Triangle Trip

Tag: airline review

How long can Virgin America stay in business?

by on Apr.05, 2009, under Airlines

Virgin America is flying from point to point as opposed to using a hub and spoke model like the larger US carriers. The point to point flights work well on regional hops but don’t think they work as well on coast to coast flights. The coast to coast flights cost too much to operate when you have planes that are 1/4 full.

Virgin America flies from NYC and Boston to Los Angeles and San Francisco. I have been going coast to coast on Delta an United for the past four months, and the coast to coast flights are rarely full. Although I haven’t been on a Virgin America flight but I can’t image they are packed or even 50% full.

United probably has the most loyal business travele customers and they can’t fill up the United P.S. flights which has less seats than Delta and other airlines due to the larger business class cabin. If you have Virgin America miles (I am not even sure how it works), I highly recommend you use them now before they go under like the Virgin retail stores. I don’t see how Richard Branson and his hedge fund partners are making money here.

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How can US airlines make money from JFK to LAX (or SFO) – bailout is around the corner!

by on Mar.16, 2009, under Airlines

There are four airlines (American, Delta, United, Virgin) that operate nonstop flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles LAX. Each airline has six round trip flights per day out of each airport. This means there are 24 flights per day from JFK to LAX. Assuming each flight can carry around 200 passengers which means there are 4,800 available seats from JFK to LAX. Do we really need that many flights each day between the two cities?

The number gets bigger if you include the Greater NYC and Los Angeles areas. Continental which flies out of Newark has about eight nonstops to LAX, Burbank and Long Beach. Jetblue has four nonstops from JFK to Long Beach and Burbank. This means there are 36 flights a day with 7,200 available seats everyday from the Greater NYC to Los Angeles area.

The among of flights between the two metro areas are way too excessive. This is one of many excess and waste we have in America which is part of the reason we are in a recession. Just like having too many Starbucks on one street, too many Citibanks in a two block radius, we have too many airlines flying half empty planes coast to coast. I can see the demand for the flights during peak travel season and peak travel days such as Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. I highly doubt the Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday flights are full.

For the record, the same airlines have similar among of flights between the Greater New York area and the Bay area (San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose). Also keep in mine that my statistics are only for NON-STOP flights. There are 200 more options if you decide to connect or use multiple carriers. Below is a simple search result from Kayak with a three week advance purchase search:

Kayak Search Result (JFK-LAX)

Kayak Search Result (JFK-LAX)

As a frequent coast to coast traveler, I have been on many half empty plane for the past month flying out on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings (which are peak travel times). Perhaps this is why my round trip tickets has not been more than $400 when I bought it 24 hours before the flight. This week’s round trip JFK/LAX ticket was $210 which was purchased 5 days in advanced. Competition driving prices down is capitalism at its best. I have benefited as a consumer. However we all should know that these airlines aren’t money on these flights. Here’s a link to a WSJ article (March 12, 2009) about fuel-hedging loses are impacting Cathay, Delta, etc. Eventually the airlines will go to the government to ask for money.

Government needs to step in to manage the airline industry or we will see another bail out request situation – which already happened once if you recalled post September 11. The previous bail out also drove every single major airline to bankruptcy. I may sound like a socialist but I rather be a socialist than paying for it like we are funding Wall Street and Detroit. I don’t want President Obama the US to appoint me as the Airline Czar to manage the bailout funds when he decides to distribute funds for airline failures. The airline industry needs government intervention now.

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How to streamline the boarding and deplaning process

by on Dec.28, 2008, under Airlines

I have been flying for over a decade and haven’t seen any improvements to the boarding or deplaning process for commercial airlines. Southwest may claim it has solved the problem but I still think there can be improvements to make the process more efficient.

As a professional travel, I often have to deal with amateurs. So let me start at the top and bring up the boarding issues and solutions right underneath it:

1. The two item luggage limit is not being enforced at the gate. I still see travelers sneaking in extra items that are not carry-on + personal item. I see DVD boxes, pots and pans, huge bags that don’t fit in the overhead.

Gate agents and flight attendants need to stop people at the gate to check in large items. I also notice people don’t like putting their personal items underneath their seats (I am one of the culprits). Flight attendants need to enforce the personal items underneath the seats for travelers without status. Get the oversized items out of the boarding process will help everyone leave on time.

2. I do have to admit zone boarding has helped the flow of passengers boarding planes. However the tail end of the herd is often slow and drags down everyone. The root cause is somewhat related to point #1. People are trying to bring on too much. We only have so much overhead space. Flight attendants should know about space capacity at all times and they do not pay attention to it.

Implement metrics for gate agents and flight attendants on the plane’s ability to leave gate on time. The issue is not the people who boarded first because they have status. The issue is the zone 8 and 9 people sitting next to the frequent travelers (because most airlines board the back of the plane first). The frequent travelers usually don’t check bags and most likely have taken zone 8 and up people’s overhead space. If there was a communication protocol (like signals in football and cues in plays) in place for the flight crew and measurable results, I am sure the agents and airlines will make sure the issue is resolved.

3. For carry-on roller bags, people always put it sideways instead of putting the handle side in first and let the wheel stick out. Flight attendants don’t teach or encourage this behavior to the novice travels – tail end of the boarding process.

Change the boarding announcements. I really do not need to hear 20x that the flight is going to XYZ destination and there are snacks and wine to be purchased on board, and friendly reminders of one bag up on the overhead and the personal item underneath the seat. We all know talk is cheap. Instead of just reminding people what they should do because no one really listens, I would like to hear flight attendants to be more assertive. Flight attendants need to be TELLING people how to store the bags. If it is a carry-on roller, put the wheels out. If you have a wheely, put it underneath your seats, etc. I am sure there are tons of best practices but I am not seeing any of them being implemented by anyone at this time.

4. Jackets and coats should never be allowed to be placed in the overhead bins. I seriously believe this is the cause of 50% of the delays to the boarding process. Why? Reason is no one wants to move a coat and start a confrontation as coats and jackets are personal items. The other extreme is someone tries to shove his or her bag into a bunch of coats which leads to people re-shuffling the entire bin.

Make it a rule that no coats or jackets can be stored until the plane has taken off. People should hold on to the coats and jackets as if they were on a bus or train. I don’t see people taking off coats and jackets on commuter trains and buses. There should be no reason why a person cannot hang on to what he/she is already wearing for 15 more minutes. Once the plane has taken off, the flight attendants should be more attentive and help people store their jackets in the overhead bin if space is available. Actually flight attendants should be doing this job to provide better service.

5. Why do people without status seated in the bulk head board at the end? The people seated in the bulk head require the most overhead space since they can’t put anything in front of their seats.

People seated in the bulk head row should board right after the first and business class people regardless of status. Gate agents and flight attendants know the configuration of the plane. They can easily make an announcement asking for passengers seated in the bulk head to step aside and board first. This approach enables the last minute scramble to shove the laptop bag or purse into the coat cabinet in first class or looking for some tiny space at the back of the plane.

Implementing the recommended boarding process is only half the battle for the airline. Just like getting on the plane, making sure people exit the plane in a civilized manner is as important as boarding. Below are the issues and proposed solutions.

1. I don’t understand why people must rush to get their luggage upon touch down. I was on a flight today as I am writing this post, I saw a man rush 3 rows back to get his carry-on as soon as the plane landed. What’s the rush? It is also unsafe to do so. Furthermore, it is against FAA regulations which can cause arrival delays.

Now that flight attendants no longer have to memorize the entire flight safety schpeel as most major airlines have replaced it with a standard instructional video. Airlines should add a clip at the end to TELL passengers not to get up until the plane is parked at the gate. Furthermore, have the flight attendants alert the passengers right after landing. Southwest does a pretty good job with this and their ability to get planes out of the gates swiftly is the result. Other major airlines should follow suit.

2. People tend to gather right outside the door of the plane after they have gotten off the plane. This is very annoying. It is not like you are going to be away from your travel companion for an extended period of time. Why do people need to congregate right at the door of the aircraft? 

Solution: Have a flight attendant who opened the door to stop this behavior. The flight attendant needs to shepherd people along the way so they do not block the door way for others to get out. Time is money!!

3. Another issue with the deplaning process is people waiting for the entire row in front of them to get their belongings before they can get off the plane. I admit that it’s not a huge rush to get off the plane but I think there should be an urgency to turn a plane around so the people wait at the gate are not delayed. That said, I often see entire rows holding up the plane because someone needed to go back 4 rows to get a bag or the person at the aisle waits for the window and middle seat passengers to get out so they can walk out of the plane together. So, why do people have to deplane row by row?  I believe this process can be improved or should at least be tested.

Instruct the passengers seated on the aisle all go out first. Similar to zone boarding approach, instruct the passengers to get their belongings after the gate is open. Let all the people seated on the aisle to leave the plane first then follow by the middle seat passengers. This approach can also allow passengers with connecting flights to switch seats during the trip so they can get out first to catch a connecting flight. This solution may not work but I would like a progressive airline to give it a shot. 

In summary, I sincerely believe the airlines can use my suggestions to improve their boarding/deplaning process. Thus will increase their arrival and departure timing.

I wish everyone a happy and properous 2009. We look forward to your support in our blog and will continue to share our experiences with you.

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