be a critical issue, at least in this world, but ignored here. That is a theme that could be the quicksand under these rosy projections.

Nevertheless, McKinsey has accurately isolated these factors. But they are not “hassle factors” that can be addressed. Take a look.

Every one of these dynamics where a car is shown to have the advantage are concrete factors that can’t be changed. How about “schedule flexibility.” This is intrinsic to the fact that an air trip cannot be as time-flexible as a road trip. Therefore the limited travel options of air can result in that modality unable to compete on a total travel time basis.

Price? Cost of providing this RAM concept. Somebody please come to the surface on this one. The manufacturers of these air taxis, much less McKinsey, have no hard projections of what the ticket prices will be. We do have the recent data from Tecnam, which indicated that battery costs would result in astronomical operating costs.

Actually, what I read from this is that the concept is vastly inferior to current ground transportation. (It also assumes without any support that there is huge latent demand for air service between points 150 miles and less apart. Facts not in evidence, by the way.)

Clearly, the illustration says that RAM isn’t consumer-superior to other modes. The entire foundation of the McKinsey article says the opposite, and they are not alone in this mindset.

Not Allowed: Questions About Battery Supply & Environmental Damage. And, as with the entire electric aircraft concept, nobody – and we do mean nobody – dares bring up the battery issue.

I will – again.

What will be the supply chains? Will China continue to control the industry? What increases will there be in costs of lithium, cobalt and nickel when (if?) current mining processes are transformed away from being environmental disasters often manned by near-slave labor. How about post-use disposal of these devices?

In light of these unknowns, nobody can predict the operational costs. We do know that one potential manufacturer, Tecnam, has pulled the plug on their program. We do know that NASA’s X-57 aircraft – apparently ready to go – has been cancelled due to what NASA described as safety issues.

Amid all the sunshine stories, these tough questions are never addressed. Pesky things that spoil the narrative, apparently.

Kick Out The Flower Children. Bring In Research Looking For Better Technology. Here’s the point. The entire AAM concept has been hijacked by dreamers, environmental jihadists without a clue, large corporations expecting a bonanza, and unfortunately by wishful-thinking “conclusions-before-data” research.

That was the M.O. with the VLJ and A380. It starts with the rosy conclusions  and assumes that reality will bend to accommodate them. Plus, most of the media – including the aviation media – tend to get stuck in a loop that precludes any hard questions and becomes a race to produce the next sunshine story. Think not? Do a search and you’ll be hard pressed to find stories where any tough questions are posed.

This is not to imply there are not huge potential benefits, at least on paper.

But unless these issues are addressed, in ten years we may be looking back at AAM as being like the VLJ fiasco, except the economic wreckage will be geometric dimensions larger.

Think about it.


FAA-Re-Authorization Seminar
Now At Aviation Unscripted

A reminder that an in-depth and no-holds-barred review of proposed FAA Re-Authorization bills is now posted at our video channel, Aviation Unscripted.

It is important that leaders in aviation question and analyze what Congress – populated by politicians, not aviation experts – are intending to impose on the industry. Simply being good followers leaves a vacuum that should not be filled by Congressional wish lists.

Bill Swelbar and I put it all out in the open. There are some parts of these bills that are outright useless and in some cases damaging to the future of aviation.

It is not a veneer pass, but an independent analysis with hard conclusions and firm suggestions that aviation leaders must consider.

Click here to access the video. Then hit the contact button and let loose with your thoughts and conclusions.

Take a stand. Letting Congress go unquestioned isn’t good business sense.



Monday Insight – June 12, 2023

OPENING POINT:  We are talking here candidly and bluntly regarding a critical issue, one that directly involves safety and which demands active industry input.

If you agree with this Monday Insight, copy the link and forward it to colleagues.  And if you disagree, please hit the contact button and let us know. This is not a time for silence, any longer.


The Administration’s FAA Fiasco.
Solution: The Aviation Industry Needs To Control The Narrative.

It is time the aviation industry goes public with what is needed for FAA leadership. The DOT is wallowing in a safety-threatening political quagmire.

Let’s look at where our air traffic control system stands:

Airlines are being “encouraged” to cut frequencies to the Northeast due to the inability of the ATC system to safely and efficiently handle demand.

Near misses continue. Most recently, FAA-mandated ground stops have been imposed even at places like Nashville, because the FAA is an operational mess.

The agency is completely lost. It’s not due just to a lack of a qualified administrator. It’s because of politicians making it a political playground at the expense of safety.

It’s on gradual-descend automatic.

Fill The Chair With Somebody Who Knows Nothing, But Tell Us They Do. First, there was the short-term airport director tossed into the fray as a candidate. In the confirmation hearings he could not address virtually any of the issues facing the FAA. In the full view of the CSpan cameras, he got hammered. Justifiably.

It was embarrassing to him and to the integrity of the system. Think about it: with all the huge issues and technical challenges facing aviation, the administration contends a person without solid experience would be, well, just perfect.

Now, the administration has appointed another long-time, zero-aviation experience bureaucrat to be “interim” administrator. Do a search on the stories. It seems the vast majority all started with this very same headline, word for word:

“Biden picks longtime transportation official as acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration.”

Same wording in lots of media channels, with the intentional misleading implication: this person is qualified to be interim FAA administrator.

The first message is that a lot of the national media is now more of a complimentary press release service for the administration than they are legitimate journalists. Just repeat what you’re handed, guys. The great unwashed out in the provinces won’t know the difference. Besides, it’s important they get only the “official” viewpoints.

Then comes the body of the articles, almost all in lockstep with the official line about how this person has oh, so deep experience in transportation and we all must accept and laud the leadership of the regime.

The New York Daily News gushed,

“Unlike the DOT vacancies at highway safety and hazardous materials, the FAA is not being left on autopilot.”

Lining the bird cage with this rag newspaper would probably offend the parrot.

No, guys, the FAA’s just being left with a person who couldn’t identify an autopilot, let alone have any idea about what to do with one. Being a bureaucrat and having some background in transit systems brings nothing to aviation safety.

In fact, it is not compliant with the FAA’s own requirements.

Rather than get into the disgusting Third World-esque babbling from the usual-suspect network media toadies who toss this stuff out like fish to hungry seals, let’s repeat verbatim one of the legal qualifications for FAA Administrator:

‘‘(ii) have experience in management
and a field directly related to aviation.

The DOT attempts to mask this with a take-it-or-leave it declaration: “…Trottenberg brings to the FAA more than 30 years of public service experience, including as US Transportation deputy secretary and leading the New York City Transportation Department from 2014 to 2020.”

But not a shred of aviation-related experience. Yup, she once had oversight of the Staten Island Ferry, but attempting to tell us that a transit system is a field “directly related to aviation” is not just stretching the truth.

It is a baldfaced lie.

Gee, can’t understand why 60 Minutes isn’t all over this one. Not. The guys holding the strings to this martinet show know they are pretty safe from any material media questions. That last Kabuki theater show on airline service a couple weeks ago orchestrated by Buttigieg and Biden prove this conclusively.

To An Unqualified Appointee, “FAR” Is Just The Opposite of “Near.” For all those who make trendy excuses that this latest appointment is a great thing, I’d suggest you take a gander at the nine-page table of contents in the current FAA Reauthorization bill. Read it.

Then with a straight face just try to tell the world that this latest appointee is going to be qualified to deal with all of these areas by having no aviation experience. The woman will be a bureaucratic detriment. Completely qualified to get in the way – not lead, make determinations and decisions on key technical issues. The bogus stuff about “transportation experience” is a side-show and one that spits safety in the face.

Aviation Industry: Take Control. Get Proactive. The Future of The Industry Is At Stake. Whichever way it can be structured, it’s time for the industry to get pro-active outside of the backroom discussions with high level politicos, and let it be openly known to the public what is needed at the top of the FAA. It is your responsibility, not an option.

Openly define for the public the specific background needed. Specific areas of expertise. Specific levels of industry contribution and achievement. Posture it as being helpful to the DOT in its tough job finding the right appointee. Privately, they won’t like this type of “interference,” but if the industry does this in the name of safety, the hacks on Capitol Hill will be reticent to again promulgate one of its own to run the FAA.

To reemphasize, it doesn’t need to be “opposition” but instead, “helpful” advice regarding what is needed at the FAA, without any need to illuminate that the current DOT secretary is in direct competition with what’s on the rack at Men’s Wearhouse.

It is either stand up literally for safety or tolerate having the FAA Administrator job being yet another patronage position. It’s really not just an option. It is their responsibility.

Quit the political nonsense and speak out.



Monday Insight – June 5, 2023

Five Widely-Circulating Airline Myths

With all the fake news about airlines and air service, the general public is getting led down the path of total confusion.

One example was the confusion running wild in the recent press tag-team match on airlines performed by Buttigieg and Biden. It’s important that the DOT monitor airline service, but concocting “outrages” that simply are not true is not the right approach.

Here are five misconceptions making the rounds.

Airline Seats Are Getting Smaller

In the din about how the FAA “must” regulate airline seating, one common theme is that airline seat width has continually been reduced at US airlines. One clown actually claimed it’s down two inches in recent years. CNN published a no-facts graph of how it’s gone from an average of 18 inches down to just over 16. NBC Today Show pronounced that the average seat today is 16 inches.

That is all flat untrue, but it is a staple in most of the rantings against airlines regularly put out by consumerist jihadists who are not too concerned with the truth. In USA airline service the narrowest economy seats are generally 17.1″ or a bit larger on 737s, 767s, 777s, etc. Been that way since the first 707 in 1958.

Since that time, the A320 platform has come along with 18+” seats, and then the E170/175/190 series with seats even slightly larger. No US airline has cut width by 2 inches. That, again, is a lie. Toss in the new A220s, with seats approaching 19 inches, and the whole trendy nonsense about shrinking seat width starts to define the credibility of these clowns and the media sources that just parrot them.

The Pilot Shortage Has Decimated Small Community Air Service

Not as such. It’s more about what pilots are and will be flying in the future.

The changes in airline economics have done the number to service at a lot of local small community airports. Fifty-seat jets are getting older and more costly, and with the much higher compensation being paid to flight  crews at (misnamed) “regional airlines,” the situation gets worse.

Delta and United have made clear they will be shortly out of the 50-seat game. The next step up are CRJ-700s, CRJ-900s, and E170/175s. But there are no more of these coming into fleets, which means that replacement flying is not in the cards

American recently got press announcing they have 150 small jets parked waiting for pilots. That would have to mean 50-seaters, as there are no large numbers of CRJ-700/900s or E170/175s parked. A bit confusing in that AA separately announced that the last 50-seaters are being retired from wholly-owned Envoy.

Airlines Had Policies To Charge Families To Sit Together

That’s great trendy woke dogma. But as stated it is a lie.

The truth is that some airlines, in addition to having a premium legroom area, additionally tack “choice” fees on to some portion of the regular economy cabin, with the contention mostly that they were worth more because they were close to the front. Seats are no different, legroom the same, but somehow airlines came up with the cockamamie idea that paying $30-$50 just to save three or four minutes to get off an airplane was a super consumer upgrade.

It’s their product, and they can charge as they see fit, regardless. But when a family booked, it was possible that there were no adjacent seats in the regular economy section, and the choices were only in the “choice seating” area. This gave politicians license and the subterfuge to claim airlines gouged families.

A great narrative. But false.

Airlines Charge For Seat Selection

This past week, USA Today – sometimes not too concerned with hard facts – carried a story from some consumerist gadfly stating categorically that all airlines charge extra when passengers want to select a seat in advance.

Yup, in regard to the vapor-value “choice seats” (or “preferred,” which in itself implies something dreamed up), that is true. But the consumerist was adamant that all airlines charge for all seats.

Caveat reader. Or, don’t read it at all.

It’s A Global Consulting Firm. Only Top Grads Get In. So Take Their Advice.

Just came across an article from one of those giant consulting firms that laud themselves for only hiring the best and brightest right out of prestigious B-schools. Then they sic them on airlines, when the only industry experience they have was couple of brainstorming sessions about a subject matter of which they don’t know diddly.

The following are from the firm’s airline consulting department:

Many airlines have check-in agents vet carry-on bags and place “carry-on approved” tags on them. This, the firm implies, delays and extends boarding.

Don’t know what country this is from, but the “many” airlines in the USA do no such thing. Expert advice, eh?

Cabin preparation before boarding. According to these experts, airlines require flight attendants or cabin cleaners to cross and buckle seat belts before passengers get on. The whiz kids warn airlines that: The direct cost is not the only problem: passengers must undo the seat belt to sit down, which may add time to the boarding process.

They do? It does? Great advice for airlines to avoid what they aren’t doing in the first place. The real direct cost would be paying these amateurs for advice.

Your airline’s standard turnaround process probably includes the full cleaning of aircraft, the onboarding of catering supplies, and preboarding for elite passengers. The implication is that this naturally extends the ground time when flights arrive late to the gate.

‘Course these self-appointed shamans from academia and the low-oxygen air of ivory tower consulting have no understanding that these functions can and do take place as other necessary and critical parts of the turn are accomplished. Like unloading luggage. Loading luggage. Fueling. Cargo handling, etc.

Obviously there is zero knowledge of real-world airport and airline operations. But, well, this is the global A-team, don’t ya know.

What is amazing is that experienced airline management and boards of directors look at consultants like these as magic gurus.

Actually, several years ago, New Orleans had an in-depth strategic study accomplished for its air service future. The conclusions were that MSY needed to again be a LatAm hub (it never was in the first place), needed to recapture all the leakage going to nearby airports like Gulfport (any high school kid hanging out at would know better), and that  Baton Rouge, just up the road, had service from more airlines than MSY. (Unfortunately, they didn’t know how to read the T-100.)

But they got paid. And the community, believed this pablum. But the name was the value the client was looking for, along with a Messiah to lead them out of the wilderness. Instead they got tossed into the weeds.



Monday Insight – May 29, 2023

Monday Insight will be published next on June 5, in observance of the USA Memorial Day Holiday


The FAA – It’s In Free Fall.
But, Don’t Dare Call It

It was reported that the FAA on Sunday morning issued a ground stop at Denver International Airport and surrounding airports, due to “staffing issues” for over an hour.

Not a lot of further information. Interestingly, unlike several other recent FAA ground stops at airports across the nation, this one was not immediately attributed to weather.

Depending on additional clarification, this appears to be one more obvious warning sign of a collapsing FAA. The problem is that the agency has been turned into a disgusting political football.

Yup, we’re not supposed to say it, but the recent fiasco with the proposed new administrator was clear proof that the FAA has become a case study in Third World amateurism. The political elite chose a guy who really had no relevant experience, marched him into congressional hearings with bugles blowing, flags flying and hype flowing.

It was the equivalent of political human sacrifice. They had to know that this was essentially the C-Span version of tossing him into the back seat of the ’35 Ford at the end of Bonnie & Clyde.

The hearing – and the entire appointment process – was a raging embarrassment at all levels.

There is nothing on the horizon that lends any confidence to the air travel consumer. Now the acting FAA administrator is taking a powder. Staffing-related flight restrictions will continue. The lack of hard, focused direction will continue. And there’s no indication this will change.

Anybody see a leadership problem here? Or any leadership at all?

At any level and in any sector?


Frontier Suggests A Return to The 1970s.
Positively For All Concerned.

It’s a major weakness in the day-of-week ULCC scheduling format.

Like, when that flight from SAN gets cancelled, the next one is two days away. Oh, yeah. And it’s fully booked. Passengers are left singing the blues. They need to buy a ticket on another airline or enjoy the venue until the ULCC can book them out.

No other options.

In ancient times – like until 40 years ago – airline tariffs had what was originally called “Rule 75” – later renumbered as Rule 240. Simply stated, airlines would accept each other’s tickets in the event of a schedule irregularity.

It worked well. The cancelling airline got the passenger out of town, the accepting carrier got another passenger. Really well, in that the accepting carrier could bill the ticket back to the referring airline for some very healthy gelt. It wasn’t free.

It all went by the board over time, with major airlines not willing to bail out their ULCC competitors.

Last week, Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier, proposed bringing some mechanism like Rule 240 back.

We can be sure that network carriers will have an out-of-body over the proposal, but if properly structured it could be a win-win for all concerned.

In any event, it’s a suggestion that should be dispassionately considered.


Monday Insight – May 15, 2023

Air Service Quality Surveys & Reporting:
Choose Whatever Fits Your View

Consumer satisfaction regarding airline service apparently is a function of whatever media channel you tune into. Or, whatever airline industry is out there.

Apparently, there is more than one.

Every April or so, some academics issue an airline “quality” report which is not much more than opinions based on simply re-jiggering data off the DOT website. It used to be fun reading, with wild stories about how airlines even made children sit in the back of the airplane, and other outrages against society. That commentary is long gone, leaving us with boring opinion tables that get panting press coverage, notwithstanding the fact that it’s all just sourced from public data, anyway.

Last week we had the occupant of the White House and the DOT secretary describe an industry that the DOT has graciously allowed to use bigger planes in the Northeast to reduce flights and carry more people. An industry being well served by the FAA’s ATC system – or at least that was implied.

They told us about a nasty airline industry that cancels flights and then charges the passengers a re-booking fee. An airline industry that routinely hides gotcha fees until after the passenger books. An airline industry that intentionally tries to gouge families wanting to sit together.

‘Course, most of this described an airline industry that only existed in the obviously very muddled and confused mind of the presenter.

Consumer Surveys. Take The One You Like Best. A couple weeks ago a report was published by an entity, ranking Southwest at the bottom of the consumer perception pile.

Then last week we had J.D. Power grandly tell us that Southwest is at the top of consumer perceptions. These folks went on to ominously opine:

For customers, “planes are crowded, tickets are expensive, and flight availability is constrained,” according to J.D. Power travel intelligence lead Michael Taylor in a written statement. If that continues, “travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged.”

The “crowded flights” comment is the warning buzzer. Flights don’t get crowded. They get full, with each passenger having a size-determined seat. Nobody standing in the aisle hanging onto a strap, as is at least implied. Oh, and by the way, load factors are still below what they were in the 4th quarter of 2019, just before the arrival of CCP-Covid.

“Some airline brands may be damaged?” Meaning specifically what? He didn’t mention how the FAA is doing a lot of the “constraining” with a collapsing ATC system. Maybe he doesn’t know.

Take Whatever Is Tossed Out & Don’t Question. Now here’s the point: Nobody in the media, from the incompetent depths of some of the gadfly aviation-geek websites, up to the heights of major networks, has bothered to question any of this.

The fact is today “fact checking” usually dead-ends with a confidently repeated quote from – fill in the source: the DOT secretary, an executive from a survey company, a semi-ethical consumer jihadist, or just an “unnamed source.”  These sources are strictly to be accepted ex-cathedra. (Google it, if you must.)

A good example was the press conference noted above. It was rife with outright nonsense and untruths. Yet it was never questioned.

In some cases, such as some of these talking-head network correspondents, the questions asked are actually intended to divert the truth and protect the officials involved.

One well-established toady asked the DOT secretary if consumers should be upset that his ATC system is inflicting delays and reduced capacity. The secretary just harrumphed and accused airlines of making billions in profits. The empty-suit network hack took that as the complete explanation – and the public has the answer.

Opportunity? The sorry state of aviation media reporting might represent a real opportunity for someone to step in with reporting and research that would fearlessly question the “sources” that most of the Fourth Estate today reveres and worships.

This is not to say that all of the aviation reporting is tilted, half-baked, and politically tainted. There are indeed some incredibly qualified reporters and network correspondents. The shame is that their work gets side-tracked, and smoke screened by the second raters.

Caveat reader.


Let’s Face Reality.
Traditional Air Service
Development Approaches

Focus On Yesterday’s Air Transportation System

Do a news search.

Take a gander at the raft of stories recounting the dangers, travails and perils facing rural, small and even some mid-size airports. The focus tends to ramble between the economically disastrous loss of air access, to failing “regional airlines,” to heroic civic efforts to land “commercial flights” – in most cases without any determination of where they may go.

It’s time to come up for air. Real air service development reality air.

The air transportation system has changed. The understanding how it has evolved within the range of communication channels seems to be non-existent. Yet, the methodologies are still grounded in the fantasy that the range of airlines and the role of air travel haven’t changed.

Take a look at the Small Community Air Service Development Grant program. (SCASD) It’s two decades old. It’s based on an airline system that no longer exists, and it attempts to address things that can’t be fixed. Or, are completely nonsense.

How about fixing “higher than average fares?” The fact is that there is no such metric in regard to air travel, which is a different product at each community. Or, the need to increase competition to get fares down. Yikes, there is not airline industry with players that would bite on that. Besides, SCASD grants can’t even be used to subsidize flights where another airline is already flying.

We’ve put together a 14 minute informational webinar on the seven new imperatives to address air service recruitment in the new airline environment. Every airport may want to take a look. It illuminates the future.

Click here, and get insights that shatter a lot of ambient air service thinking that has communities wasting money and time.


Monday Insight – May 8, 2023

 A Glance At Aviation Media Coverage.
Or, Non-Coverage.

Just took a quick look at a lot of the media reporting on aviation issues.

Funny, but it’s really clear that the Fourth Estate has a set of rules that are focused on not questioning the powers that be, or questioning trendy bogus narratives about airlines.

Or so it seems. A couple of examples

America’s sorry state of airports. In the past year, the occupant of the White House denounced our airport system, declaring that none of them are in the “top 25.”

Try as one may, we can’t find a single aviation media source that enquired regarding what that stupid comment meant. “Top 25” in what qualitative category? Or, what other airports are in this magic 25. Worse, a number of gadfly veneer outlets repeated it as gospel. The big networks dutifully published it, too. Factless.

Seat Size. It’s all around the media. CondeNast published an article on it. It is accepted dogma at places like the Today Show and other mainline sources of what is still accorded the status of news sources.

According to some pandering consumer gadflies, US airlines have narrowed seats by two inches in the last few years. Soapboxing politicians such as Schumer of New York have held press conferences on the subject, obviously confident that none of the protoplasm in the audience would ask any questions. The big news outlets have confidently reported seats are now averaging 16 inches in width. CNN tells us they’ve shrunk from 18 inches in the past five years.

The truth is that the claim is as false as a rigged carny game. Completely and blatantly false data. Not true. But it fits the trendy narrative regarding airlines.

Not a single media source has checked this out, which is the leper’s bell of the potential quality of the rest of what we may be being fed on a daily basis.

GAO Study. A GAO study just came out, concluding that it is the airlines themselves that are the cause of cancellations and delayed flights and consumer outrages. Now, the airlines are responsible to their customers, but the GAO glossed over a number of issues, not the least of which was the collapsing ATC system that is constricting air transportation and inflicting inefficiencies on air travel.

Buttigieg & Accountability. The seat warmer at the top of the DOT (hey, guys in the trendy Peanut Gallery, it’s time to stop pandering – this guy is an embarrassment) is pure media Teflon. The FAA is moribund, the air traffic control system is collapsing, yet one could conclude from the media coverage that he’s just a bystander without a clue.

Small Community Air Service Crisis. The plight of air service in rural America and small communities is the latest cause celebre in travel stories. The implication is that losing scheduled flights at the local airport is an economic death knell.

Zero investigation beyond sanctimonious conclusions of doom. No attempt to investigate the causes at each. No analysis of the economics of air transportation. No attempt to discuss the changes in consumer communication channels. No differentiation between loss of service at a close metro-peripheral community and at a really rural town in the west.

No attempt at professional, informative journalism. It might spoil the intended narrative.

Yikes! The ATC System Is In Trouble. This past week, the former Chairman of United declared that America’s Air Traffic Control system is in deep descending operational yogurt and is the worst in the world.

The headlines on Fox, for one, made it appear to be the revelation of the year. But not one media outlet bothered to illuminate that this has been the situation for years. Plus, they didn’t bother to question why this same guy was so dutifully and quietly reserved about the DOT when he was at the helm of United. The ATC system was a mess, then, too.

Final Point: It is caveat reader when it comes to reliable reporting of aviation issues. The de facto official narratives into which these matters are relegated appear to be intended to control, not to inform.

We are on our own in determining the truth.


New Air Service Development Skills Webinar

We are excited to announce a new, groundbreaking (or, actually, sky-breaking) video webinar that outlines the new approaches necessary for community air service access development.

Addressing The Realities of the Future Airline System. The video takes on and demolishes reliance on obsolete programs that rely on “true market studies” (which tend no longer to be “true” in the new airline environment) as well as misleading conclusions from “leakage analyses” and totally unreliable consumer surveys. There are new metrics to determine.

Seven Areas To Analyze. In just 14 minutes, the webinar outlines the Seven analytical and functional steps to determine air service access for a given community. It makes clear that most of today’s ASD programs are much like shooting blindly into the forest and calling it hunting.

Click here to take a look. It’s part of our Aviation Unscripted™ channel.

New perspectives. No holds barred. No sugar-coating.


Monday Insight – May 1, 2023

Truth. Precisely Spoken, But Not Understood.
The Tough Decisions Facing Small Community Air Access

Summary: It’s Time Reality Was Faced. Small Communities Need To Develop Next-Phase Communication Strategies. Local Air Service Will Not Always Be Consumer-Possible.

Here’s an incredibly informative quote. Between the lines, it illuminates the reasons a lot of small community ASD programs are DOA.

It’s from a recent article, from a civic leader at Wichita Falls, Texas in regard to the local service of two daily American departures to DFW.

“I can’t sit at the airport for seven hours in Dallas waiting to change flights. I can’t make it work. What can we do about it? I hear day after day from companies, ‘Well, we’d like to fly out of here, but we can’t make it work.’”

Here’s the rough but truthful bedside manner answer: if the solution is more local air service, Wichita Falls is out of the picture.

Out. No more. Not happening. We can start with this: the load factor for these flights in January was a rip snorting 32%. For most of 2022, the figure was under 45%. Message to the city fathers: a pink slip may be in the future. The traffic isn’t there. No way that AA would add more frequency. Wake up and smell economic reality, and start planning for the future accordingly.

No Magic Snake Oil. Placebo studies and hand-wringing civic meetings won’t change it. Phone calls to Senator Snort and eager-beaver attendance at speed-date conferences won’t make any difference. A desperate Small Community Air Service Grant application will waste lots of time and money.

The air service cavalry is not coming over the hill to rescue Wichita Falls. Same for several other small communities across the USA, too.

Hint: Communities such as Wichita Falls must now learn about the economic realities of the communication modality called “air service.” It will save a whole lot of political tail-chasing.

What’s going on at Wichita Falls sums up the situation at many smaller airports. They don’t have the traffic horsepower to support more than two or three flights to a major carrier’s connecting hub. That means long total travel-times when connections are factored in.

So, the 2-hour drive to DFW International is often a lot less onerous than shoe-horning a journey to accommodate the two daily departures at Wichita Falls. Not real pleasant, but in most cases, it is consumer-superior to the service that the local airport can support.

The Revenue Requirement Will Only Go Up. Now, with 50-seaters heading out, the fleet distribution of CRJ-700s and E170/175s in the AA system will increasingly be analyzed for highest and best return.

Plus, the operational (including pilot) costs of these airliners are going up. So, our friends at Wichita Falls should indeed be concerned about future air access. The current local service really doesn’t provide high time-efficiency, and there is nothing – zero – that will change this. Toss in the increasing system value of CRJ-700s to American Airlines, and uncertainty is the word of the day. Or worse.

Solution: Suck It In. Get Tough. Address Economic Growth Opportunities. Okay, civic leaders, the fat’s in the fire. The realities cannot be dodged any longer.

The hard economics of air transportation cannot be fudged. Another “market study” or “leakage analysis” from some semi-ethical consultant will only smokescreen the truth: the market cannot support fully competitive network air service.

You can accept this and move on to develop economic growth strategies that accommodate this situation, or just play the part of a latter-day cargo cult, like primitives in the South Pacific hoping flights will return.

Media: Get The Whole Picture & The Facts Before Posting Jive Stories. The subject of small community air service is truly in vogue now, with writers who can’t tell the difference between an airline schedule and a grocery list reporting the “plight” of airports losing scheduled flights.

In most cases, these types of stories only mislead the public into thinking that every local airport should have scheduled flights, lest the community dry up into a ghost town. In most of them currently, they rely on the misleading jive that it is just a matter of not enough pilots.

Sorry, it’s a matter of not enough traffic. What’s missed is that this shrinking small community air service situation has been going on for the past 60 years. As the economics of air transportation have changed, fewer and fewer small communities have had the traffic to keep up.

The Poster Child For Unserved Airports Desperately Seeking Service That Won’t Work. The Wichita Falls situation is one that a whole lot of small communities should look at and, get the message, and clearly understand.

Today, there are more than a couple of unserved small airports tossing heavy gelt at “studies” intended to capture exactly what Wichita Falls has, and which really doesn’t work.

The Future: Taking Advantage of Economic Migration. This is, naturally, a tough pill to swallow. It goes against “the consensus.” But that does not change the facts. In the USA today, there are entire metro regions working hard to make doing business impossible. Then there are the crime issues in some of these regions, too.

That is where the future is for rural communities such as Wichita Falls.

The contrary – but accurate – point here is that regardless of air service, Wichita Falls has a far better quality of life than a number of we-need-not-mention regions of the USA. It is short-sighted and myopic to conclude that not having lots of convenient air service at the local airport is a deal-killer to this type of economic outreach.

The fact is that within the context of the air transportation system, local flights to small community airports will be contracting. But that does not change the other economic advantages communities such as these possess.

The time for whining is over. The time for taking the situation by the horns and moving beyond what cannot be changed is here. Stop with the palliative snake oil. You can no longer support network air service connectivity.

New Air Transportation Concepts? Absolutely, But… There are other air logistics concepts, and we are actively working on them. But as for getting enough air service at Wichita Falls airport to keep consumers from driving to DFW, please join us back here in reality. If only as a tourist.

Questions? Comments? Hot Rocks? Contact Us. We understand this entire discussion is unholy anathema to consensus thinking. That’s why the consensus always gets left behind. At BGI we look to the future, and the future is often a direct threat to the status quo.

Want to discuss further. Contact us! We’ll talk about the future.


Just A Note & Recommendation

Having accurate and reliable aviation data is critical to identifying and quantifying the future.

At Boyd Group International, we rely on our colleagues at Cirium to gain the data leverage to deliver excellence in aviation consulting and research

Monday Insight – April 24, 2023

Air Service Access Planning:
A Message From Western Union.

We’re talking about telegrams. It was once the fastest way of communication over long distances. Used as late as the 1960s, too.

But there was a process. You had to go to a Western Union office, fill out some forms, write out the message, give it to a clerk. The clerk then manually typed it into a machine about as big as a player piano. The message was routed via wires to another WU office, where it came up on another player piano, line by line, going “chunka chunka.” Then the messag was put onto another form, inserted into an envelope and was hand delivered to the addressee.

Several hours. But it was way faster than other hard-data communication channels.

Try to send a telegram today. Smoke signals would work just as well.

The message for air service development is that air travel – like telegrams – is a communication modality. And, the value of these modalities evolve relative to new disruptive ones.

Telegrams have long since been eclipsed by other channels. It is the same with certain applications of air transportation, particularly in the business travel sector.

Until the 1990s, the fastest way to communicate information and data, as well as accomplish personal interaction between, say, Boston and Islip or Austin and El Paso, or Sacramento and Miami etc., was by physically moving them, give or take some fax options. At one time, getting documents and important papers rapidly between cities like these was by using air transportation.

Plus, the only way to have one-on-one personal contact was by using air travel. Need a two hour meeting with the marketing department? Start planning your trip, getting reservations, ground arrangements, and related. Today, in many instances it’s a 20-second log on process for Zoom or Skype or Teams.

It doesn’t take much imagination to conclude that a lot of air transportation has been rendered unnecessary and, indeed, time-inefficient by the emergence of electronic communication channels. Even things like legal depositions are now accomplished by electronic means.

Some ASD Programs Are The Equivalent of Stringing New Telegraph Wire. Not to beat a dead teletype machine, but it is incredible how much time and energy and money are tossed at jive programs futilely trying to bring back air service that in many cases has been leapfrogged as a communication channel, every bit as much as have telegrams.

It is astounding how many media stories are written each month, implying how some small communities are now “cut off” by not having scheduled flights at the local airport, without any understanding of fundamental changes in communication systems in the last 15 years. The inescapable fact is that, like telegrams, some forms of air travel simply are not cost-competitive nor time-competitive any longer. It is also an inescapable fact that the entire fleets that made such travel economically-viable are rapidly disappearing.

ASD Needs To Be Only One Component of Regional Communication Systems Planning. Here’s the next wave in rural economic development: communication planning. This encompasses how connected a region is, encompassing all channels. It also demands a professional understanding of the economics of air transportation as they affect the region. It requires an honest determination of the real potential access to connective air service, and how to accept and address it, within honest realities.

As we’ve noted repeatedly in the past year, the doors are opening for new economic recruitment for small and rural communities and their local airports. There are regions of the USA where dimbulb regulations are causing small and mid-size businesses to consider re-location. Or, maybe better described, looking to escape.

Communication is evolving. In the process, it is shifting how air travel fits in. Or doesn’t.

Heresy, of course. But true.


A Reminder

Raw numbers from government sources are not reliable. There are lots of areas where DOT data is derived based on past aviation structure.

This is the reason Boyd Group International relies on Cirium for aviation data and related insight.

The industry is changing. Air transportation is changing. Understanding past data and trends is critical understanding these shifts. This requires accurate data. Check out Cirium.