From personal experience I know that residents of Wichita, Kan., particularly business people, have been wishing and hoping and praying for Southwest Airlines to serve the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the known universe for a very, very long time.
It's finally going to happen.
Southwest announced at a press conference Monday that beginning in June it will operate five departures daily out of Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The routes will include two to Dallas Love Field, two to Chicago Midway and one to Las Vegas. The Wichita Eagle has the story.
“Folks, the wait is over,” said Bob Montgomery, Southwest’s vice president for airport affairs, during the news conference, which included state and local dignitaries.
The five flights will utilize 143-seat Boeing 737s to Dallas and Chicago, Southwest officials said, and a 137-seat 737 to Las Vegas. One-way rates will range between $94 and $178 to each destination.
The addition of Southwest is a boon to the city’s economic development and tourism efforts, Mayor Carl Brewer and Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Tim Norton said following the announcement.
“As far back as 1980, when I moved here with Target, affordable, dependable air service has been a need of this community,” Norton said. “We’ve had air service, but when I flew to Denver years ago and the cost was so prohibitive that we drove to Kansas City to fly, that’s a dynamic we knew we had to change.
“And in talking with Pizza Hut, Rent-A-Center, the companies that left here, part of the conversation was that airfares are too high here for companies that travel a lot. Fast forward to today, and a dependable, affordable carrier that changes the dynamic of our air travel, our businesses and certainly our community.”
Wichita has long been a spoke in a number of airlines systems and leisure travelers booking well in advance could get pretty good fares most of the time. But for business people travelling on short notice the fares were typicaly very high, a situation that has only gotten worse with airline economics and mergers. A 21-day advance purchase round trip fare on American Airlines from Wichita to Dallas-Fort Worth is $629.60 today
Southwest officials indicated they may initially take advantage of subsidies that Wichita and the state of Kansas had get low cost Air Tran service to Atlanta, which is going away. But they also said there Wichita routes would not be based on receiving a subsidy.
“We are here with no conditions, no demands," Montgomery said. “We ask that y’all fly Southwest, because this is a tough business.”
It didn't take long. Within minutes of the end of the presidential debate last night, the business jet lobby was readying a response to President Obama comments that millionaires should be willing to pay more taxes on their winged limos.
We caught up this morning with Dan Hubbard, spokesman for the National Business Aviation Association and here's some of what he had to say:
"It's clear that President Obama either doesn't understand or doesn't want to understand the importance of business aviation to citizens, communities and companies all across the country.
"The manufacture and use of small airplanes for business supports more than a million jobs (1.2 million) and generates more than $150 billion each year in economic activity and helps companies of all sizes compete, especially in this very challenging economic environment.
"It's clear that President Obama chose to single out an important American industry with some mischaracterizations in his debate remarks last night."
Hubbard said earlier in his presidency Obama signed onto legislation extending the accelerated depreciation tax provisions for business aircraft, noting that his experts had said it would help maintain and create jobs and boost the economy.
A message sent by Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, to the union's membership Friday about response to the buy out program offered by American Airlines:
As you know, bidding for the VEOP closed late last night. A total of 2,205 flight attendants chose to take advantage of the voluntary early out.
The tremendous response from those electing to leave the company with the $40,000 that accompanies their exit will benefit the entire membership. In the coming year, flight attendants will be moving up the seniority list and off reserve. And not only will furloughs now be avoided completely, but the VEOP participants will finally be able to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
Since 1999 when I first started negotiating for APFA, I pushed the company for a dignified path to retirement for our most senior members. And in 2008 as President, it became a top priority for the negotiating team and me. Many of you will remember how long and hard we fought for an early out package worthy of our membership. Too many flight attendants have been living in career limbo for too long.
I am happy these 2,205 will now have the security they need to enter the next chapter of their lives. Thank you for your patience!
Please join me in congratulating our 2,205 colleagues. We thank you and we wish you only the best.
Posted at 04:52 PM in Air Line Pilots Association, Air Transport Association, Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines, American Eagle, AMR, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Bankruptcy, Business travellers, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Oneworld, Transport Workers Union, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Flight attendants with Southwest Airlines have narrowly approved contract changes that would allow the airline to fly over water routes.
The vote by Transport Workers Union Local 556 clears one more obstacle to Southwest eventually flying to Hawaii and international routes, and fully integrating Air Tran by 2015.
The change to the union's existing labor contract with Southwest was approved by a 3,073 to 2,800 vote, with 57 percent of the eligible union members voting.
“We’re very pleased to reach this agreement, with terms that will allow the company to grow and prosper, protect the interests of the flight attendants and allow us to continue to provide the exceptional customer-first service that Southwest is known for,” Stacy K. Martin, president of the local, said in a statement.
Southwest pilots had already approved chages to their contract. "Those are the two labor hurdles we had to surpass and we're happy to get them," said Southwest spokesman Paul Flaningan.
Southwest purchased AirTran 2011 with expressed plans to merge operations of the two airlines and offer flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and northern parts of South America by mid-2015.
AirTran, which is now operating as wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest, already operates some over water flights to Mexico and Caribbean destinations.
Posted at 04:31 PM in Air Line Pilots Association, Air Transport Association, Airports, Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines, American Eagle, AMR, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Business travellers, Dallas Love Field, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Federal Aviation Administration, Southwest Airlines, Transport Workers Union, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
American Airlines reports that 2,205 of its flight attendants have volunteered to take a severance package and leave the company, which should eliminate the need for flight attendant layoffs.
Indeed, American says it will begin recruiting additional flight attendants later this year.
As part of the renegotiated contract with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants that was approved by the union membership last month, American offered $40,000 severance payments to flight attendants with at least 15 years of employment. That is in addition retirement and other benefits they may have earned.
American spokesman Bruce Hicks issued the following statement:
“We are happy to report that given the 2,205 Early Out volunteers we have, and the staffing projections looking forward, we don’t anticipate furloughing any flight attendants as a result of the near-term restructuring changes. We will also begin recruiting new flight attendants later this year.
“In October, our flight attendants who signed up for the voluntary exit will be able to request a desired month of departure, and we will then stagger departures over the next year, based on seniority and operational needs.
“Providing this voluntary Early Out incentive for our flight attendants is another positive step forward in our restructuring.”
Posted at 10:57 AM in Air Line Pilots Association, Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines, American Eagle, AMR, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Bankruptcy, Business travellers, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Oneworld, Transport Workers Union | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
American Airlines put out a statement late Thursday in response to the earlier post by the APA.
"We are confident in the causes of the recent operational challenges of flight cancellations and delays. Prior to the recent issues, American had been running a good operation, with on-time performance and reliability measures at their best levels in many years The recent disruptions are primarily due to the significant increase in maintenance write-ups by our pilots, many right at the time of departure. Additionally, continued higher-than-normal sick usage by pilots, which has been up more than 20 percent year over year and has been elevated for months, impacts the availability of reserve pilots, which can ultimately lead to cancellations. Our pilot staffing - without the recent actions regarding maintenance write-ups and the continued increase in sick time - is adequate to meet our scheduling needs and recalling pilots from furlough would not be needed.
First, we apologize to all of our customers for the inconvenience this has caused. We understand how irritating and unfortunate this is in interrupting or delaying their travel plans. We appreciate their patience and hope for their understanding. We also appreciate very much the extra and difficult work this has caused so many of our people and especially appreciate the fabulous job our maintenance crews have been doing in taking care of these additional write-ups and getting planes back on schedule as fast as possible. In addition, our inventory of spare parts is at the highest level in years.
American has taken significant steps to try to limit the impact on our customers. We have carefully selected some 300 flights this week to pre-cancel to allow us to re-accommodate passengers in advance. And, through October we have reduced our schedule 1 to 2 percent as well. In addition, we have increased staffing in all other areas to assist in re-accommodating customers and are reaching out to customers proactively to notify them of the options available and the ability to standby for earlier flights at no charge.
We remain committed to doing all we can to serve our customers to provide safe, reliable transportation, just as they have always expected and received from American Airlines."
Bruce Hicks, American Airlines spokesman
American Airlines is cancelling flights and rebooking customers to get through the next couple of months but the airline's pilots want everyone to know that, contrary to rumors and some press reports, it's not their fault.
The Allied Pilots Association, the union representing American's pilots, today issued the following statement about American's actions:
“First of all, there is no job action of any sort that is organized, supported or sanctioned by the Allied Pilots Association.
Posted at 11:04 AM in Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines, American Eagle, AMR, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Business travellers, Continental Airlines, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Oneworld, Transport Workers Union, Travel, United Airlines, US Airways | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Transport Workers Union Local 555, which represents about 8,500 Southwest Airlines ground operations workers, says it has filed for federal mediation with the National Mediation Board, as provided for in the Railway Labor Act, after being unable to reach a new contract with the Dallas-based airline.
“This development in our contract negotiations is very disappointing," Local 555 President Charles Cerf said in a release Wednesday. "Despite the highest second quarter profit in the history of Southwest Airlines, Southwest has proposed changes in our collective bargaining agreement which are concessionary in nature and entirely unacceptable to our members."
The proposed contract changes sought by Southwest include outsourcing jobs, increasing part-time workers and reduced medical and on the job injury benefits. Negotiations have been under way since July 2011.
"It appears that Southwest may be attempting to use other airlines’ bankruptcies to bolster their need to lower costs and squeeze frontline employees," Cerf said. TWU Local 555 members contribute significantly to the success of Southwest Airlines, and this new approach to labor is appalling to many career employees who care about our customers and the success of our airline. We are hopeful that a federal mediator can assist us in reaching a fair agreement.”
USA Today reports that Ameircan Airlines plans to drop its JFK to Brussels, Belgium service this fall, which would leave American's OneWorld alliance with no direct non-stop New York to Brussels flights.
Brussels would still be served from New York by Delta and India's Jet Airwaysout of JFK and United and Jet from Newark.
Posted at 01:22 PM in Air Line Pilots Association, Airports, Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines, American Eagle, AMR, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Bankruptcy, Business travellers, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Delta Air Lines, Oneworld, Transport Workers Union, United Airlines, US Airways | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)