24/7 Wall Street‘s / Yahoo‘s “10 brands that will disappear in 2015” actually lists Alaska Airlines as a potential company that might not be around after 2015…what hogwash! Alaska management has said multiple times that they are not interested in selling the company nor do they need to in order to effectively compete. The article doesn’t even provide any new facts to make their case. Instead, it notes the fact that Alaska is one of the last independent carriers, larger airlines have been acquired in the past, and Alaska’s profits and customer service make it a great prize. Additionally, Delta’s desire to gain Alaska’s West Coast routes is mentioned.

Alaska Air Group Inc. is one of the few remaining independent airlines in the United States that is not owned by one of the four larger carriers. Even larger airlines have been acquired: Northwest was bought by Delta, Continental merged with United and U.S. Airways joined with American Airlines. The recent consolidations in the industry have been successful, leading to significant cost cuts. Alaska Air, with its profits and customer service reputation, is the last real prize left. There has been speculation that Delta might buy Alaska Air for its West Coast routes. The rumors have pushed Alaska Air shares higher. Alaska Air is particularly strong in the busiest West Coast markets, especially in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Seattle. It has also begun to challenge carriers in East Coast markets, including several cities in Florida. Revenue and net income have risen steadily over the past five years. And Alaska Air often ranks highest in customer satisfaction among traditional carriers.

On to a few more reliable Alaska / Delta stories…

TheStreet reports that Alaska is countering Delta’s assault with their secret weapon – unified employees (thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing with PMttP readers):

For Alaska the reality of being under assault by a stronger adversary sank in at the end of July, when the carrier reported earnings that beat estimates — yet watched its shares fall 9% as analysts worried about capacity increases in key markets. But Delta’s effort to build a Seattle hub on top of Alaska’s Seattle hub is also having a positive impact for the airline, in that it is further uniting Alaska’s approximately 10,200 workers, 83% of them unionized. It has not escaped the workers that Delta is a largely non-union carrier, one that strongly resisted efforts by the International Association of Machinists and the Association of Flight Attendants to organize its workers following the 2008 merger with Northwest. IAM and AFA are the two largest unions at Alaska. The employees “know Delta is anti-union,” said Tom Higginbotham, president of IAM District Lodge 142. “Their focus is on making Alaska work better than Delta. “The company is definitely doing everything it can to bring everyone together for what it believes is a war,” Higginbotham said. “Our relationship with Alaska over the last five or six years has been very good, and this has strengthened everybody’s willingness to cooperate with each other.” The IAM represents about 3,100 employees, including 2,500 agents and 600 ramp and stores workers. Jeff Peterson, president of the Alaska chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants, said, “Considering Delta is one of our closest code share partners, Delta management isn’t playing very nice. “Many of Delta’s flight attendants seem to have the impression that Delta is going to buy us or run us out of business,” Peterson said. “That opinion must be coming from their management [but] I can assure you that’s not going to happen. Delta does a nice job, we don’t begrudge their employees anything, but we’re here to stay.”

Check out the full article from TheStreet here.

The Seattle Times shares Delta CEO Richard Anderson’s thoughts on the “Seattle Wars” (thanks to Jenny from ST for sharing with our readers):

Some analysts see Delta exerting pressure for an endgame in which the giant Atlanta-based enterprise swallows its smaller Pacific Northwest rival. Anderson deflects talk of that possibility and insists Delta is here “to be successful unilaterally” in a rough-and-tumble industry. “There’s no drama. It’s just business,” Anderson said. “Is Airbus tough with Boeing? Is Apple tough on Microsoft? It’s a competitive marketplace.” Recently, Delta inaugurated direct flights from Seattle to Hong Kong, bringing to 10 the number of its daily international nonstop routes out of the city, six to Asia and four to Europe. Anderson said that adding such destinations from Seattle is “huge for the economic and cultural development of the community.” Delta’s expansion requires building up its base at Sea-Tac. Anderson said the airline has about 2,800 employees based here now and will soon grow past 3,000. “We’re in the process right now of hiring 1,400 flight attendants and 600 pilots,” he said. “A lot of those will end up based here.”

Check out the full Seattle Times article here. 

Related - 

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My new role has me interacting quite a bit with our marketing and public relations teams. They recently brought me to a New York PR event where Delta had two of their media relations team members in attendance. I of course took some time (over drinks) to speak with them. I really wanted to watch them try and spin the upcoming SkyMiles “enhancements” but they politely declined.  However, they did have a lot to say about the following three stories (this is the official media relations team responses so take these with a DL corporate skew)…

Michigan Mom’s Mistakenly Voided Ticket – Stranded in Punta Canahere’s a snippet from the Detroit Free Press article if you’ve forgotten the story:

Karen Smith of Milford was on vacation with her family in the Dominican Republic. On their way home April 12, she printed out her first-class boarding pass and had it scanned by both security and US Airways agents at the Punta Cana boarding gate. Then something went wrong. She was pulled out of the line just as she and her family were about to get on the plane. They took her boarding pass. They said they needed to give her a “flight coupon” back at the counter. They made her stand at the counter so long that the flight took off with her husband and three children aboard and all their luggage. However, the day the family left Detroit, Delta had to make an adjustment to Smith’s ticket at the gate, but — and this is the part that is not supposed to be possible — somehow voided out the entire e-ticket including the US Airways return portion — even though the change did not show up in the US Airways reservations system and the passenger had no way of knowing about the problem. Thus, upon her return from Punta Cana, Smith was able to print out her US Airways first class boarding pass, get it scanned, and nearly board the plane when US Airways agents, noticing for the first time the lack of a valid underlying ticket, pulled her from the line.

Delta wanted us to know that although it was widely reported that they refunded the $1385.30 for Karen’s new ticket home as well as paid her $160 hotel cost, they also offered the family complimentary flights so that they could enjoy a new vacation with confirmed return flights for the entire family.

Delta Landing Aborted After “Joke” from Air Traffic Control – how could you forget this one? Reminder courtesy of the HuffPost:

Back in June, flight 630 was a mere 1,000 feet from the ground over ATL when air traffic control told the pilot to “go around” because he couldn’t land yet. Then, moments later, the controller gave a different instruction: “I’m kidding, Delta 630. After you land, I’ve got no one behind you. Expect to exit right. Delta 630 you’re clear to land on (runway) 27-Left.” It was too late — the plane had already altered course and was forced to climb to roughly 4,000 feet and circle the airport for another 15 minutes, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, while the “joke” was straightened out on the ground.

Delta notes that they continue to fully cooperate with the FAA teams investigating the incident and that behind close doors they consider this a huge safety issue and are doing everything possible to ensure proper corrective action is taken to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

Farewell to some of the 747s – the early retirement of some of my favorite (and newly renovated) DL jets:

In a startling change of plans, Delta Air Lines today confirmed that it will retire four of its Boeing 747s beginning in September. Employees were notified in a memo penned by Glen Hauenstein the airline’s chief revenue officer. Hauenstein described the decision as way to “reduce Delta’s footprint at Tokyo Narita” and to do less intra-Asia flying. It seems to have taken a lot less time for the airline to do an about face because as recently as two weeks ago cockpit crews were offered opportunities to bid for captain and first officer positions on the jumbo. So they were surprised last week when the offer was rescinded. Regarding the flight crews, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said the company’s plan for them was “still to be communicated.” Boeing 777 and 767s now flying Atlantic routes will be re positioned to the Pacific. The first two 747s will be retired on September 30th and October 1 when the Atlanta -Tokyo and Los Angeles – Tokyo routes are converted to Boeing 777s. Numbers three and four stop flying on October 26 when Detroit – Nagoya will be converted to an Airbus A330 and the Tokyo – Hong Kong and Nagoya – Manila flights will be canceled.

Apparently, many employees are very upset about this announcement and have formed groups to ensure that each 747 is sent off with a special celebration. Celebrations will involve not only the final flight for each jet, but also sporadic flights in the weeks and months leading up to the retirements. No specific details were provided, though the team mentioned that there will be both on-board and gate hosted events. More details to follow…

Posted by Adam | 2 Comments

The last several weeks have had pretty great SkyMiles saver award availability from JFK and BOS to London on Virgin Atlantic, both in Business (Upper Class) and Economy. The trend seems to be continuing into August, though you’ll have to ignore the error prone award availability calendar. Most often, the calendar shows saver or low availability on dates with no actual saver seats, however it appears to be the opposite this time around. The calendar is displaying multiple days with only peak availability, though when actually searching on those days, you are likely to find saver seats… most often on Virgin Atlantic with very few on actual Delta metal.

Delta Award CalendarDelta Virgin Atlantic Award Availability

Not a bad way at all to get to Europe in the prime August travel period, though of course you’ll be stuck with the UK air passenger duty fee and UK passenger service charges if booking a r/t – around $330 regardless of whether you select Virgin or Delta. Of course, flying back to the US from another European airport will save you the majority of these fees ($5.60 for the outbound only).

Delta Virgin Atlantic FeesDelta FeesDelta One Way

RelatedTrip Report – Virgin Atlantic Upper Class w/ DL SkyMiles Newark (EWR) – London Heathrow (LHR)

Interested in using your miles for a flight but can’t find availability? Consider using Juicy Miles for award booking assistance!

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Could someone please tell me how an Alaska Airlines flight between Salt Lake City and San Jose, Ca. is going to make money? Because I can’t see it. In fact, if you believe in that flight, don’t read this column, where the assumption is that the flight is ridiculous.

Forbes contributor Ted Reed outlines why he thinks Alaska needs to make nice with Delta in order to avoid an “unwinnable battle” and to benefit from the future revenue that Delta’s international flying while bring to its Seattle partners.

Here’s a snippet of the article, check out the full text here. What are your thoughts?

Of course Alaska wants to fight back against Delta, the arrogant intruder from the South.  And who can resist backing the relatively small airline with deep community ties that it built up over 66 years? The problem is that the battle has pushed Alaska to act like an angry kid, telling Delta that if it doesn’t stop, Alaska will hold its breath until it turns blue. The fact is that Delta has no choice but to build a Seattle hub. Delta is one of three global U.S. carriers and it needs to offer Asia service – particularly China service — from a West Coast hub, where it can gather passengers from the states to the east, all 45 of them. The best U.S. West Coast hub is San Francisco, where United is long established.  For years, that has left Delta and American, as well as United, fighting it out at LAX, a place where nobody can win.

It is easy to forget that Alaska and Delta are partners in a code share agreements.  I don’t know all the details of why they enabled their relationship to break down. My sources say that the accountants who run Alaska understandably insisted on squeezing every last penny out of the relationship, rather than backing down a little bit on price and rather than giving Delta passengers preference over passengers from other partners.

Related - 

Posted by Adam | 8 Comments

Last October I sadly posted about American Airlines canceling their long running JFK-Barbados flight - American Axes One of my Favorite JFK Routes – Caribbean Left with Just a Few Flights. I lamented that this was one of my favorite JFK-Caribbean flights on AA for a bunch of reasons:

  1. Barbados always seemed to be less touristy than the other Caribbean locals with direct NYC based flights (less US tourists anyway…very big with the UK). Friendly locals,beautiful uncrowded beaches, and a great Hilton as well.
  2. Award availability was fantastic. My family of four flew Dec 24th returning December 30th two years ago, all on MileSAAver awards at35K. We’ve done that to several other Caribbean location each and every year on AA for 11 years now!
  3. Since award availability was so fantastic, there was always Avios availability as well. I was able to avoid a NYC blizzard last year and escape to Barbados last minute using an AAdvantage MileSAAver award booked via British Airways Avios. The total cost was $47.50 in taxes and only 12,500 Avios points (instead of 17,500 AA miles) each way!

That left AA with non-stop Caribbean service from JFK to only Antigua (ANU), St. Kitts (SKB) once per week, Port-au-Prince (PAP), San Juan (SJU), St. Maarten (SXM), and St. Thomas (STT). A far cry from the days when we’d sit down at the table and look at AA’s “Where We Fly” map to pick our next Caribbean winter vacation spot, always a new destination.

In any case, Delta yesterday announced the launch of their flights from ATL and JFK, though they will only be operated twice per week. Here’s that press release:

Barbados and Delta Air Lines (DAL) today announce a collaboration on new nonstop service this winter to the Caribbean island. Travelers from the Eastern and Central regions of the U.S. now have a new reason to head to the sun-drenched island, with nonstop flights beginning on December 4, 2014, twice weekly between Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown and both New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where connections to cities across the United States are available.

Flights will operate Thursdays and Saturdays, and two flights will start simultaneously, one from New York into Barbados and then onto Atlanta; and then a second one originating in Atlanta, traveling to Barbados and on to New York.

Available for purchase now, round-trip flight times from JFK and ATL to Bridgetown, Barbados are as follows:

Delta Barbaods Schedule

The two spacious Boeing 737 aircrafts have a seating capacity of 160, consisting of 16 business class seats, 18 economy comfort seats and 126 economy seats on each flight. The 737 offers travelers amenities including complimentary personal television programming with 18 free channels from DISH Network, comfortable leather seats and up to 4 more inches of legroom with Economy Comfort.

Not unsurprisingly award availability is a bit different than AA’s. There is absolutely no Saver award availability for the entire schedule loaded in economy or first.

DL JFK-BGI Dec 2014 Award Availability

Well, at least a direct NYC flight to Barbados that is redeemable with points has returned. The majority of my SkyMiles were obtained on the cheap, so I could consider a standard award for 55K miles depending on how bad I want to escape winter. Note that JetBlue currently operates JFK-BGI as well and flights can be redeemed using TrueBlue points…though I don’t have many.

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Following the US 2-1 World Cup win over Ghana yesterday, Delta tweeted out congratulations to Team USA which they represented with a picture of the Statue of Liberty. The losing team, Ghana, was represented by a giraffe…except there are no giraffes in Ghana.

Delta World Cup Tweet

There was a huge immediate backlash on social media to the stereotyping and Delta apologized quickly (twice actually). Here’s the latest apology, the first was deleted after Delta noted that they were sorry for the choice of photo in their “precious” tweet instead of previous tweet.

Delta World Cup Tweet 2

Related - Special World Cup Airline Liveries

Posted by Adam | 4 Comments

Delta announced yesterday that they are looking to buy up to 50 wide-body jets and currently studying replacements for both their Boeing 747-400 and 767-300ER planes, each with an average of about 20+ years.  However, CEO Richard Anderson said no deal would come any time soon and that Delta will continue its “watch and wait” strategy  to reduce potential technical risks and allow the jets to prove themselves before looking at any new or altered models including the 787 and a potential A330neo. Delta currently operates 16 747-400s and 74 767-300s as per Flightglobal.

Reuters reports that:

The prospect for an order for dozens of wide-body jets from Delta, widely seen as one of the most conservative buyers of new capacity, would trigger fierce competition between Boeing and European rival Airbus. Delta is seen as a prime customer for a potential revamp of the Airbus A330, which the European manufacturer is considering updating with new engines to help airlines reduce fuel bills. Delta bought 10 current-generation A330s last year. Airbus has not said whether it plans to go ahead with the “A330neo” but is expected to take a decision later this year and interest from Delta could be decisive, industry sources say. However, Delta could expand its fleet of existing models of the Boeing 777. Delta has 18 next-generation Boeing 787s on order and has not ruled out expanding the airline’s order for Boeing 787s, inherited from its 2008 takeover of Northwest Airlines, but called on Boeing to reduce prices to compete against the A330, which Delta had helped to launch in the United States.

Posted by Adam | 3 Comments

Delta today introduced new sleep kits and several updated amenities for passengers seated in the Economy cabin on long-haul international flights. From the press release:

Sleep kits will be offered to each customer by flight attendants and will include individual eyeshades plus earplugs to help customers get better rest when travelling between continents

In addition, on all trans-Atlantic flights of 3,850 miles or less from the U.S. to Europe, customers in the Economy cabin will receive a full-size bottle of water following meal service and updated snack offerings for morning and afternoon/evening arrivals. A mid-flight ice cream service will also be offered on these flights returning from Europe to the U.S.  These service improvements will expand to longer-haul international flights in early summer.

This summer, customers flying in domestic First Class as well as the Economy cabin on domestic and international flights will be offered newly upgraded earbuds that will be theirs to keep for use with Delta’s seatback entertainment systems.

Sleep Kits Economy Delta

Posted by Adam | 4 Comments

Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled today against a Minnesota flier who was stripped of his elite status and miles by Northwest after they said he complained too much. The flier said Northwest did not act in good faith and was trying to cut costs because of its merger with Delta. Delta confirmed the NWA argument that he was cut off because of his constant complaints.

From Yahoo! News / AP (thanks Mark for sharing with PMTTP readers):

The court said in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that the federal deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 prohibits most lawsuits like the one filed by Ginsberg. The frequent flier program is clearly connected to the airline’s prices, routes or services, which are covered under the Airline Deregulation Act, Alito said.

The flier and his wife flew almost exclusively on Northwest, logging roughly 75 flights a year to travel across the U.S. and abroad to give lectures and take part in conferences on education and administration. He said he flew on Northwest even when other airlines offered comparable or better flights and in 2005, reached the highest level of the WorldPerks program. Northwest cut him off in 2008, shortly after Northwest and Delta agreed to merge. Ginsberg said Northwest was looking to get rid of the high-mileage customers.

Northwest says he complained 24 times in a seven-month period, including nine instances of luggage that turned up late on airport baggage carousels. Northwest said that before it took action, it awarded Ginsberg $1,925 in travel credit vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles, a voucher for his son and $491 in cash reimbursements. The airline pointed to a provision of the mileage program’s terms that gives Northwest the right to cancel members’ accounts for abuse.

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This is the final segment of an eight part trip report from my travels to Rome and Siracusa, Sicily and includes my Delta BusinessElite flight from Paris – Newark aboard a 767-300:

BP AF CDG EWR

Thank you card upon boarding…

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris05

Standard Tumi amenity kit and headphones…

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Table and seat controls, USB charger and outlet…

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Lie-flat seat…

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris12

Dinner and Lunch menu from CDG – EWR:

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The updated Delta BusinessElite meal service carts – sparkling and still water holders and wine carrousel….

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Treated myself to the grilled beef and mac and cheese…after eating without care in Italy, why not one more meal…

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris21

Delta has finally got the steak cooked medium…impressive. I really always enjoy Delta’s meal options and think they have the best food and service of any US carrier (Related – Trip Report – SWISS Business JFK-Zurich(ZRH) A330 – Best Fillet In-Flight?)

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris22

Updated bathrooms with new lighting and handless sink and toilet…

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Dessert time

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Delta’s standard Westin Heavenly duvet and full size pillow.

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Snacks mid-flight…

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Lunch prior to landing in Newark…

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A big improvement…notification that “all entertainment will conclude once we land”…keep watching until you are on the ground. Overall, it was the typical DL B767 service and product which I find much nicer than Air France’s non fully lie-flat business product.

Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris32 Delta Trip Report 767-300 CDG-EWR Paris33

Looking for more detailed Delta trip reports? Check out:

Want to fly Alitalia home from Italy instead using SkyMiles instead? Check out:

Working backwards, I’ll have the trip reports for the Air France Lounge Charles De Gaulle Terminal E Boarding Gate M and the Rome-Paris Air France flight next week.  Have a great weekend!

Need help planning a trip with your miles? Consider Juicy Miles assistance for the best possible award pricing and routes!

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The Fidelity promos for AA, DL, and UA have been around for some time and offer an easy way to earn up to 50,000 bonus miles for depositing $100,000 in a new or existing account each year. Back in 2010/2011, the promos were extremely lucrative as you could double-dip by signing up for more than one partner promo per year and you were even able to cycle your money into and out of your account to reach the “100,000″ requirement. However, in recent years Fidelity has placed more scrutiny on both the rolling 12 month limitation and the cycling of funds to reach the 100k threshold (some still report this working but others have been warned). One positive change is that all three offers are now open to existing account holders and no longer limited to new customers (though there were ways around this requirement as well).  I followed the rules on this promo and signed up for the AA promotion in December 2011 and received 50,000 miles after maintaining 100k in the account for six months. I then pulled the funds and redeposited them in December 2012 to take advantage of the UA promotion. While the miles took almost eight weeks to post in 2012, in 2013 they posted to my United account after only 5 1/2 weeks. Back in December, I repeated the process again but went back to the AA offer (it had been well over the 12 month mark since my last December 2011 AA offer).  Though it’s rare for Fidelity to try to pull the miles back, I’m maintaining the funds in the account until the nine month mark as I want to be able to take advantage of the promo again next year. Yes, for 2014 Fidelity has changed the T&Cs to require that you keep the funds in your account for 9 months instead of the former 6 month requirement. They may clawback the miles if you do not meet the new terms. Note that there is still no requirement to actually engage in the purchase or trading of any stocks.

Remember, the bonus limitations are based on your social security number, so you can withdraw the funds, sign your spouse or significant other up for the promo, and then redeposit those same funds to qualify them for the bonus. An Apple $500 gift card offer is also available.

AA Offer 
DL Offer
UA Offer
Apple Gift Card

Questions? Check out this flyertalk thread for further details.

Posted by Adam | 7 Comments

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