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Aviation Industry Updates: January 3, 2023

By January 3, 2023January 10th, 2023Industry News

‘We’re behind,’ Southwest CEO admitted just a month ago. ‘As we’ve grown, we’ve outrun our tools.’

  • “People have a right to be really angry and annoyed,” Cowen Inc. analyst Helane Becker said Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “They should have invested years ago in these systems and they just didn’t.”

  • Southwest’s travails are dragging on with more than 2,500 flights canceled Wednesday and a similarly bleak outlook for Thursday, while its rivals have largely recovered from the arctic blast that swept the nation Christmas weekend. The “heartfelt” apologies offered by the airline and Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan may be cold comfort to passengers who have been stranded at airports, missing luggage or holiday time with their families.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Jordan on Tuesday that the department expects that Southwest will meet its obligations to passengers and workers and take steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, said her panel will be investigating.
  • Southwest’s system—flying point to point instead of the hub-and-spoke regime used by rivals—is a point of pride, deeply embedded in its five-decade history and helps it reach many medium-size markets. But the behind-the-scenes technology that makes it possible to schedule crews and aircraft all proved brittle this week, just as it did in a similar systemic collapse in October 2021. When the computers weren’t up to the task, humans had to step in hunt down pilots and flight crews by telephone.
  • “The fact is this is not the same airline that Herb Kelleher built where planes went point-to-point,” said Randy Barnes, president of TWU Local 555, which represents Southwest’s baggage handlers and other ground workers. “We are now experiencing the same problems as the more traditional airlines,” Barnes said in a statement, adding that “if airline managers had planned better, the meltdown we’ve witnessed in recent days could have been lessened or averted.”


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United Confirms It Will Park Embraer E175 Jets In Favor of Mesa CRJ900s


  • United Airlines has confirmed that it will park up to 38 Embraer E175 jets in favour of operating Bombardier CRJ900 jets from regional partner Mesa Airlines so as not to run afoul of its contract with its pilots.
  • United is taking the Mesa jets after that carrier earlier this month severed its relationship with American Airlines to fly exclusively for United.
  • “Mesa Airlines recently announced changes in its operation that mean we will replace up to 38 Embraer E175 aircraft in the United Express fleet with up to 38 of their Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft,” said Bryan Quigley, the Chicago-based carrier’s senior vice-president of flight operations, in an internal memo on 30 December. “It is important to note that there is no change to our scope provisions in the United Pilot Agreement. United will remove a corresponding number of Embraer E175 aircraft from its regional fleet.”
  • Scope clauses are passages written into contracts between major US airlines and pilot unions that limit the number and size of aircraft that may be flown by the airlines’ regional affiliates. They generally prevent carriers from farming out more flying to regionals – like Mesa, Republic Airways and SkyWest Airlines – thus protecting mainline pilot jobs.
  • The Mesa CRJ900 aircraft will begin to transition to United as United Express from 1 March 2023, and will operate from the mainline carrier’s hubs in Houston and Denver “as capabilities allow”, Quigley writes. WIth this move, the airline hopes to increase service to small- and mid-sized markets across the USA which have in the past years seen a reduction in air service.

Flight Global

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Baggage Handler Dies After Engine Tragedy


  • While details about the accident are still sparse, Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM) has confirmed that a Piedmont Airlines (a subsidiary of American Airlines) ground crew employee was killed after an “industrial accident.” The Washington Examiner reports that the individual, believed to be a baggage handler, died after they were sucked into an engine of an American Airlines plane.
  • The tragic accident happened at around 15:00 on Saturday, December 31st as Flight AA3408 from Montgomery to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) waited at the gate. The aircraft, an Embraer ERJ-175LR operated by AA subsidiary Envoy Air, was scheduled to depart MGM at 15:46 – the flight was understandably canceled and the airport closed for several hours before reopening on Saturday evening at around 20:30.
  • Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have launched an investigation into the accident. At this early stage, it’s unclear who was at fault for the tragedy – a report by Reuters claims that two people briefed on the investigation said “the employee was killed in an accident involving one of the airplane’s engines that was running.”

Simple Flying

Southwest Scrubs 160 Flights After Resuming “Normal” Schedule


  • Southwest as of Monday afternoon had canceled 160, or 3%, of its flights, the most of any American airline, according to tracking site FlightAware. Another 422, or 10% of its scheduled flights were delayed. The majority of disrupted flights were scheduled to fly in or out of Denver International Airport.
  • Southwest scrapped fewer than 50 flights Friday as it rebounded from one of the most severe aviation industry breakdowns in recent years. But with a jump in the number of trips scuttled on Monday, passengers continued to gripe on Twitter.
  • A spokesperson for Southwest said the airline is “operating a normal schedule” Monday and that it’s “pleased” with its performance over the past few days.

CBS News

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