Pontifications: Passenger experience and the WOW factor

By Scott Hamiltn

By Scott Hamilton

June 29, 2015, © Leeham Co. Back on June 1, I wrote in this column I had yet to experience traveling on the Airbus A380, which entered service in 2007. The A380 doesn’t serve Seattle, where I live, and I really didn’t have a desire to add hours and a connection to my travels just to fly the A380 if I could go non-stop. Note that this is precisely the argument advanced by Boeing, but this is a coincidence. I have yet to fly on the Boeing 787, either, and it does fly into Seattle from Asia.

A reader Tweeted to me his incredulity that in all these years I hadn’t flown the A380. I replied, All in good time. I knew when I wrote that I would be returning from the Paris Air Show on an A380 via Los Angeles. The time had come for me to experience the airplane. (Interestingly, Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times, unbeknownst to either of us, wrote he’s doing the same thing via New York on Air France. I would be flying Air France. Friends warned me that the passenger experience on Air France, however, was hardly what the A380 is all about.

They weren’t kidding.

I had been on the test A380 during static displays before, but never in a passenger-configured model. At the PAS, Qatar Airways had its own little air show, displaying more airliners than any OEM: the A319, A320, A350 and A380 plus the 787. The A350 and A380 were open to the press. As with anyone in the industry, I had long-heard of how the Middle Eastern airlines went over the top on outfitting their cabins, but I wasn’t remotely prepared for the Qatar A380. Walking on board, into the first class section, was a jaw-dropping “wow” moment.

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Pontifications: Final thoughts of the Paris Air Show

Bu Scott Hamiltn

By Scott Hamilton

June 22, 2015, c. Leeham Co. The Paris Air Show was largely as expected, with a few small surprises. Boeing did better than expected via-a-vis Airbus, actually leading slightly in firm orders and tied in orders-and-options going into Thursday. This is virtually never the case, particularly at the Paris Air Show, Airbus’ “home” turf. At the same time, some Wall Street analysts noted the firm orders fell below expectations. I’m not especially concerned about whether an announcement was firm or a commitment, because the latter typically firm up, if not within the current calendar year then usually in the next. Note, for example, Boeing announced the launch of the 777X program at the 2013 Dubai Air Show was some 200 commitments, or thereabouts, but the orders didn’t firm until 2014. Airbus announced a commitment for 250 A320s from Indigo in 2014 and it will likely be firmed up this year.

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Pontifications: National policy, national security

By Scott Hamilton

June 15, 2015, c. Leeham Co. The battle between the the Big Three US carriers, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, vs the Big Three Middle Eastern carriers, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, was a big over-hang at the 71st International Air Transportation Assn. Annual General Assembly last week.

The US3 charge that the ME3 have received around $42bn in subsidies and claim continued government support put them at a disadvantage. Loads of information has been reported, with claims and counter-claims going back and forth. But the IATA conference attendees, including members of the media, were looking for sparks to fly between Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, who was on a couple of panels and who was voted president of IATA for the next year, Tim Clark, president of Emirates and Akbar Al-Baker, CEO of Qatar.

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Pontifications: re-engining airliners and the A380

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

June 1, 2015, c. Leeham Co. The Paris Air Show begins in two weeks. One thing that won’t happen is the launch of the Airbus A380neo.

We still think it will happen, though at a later date.

Re-engining the A380 is highly controversial. The A380 is the plane critics love to hate. You can argue whether it should have been built in the first place. You can argue whether it was 10 years too soon. You can argue whether Airbus misjudged the size of the market. You can even argue its passenger appeal. I haven’t flown on the A380 yet, so I can’t speak from personal experience on the latter. I’ve previously discussed the other points.

You can argue whether the airplane should be re-engined. Leeham News concluded in January 2014 Airbus really had no choice but to re-engine the A380 if it wants to continue offering the model. If done inexpensively (a relative term, to be sure), it makes sense given the arrival around 2020 of the Boeing 777-9. It’s when design creep happens that trouble arises. Just ask Boeing on the 747-8.

Emirates Airlines says it will buy up to 200 A380neos if Airbus proceeds. Qatar Airways expresses interest. Lufthansa Airlines said a neo is needed to keep the A380 viable in the future, though it hasn’t taken the next step of saying it will buy more.

Re-engining is hardly new. Let’s take a look. Read more

Pontifications: Fare and market share wars

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

May 25, 2015, c. Leeham Co. Airline stocks took a dive last week when it appeared fare wars and eroding capacity discipline is beginning among US carriers.

Southwest Airlines said it will be adding capacity at the rate of 6%-7% compared with recent increases of 2%-3% and American Airlines said it will begin matching the prices of Low Cost and Ultra Low Cost Carriers rather than see its market share erode.

And the markets went into a tizzy.

I’m old enough to remember when American aggressively matched the low fares of the emerging new entrant airlines after deregulation in the 1980s. The matching spread and the 1980s became a bloodbath. Read more

Pontifications: Qatar Air adds US service, US airlines ramp up whining

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

May 11, 2015: Qatar Airways is going to add service to three more US cities and the US airlines don’t like it. That’s too bad. We’ve heard this story before.

First, it was the proposed deregulation of the US airline industry. By the late 1970s, there hadn’t been a new scheduled airline certificated by the Civil Aeronautics Board since the end of World War II other than local service carriers. Non-scheduled airlines (non-skeds for short) and charter carriers received licenses for their lines of work, but every effort to obtain a scheduled certificate was defeated by those airlines already holding one. They didn’t want the competition.

When the move toward deregulation occurred in the 1970s, only United Airlines and the original Frontier Airlines supported it. United, then the nation’s largest carrier, had been rejected by the CAB for every major route expansion while UA’s competitors received new route awards. UA thought deregulation was the only way to expand. Frontier, a local service carrier that had become a “regional” airline by then (as designations evolved), also saw expansion opportunities. Read more

Pontifications: the A380, Airbus and Boeing

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

May 4, 2015, c. Leeham Co. Of all the things we write about, nothing stirs responses and readership than news–of any kind–about the Airbus A380.

Last week I wrote about Malaysia Airlines putting a large number of its Airbus and Boeing wide-bodies for sale or lease. MASCargo’s entire fleet of Boeing 747-400s and Airbus A330Fs is on the chopping block. Some Boeing 777-200ERs are, too. The six A380s (all of those in the MAS fleet) are also being offered for sale or lease.

Holy crap. This news headlined not only international press but sent the social media into a frenzy. Within 12 hours it had become our second most read story of 2015. In less than 36 hours, it became our top story of the year so far.

I also wrote last week about the 10 year anniversary of the A380. It was a mixed review: the plane is a technological success, if by now a bit dated, but sales continue to be poor. I talked about the prospect of an A380neo and how Boeing is rooting for Airbus to proceed, sucking up money and resources in the process. I wrote about the urban legend that Boeing tricked Airbus into launching the A380 program as a way to divert money and resources.

And then I suggested that Boeing’s own failed strategy, ineptitude and arrogance prevented the company from taking advantage of Airbus’ focus on the A380.

787 CNN 2

CNN.com had this on its home page Saturday. Even though there are more than 250 Boeing 787s in service, the strategic industrial and early design blunders continue to dog the airplane.

You’d have thunk I dropped a skunk at a lawn party.

One reader suggested I was part of the Airbus PR department or Airbus’ John Leahy ghosted the article. Never mind that the day before I wrote a strong defense of the Boeing 787 and suggestions that “everyone” was deferring the 787; and gave an equally strong defense of the 787 in TheStreet.com. Perhaps Boeing’s Randy Tinseth ghosted my article and impersonated me to The Street.

I didn’t go into detail in my article about Boeing’s “failed strategy, ineptitude and arrogance” because I thought after all these years, these were pretty obvious. Apparently not. So I’ll hit some highlights. Read more

Pontifications: “Everyone” deferring Boeing 787s? Not hardly.

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

April 27, 2015: c. Leeham Co. With the announcement on the 1Q2015 earnings call that American Airlines is deferring Boeing 787s, I received an inquiry from a media person: what is it with the 787 that “everyone” is deferring the airplane?

I found the question puzzling.

True, this comes on the heels of United Airlines swapping 787 orders for 777-300ER orders, but this hardly counts as “everyone.” And the reasons for the maneuvering was well-stated and for very different reasons. Read more

Pontifications: Remaking the Armed Services

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

April 20, 2015, c. Leeham Co. A news item last week caught my eye about the Defense Department, defense spending and recapitalizing the US Armed Forces.

I don’t normally follow defense items at Leeham News and Comment. LNC is pretty much all-commercial, all the time. I’ve stepped outside this to follow commercially-derived air force tankers (Boeing 767, Airbus A330) and the P-8 Poseidon (the Boeing 737). I took rides on Trident nuclear ballistic missile subs and reported thusly. But this news article, which came about two weeks after my visit to Wall Street where some defense programs were discussed, prompts me to ask: Since we can’t afford the monies required to recapitalize the Armed Forces, what do we do?

I’m going to throw some ideas out and see where they land. I have no doubt some will be blasphemy. But here goes. Read more

Pontifications: Remote control of airliners a bad idea

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

March 30, 2015: In the aftermath of what a French prosecutor said was the apparent suicide-mass murder of 150 people on Germanwings 9525, there have been some calls for and questions of creating a system of allowing ground controllers to assume command of airborne airliners in the event rogue pilot situation develops.

This is a bad idea. Read more