TSA Fails 80% of Screening Tests…

Silence From The DC Cognoscenti

It was reported a couple weeks ago that tests of screening at airports across the nation fell flat in detecting dangerous objects.

The failure rate was estimated to be near 80%.

One might think that this would have the aviation and travel industries all frothy and indignant. Heck, some of these folks have claimed that so much as a ban on a couple of countries which have poor internal security and which generate near zip tourists to the US is a giant threat to our travel economy.

One might think that the news that our airport security stinks would be a major factor in deterring visitors to the USA, and there would be calls for some immediate remediation.


Not a peep from any of the alphabet organizations inside the Beltway. Remember the labor union that a few weeks ago so loudly denounced the plan at PIT to let non-ticketed people in to the main terminal, calling it a threat to security? Not a word from them, either.

Think About How Incompetent The Rest of The TSA Programs May Be. Here’s a fun thought. If the simple stuff like identifying pointy objects isn’t being done, it’s a lead pipe cinch that the more sophisticated and difficult security aspects – such as perimeter and AOA screening, not to mention complete threat-identification and event-mitigation programs – are also being ignored. You can make book on it.

There were hopes that the Trump Administration would clean house at the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA. Apparently, not. Or, at least not yet.

Take The Easy Way Out. Blame The Folks In The Blue Shirts. Take a look at the media coverage… virtually all of it discusses how the front-line screeners supposedly aren’t doing their jobs. It’s their sloppy work, according to the veneer “experts” and zipper-brained network reporters.

Wrong. The actual slop in work product is at the media outlets that spew out this shallow-fact garbage.  What they generally duck from is any criticism of the people at the top of the TSA – the ones who are planning and running the show.

Here’s a fact that’s being missed: the people in the blue shirts at US airports are doing an excellent job.

That’s because they are doing exactly what the management of the TSA directs them to do. They are working within the rules, oversight, supervision and direction of TSA management.

The only real problem with the front line at the TSA is that they are stuck  working for people at the top who are simply unaccountable, unqualified and inept. A 96% failure rate two years ago, and now an 80% flop score illuminates that it’s not the front line that’s got the problem. It’s the kiddie-table expertise at the very top of the TSA that needs to be canned.

Unfortunately, however, these people are not in line for any criticism from the media.  Any major outlet that would legitimately cover this clown show knows that they might not again get direct access to the TSA Administrator or the head of Homeland Security. Those suck-up oh-so-cordial B-roll walk-and-talk pieces with the TSA administrator are great for the 6PM news.

If there’s an 80% failure rate, it means that the system is faulty and the management at the top are incompetent and the entire front offices of this gong show need to go.

Say it again… the system is the failure, not the people staring at semi-effective baggage screening devices all day, or trying to nicely explain that, no, grandpa, your Swiss Army knife can’t go through.

But, it seems that the Washington fraternity is holding tight, circling the wagons around the clowns who are  mismanaging airport security.

Having an airport security system that doesn’t work is apparently not a big deal to them, compared to making sure they have the connections they need at the top.

That may seem a bit rough. But this is pretty much the same situation as in 2001, when FAA Red Team inspectors tried to warn the people at the top about bad aviation security.

Politics and the need for access to “pull” took priority then, too.


And Finally…

Thanks to the many folks who commented on last week’s discussion of how a lot of traditional “air service development” schemes simply mislead small communities into the planning weeds.

As we’ve pointed out to our clients, all channels of communication have fundamentally changed in the past 20 years, and that includes the applications and effectiveness of air transportation. Most traditional ASD programs simply pander to small communities’ natural desire for scheduled flights at the local airport, instead of candidly outlining new realities.

To be sure, that’s probably not a popular position in a lot of circles.

But, then again, maybe it’s a lot more understood than it may appear, judging from the positive input we’ve received from professionals across the industry spectrum.


Update: November 20, 2017

Keeping America Connected To The Globe…

Accept It… It’s An Inter-Modal Future. 

American Airlines is dropping flights to Laughlin-Bullhead City.

It sounds like a minor adjustment in a big airline system. But it’s a lot more than that: it’s indicative of the new realities of air service access for small communities, and is just the latest example of how small community air service access needs to move beyond 1980’s planning.

Initiated last year and supported by a federal Small Community Air Service development grant plus a reported $250K in local marketing, the flights to the American Airlines hub at Phoenix clocked in at something like a 44% load factor.

There was nothing wrong with the AA Eagle service. The two segments had great connections to AA flights at Phoenix. But it failed miserably.

Actually, this shouldn’t be a surprise. The service was simply not competitive for consumers, even though they were the only scheduled flights at the airport. The fact is that consumers had other scheduled air service options that were qualitatively and quantitatively vastly superior. The difference was that these options are at Las Vegas – 90 minutes away.

This is a poster child for the need to rethink all air access planning at small communities. Here’s a hard question for small communities: do you want “flights” at the local airport, or do you want air access. The two are not always the same.

Yeahbutt, We Need It. It’s natural for communities to believe that service at the local airport is an economic necessity. But that’s sometimes neither possible, nor beneficial. The shame is that most current “air service development” approaches pushed onto small airports focus on keeping small communities locked into outdated planning and obsolete approaches that don’t have a snowball’s chance in Miami of connecting them to global economy. In fact, a lot of this thinking is based on an airline system that no longer exists.

Reality: air transportation isn’t economically possible or “consumer-possible” at many small community local airports. This is anathema to even suggest to the local mayor, but it is a reality that needs to be dealt with in economic planning. In many cases, it is a dead-end in regard to accomplishing the main reason for scheduled air service, which is having access that consumers can use from – yes, from – the rest of the globe

It’s About Access. Not Just Local Flights. It’s not that there isn’t traffic generated at Laughlin-Bullhead City. The hard fact – ignored in most small-community ASD “studies” – was failure to understand that just having flights at the local airport often isn’t necessarily more consumer-convenient than other options.

In this case, the 90 minute drive to Las Vegas, which hosts nonstop flights around the globe, is far more valuable than low-frequency local flights that connect to a single airline system at Phoenix. The total travel time for consumers to most destinations was likely far less at Las Vegas, even with the drive to McCarran International. And the flight options at LAS are galaxies beyond the AA hub at PHX.

(In fact, Las Vegas McCarran International has more nonstops to more cities than any other US airport.)

Point: local connective air service at small communities can be successful only if it is superior to other consumer options. It isn’t possible at Laughlin-Bullhead City. It isn’t at places like Topeka, Naples, or Youngstown, either. It’s the nature of airline business and airline economics. Consumers in these places are fortunate – they have great air service access… it’s just can’t be viable from the local airport in contrast to other, better options. Even with a longer drive to the gateway airport.

It’s called total air access time. But it’s one dynamic that’s steadfastly left out of most of the air service development studies delivered to small airports.

Always Sunshine Results. Funny. It seems that just about every “study” done for very small communities to “find more airlines” always comes back with a positive conclusion, but one that assures that more consulting work will be needed… like maybe a “diversion study,” or a “catchment analysis,” or other efforts.

But in most cases, the actual airline – the one or ones that are potential viable targets – are usually not mentioned. It’s implied that there are lots of airlines out there – and connectivity levels from the rest of the globe aren’t really mentioned much.

It’s hard to find any of these projects that ever even hint that there may not be “another airline” even vaguely interested, or that there are better consumer options that may be lethal to potential service at the local airport. Or that illuminate the potential for air access strategies other than non-viable flights at the local aerodrome.

Keeping The Blinders On & Hoping For The Best. Usually, the only factors focused on in most traditional “air service development” programs are things like the “needs” of the community, or the glowing results of a recent unscientific online survey, or a grand “catchment study,” accessorized by lots of expensive point-of-sale data that isn’t particularly comprehensive, but looks great on that heat map illustration. And, usually, no identification of whether the community fits into any existing airline’s strategy.

Air transportation is all about better travel options. In many cases, the service that a small community can support can’t meet that standard.

Again, the future is in assuring air access – and often the local airport won’t be in the play. Yet most ASD schemes simply keep communities focused on the past, instead of crafting plans that adjust to the new air transportation economic realities.

In 2018, we’ll see fleet changes in the major network airline systems that will accelerate regionalization of air access.

And this will accelerate the need for regions to re-think air access strategies. Traditional ASD studies will only divert energies from finding regional solutions.

Bank on it.


Update – November 13, 2017

Starting Out This Week…

“US Airports Would Do Well To Become China-Friendly”

Travel Weekly Acknowledges BGI China-Welcome Programs

Boyd Group International and its partner, China Ni Hao, LLC., have been working with a number of airports and communities in developing tailored programs that will put them ahead of the competition in gaining a larger share of the burgeoning Chinese leisure traffic and Chinese business investment in the USA.

Posturing to have a higher profile in the China sector will be important for communities of all sizes, and BGI/CNH are at the forefront of providing professional and very functional outreach systems.

From China Kits for episodic visitors from the Middle Kingdom, to China-Welcome programs for airports, through full-function digital and website presence in China, we have the expertise to make sure that when Chinese visitors and businesses look to come to America, our clients are ahead of the pack.

By the way, don’t get too comfortable if your website has a machine Google translation… you look really foolish to Chinese visitors and web designers who include this aren’t doing you any favors.

We are honored that Travel Weekly just posted an article on this subject.

Take a look.

And for more information on how we can get your airport and community in front of Chinese consumers and businesses, check out www.ChinaNiHao.com.


Aviation DataMiner Takes A Look:

Cuba: Vapor Demand Materializes

Sun Country Latest To 86 Cuba Plans.

Last December, Boyd Group International’s trend predictions for 2017 included the forecast that US airlines would rapidly find out that all the travel industry’s panting and drooling about the huge “pent up demand” for Cuba travel would look pretty amateurish by the fourth quarter of the year.

A few months ago, BGI also noted that any increase in restrictions on Cuba access coming from the Trump administration would be a perfect smoke screen excuse for carriers to cut back and save face… not to mention saving a lot of money from not running semi-empty airliners to places that most US consumers have never heard of.

And that is exactly what’s taken place. The traffic demand to Cuba is a dud.

And what traffic that has been developed is likely to be mostly the kind of group tours that were in place before Obama went to Havana and basically apologized to the  dictator who’s running the place.

Standby For More Exits. Spirit, Frontier, Silver, Spirit, and now Sun Country have taken a pass on Cuba.

American has cut way back, and can be expected to do more in the first half of 2018. A 56% load factor, CLT-HAV isn’t going to cut it.

Southwest experienced ghastly load factors in markets like FLL-Matanzas, and FLL-Santa Clara.

Masking this, a couple of carriers, according to sunshine reports in the media, have requested more rights to Cuba.  The stories conveniently leave out that they’re asking for Havana and mostly from SE Florida – which, looking at the load factors so far, is still very iffy. But nobody is lining up to add service to Camaguey or Cienfuegos.

No Infrastructure. No freedom. No Economy – What Does That Say About Air Travel?. It’s not a surprise. Ray Charles could have seen this one coming.

As a vacation destination for US consumers, Missoula and Bangor and Santa Fe have more value to offer than Cuba… actually, a whole lot more.

And now, right on the fake news cue, some in the media are implying that these airline cuts are due to the Trump Administration’s revisions, making it harder for individuals to visit the Worker’s Paradise 90 miles off our coast, and making it difficult for US companies to sell lots of products to the eager Cuban economy.

You bet… we’re told that the “people to people” thing was a sure winner… bringing citizens together and building new friendships between our two countries. We were told that the Cuban economy was going to be a demand bonanza for US goods.

Somebody lost chain of custody of these folks’ last drug test.

People-to-people? Super… if they could talk freely, the Cubans could tell us all about how they have no right to vote, that they have shortages of key goods, their pay rates are at the subsistence level, and that they can’t travel freely out of the country.

Fact is that we can talk to Cuban citizens all we want. They can’t talk to their own government, so only people incredibly naïve could buy into that dishonest “people-outreach” garbage lauded by the last administration.

Oh, yeah. All that great business opportunity? Except for a hotel deal or two, or a highly-publicized deal where some company will supply hand-tractors to the primitive farming system in Cuba, there is no business base.

And, by the way, the US embargo has nothing to do with this. Cuba can buy whatever they want from the rest of the world. Their economic system has trashed the place to the point where they can’t.

Worse, most of the companies that do exist are run by the same Cuban military that makes sure there is no dissent among the populace. Message: doing business with them won’t help the Cuban people, but just enrich the thugs running the Cuban military.

These are just a couple of points that won’t be on the 6PM news. Not politically-correct, see.

But they are core reasons that any major level of US-Cuba air travel demand simply does not exist.

Airlines Should Be Thanking Trump. For the airline industry, however, all the media drivel about new restrictions killing off demand (that was never there in the first place), is a super excuse to get out of a lot of cash-burning flying,

In point of fact, the hard truth is that whatever Trump may have done or might do in regard to Cuba policy, it is a total non sequitur in regard to the traffic levels that airlines have experienced long before such actions were taken.

Other than Havana, most of the traffic is nonsense.

And even there, plan on more US-HAV markets dropped like a baby grand out of the 8th floor in the coming months.

Let’s Look At Some Numbers. As for Sun Country, they had the rights to fly from MSP to Santa Clara and Matanzas/Varadero.

Facts be known, most folks in the Twin Cities wouldn’t know these places from a medianoche sandwich.

So, accessing Aviation DataMiner, let’s take a look at the stellar demand from the US to these points through the end of April:

Point: if American and Southwest can’t make these markets a go from SE Florida – where over 60% of Cuban-Americans are located, the chances of Sun Country Airlines getting walk-up, individual demand  or even group movements, from MSP are right up there with winning the national lottery on Mars.

Here are a few other stellar examples of how the Cuba market is tanking… and, again, it’s likely that the yields  on these flights are not warming the hearts of airline CFOs, and the costs of doing business at Cuban airports probably are no bargain, either.

And, then there’s Havana….

Better load factors, but not anywhere near system averages, and you can take it to your bookie that the yields are close to bargain-basement and the costs of Cuba operations are in the stratosphere.

Bottom line: Until there are changes inside the cleptocratic Cuban government, and until  Cubans are allowed more freedom than inmates at a minimum security prison, and until the business base (such as it is) gets out of the control of the totalitarian Cuban military, US airlines can just sit and wait.

Trend Forecasts…The Advantage For Our Clients. We’d again point out that BGI forecasts outlined this situation in a comprehensive study in 2009, and an updated one two years ago. Somehow, we didn’t see any of the rest of the players in the aviation consulting business come out on this subject.

Also, our work was not well accepted by the travel industry, which by and large totally ignored most of the hard realities of Cuba, and instead trumpeted how Cuba was the Next Big Thing.

Now that the Cuban vapor hole is  as obvious as Osama Bin-Laden showing up at a Bar Mitzvah, watch for the “reports” and studies coming out in early 2018 from the Usual Suspects in the consulting sector, “predicting” a decline in expected performance of US-Cuba  markets.

It’s always safe to predict what’s already happened.


Update – November 6, 2017

Airline Marketing Alliances… Nothing’s In Stone

Last week, China Southern let it be known that they’re looking at moving out of the SkyTeam alliance, in light of American’s minority share purchase in the Guangzhou-based airline.

With the opening of the huge new Daxing airport in Beijing in 2019, China Southern is expected to have a substantial connecting operation – which would compete with the one expected to be established by co-SkyTeam member China Eastern.

So, plan on China Southern joining the oneworld alliance, which will finally give American a true Chinese airline partner, above and beyond what’s already in place with Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific. This will open China-US traffic access to new levels.

Cathay’s oneworld membership, however, may not be one to make book on the next time you’re in ‘Vegas. Seems that Qatar Airlines, recently, has bought a nearly 10% share of Cathay, which does have some presence for code-sharing with AA to points in SE Asia. Nevertheless, a China Southern code-share at PEK outshines by far what AA could lose from CX potentially pulling out of oneworld.

And speaking of Middle Eastern carriers Etihad has announced that they are dropping service to DFW, because of, they say, AA’s decision to cancel their  code-share agreement.

The point is whether yields made any sense. Film at 11.

(Note: thanks to the folks who corrected our mixing Etihad and Qatar in the initial posting!)


The “Pilot Shortage” – Choking Air Service?

It is a clear fact that airlines are having difficulty attracting candidates to the pilot profession. The need to accumulate a now-required 1,500 hours of experience is a huge financial barrier to attracting candidates for the profession.

But, according to the dogma behind the rule, this will make us all safe from the tragedy of flight 3407, which crashed on approach to Buffalo in 2009.

Declare Anyone Who Disagrees A Heretic. News stories have illuminated that a proposed appointee to the NTSB has gone on record that the 1,500 hour rule, passed  after the Continental/Colgan crash, does little by itself to avoid what happened that night.

The media response was like lightening – this guy wants to cut back on safety! Facts not necessary, by the way.  Wider discussion not needed.

At the congressional hearings to vet this appointee, several  politicians grabbed their soap boxes to denounce this candidate’s refusal to accept the wisdom of the rule.

He correctly pointed out, however, that the NTSB findings faulted training and oversight at the operator, not pilot time.

He also had the audacity to point out that this 1,500 hour rule – which is so zealously defended as the lynchpin of safety by certain lobbyist sectors and in the me-too media – wouldn’t have kept either of the incompetent pilots out of that cockpit.

The fact is that they both had more than this supposed sliver-bullet minimum. The fact is, then, that this sacred rule isn’t a solution to the issues that caused loss of life.

Do Not Even Suggest Alternative Solutions. Here’s the bottom line: open discussion and exchange of ideas on this subject are closed.

“The science has been decided,” as it were, and anybody who dares suggest that the pilot time rules put into effect  need to be reviewed, is attacked and pilloried like heretics  during the Inquisition who didn’t fully agree with the Pope.

It’s actually unsafe to even suggest alternatives.

Airport Input?  That brings us to the airport industry. Airports are losing air service access due to this rule – which, again for clarification, would not have prevented the Buffalo accident – then maybe the airport industry may want to take a more aggressive stand. To be fair, there are efforts, but they are drown out by cheap politicians playing to emotion, and dishonest media that postures the 1,500 rule as a not-to-mess-with rule.

Maybe a call for additional scrutiny of what can be done to keep skies safe and air transportation un-choked is now in order. And, indeed, consistently responding to these political mediocrities and special interests that their love for an arbitrary rule, instead of comprehensively improved training and oversight, it not making the skies any safer.

There are solutions that can be explored in regard to increasing safety.

But the 1,500 rule by itself doesn’t eliminate the causes of 3407.


Update – October 30, 2017

Southwest – A Snapshot of Fundamental Changes

We thought it might be interesting to take a look at where Southwest is today v the year 2000.

Using Aviation DataMiner, we compared the key metrics for the top 10 WN airports in 1Q 2017 v those in 1Q 2000.

Very revealing – it’s an airline that, other than its core focus on customer service, isn’t much the same as it was back then.

Note that two of the 2017 top ten – Denver and Orlando – weren’t on the Southwest top ten route map in 2000. They are now lynchpins in Southwest’s traffic flows.

The percent change in key metrics indicate an airline with a route system fundamentally different than in 2000…

The real metric of interest is the change in average passenger trip at each city, showing how the reach of Southwest has expanded. It’s not a short haul airline, despite some veneer media lore. In fact, the average passenger LOH has gone from 546 miles to just over 900 between 2000 and 2017.

This also indicates the criticality of connecting traffic for Southwest. Point-to-point is important, but its revenue streams are increasingly reliant on connecting passengers across its operations at MDW, PHX, HOU, STL, etc.

Just One Example of The Insights Delivered By Aviation DataMiner. In aviation planning, access to hard, analytical data such as this is critical – and that means going beyond what comes off of raw BTS websites. Aviation DataMiner delivers the analytical firepower that gives industry professionals the competitive edge.

With hundreds of immediate reports -analyzing fares, yields, traffic flows, capacity, load factors, route performance and forecasts, Aviation DataMiner outshines any other source.

For a free trial, click here. We can have you on line literally in minutes!


And, as a reminder…

It’s Now On The DOT Docket

The 2017 Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program

The docket is issued… not much change from last year… $10 million allocated. The same qualifications and filing requirements.

If your airport and community are interested in exploring whether a SCASD grant is the right approach, we’ve put together a free comprehensive guide that explains the program, and candidly discusses the pros and cons of whether to apply.

Unlike other consultants, BGI is very careful to work with our clients to assure that they aren’t chasing dry air service holes with an application. The program since 2002 has been riddled with applications that, even if successful, led nowhere in gaining new air access.

So, we’d be delighted to talk regarding the potential of a SCASD.

While we’ve won more grant dollars under this program than any other consulting firm, in the past four years we have been very careful regarding accepting these projects. We focus on pursuing results for our clients.

Click here to request the SCASD Guide… we’ll get it right off to you. Then give us a call.


The Update

Proposed ATC “Reform” & The Mob Approach To Management Change

Anybody remember Paul Castellano?

He was the Don of one of the most powerful “families” in New York.

Nevertheless, he got whacked by his underlings in a high-profile hit as he arrived at a Midtown restaurant in 1986.

It seems they disagreed regarding management issues, but had no disagreements about the underpinnings of the family activities themselves.

It resulted in a  management change in the front offices of the family. But at the end of the day, the rest of the family continued to do business just as it did before Big Paul met his untimely demise. Just new faces at the top.

“Reform” – Whacking The FAA… But Keeping The System. What took place long ago on New York’s eastside is pretty much along the lines of the current hoopla around whether to “reform” and privatize the air traffic control system, or leave it in the clumsy control of a bungling government agency.

That’s what’s on the table. Change of management. Not a change of fundamental direction. Not implementation of a system of accountability for results. No cleaning of house. Not any discussion of whether the failure to achieve material improvements in airline schedule performance may be due to the NextGen program itself.

The reform crowd, not to put too fine a point on it, only wants to clip the current ATC Don – the FAA – and take over the “family” – the air traffic control system.

And like the capos who wanted Big Paul out, the ATC reform folks have no quarrel with the core business activities of the current FAA Don. They intend to keep the current staff, structure and modus operandi that’s there already, i.e., the system that doesn’t produce results.

They just want control – in this case, that means control of the NextGen program.

Flaw: Confusing “Reform” With Results. As a factual matter, neither side in the ATC squabble have any quarrel with what the FAA is actually doing… they have no criticism whatsoever on NextGen. it’s just the management style they disagree with.

Nothing personal – it’s strictly business. And will lead strictly to non-results, either way it plays out.

Sound & Fury Signifying The Wrong Direction. The noise surrounding whether the air traffic control system should be “reformed” or left in the blundering cloak of the FAA gets louder – and more irrelevant – with every press release from either side.

The “reform” crowd all contend that putting the ATC system under a semi-private structure will result in a new modernized system. These are sometimes accessorized with un-supported and frankly fruitcake predictions that “reform” will massively cut airline delays by double-digit amounts.

The anti-reformists are warning that privatizing ATC will be devastating to the air transportation system, as they claim it will turn it over to the evil airlines, who’ll certainly use to make more money at the expense of the consumer.

A key tenet of the anti-reformists is that privatization will result in small communities losing air service – a contention completely concocted and being nothing more than a desperation fear-grenade… not much different from the clowns that claim an end to EAS will close airports.

The point in all this is that neither side has a clue.

Neither side has a problem with the ATC NextGen “family business” – which is a fraudulent scandal that both want to continue to worship and retain.

Neither side has promulgated any fundamental changes in ATC modernization. Nobody has dared mention that NextGen has a rap sheet of failure longer than I-95. Nobody has suggested structural changes that address the bungling at the FAA for the last 30 years.

Both sides agree, apparently, that NextGen is the answer… they only differ on how it should be managed… or, mismanaged.

Now, It’s In The Airlines’ Court. What is becoming more and more clear is that the path to improving air transportation efficiency does not lie entirely within the FAA or the ATC system. It’s now the responsibility of the airlines themselves.

It’s clear that ATC – which is intended to maintain separation of aircraft – isn’t a solution to the entire range of issues and dynamics that have resulted in virtually no material improvement in “on-time” performance in the last decade.

GAO studies on ATC (the majority of which, by the way, do not blame funding for the mess the FAA has created with NextGen)  have noted that the actual causes of airline off-schedule operations are not fully understood. In some cases, the ATC system is the cause. In others, airport congestion. In others, sheer dimbulb operations management by airlines.

But one thing is now certain: this hype about “reform” fixing the system is based on bogus assumptions and PR doggerel. The anti-reform reactionists are even less credible – they don’t want to change a thing.

This is not to say that ATC modernization should not be taken away from the klutz-masters at the FAA. It just illuminates that whether “reformed” or remaining in the status-quo, there are no ATC-based solutions on the horizon.

So, rest assured that nothing is going to change. Both sides want to retain the problem, under different management systems.


Update October 16, 2017

Selective  Security Outrage

One prime reason that, truth be known, AVSEC is still wallowing in a bureaucratic quagmire is that most of the aviation industry is loath to criticize the system.

Or, worse, mesmerized with the PR that comes out of the Department of Homeland Security.

The latest example is the strong objections of one flight attendant union to Pittsburgh International opening its shopping mall terminal to access from non-ticketed visitors.

The righteous outrage is well-scripted. This move by PIT will reduce security and threaten the flying public, is the claim.

But this same oh-so-concerned union never made any loud noises whatsoever when it was found two years ago that screener tests were being flunked at a 96% rate. Or, when other such information comes to light about the sloppy management of the TSA.

Whether or not PIT’s new policy will denigrate security is not the issue here.

The issue is that there are lots of aviation-related  and travel-related organizations whose credibility should be zero.

Taking on an airport is easy.

But daring to criticize the incompetents at the top of the TSA, well, that’s another story.


Update October 9, 2017

Airline Financial Analyses  – Consider With Caution

Southwest just reported September results.  We came across a very interesting review of the carrier’s performance.

A couple of key measures declined Y-O-Y, such as load factor and revenue passenger miles, leading this source to declare that the airline’s performance as “disappointing.”

The report wallowed around, decrying a decline in RPMs of 4.5%, a lower load factor and other danger signs that were shown as prima face proof that Southwest was in decline in September.

Summarizing the veneer understanding of the airline business, this financial report declared…

“…Load factor (the percentage of seats filled by passengers) decreased 250 basis points (bps) to 81.7% in September. The key metric fell since the contraction in traffic was more than that in capacity leading to empty planes…”


Read that again, dig the comments within the context of airline industry metrics, and consider this comes from a source that postures itself as a reliable reference for investors.

The first red flag is the term “250 bps” to describe the decline in load factor. Nobody awake, sober and with even a high-school knowledge of the airline business uses “basis points” to measure changes in load factor. That’s a financial term, not one used in airline data.

Then, there is the contention that’s lethal to the report’s credibility. “… leading to empty planes…”

Misleading, unprofessional, and stupid.

That can only be described as a sure sign the writer might not be expert in the airline industry, particularly where the airline had a nearly 82% system load factor.

The uninformed reader gets the impression from this posturing “expert” that WN routinely flew empty flights, which was not the case. It does not say that the average passenger load, system-wide, was 2.9 fewer passengers on a fleet with an average of 149 seats per flight.

It does not reveal that in September the average WN flight had just about 122 passengers on board v 125 last year. That’s not empty.

It does not say that a few more seats on average were unoccupied. They didn’t say “empty seats.”

It does no explanation of any shifts in the WN route system that could explain the change in these measures.

No running from it. The report states  clearly that Southwest was flying “empty planes” due to the decline in load factor.

That’s fake news. To the consumer, “empty”means nobody on the plane.

If one is taking investment advice, a whole lot more informational precision might be expected.

On the basis of this, the source advises investors to dump their Southwest stock.

A Couple of Airline Metrics Not Considered. Now, Southwest is a big boy airline and can certainly deal with this half-baked financial reporting for themselves.

But there have been changes in the WN fleet and route system over the past year, and there are no danger signs regarding out-of-control route expansion, over capacity, or consumer issues.

We’d maybe point out that just reading SEC documents and Form-41 data, without full analysis and understanding of what’s behind them, or of the airline’s known and expected strategic direction, is a veneer way to make determinations on whether the airline’s future is going in the right direction.

There are a lot of strong airline analysts out there. But…

Caveat Emptor.


Update October 2, 2017

Travel Industry: Where’s The Leadership?

Here’s the brief but accurate outline of what has become the political football of choice.

The Trump Administration is planning  travel restrictions on several countries, all of which have been determined to be places with inadequate counter-terrorism programs. Eight of these have populations that are predominantly Muslim.

Now, the number of travelers from these places is miniscule, and has very little impact on the US travel industry. It’s strictly based on security issues. As far as the US as a destination goes, this should be a plus to attract more visitors.

Get Political. Make It Something It’s Not. Unless, of course, the program can be accused of being a wider scheme to keep foreigners across the board out of the US. It is a  crackpot and dishonest attempt to shift truth into political fantasy. But that defines a lot of what goes on within a lot of political entities.

Now, because there are Muslim countries involved, the ACLU and other groups have declared the program as being one of racial discrimination, and by association, anybody who does not oppose these new restrictions is a racist. So, just because the implication of racism has been made, the safe path is to not call it for what it is: garbage

The fact that these countries – which do not represent anywhere near  the majority of the global Muslim population –  have been determined not to have adequate anti-terrorism programs in place, is left out in the pathetic brown-shirt-like protests about “hate” and America being a land open to all. Including, it seems anybody who may want to come in.

This notwithstanding all of the Islamic terror over the past year, and the fact that at last we have an administration that recognizes the threat.

And, contrary to what the ACLU and their political supporters are spouting, and the media is parroting like a cheap tape recorder, this not a blanket ban on Muslims. To imply that is a lie. It’s as stupid as if the ACLU sued ISIS, claiming they discriminate against hiring Christians.

Travel Industry Organizations: Closet Supporters of The Fantasy? Now, enter the travel industry. Instead of working to counter these dishonest missives, they are side-stepping them, and don’t have the gumption to bring out the whole picture.

The message between the lines from these travel organizations: These restrictions are silly and unneeded and damaging. No attempt to investigate regarding whether there are security issues involved.

One group has urged the president to re-affirm to the nation that these actions are not meant to harm travel demand to the USA. Like, if the full facts were reported, or even illuminated by these travel organizations, that comment would be completely unneeded. They should be getting the full story out. They aren’t doing that.

But apparently these Washington travel groups buy into the dishonest party line that it’s all about dimbulb racial discrimination. They don’t want to tell the whole story – which is their job, by the way.

Create The “Message” – And Then Claim That It’s “World Opinion.” Another travel group has warned that these actions are sending messages to the world that foreigners are not welcome in the USA. The only “message” is the one being sent by these organizations themselves.

The “message” is coming directly from the travel industry – it’s an inside job.

Having the US restrict travel from a few places where there are indications of lack of proper security should be something that they would embrace as a positive factor to visit the USA.

Instead, they are tacitly (at the least) providing support to the dishonest sectors that are claiming these restrictions are racially-based, and are just smoke screens to discriminate against Muslims. That’s a complete failure in leadership on the part of the US travel industry.

Do a search. Not one travel industry leader has come out to even outline the reasons for the restrictions, but instead have cowardly tried to spit out milquetoast comments that assure that they get no criticism from places like the ACLU or others in Washington who put politics ahead of national security.