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The AirlineGeeks Podcast Episode 43: Airlines Expediting Recoveries (Graphic: AirlineGeeks)

The AirlineGeeks Podcast Episode 43: Airlines Expediting Recoveries

Thank you for reading the AirlineGeeks Podcast Recap. This article gives a brief look at last week’s episode of our news podcast. For our full analysis of each of these stories, you can listen to The AirlineGeeks Podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Overcast or through our distributor, Anchor.

Delta Unblocks Middle Seats

This week’s episode begins with a look at Delta Air Lines’ decision to unblock middle seats for flights on or after May 1. The airline was among the first to take the distance-promoting measure in Spring 2020, and now it is the only major U.S. airline to block seats or cap capacities in any form. The move was likely to offer passengers peace of mind about the virus, as the distance between a window and an aisle seat does not provide the 6 feet required to maintain proper social distancing.

The decision to keep middle seats blocked has been especially challenging for Delta over the past week alone. On two occasions – first over the Easter weekend and then at the middle of the workweek – the airline has needed to temporarily suspend the policy to meet a rise in demand that Delta does not have enough current crews to match, going so far as to cancel at least 100 flights on each occasion. The situation marks one of airlines’ worst post-pandemic fears: that they would not have the resources to match surges in demand and would lose market share to competitors in the time it took to retrain crews and inspect planes coming out of storage.

JetBlue’s Transatlantic Economy Class

Our next story moves back to JetBlue. The airline has been making headlines over its plans to launch transatlantic flights to London – rumors swirled over the summer before the airline revealed its first transatlantic aircraft and the Mint services it will use on the routes as well as that it has won slots at London’s Heathrow Airport for the summer season.

Now, JetBlue has revealed the economy product it will offer on its transatlantic flights. The ticket will offer a build-your-own-meal offering, free unlimited WiFi, seatback entertainment and the biggest economy class seats of any competing transatlantic service today. JetBlue will use the Airspace by Airbus service to make the economy experience more welcoming amd comfortable and improve its overall customer experience onboard.

We discuss our favorite parts of the new service and dive into how transatlantic flight might change to compete with JetBlue, if it does at all. If JetBlue’s prices are higher than other economy prices, will people still be willing to fly with them for a more comfortable product? Will JetBlue be able to tap into its loyal travel-oriented customer base to make the flights more feasible, or will it also try to appeal to business travelers that frequent similar transatlantic offerings and who can pay more? What might be the offering that attracts people to the new product the most?

Air Canada/Air Transat Fallthrough

Lastly, we briefly take a look at the proposed merger between Air Canada and Air Transat. After nearly two years of negotiating, public comments and appeals for approval, the deal has fallen through, and the two airlines will continue to operate independently, potentially dealing a blow to the airlines’ bottom lines, which would have benefited greatly from the cash and demand injections the deal offered.

The biggest concern over the proposal – both from foreign powers like the European Commission and from companies at home like WestJet – was the sheer size the new airline would be. Should Air Canada have absorbed all of Air Transat’s routes, it would have controlled more than 50% of the seats on routes from Canada to Europe as well as a wide majority of domestic routes and, through the Air Canada Rouge brand, almost all of the connections between Canada and international leisure destinations across the U.S., Caribbean and Central and Southern America.

An Air Canada Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the taxiway in Los Angeles.
(Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

The new airline would have had tremendous power to block competitors like WestJet or relatively small transatlantic airlines out of routes, which would have allowed it to jack up prices in the long run. It would also have been able to negotiate its operating costs with fuelers, at airports and among its staff down due to its importance, expanding its profits even more and giving it more resources to continue aggressive growth.

Though this fallout will be bad for Air Canada and Air Transat, other airlines will be able to grow post-pandemic; if they play their cards correctly, they may even be able to steal market share from one or both of the airlines.

Delta’s and JetBlue’s announcements also point to a ramped-up recovery. Delta is effectively saying that the money it’s making from health-conscious travelers is no longer worth the money it’s losing from selling seats at ⅔ capacity as travel rebounds significantly, while JetBlue is taking a big gamble on international travel before borders are fully open.

We hope you’ll listen to the podcast episode, linked above, for more in-depth analysis of each of these stories. Monitor our page on your favorite streaming service each Friday to hear the latest episode just as it’s published at 12 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time. Feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on this week’s episode.

John McDermott
John McDermott
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