Monday Insight – September 11, 2023

Remembering 9/11:

Terrorists Are Not The Main Threat.
It’s Incompetence On This Side That’s The Danger.

The date 9/11/2001 – the worst intelligence failure in history on the part of the US government.

Naturally,  it is important to everyone to mark and memorialize 9/11/2001. Except, it appears, the current occupant of the White House. He’ll be busy with other things and will essentially do a phoner instead of being on-site.

The Real Threat Is Having Incompetents In Charge. But the question is whether we are any more secure today. I am not talking about the human waste that inflicted the attack. Instead, the issue is whether we are any safer today from the disgusting people in our government, who before 9/11, in full light of the threats, were intent on telling us how wonderful our aviation security was back then.

What gets lost in the media stories is that they were advised and did nothing. It’s like being told by meteorologists that a hurricane is coming and intentionally ignoring it. That is precisely the scenario with 9/11.

Here’s the bottom line: it’s not just the safety and security systems that are paramount. It’s whether the people in charge are competent. They were not so before 9/11, and it’s more than an open question whether it’s the same today.

Let me say it again: it’s not the deranged terrorists that are the real threat. It’s having political nincompoops in charge of protecting us from them.

That was the case and the cause of 9/11. Nincompoops were In charge.

Unaccountable nincompoops, to be more precise. Today, just do a YouTube search of the congressional testimony of Secretary of Homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, regarding security of our southern border, and it is not comforting. It is downright scary.

We Had Professional Warnings. The official narrative repeated by a compliant media is that we were unexpectedly attacked on 9/11. That is true only in regard to the senior security officials of the FAA, who irresponsibly ignored warnings. See, before the attacks, we had FAA Red Team investigators trying to warn the incompetents above them, right up to seat-warmer Jane Garvey – the FAA administrator. To no avail.

They reported lax security. The moral corruption they faced included outrages like being ordered not to inspect airports without providing notice of their planned arrival.

How about a clear, detailed warning that multiple airliners could be hijacked at Boston? Brian Sullivan, an FAA security inspector, advised his superiors of this in May 2001, months before that nasty Tuesday morning.

It was not just ignored, it was rejected. Frustrated, the findings were independently sent to the offices of Senator John Kerry. The bottom-line response: take it elsewhere.

The issue on the table: are the people in charge of AVSEC any better than the incompetents who were there 22 years ago? Again, any cursory performance review of the current guy in charge of Homeland Security would start some heavy concern.

No Accountability For Criminal Failure. Okay, it’s time for some Q&A which the media mannequins never have bothered with:

Question One: How many of the bureaucrats in charge of the inept aviation security on 9/11 were fired or even reprimanded?

Answer: None. As a matter of record, Bush actually lauded the FAA for its “fine work” – even before the final death count was known.

For the record, after 9/11 the majority of the human protoplasm overseeing AVSEC leading up to the attacks were actually promoted – either within the FAA, or its legislative demon spawn, the Transportation Security Administration.

Jane Garvey has apparently gone on to a career of being a professional mannequin, hired by consulting firms trying to show window-dressing about how connected they are. Disgusting. She was in charge of AVSEC on 9/11. She should have been asked to resign, just as the path taken regarding Admiral Kimmel after December 7.

Question Two: DOT Secretary Norman Mineta made great press in forming a number of “task forces” to investigate and provide input on aviation security needs. How many formal reports were issued?

Answer: Effectively none. The reasons implied was this was for “security reasons.” Sure. The job security of the clowns in charge of AVSEC and Mineta’s own responsibilities. The FAA was under his watch.

Question Three: In light of the truth that FAA Red Team security inspectors were interfered with, and their warnings of potential hijackings were ignored, how much of the “9/11 Commission Report” was dedicated to covering this corruption?

Answer: there was one footnote. The pre-9/11 input from Red Team members Brian Sullivan and Steve Elson was not addressed. Get this: they were the ones who were on-site. Who reported the facts. Who issued warnings. Yet, the political slime in charge of the 9/11 Commission did not include it.

Let’s be honest: the Commission was there to ensure that nobody got politically gored. It was a cover-up to assure that neither Democrats nor Republicans could be fingered as political perps.

Yes, the usual political hacks will declare that statement to be a “conspiracy theory.” They are partially right, but it was the commission itself that was in conspiracy to manage the truth. But it’s no theory.

Question Four: How much independent scrutiny has been applied to the entire issue of the failures leading up to 9/11, and the conclusions of the commission report?

Answer: Not much. In point of truth, the usual suspects in the media have circled the wagons around the 9/11 Commission report, instead of investigating it.

One recent example is the Wall Street Journal. It seems that Vivek Ramaswamy made the observation that he didn’t feel the public was fully informed about the issues surrounding 9/11, and he was not confident that the 9/11 Commission report was reliable.

Well, we just can’t have that kind of heresy, the editorial dragons at the WSJ apparently concluded. They came out with a scathing (albeit factless and vapid) attack on Ramaswamy. With all the arrogance of a third-rate evangelist shouting under some leaky gospel tent warning the attendees of being tossed into the Eternal Fire, the WSJ assured its readers that Ramaswamy was a complete fool, and that the 9/11 Commission report was an outstanding example of fact finding.

It had the condescending righteous tone – and the credibility – of an editorial one might find in the Beijing People’s Daily. Toadies.

Victims of 9/11 Go Beyond New York or Washington or Pennsylvania. On a wider note, while we respectively morn those lost on that day, we also must remember the thousands of our military who lost their lives, tossed into the maw of overseas “anti-terrorist” actions for which today we have nothing to show, except maybe billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment abandoned when Biden skipped and ran out of Afghanistan. (Yes, the deaths and injuries resulting from actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and other distant pestholes come  under the 9/11 ledger.)

If we had competent and professional security leadership before 9/11, every one of these human losses could have been avoided.

Bottom Line: Security Starts With Professional Competence. It’s not the amount of placebo baggage screening that’s done at airports. It’s whether there is competence and diligence among the people responsible to anticipate and prepare for future threats. One key example: when security events occur at airports from time to time, in most cases the drill is to just evacuate. No plan, no remediation, just run.

Coverage: Caveat Viewer. On the occasion of the anniversary of 9/11, we can plan on media coverage about how safe and secure we are compared to 9/11. They will point to having a new department of Homeland Security. How more screening is done of airline passengers and baggage. And they will point out that there’s not been a single hijacking in the past two decades.

‘Course the self-righteous network correspondents who will tell us how much security has improved are completely clueless regarding new vulnerabilities. Electrical grids. Internet communication. Pipelines. Choke-point interstate bridges. AI hacking.

What this points out is that Homeland Security and their occasional lapdogs doing the weekly news shows are in a defensive posture – defending themselves against any outside input. But we will now be entertained by an avalanche of sunshine stories replete with the walk and talk B-roll with Mayorkas, who can’t even protect our borders, let alone sophisticated communication channels our society is based upon.

And it will completely smokescreen what’s most important: having accountable and professional security people at the controls.

Just because we can’t carry more than 3 ounces of deodorant through airport check points does not mean we’re safer.


Monday Insight – September 4, 2023

American Tarmac Fine:
It’s More About DOT
Credibility Than An Airline

The news is out.

“American Airlines Fined $4.1 Million For Tarmac Delays.”

It’s a story that has been accepted as if it just arrived from Mount Sinai, apparently. Not to be questioned. Virtually no one in the media – including the aviation media – bothered.

Stale, Engineered Data. They had the responsibility to do so, but didn’t dare or didn’t know better.

This Buttigieg stunt is not from current data, and it doesn’t include incidents (if any) in the last two years. The airline has already shelled out $2 million for these events, and now, the DOT comes back with a political side show.

A lot of questions should be posed to Mayor Pete, whenever, of course, he is deemed by the media to have descended from the Mountain and is open for polite softball inquiries.

People’s Daily In Beijing Would Hire These Media Types In A Heatbeat. What is shocking is that this has been an unquestioned major headline repeated confidently in every form of aviation media, from national networks to the gadfly Walter Mitty aviation websites.

Like good obedient followers, they just report what they’ve been fed.


Just Repeat. Don’t Question The Source. The numbers are shocking, according to the parrot stories. A total of 43 instances is what the DOT claims and is righteously repeated with ghastly shock in every channel.

This Is About DOT Credibility, Not A Specific Airline. Okay. American Airlines are big boys and girls and they can defend themselves as they see fit. There almost certainly have been failures there. But…

… not questioned or barely mentioned – from the Wall Street Journal down to the hobbyist websites – is the data itself as reported. Funny, these are events from 2018 to 2021. What about the last two years?

The message here is that recent data don’t fit Buttigieg’s agenda.

Read it again. These are not current data, but events “researched” by the DOT and just now reported. Most of the media hasn’t even commented on that key foundational flaw in this mess – delays from four or five years ago, now just “discovered.” And the latest being maybe two years ago.

It’s a great lead-in for Buttigieg to showcase how he’s protecting the public. Clumsy, but he was confident that the toadies in the media would not call him on it. And he was right.

I don’t know (or care) how the general gaggle in the aviation media swallow this, but any scintilla of journalistic professionalism would dictate that Buttigieg and his staff need to answer some questions on this.

What about American’s performance over the last two years? And other carriers, comparatively? The fact that Buttigieg only focused on old records, and focused on events at just one airline – which are not completely substantiated regarding issues of weather – destroys the entire credibility of the “report.”  And his, too.

It is cheap pandering. What’s more disgraceful is the silence and obedient reporting of the Word From Pete issued by just about every supposedly qualified media source.

Shame we don’t have real investigative reporting. Might think there are red flags here regarding political agendas – just now conjuring up operational events almost five years old.

Nah. It’s easier to parrot than to question.

Latest Aviation Unscripted Video

Beyond The Headlines – Three Important Events

Take 11 minutes to get unique perspectives on current aviation events that are shaping the industry – insights that go beyond traditional sources.

Aviation Unscripted is now also on YouTube. Make it a regular weekly routine to join videos that are entertaining, iconoclastic, sometimes irreverent, but always insightful and out-of-the-box aviation trend discussions.

This week:

Weighing all airline passengers Airports: Get ready. It’s coming. And it’s positive.

China-USA capacity to “double.” It’s a mirage. The real story is how US carriers have re-allocated resources in response to a near-evaporation of this market, adding new EU access across their networks.

The Red Way fiasco. Has anybody learned anything? How many more embarrassing schemes can communities get suckered into before air service realities sink in?

Click here and join us. While there, hit the subscribe button and we’ll keep you advised of coming videos.


Monday Insight – August 28, 2023

The Red Way Airline Collapse.
Lessons Learned?
Or $3 Million Wasted On Civic Hubris & Bad Data?

The sudden failure of the Red Way airline experiment at Lincoln, Nebraska has delivered a whole passel of new perspectives on the potential of rural and regional air access.

The question is whether anybody is paying attention.

Civic Hubris v Reality. It’s important to recognize that Lincoln did indeed take up the cudgel and attempt a new approach to air service access. But it’s also necessary to note that there were some massive shortfalls in planning and implementation. Shortfalls that were not hidden, but which were clearly ignored. Civic rah-rah apparently took the place of hard analyses.

It has nothing to do with the convoluted semi-charter approach to getting airplanes at the gate. It’s all about true passenger demand and consumer options. The Red Way traffic experience is a valuable learning experience for all communities involved in trying to increase air service access.

The question is whether these lessons were learned or are just being ignored. Let’s take a look at what the Red Way experiment has illuminated.

The Don’t Hear Thunder Dynamic. The entire experiment was a success only in attracting and transporting sailboat fuel, not much more. Yet at least one usual-contributor to the web-kibitzing genre has lamented this failure, because, it claimed, “Lincoln really needed these flights.” (?)

The Cheerleader-From-The-Titanic-Poop-Deck Experience. The giant traffic vapor hole facing Red Way was almost certainly as obvious as a blemish on prom night, after the first fortnight of dispatching empty airplanes to points with not enough day-of-week passengers to fill a VW microbus.

Yet, check out the wondrous media coverage, including the perfunctory implications that the project was akin to a gold rush, with “thousands of seats sold!” Too bad nobody in the local media bothered to take a pencil to the claim. Message to local Lincoln media: your job is to report and inform, instead of being advocates for something in which you have no expertise.

The Sudden Underdog Excuses. It’s interesting to take in the various statements being issued after the service cessation announcement. In light of all the prior sunshine pronouncements, the following post-mortem missive is incredibly illuminating – emphasis added:

“…we face insurmountable challenges as a small startup in our industry, and the compounding of costs and lack of resources have made it impossible for us to sustain operations. It is our hope that other carriers see the incredible potential, and with their economies of scale, are able to provide Lincoln with the service it is so worthy of.”

Yikes. Funny, none of these against-the-odds heroics seem to be found in any of the pre-operation hype. They now claim what they faced from the start were “insurmountable” odds, and “lack of resources” – despite reportedly burning through over $900K in the first month, and supposedly $3 million total.

Galactic levels of chutzpah.

And in the hard light of having gone through a pile of public funds, it’s clear they didn’t run this statement by their legal department, either.

One point is right on, however. Other carriers will indeed get the message on the market potential.

The Mirage of The “Home Team Advantage.” Clearly, the plan was predicated on giving the folks driving on I-80 to and from OMA what they really really wanted, which was seats from Lincoln.

Regardless of the non-competitive nature of the Red Way concept, this followed a traditional consultant Pied-Piper line peddled to a lot of small communities: local service alone will have ‘em coming in droves, even if it is inferior to other air access options. Snake oil.

Final Point: Again, innovative approaches to air access should be encouraged. But when they fail it does nobody any good to try to excuse away the hard realities learned. It’s the aviation version of claiming the dog ate your homework. This Red Way program failed because it assumed a lot of factors not in evidence. Period.

Those three million bucks have some value in understanding what can and cannot be accomplished – a lesson for the future.

And, maybe not.


Check Out This Week’s Aviation Unscripted

When communities get “commercial flights” confused with “air service access.”

Related to the Red Way fiasco, the latest Unscripted video takes just ten minutes to outline events like this one, and how airports can better address the future.

At Red Way, it was obvious that other than impulse destinations such as Orlando, the day-of-week model to business destinations is nonsense for small and midsize airports.

Then we look at Dayton, where Avelo tossed in the towel. The question here is why the airport would spend the energy and resources to recruit an airline to offer exactly what was already in place with Allegiant.

Places like Salem and Dubuque are getting side tracked, assuming that impulse flights to Florida and ‘Vegas are “air access” when they do nothing to connect the community to the globe, and in fact benefit a small sliver of the consumer market.

Point: recruiting impulse destinations from high quality airlines like Avelo is positive. But it isn’t designed to connect communities to the globe. That is where network carrier access comes in.

Finally, we take a quick look at the JetBlue/Spirit deal and how it is really pro-competitive for the USA consumer.

Click here, spend ten minutes with us, and while there hit the follow button.



Monday Insight – August 21, 2023

The FAA Administrator Fiasco:
The Senate Is Threatening Air Safety
(But It’s Wonderfully Bipartisan)

The beat goes on. The air transportation system proceeds without leadership or direction at the top of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Avoiding Bumper Cars In The Sky. At least two more near-collisions have been reported in the last ten days. One in San Diego and one in Boston.

Two that we know of.

The Future Is Coming Over The FAA Transom. In addition to a failing ATC system, the advanced air mobility programs (AAM) are moving at full tilt, with no serious concern regarding recent electric prototype failures and cancellations at Tecnam and NASA.

The FAA is hip-deep in the regulatory aspects of AAM and must take leadership to guide the programs in several areas. Not to mention increasing indications that there are major – major – environmental issues sprouting up with battery manufacture and post-use disposition that have been conveniently buried, and which the FAA should be digging up.

Then we have the growing use of drones, which represents the need for increased regulatory scrutiny.

This is A Team Game. Not A Solo. Okay, it’s no revelation that Biden and Buttigieg are lost in political space. But what about the glorious senators on that confirmation committee who would have us believe that they are doing their jobs?

They are not. To put it clearly, they are irresponsible.

They bear oversight, and we don’t have any official leadership at the top of the FAA, at a time when decisions need to be made. They are doing nothing but kibitzing on the sidelines.

It Is A Safety Position. Find An Aviation Safety Professional. Maybe it’s time powerful shamans in the Senate stop treating the FAA Administrator job as some sort of political scalp-trophy. Apparently, nothing was learned from the political human sacrifice that took place with the Phil Washington fiasco.

The backroom powers just took a guy with very marginal aviation experience, and apparently told him not to worry, that the nomination was a slam dunk. Then we had the mind-numbing and ethics-angering confirmation hearings where it became clear the appointee could express no ideas, or fire, or gut-interest in either the current problems at the FAA, not to mention the future need to take a bulldozer to the place.

But there’s a lot of responsibility for this mess attributable to the august senators involved in this hoedown. Not one of the Senators involved specifically asked Mr. Washington what he had in mind for fixing the FAA. Not that it would have made much difference, as it was clear he had given it no real thought.

But it does say volumes about the mindset of the Senators involved. Mr. Washington had no clue about what to do in the future – and neither did any of the elected officials alternatively grilling him or mindlessly lauding him (depending on side of the aisle.)

While Planes Are Dodging Each Other, More Seat Warming Is In The Offing. Another announcement this past week was that the current temporary Administrator will by statute step down in October, and probably another temp will be put in charge. Three months ago, there was speculation that Mike Whitaker, a former FAA director, was on tap.

Silence since. The mess continues.

The fact is that the Senate committee doing the confirmation hearings is guilty of the same failures as were displayed by Mr. Washington. Instead of properly doing their homework on the issues surrounding the FAA, they were mostly shooting from the political hip.

So, the truth is that these senators’ game-playing nonsense is also putting the nation’s air transportation system in jeopardy.

But it is wonderfully bipartisan.

Monday Insight – August 14, 2023

The Economic Smoke Signals
Are We Looking At The 1929 of Air Travel Demand?

When key economic dynamics falter, historically so does growth in air travel demand.

Is the hard-wired connection between these no longer valid? Is air travel now exempt from things like buying power, inflation and consumer confidence?

It’s More Than The Economy. Actually, there are four critical dynamics in play that could turn the current air travel demand sunshine into dank economic darkness. Not evenly all across the airport system, as each airport has different consumer strengths and weaknesses.

Just for starters:

Inflation has raised food prices 20% over the past two years. Overall, things are up over 17%.

Interest rates – on which sales of major items depend – are at a 22-year high. Venture capital is now above 8% and has in many cases dried up.

Regardless of the jive media stories, the vast majority of Americans think the nation is going the wrong way.

Consumer backlash – which can bring on inept DOT interference – due to real and perceived sloppy service. It’s getting to the point that airports may prefer NOT to have some service due to the consumer problems inflicted.

There are geo-political factors in play – ones that could be the next CCP-Covid event, albeit not a virus.

Add that to low confidence in the direction of the economy, and logic would tell us that wallets for leisure and business travel would be closing.

Is There Demand Momentum Overhang? But going into the summer, it has been gangbusters for airlines, at least if measured by seats occupied. New entrants Avelo and Breeze have registered very strong load factors. ULCCs such as Frontier reported almost 85%.

Seems there is a disconnect here. It could be due to a number of issues. The question is whether the industry is heading for a nasty 4th quarter. We are seeing some indications of capacity pull-downs and schedule adjustments, however.

Forget The Consensus. I would suggest taking a look at the most recent Aviation Unscripted™ video. It compares the happy national economic news reported by much of the media – or, more accurately, the factors ignored by it – with translations from the real world.

Then, it outlines the bellwether facts that every airport and community planner need to analyzed.

Invest eleven minutes for perspectives that run counter to ambient thinking.

Economic gravity can only be countered for so long. Click here to look at the future. Tongue in cheek, we get the official Bidenomics view, and provide real-world translations. Then, the video outlines the air service dynamics to watch.

Join us, and if you’ve got comments, have at it.


Monday Insight – August 7, 2023

Industry Arrivals & Departures

It’s New Nonstop Service In Mother Russia – Even On The Runway, Maybe.

There are reports that some Russian airlines are making relying on reverse thrust instead of brakes on landing. Seems the embargo due to the Ukrainian war is making brakes hard to maintain. No telling what this is doing to the thrust reverser parts bin.

More Evidence That Boeing Is Out of The China Narrowbody Market

The recent order for 500 737MAX airliners from Air India really isn’t necessarily all coming off the future production line. Something like 55 of these will be comprised of 737s built for Chinese carriers and sitting undelivered for the last three years. Reports are that there are another 85 of these orphans undelivered. Meanwhile, Chinese airlines have continued to order A320s.

Challenges In ULCC Land – Troubling Smoke Signals

Breeze reported that it took in $67 million in 1Q 2023 revenue, and had expenses of $115 million. Some changes in the operating model are likely in the cards.

This relates also to rumbles out of other carriers, including Southwest and JetBlue, that demand is softening. The open question is whether the unique day-of-week, mostly non-leisure traffic model at MX is more vulnerable than traditional leisure-focused scheduling.

Also, there have been ridiculous stories that consumers are dropping domestic flying and shifting to international. Get real. The two sectors have entirely different demand drivers.

More news from the ULCC front: Avelo has cut two Florida markets – one even before the launch. The experimental Red Way operation at Lincoln has dropped three markets already.

Let’s put aside the careful wordsmithing in much of the media – the fact is that the majority of Americans feel the economy is going in the wrong direction. That doesn’t encourage discretionary travel, probably including low-frequency non-leisure service as well.

Shock! American Is Dropping Champagne!

It’s always a wonder regarding how some of these gadfly hobbyist aviation websites get off and running on non-stories.

It’s all over the ‘net – AA is replacing the real stuff with sparking white wine! The story line is that customers will be re-thinking future travel plans away from American because of being denied at boarding 3.5 ounces of a type of hootch almost none of them ever drink at home – or anywhere else for that matter.

American’s Fleet Plans – Lots of ASD Messages

American is reportedly in discussions with both Boeing and Airbus regarding a later-in-the-decade need for 100 additional 737MAX and A320 series airliners. Apparently not on the table: anything in the <100 seat category. The message for small lift providers – a.k.a “regional airlines” is not comforting. The fleet trend in the last five years has been for the major airline customer to acquire these machines for use at their partners.  The E175 is the only game in town.

One Last Shot –
The Advanced Air Mobility Concept In Deep Trouble

Yes, the media stories are all sunshine. Air taxis and short haul small airliners are on the way, y’all. There will be new vertiports and new intra-urban air transportation galore.

The fact is that the AAM concept has huge potential. But there is one looming torpedo on the horizon.

It’s called batteries. More accurately, the supply chain, the environmental damage, the production processing, and the dependence on China, for starters. Then there is the fact that actual cost and actual market demand are unknown because the ultimate AAM operating costs will be dependent on a new generation of battery sources that do not exist today.

For the past two years, BGI has been alone, with videos on the Aviation Unscripted™ channel, in factually outlining how the airline industry will need to deal with these challenges. No interest whatsoever, and no answers whatsoever. AAM has gained cult status. The narrative will tolerate no questions.

One Last Discussion. Hit this link and invest eight minutes to get an idea of what needs to be done to assure AAM is not just another VLJ concept on steroids.

Then, it’s time to move on because AAM has taken on a status where anything contrary to the consensus narrative is not welcome.

I am on record: the AAM concept could be the next huge dynamic in air transportation. But it won’t unless the planners face reality.

Moving on.

Monday Insight – July 31, 2023

Customer Service Staff
Are The Airlines’ Front Line.

But Who Are They Really Working For?

Let’s get clear:

The US DOT is now armed and ready to take on the airline industry.

It makes great press and diverts attention away from the mess at the FAA and ATC.

What this means is that the airline industry cannot afford any avoidable service screw-ups. And when there are such events, they need to move quickly to diffuse the situation with hard facts. Nature abhors an information vacuum. Some folks in the media love them.

Farming Out Customer Service To Unconcerned Sharecroppers. An airline’s first line of defense from stupid and biased media reporting is their troops on the frontline, i.e., the staff dealing directly with the customer. 

Today, every airport is on “Candid Camera” – any foul-up, argument, altercation or service slip gets immediately videoed and on the global web in a heartbeat.

The problem is that in many cases, the airline’s front-line troops aren’t in the fight.  

While airlines spend bazillions on new apps and web support programs, they often “sharecrop” their airport customer service to outside contractors whose employees don’t work for the airline, have low pay and benefits, and not always care if the passenger ever flies the carrier again.

This is not a minor issue. The results of customer service sharecropping are popping out all over. It shows. Do a web search, and the stories of airline consumer “outrages” are running rampant.

A lost or damaged wheelchair here and there. A golf pro’s clubs being turned into junk sticks. Videos of gate agents stealing from a carry-on bag left behind. Stories of gate staff being paid an incentive commission for collecting excess baggage fees, which can skew decision-making. Stories of last-minute “gotcha” fees for carry-on.

Some of the stories are malarkey. But the media tends to take them as gospel. Today, just about anything down to a scuffed Samsonite gets traction.

The folks in Buttigieg’s press-pandering Washington clique and the suits in some sections of congress love this stuff. 

Enough. Invest eight minutes and get the complete perspective of how this really is the frontline that can protect the industry and the public from political dimbulb legislation.

There is jihad against the airline industry. And the industry needs to get a lot tighter.

The latest Aviation Unscripted™ video spends just over eight minutes outlining the new threat – a largely self-imposed threat – to the US airline industry. And what needs to be done.

Click here and take a look. It might rattle a cage or two.


Monday Insight – July 24, 2023

Tossing Money Down Proven Rat Holes
FAA Re-Authorization Has Failed Small Communities

Yup, this goes counter to all the glowing me-too stories about the Herculean heroics accomplished by congress in crafting a new FAA plan for the next five years.

It is true that the expected players inside the Marble Playpen are all ecstatic. They are saving rural airports!

It’s mostly malarkey, but they know the media will swallow this like tossing fish to trained circus seals.

The hard fact is that they’ve just perpetuated a number of programs that are proven to be galaxies away from 21st century reality. Programs that are failures, but which pander to the public.

Let’s take a look.

 Essential Air Service Gets Gold-Plated. Wonderful, there’s an 80% increase in funding for Essential Air Service – from $162 million to over $290 million.

Yessir, that will have “commercial” service come a’runnin’ to small airports across the USA. It has to. The politicians have spoken.

Does anybody in the aviation media really look at this stuff before parroting the official press releases?

Stepping out of the political hype, this will do almost nothing to enhance air access to rural America. The reasons are simple: the politicians are legislating on matters of which they are totally ignorant. They just assume that a small community without “commercial service” (totally undefined) at the local airport is in big economic yogurt.

They assume that consumers in these regions are trapped and can’t get out. They assume that a couple of “commercial flights” will be to these consumers like the helicopters on the top of the Saigon embassy. They just assume that there are no better options. They just assume there are airlines out there ready to jump in with service levels that are competitively better than other existing options, even when a 90-minute drive to a larger airport is in some cases more total travel-time efficient.

They are assuming fantasy. Politically-safe fantasy. Irresponsible fantasy.

Not a shred of analysis of investigation or research has been done regarding the dynamics and causes of the “loss” of air service at small communities, which differ at each. Not a hint of understanding of‘ consumer trends or the foundations of air travel as a communication channel.

None of the major flaws in the EAS system are even acknowledged. Just more money to mislead small communities that we are still in the 1980s. The EAS program and its failure is now locked in again.

Oblivious To The Future:  Maximizing The Opportunities At Rural Airports. The USA airport system is a huge asset. Unfortunately, politicians and the media can’t see beyond the end of the runway.

Take stock of the future value of rural America. Whether it is politically correct or not, the economic and social conditions in many large metro regions are descending into trendy woke chaos. One big metro had a reported six shooting deaths and 20 other incidents just last weekend. In the same state that just made “bail” free. Downtown San Francisco is almost literally being business-evacuated due to dimbulb governance.

Other stories have illuminated the financial benefits of getting out of a number of large cities and moving to smaller ones.

The point is this: rural and mid-size communities have huge opportunities to attract new investment, and that includes new opportunities for small airports, albeit not always including viable connective air service.

The thought of actually using this $290 EAS million to develop economic investment programs at rural airports wasn’t in the mix. A lot of saccharine babbling about the importance of rural air service from politicians reading off of crib sheets provided by brain-dead staffers does not suffice.

SCASD Grants – More Squandering. Then, they want money tossed at the Small Community Air Service Grant program – oblivious of the fact that SCASD has never truly funded permanent service improvements at anyplace even vaguely resembling what we mere mortals would define as a “small community.”

Again, this should be restructured as a program to award grants for economic development, based on hard metrics like job creation and revenue enhancement, instead of what it is today – air service for the sake of air service. While it is great to have, it gets shaky contending that lake of a couple of weekly ULCC impulse flights to Orlando for a sliver of the traveling public is an air service “shortfall.”

Think about it. The dough allocated to the SCASD program is less than the cost of two – count them, two – Abrams tanks being sent to the Ukraine. An economic development grant program of say, $100 million is a drop in the vapor-hole budget being sent to Kyiv. But that level of thinking might cause several politicians to collapse.

Keep ‘Em In The Cockpit For Another 24 Months. Another part is pushing commercial pilot retirement age to 67. Some hope that it will filter down to result in flights coming back to connective air service cadavers like Topeka and Youngstown.

There is no evidence that most pilots will excitedly stay on beyond 65. International flying restrictions, training issues and anything vaguely relating to aviation realities are out of the picture.

Let’s Get Everybody’s Parochial Opinions On Airlines. Then there is the proposed “airline experience” task force, comprised of a dozen or more “stake holders” from every walk of life short of bush people living in the Andaman Islands, to discuss how airlines must be more “resilient” to major flight disruptions.

Like the 2016 TRB Task Force on bringing service back to small airports, this will be yet another gigantic waste of time and money. But it does feel politically warm and fuzzy.

Like the old late-night ads hawking Ginsu knives, there’s more. Much more. But this is enough to paint the picture.

Yes, a lot of necessary areas are addressed in the 800+ page documents. But In regard specifically to the needs of rural airports, this FAA Re-Authorization extravaganza is a clear example of how our politicians can work together in a bi-partisan way to end up in the weeds.

They are perpetuating the status quo, not thinking about the future.

It is embarrassing. But we’re stuck with it


Monday Insight – July 17, 2023

Buttigieg & Biden Tell Airlines:
Eliminate Those Nasty Junk Fees.
(Unless They’re Our Junk Fees)

A few weeks ago, we were entertained by a great stand-up Washington stage performance.

The opening act was the charming and talented Pete “Mr. Mayor” Buttigieg, who delivered great comedy routine, recounting how his FAA’s incompetence was really the fault of the airlines. He was going to “allow” airlines to reduce flying in the Northeast to accommodate the fact his ATC couldn’t handle it, anyway. Hilarious.

Then the show’s headiner, Joe “The Big Guy” Biden, stumbled to the stage, belting out his latest hit tunes regarding how he was the Doctor of Love, saving the public from the tragedy of having to deal with airlines and their nasty junk fees.

‘Course, the delivery had all the credibility of an instant bargain sale at Fast Freddy’s used car emporium. Lots of half-facts, dishonest hype, stuttering, stammering and half-finished sentences indicating he forgot his morning dose of Prevagen.

Applause. Not Questions. Needless to say, the Big Guy was totally confident that the media groupies in attendance – from network correspondents to aviation web geeks – wouldn’t bother to fact-check any of his nonsense lyrics, and would bound out after the show to file adoring stories, truth notwithstanding.

When he completed his performance, he did a lovely if doddering pirouette to stage left, with his adoring media yelling questions, which – as usual – were ignored. The Big Guy doesn’t do curtain calls.

One of the key themes in this performance was the “junk fees” that airlines charge. They must be fully disclosed in the future, and airlines must stop hiding them. The full cost of the trip must be front and center before the consumer hits the website “enter” button.

Of course, that is already the case. And, it actually misleads consumers by implying that the federal junk fees (taxes) that are imposed by the government are part of what the airline charges.

It’s Not Disclosure When Mandatory Fees Are Buried With Optional Ones. Now, think about it. No other industry is required to do this.

An auto dealer or furniture store or plumbing supplier sets the price, including whatever add-ons they concoct. The sales taxes are separate from the product itself and are between the buyer and the celestial powers of government. In the case of airline websites, the enormous taxes are outlined and included, but are essentially buried in the total. They should be clearly identified as costs not related to the vendor – in this case, airlines. That would be full consumer disclosure.

These federal junk fees must be illuminated more prominently, as they  are the only ones where consumers have no option, and no avenue to actually be informed as to exactly what they are paying for.

Point: the consumer needs to be informed that one big chunk of air travel “junk fees” are imposed by an unquestioned government. The consumer at least technically has the option of declining most of the baggage and seat-selection and early boarding fees that the Big Guy calls “junk.” But his junk fees are pay it or stay home.

Consumers don’t have any such option. The Big Guy and his Mr. Mayor opening act didn’t mention this. And the swooning media in attendance was either too ignorant to figure it out or didn’t want to.

Clarity On The Way? Now, one of the FAA Re-Authorization bills actually includes the requirement that federal fees and taxes NOT be included and buried in the final web quote.

Identified, yes, but when the consumer specifically sees what the airline is charging, and then is informed of the double-digit additional federal fees, that’s what is called full disclosure.

So, yes, let’s make sure the consumer sees all the various voluntary “junk fees” as well as the involuntary junk charges coming from Washington.

Consumer Jihadists! To Arms! Needless to point out, the politicians have activated their consumer gadflies and media clowns to decry this as anti-consumer. One network story assured us that it was proposed only to allow airlines to gouge more profits from the hapless flying public.

They just don’t want the public to be made fully aware and ask questions about the fed’s junk fees.

The FAA Re-Auth bills are still churning, so no telling if this will go anywhere.

In any case, standby. More entertainment to come.

Monday Insight: July 10, 2023

ATC: The New Lethal Blow
To Small Community Local Airport Service

Let’s cut to the chase and stop the political ballroom dance around small community air service. It was challenging enough before, but now there are two new economic dynamics that are pounding nails into the obsolete coffins of traditional ASD programs.

Let’s start with a bare-knuckles outline of small community air service realities:

The challenges to keeping scheduled flights at the local small community airport are clear, but too often they are completely – and intentionally – ignored in a lot of air service development programs. It’s all about just doing another market study, then revise that leakage analysis, redraw the “capture map,” and we’ll keep on doing more voodoo until we get that air service the community needs.

About as ethical as a rigged carny game.

In most cases – not all, but most – the local consumers already have air service access. Only, it’s not at the local airport, and in most cases never will be again.

Typically, the only metric in these traditional approaches is “luring” or retaining scheduled flights, with the obsolete and inexcusable assumption that any service at the local airport will fill the air access needs of the community.

Ridiculously, many communities are dishonestly convinced that having ULCC flights to one or two vacation destinations is the same as network air service. ULCC service has entirely different economic underpinnings and different consumer bases. It doesn’t deliver air access. Just great low-fare flights to satisfy a thin impulse consumer sector, not the market in general.

They are great to have, but the fact that some consultants don’t clearly differentiate this to airport clients is a blot on the industry.

Completely ignored are:

Better Consumer Alternatives. In many cases, there are far more time-effective air access options that cannot be matched at the local airport. How about Topeka. Youngstown. Toledo. And more. The consumer alternatives of Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Detroit (respectively) are far too strong and service-effective than the two or three flights to a connecting hub from the local airport to compete against.

Cost Issues. The nonsense put out in programs such as SCASD about small communities suffering from “higher than average” air fares is inexcusable and bogus. The cost of air travel is dependent on several variables, including market size, location, local air service communities of interest and more. Yet the DOT still thinks that “air fares” are like apples, watermelons or a gallon of unleaded: all the same commodity whether in Grand Island, Spokane, or JFK.

Point: Small communities will by nature have air service that on a per-seat basis is more expensive than larger population airports. Fact: there is not one single example of a SCASD grant resulting in lower air fares at a truly small community airport.

Fleet Changes. Obvious. For the past 40 years, the size of airliners that can economically serve small population local airports has been growing. Please take a look. In the 1980s there were hundreds of 19-seat to 30-seat airliners under the marketing control of major airline brands. The economics of air transportation as well as new invasive communication channels have now resulted in the future smallest airliners available for small community air service is heading to 76 seats, and even there, they won’t replace 50-seaters on a one-to-one basis.

Now, there are two other factors that affect the potential of retaining connective air service at small community local airports.

Road Hubbing – The Death of The Concept of “Leakage.’ Driving from a small community to a larger community with better air service has traditionally been called “leakage.” This definition comes with the assumption that it’s just an aberrant situation – an opportunity to re-attract that traffic by recruiting local air service.

Not anymore.

Today, the highway system is part of the air transportation system. Consumers can often access far better service by driving, in some cases even 90 minutes to a larger airport. The canard that they would use the local airport if only – if only – there were flights there is blown to smithereens when one does a travel-time comparison. Which, naturally, can be a deal killer for future consultant updates to that “true market study.”

So, that gets usually replaced with unreliable data from Survey Monkey, illuminating that “75% of local consumers would prefer to use the local airport.” Naturally, there are never any specifications of what the service might be at the local airport.

The Unreliable Air Traffic Control System. This is not a drill.

Write this down, because it’s truth: Without the reasonable assurance that flights can operate reliably, airports with low-frequency service (read: small communities) can wave their local service good-bye.

And that is exactly where we are headed.

The incompetently managed, understaffed and unreliable ATC system is now in the process of killing much of the small community local air service that actually is still financially viable.

When we are having ground stops at major airports due to controller staffing, and entire regions of the nation seeing air transportation intentionally reduced due to ATC incompetence, the first to go will be small community service.

That doesn’t mean airlines pulling back, necessarily. But it does mean that consumers increasingly cannot rely on the dependability of the local service. Having under five flights a day makes the community vulnerable to cancellations that incredibly will inconvenience consumers. So they will drive to larger airports with more options and less vulnerability to the ATC mess.

Take Wichita Falls, Texas. If one of the two flights there gets zapped by system delays causing misconnects or cancellations, the consumer will have no choice but to take the 2.5 – 3.5-hour drive to DFW. The entire schedule underpinning for service at the local airport is destroyed.

Buttigieg can do all the fancy dancing he wants. The media can swoon to protect his DOT. The excuse can be given that it’s been developing for years. But now, under his watch, the air transportation system in the USA is deteriorating, and the best he can do is jive press programs with Biden attacking airlines.

What Now? What this means is that small communities need to re-think and re-plan the economic development program for the local airport.

When the data shows that getting network carrier service is less than lottery odds, stop the jive studies. Start with a new plan to engineer the local airport into an economic generator. Even if connective air service is viable, the potential for attracting new business still is there.

We’ll leave it at that. But the point is that the market situation outlined above will not be addressed in trying to bring back the 1980s.

The next ten years can be a lot more valuable.