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.


Monday Insight – April 17, 2023

Some Points of Interest To Consider This Week…

China – USA Traffic:
Wake Up & Smell The Potential Cordite

Take this to the bank, or to ‘Vegas: There is no material air passenger demand between the USA and China, anymore.

No, not just a pandemic dip. An almost complete disappearance.

China’s unelected CCP is now a hostile enemy. That does not generate tour groups in either direction.

Some Numbers. In the third quarter of 2018, there was approximately 1. 3 million O&D passengers between the two countries, including connections over Seoul and Tokyo. Fast forward to 3Q 2022, and the number was just under 2,000. Do the math.

Now, the last figure was affected by the recently ended shutdowns of entire cities in China in efforts to subdue the spread of the disease that the CCP itself created for the globe.

But between pre-CCP-Covid and now, the entire underpinning of the market has changed. Tourist traffic is gone, and US-to-China business investment has taken a powder.

Add in the open threat of war on Taiwan, and the successful recent Chinese reconnaissance attack on the US, and it doesn’t take a degree from the Army War college to see the future.

Point: most of the ambient forecasts for USA-China traffic are pure air. Our Airports:China™ estimates for 2023 are in the neighborhood of less than 100,000 passengers.

US carriers: find alternative markets for those A350s and 787s.


Fifth Freedom For Foreign Carriers Can Wait

The guy supposedly running Mexico has decided to put on hold his proposal to allow foreign airlines to fly domestic markets.

Maybe it’s because no foreign airline managed by anybody awake and sober would take him up on his grand offer.

This is the same president who is planning to have the Mexican Army establish a passenger airline. Who knows, it might work. After all, the army hasn’t done real well taking on drug cartels, so this could be an alternative use.

A few years ago, some of this president’s intellectual fellow-travelers in the USA were proposing to let foreign carriers operate domestic US markets, to enhance competition and fill in routes dropped by American carriers.

Yup, that Youngstown-Cincinnati market or Utica/Rome -Dayton route (which some clown consultant actually once proposed) are future goldmines for Lufthansa or maybe Turkish.

The chain of custody from the last drug test was lost, apparently.


This Week’s Aviation Unscripted Video
A Special Vox Deorum
With Safety Expert Captain John Cox

We are excited to announce that this week we will have one of the industry’s foremost safety professionals with us to explore the challenges faced by airlines, airports and aviation in the future.

Captain John Cox, CEO of Safety Operating Systems, and Mike Boyd will be exploring the issues that are coming in the next two years as both safety and security regulations evolve.

The special video will be posted at 11:00 AM ET on Thursday April 20.  Mark your calendar and join us for insight into the future.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, click here to take a look at the industry’s new video source of aviation insight. Bookmark it, and we’ll see you on the 20th.



Russian Airline Fleets: All Dressed Up With No Parts

Aircraft leasing companies are finding themselves with lots of fun in regard to airliners at Russian carriers.

Because of sanctions, they really can’t fly outside of Russia, for fear of getting the airplane re-popped for various reasons. Now, nobody will provide insurance to a Russian airline. That means that they are non-compliant with lease terms, and those lessors want the planes back.

But the Russian carriers aren’t playing ball, and just parking A320s and B737s and B747, etc. as they run out of spare parts.

Upshot: there are approximately 400 such airliners inside Mother Russia, worth approximately $10 billion. Given the status of the war, it’s not outside of possibility that most of these flying machines will rot to the point of being eventually scrapped.

More Upshot: Those leasing companies on the hook will need to make up for these losses. That will affect the rates for all airlines going forward.



Monday Insight – April 10, 2023

Rural Air Service Meets Artificial Intelligence In Pennsylvania.

Politicians Are Promising Legislation To Bring Back An Airline System That No Longer Exists.

It seems two congressmen have submitted separate legislation intended to expand and re-open the Essential Air Service program to more airports.

Both represent a simple panacea for rural air service. Immediate solutions. Brilliant suggestions. Completely unfettered by pesky facts or reality. The data, facts and promises are completely, well, artificial.

According to them, just reforming and widening the essential air service program will immediately establish scheduled flights at dozens of small communities. Not only that, but it will generate millions of new passengers and in the process – get this – be a solution to congestion at major airports.

It promises magic. Like most snake oil schemes.

Integrity City Isn’t A Destination of These Bills.  It’s acceptable for elected officials to take action to assist constituents. But that does not give them license to propose legislation without having any knowledge of the subject matter. That’s clearly the case here. These guys are clueless, and they are feeding inept pablum to their constituents.

It’s a new definition of artificial intelligence. And artificial integrity.

Don’t miss the glowing propaganda put out by Congressman Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, the author of one of the bills. It is political malfeasance due to his irresponsible failure to gain any knowledge of the matter before proposing solutions to a problem he has not bothered to understand. It materially misleads the public.

None of the points that the congressman makes in support of his legislation are consistent with reality… none. Take a look:

“For too long, families in rural areas have been forced to travel several hours and 100+ miles to airports in big cities. These bills will not only expand access to air service to millions of Americans, but they will also serve as the answer to the congestion issues at major airports – all while using existing infrastructure. In the wake of COVID, we’ve all experienced the frustrations of an airport past capacity, and the influx of routes and passengers has clearly stretched the FAA’s capabilities to the limits. By opening up additional opportunities for regional airports to expand, it is my hope we can restore commercial flights in Williamsport and make air travel more convenient and stress-free for all Americans. These bills are a win for travelers in Districts like ours and will benefit the economies of rural communities across the country.”   

It is amazing that so much misinformation can be crammed into one long paragraph. Every point made is completely inaccurate. Not just wrong, but several zip codes from reality. Let’s look:

“Rural families forced to travel several hours and 100+ miles…” That’s it, folks. Flat statement. Everybody. Several hours and 100+ miles.

According to this description, the image of the Clampetts driving into Beverly Hills comes to mind when consumers in rural America drive to access air service.

No alt text provided for this image

Message to congress: Consumers are driving – whatever distance – to another airport because in many cases the community cannot support competitive air access at the local airport.

Plus, that drive to a much larger airport would often be far more “travel time-efficient” than the two or three departures at the local airport that the gloriously-expanded new EAS program would hypothetically support.

“These bills will… expand access to air service to millions of Americans…” There is absolutely no truth in this statement. It dishonestly implies that more EAS largess will immediately establish air service, with the further implication that there are airlines immediately ready to pounce. Fake news, guy.

“(More EAS flights) … will serve as the answer to the congestion at major airports…”  Just where does he think these EAS flights will fly into? Cow pastures? There is a need for intellectual responsibility before filing legislation such as this.

Yessir. The snake oil contention is that flights from unserved rural airports will go directly to where consumers want to go, and therefore reduce passengers and congestion at ORD and IAD and CLT. Waiter, check please.

“… influx of routes and passengers (at large airports) has clearly stretched the FAA’s capabilities to the limits… So, this new EAS fantasy service will avoid big airports, and relieve the ATC system, according to these politicians. Embarrassing.

“… By opening up additional opportunities for regional airports to expand, … we can restore commercial flights (in rural America)…”  The assumption is that EAS funding is a leadpipe cinch to attract airlines and air service, which is apparently assumed to be a unitary modality, kind of like running water, or a sewer system. Where it would fly to isn’t an issue. Just have “commercial flights” and all will be well, by-and-by.

See, the goal is only to restore “scheduled flights” at small communities. It makes no difference where it goes, or if it’s connective, or whether it’s anything consumers in the real world would be able to use.

So, Where Are All The Eager Operators? This fantasy legislation is misleading consumers by implying there are airlines with airplanes and the resources that would be flying these markets, if only there were subsidies. Ignorance.

Message To Rural Communities. Irresponsible, soap-box stunts like this only serve to mislead communities and are essentially political malfeasance by posturing “solutions” that don’t exist. It deters small airports from addressing future change.

The economics of scheduled passenger air service are clear. That means regions need to take honest investigation of their specific future. Excursions into political la-la land only mislead the public.

Artificial Intelligence. Artificial results.

Monday Insight – April 3, 2023

So, Why Are Communities Working So Hard To Bring Back The Past?

The New Realities & Opportunities of The USA
Air Transportation System

In the last two weeks, three communities got air service pink slips. In the same period, several others got net-new service.

In the first case, it was Springfield Illinois, Erie, and La Crosse. United is pulling out of the first two. Delta is saying good-bye to La Crosse.

Meanwhile, RDU, PVD, CAK, ORF, CRW and at least five other airports got notice of new service.

What’s the message here? It’s called evolving aircraft economics. The loss at the first three airports is due entirely – write that down, entirely – to the fact that 50-seat jet costs are exceeding the revenue they can carry, and for a number of communities, the next capacity up – 76 seats – can’t be supported. There will be more in the months ahead.

No, its not due to pilot shortages. And there will be more such pink slips regardless of the number of pilots coming on line.

The expansion at the other airports – and to be clear, in some cases there is some heavy risk-offset gelt in the mix – is that they can support larger airliners.

Yes, a lot of this is impulse leisure traffic, or just ULCC fare-stimulated service. It makes no difference. The hard fact is that small communities are increasingly seeing the effects of plunging small jet economics.

Invest A Couple Minutes For Facts. In just 11 minutes, the latest Aviation Unscripted video takes a hard and very blunt look at the new air transportation models, and tends to unkindly pillory a lot of the efforts to reverse the inevitable and ignore the opportunities of the future.

There is way too much long green wasted on trying to bring back the past, instead of optimizing the economic future for rural and small community airports.

Keep Spending To Find The Solution That’s Not There, Anymore. It’s almost like latter day cargo cults. Heck, we came across one very rural community (say, @ 12,000 passengers, best case) that has been playing consultant roulette for the past three years. Hire one for $40K, and then cancel the deal when the Houdini-like ASD promises don’t come to pass. Then, find another magic peddler for, say, $50K. Oops, after a year of studies and analyses and other voodoo, fire them for not having a network carrier at the gate.

Now, the same community is looking for a third Data Messiah to bring in that air service that can’t be supported from airlines that don’t exist, anyway.

It’s sort of like the ASD version of battered wife syndrome. Keep coming back to get financially clobbered when the hard reality is clear.

in the Unscripted video, we cover the new and different air service applications that are developing, and take a look at the potential – at this point it is just that, potential – new-dimension air logistics applications for rural areas.

If you want some straight talk and clear futurist perspectives on the air transportation modalities, click here to access aviation’s new cutting-edge video source.

And, let us know your thoughts, too.


Monday Insight – April 10, 2023

The System & Aviation – Political Go Along To Get Along.
It Was A Lot More Ugly In The Past.

Just thinkin’

In light of the political involvement and sometimes rancorous discord regarding the Phil Washington nomination, maybe a quick look back can put things in perspective.

In this matter, there were strong opinions. In the past, sometimes the then-regulated airline industry would get tossed into the nasty maw of real political extortion. Thought it might be instructive to look at one such event.

To start, aviation is an industry that is completely subject to regulation.

Regulation means the humans running aviation-related businesses need to be cognizant of the wishes and demands of those in control of oversite and in administering regulations. In the real world, these considerations are often based on the need to get along with politically involved oversight.

This part of the equation is still reality. As long as it doesn’t get anybody tossed into the Big House, the process is one of collaboration with political realities.

Today, it may not be outright extortion, but it does mean that aviation entities must recognize political realities. Nevertheless, what goes on today isn’t corrupt, but it ain’t like a sequel to Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, either. (Google it, if you must.) It’s more a case of Say It Ain’t So, Joe. (And Google that, if you must.) It is rough-and-tumble.

It’s not necessarily a system based on pristine motives and righteous intents. To some degree or another, the ugly bacteria of political self-interest is involved.

It sounds somewhat cynical, but we all know how the system works. There are special interests, and most are honorable. But when it comes to powerful deals, well, let’s not be naive. Arm-twisting is sometimes in play. In the past, however, breaking an economic kneecap or two was probably a potential.

This Is Nothing New. It’s part of what any government system inherently represents. Been that way for thousands of years. Probably, the Dead Sea Scrolls will eventually reveal that the Pharaoh’s brother-in-law got the pay phone concession at the Pyramids on a rigged no-bid deal.

Or something like that.

So let’s recount how it used to be, sometimes. The FAA administrator situation was actually one that represents open discussion, instead of backroom political deals. It was clean.

Aviation Is Historically Vulnerable. The process wasn’t always clean. In ancient times, say, back in the 1960s, there was a situation where a high-level operative of the Nixon campaign casually and quietly approached airline leaders. He supposedly made clear that there would be a lot of exciting new international route authorities under consideration, and all had to be approved and signed by the president. Being a supporter of the president was, well, a nice thing when these decisions were made.

Now, as the discussions apparently outlined, wouldn’t it be expedient to show the airline’s support for the president with a contribution, albeit through channels that might be outside of the realm of the law?  Translation: contribute or your CAB proposal for that Tokyo route will end up in a landfill. Guaranteed.

It’s all  pretty fuzzy in regard to exact details. Close to half a century ago, and most of the players are long gone. We don’t know how many airlines were approached, nor how many saw the wisdom of the suggestion. But from subsequent events, it appeared that both American and Braniff might have gone along with the program. It was the equivalent of political extortion.

All was fine. Money was probably channeled, based on what we know now.

But then a few years later things stared to unravel. The Israeli Air Force bombed Beirut. (Stay with me on this one.)

A couple of Convair 990s were blown to bits. Convair 990s that were previously owned by American. Convair 990s, where the insurance follow-up illuminated strange financial ties that seemed to indicate that some long green got funneled back, like, maybe to the Nixon campaign. Not sure.

Braniff, which back then was one of the most internationally savvy airlines, was also accused of moving money in the direction of Nixon. But Braniff was far more sophisticated than American. The dough theoretically was moved in and out and back again within currencies and accounting of countries where Braniff operated in South America. Real complicated stuff. Maybe moving through Argentine pesos, to Paraguayan guaraní, to ticket sales in Panama, to complex refunds in Peru, maybe miscellaneous charge orders (MCOs) based non-passenger revenues in Columbia, and all sorts of other mechanisms.  Maybe.

When interrogated by the feds, the Braniff financial folks were highly cooperative, volunteering a tour through the byzantine world of airline revenue accounting. How the process of ticket revenues involved things like paid-less-used, population-minus-sample, projected exchange rates, maybe presentations regarding how international ticketing was affected by the Maui Fence and the global fare break point at Denpasar. Then there was the computation of unearned revenue, complying with CAB-standard 2160-01 requirements, establishment of quarterly trial balances adjusting prior estimates, and all sorts of other parochial stuff.

What exactly went down is not clear, but it was likely close to this. Data softballs in all directions.

If they had presented this in fluent Northern Swahili it might have made as much sense to the investigators. The congressional investigators were left clueless. And very frustrated. A comment made to one BN executive: “We know you did it. We just can prove it!”

The feds knew this type of situation quite well, as it was intellectually consistent with a lot of their own activities.

In the end, no convictions. No admitting guilt. Nevertheless, both American and Braniff agreed to take necessary actions to make sure that any untoward financial shenanigans in the future would never take place. No admission of guilt. Just good intentions to cooperate with the feds.

Braniff agreed that it would never – never – provide anyone free things, even down to upgrades to customers without payment, which could represent bribery. (‘Course, any gate agent in Lubbock knew how to get around this stuff, to take care of prime customers.)

American did the same type of changes, among which were assurances that all passenger refunds would be absolutely in compliance with tariff rules, and any that were outside of these would need executive approval and sign-off. So, naturally, AA assigned that function to a first-level supervisor in the depths of the refund department, who every morning spent ten minutes drinking coffee and initialing a few dozen such documents, and then went on with his day.

The point here was that the administration was extorting political contributions. And like the small bar owner in Queens getting squeezed for a twenty every week by guys in dark shirts and white ties, trying to report the situation wouldn’t have seen the light of day. It was “the system.”

These types of political interventions in airline operations may or may not have been widespread. They don’t exist today.

But in the context of this past, the recent brouhaha regarding the FAA administrator was open, free and above-board. The facts were on the table. The facts were discussed.

Regardless of what stand on my have in the matter, the system worked.

Monday Insight: March 27, 2023

United Air Taxi Announcement
A Huge Potential.
But Lots Of Challenges To Get Handled.

The great news is United’s plan to implement eVTOL service from downtown Chicago to O’Hare and between Manhattan and Newark Liberty International starting in just about two years.

The impact of this is not just the concept of making downtown Chicago and New York more attractive as commercial and business locations – a huge point that seems to not be fully appreciated – this now means that the operational questions regarding this modality will finally be fully vetted.

Point: there are issues that need to be tackled before 2025, when United’s consumers will find getting to and from a major airport more like getting on an elevator than being stuck in traffic inside a dingy taxicab.

Hard Questions. Issues that go beyond the flashy news stories that don’t go a centimeter below the surface of the entire eVTOL concept. The clearest ones – albeit not necessarily the easiest to address – are the raw facility issues.

On the metro side, the access and egress to the vertiports will need to be carefully developed. At the ORD and EWR end, the flow of these machines and their passengers are an issue. If the eVTOL terminal facilities are out on some distant hardstand, the time saved getting from mid-town could be eaten up by the hassle to get to and from the main terminal.

But this acceleration of the time line to start service has a more important impact: Clarifying the open questions about the supply chain of motive power – i.e., batteries.

Issue One: As of today, the process of obtaining lithium-ion batteries is completely unacceptable and uncertain.

Issue Two: From social and environmental perspectives, the eVTOL concept is not ready for prime time. The mining of lithium and particularly cobalt is today a system that is dependent far too much on latter-day slave labor.

It seems to be verboten to ask about the alternatives to China-owned mines in Africa, where working conditions would make Sinclair Lewis blush. (Google it, if you must,) But that needs to be addressed in the next 24 months, based on the United timeline.

Issue Three: The issue of battery production. It’s now concentrated in China where an unelected CCP that is America’s enemy controls the flow. Can new supply chains be developed in the next two years?

Then we have the issue of emergency services. The CFR systems now in place have limited ability to address accidents that may occur with battery-powered aircraft.

There have been a number of videos at Aviation Unscripted over the past two years, calling attention to these and other dynamics involving the eVTOL programs.

Beyond sunshine stories, there has been zero – and we mean zero – substantive reporting on these issues.

The good news is that United’s leadership in this new modality will likely get these addressed ASAP.

Monday Insight – March 20, 2023

Frontier Pulls Back – And Not Due To Pilot Shortage

Frontier has announced at least 14 routes will be dropped by the end of May.  A couple of them – PHX-PHL and PHX-MSP – were apparently intended to explore whether a ULCC could nip around the edges of a hub-to-hub network route.

Of note: these reductions are not due to any pilot shortage. The Barry Biffle, CEO noted at a J.P. Morgan conference last week that Frontier actually has a near-term excess of pilots, due to delays in aircraft delivery from Airbus.

The majority of the cuts were in impulse/leisure markets – Florida and Las Vegas.

This may be an indication of a softening of discretionary demand. Standby.


Family Seating Fees.
Another Bit of Irresponsible Consumerist Lore

A number of airlines have implemented seat selection processes to accommodate families to sit together when possible. One airline even allows changing flights if it’s not possible.

The usual suspects in the world of consumer gadfly-ism have for months denounced airlines for family seating fees. Politicians, too. That’s regardless of the truth that there never were such charges.

To be clear, it’s the “choice seat” (or other jive name) fee issue that drove the issue. When there were seats open, often they came with an additional charge. So, sometimes that got translated by politicians and factless consumer-types as a “family charge.”

Caveat reader. These are the same clowns that have dishonestly spread the nonsense that US airlines have narrowed the average width of economy cabin seats over the past five years. It’s not accurate, but it fits the trendy narrative.


Vox Deorum Video Discussion
With Sun Country CEO Is Now On-Line

We’re honored to have had the opportunity to speak with Jude Bricker regarding his airline’s unique market perceptions and strategies.

This is a must-view for airport market planners, to get a clear understanding of where this innovative airline might fit in future air service development outreach.

Invest the 20 minutes and get the full story.

Join us by clicking here.

And watch for additional Vox Deorum postings coming soon!