On Friday I spoke at the Phoenix Shy Harbor International Aviation Symposium, I’m not usually one for the aviation business-related events, but they wanted me to add comment on loyalty programs and also elite benefits and the intersection with ancillary revenue, so they had me out and the panels turned out to be fascinating.
@CrankyFlier in particular did an outstanding job live-tweeting the event, so if you’re curious for the raw commentary you might check it out or hash tag #PHX2012.
Some of the fascinating things I heard:
- Scott Kirby, on my panel, likes what John Pistole is doing at TSA to be more efficient. I wouldn’t give him that sort of credit, though in a sense compared to Kip Hawley — aside from protecting federal employee unons — that might well be true.
- Willie Walsh likes bankruptcy when a partner does it but not when a competitor does it. He noted that the new ‘low cost carrier’ Iberia Express is Iberia, feeding its hub with 2-cabin service, but with lower labor costs (he just calls it lower cost. They couldn’t negotiate lower labor costs with their trade unions, so they started a separate airline to lower those costs. He had a great line about oft-neglected ground operations, “we don’t lose bags in the air.”
- Doug Parker doesn’t like industry consolidation (!). This tied for ‘best quote of the conference’ but he demurred on that honor (for understandable reasons, cough). He also noted that putting movies on airplanes makes no sense anymore, since everyone has their own entertainment. He could see streaming it to individuals’ players, but not installing equipment at each seat.
- Ben Baldanza of Spirit is an unabashed exponent for his business model. There’s no shame in the fees. I liked him a lot, even if I don’t want to fly his airline.
- Dave Cush of Virgin America was another interesting guy, about 25% Wifi penetration on their San Francisco – Boston flights though speeds slow to a crawl in the Northeast. He noted the importance of airport expenses, Miami has gotten way too expensive which is why they fly to Ft. Lauderdale, and their customers don’t care. (Panel consensus was that people don’t want fancy airports, they want in and out of the airport quickly, so make it nice – with free wi-fi, a nod to conference hosts Phoenix airport — but don’t waste money on amenities.
Cranky tweeted a couple of interesting comments made before I arrived at the event:
Air China “when airports like BOS, DFW, IAH, and PHX ask when we’ll fly there, we say go ask Boeing” – 787 delays
Delta VP “economics of the [50 seat RJ] is very challenging right now” – would like to shrink that fleet “substantially lower”