To associate the jet-set image of a corporate flight department with S-38 flying boats and Ford Trimotors might seem a bit of a stretch to those who fly in the plush expanses of a gold-trimmed, leather-upholstered Global Express or GIV. But for UTFlight, the East Granby, Conn.-based flight department of United Technologies, the connection to aviation’s past runs deeper than most.
The September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon set the stage for an upheaval in the U.S. airline industry unseen since the dawn of deregulation. But while virtually no one besides the enemies of America welcomed the negative economic effects, some airlines may very well emerge from the crisis in a stronger competitive position.
Potomac Air, the wholly owned US Airways Express carrier established in January as part of an asset divestiture plan for the failed merger agreement with United Airlines, ceased operations on October 6. The demise of the Washington-based subsidiary came as US Airways’ reduced capacity throughout its wholly owned Express system since September 11, a move that resulted in the furlough of 770 employees, including 170 at Potomac Air.
Avolar, a stand-alone subsidiary of UAL Corp. created in March to launch a new business aviation venture, has already acquired three business jets as part of the fractional- ownership core fleet and expects to begin flying this month.
Pilot attrition proved the bane of the U.S. regional airline business during the first half of the year, forcing flight cancellations that cost carriers not only passenger revenue and goodwill, but performance penalties under the terms of their mainline code-share contracts. Judging by the sentiments airline CEOs expressed recently, better recruiting and training efforts have stopped the proverbial bleeding.
The focus of the 12th annual NBAA Flight Attendants Conference, held June 29 and 30 in San Diego, was raising awareness of the need for professional, well trained flight attendants and cabin crewmembers aboard corporate flights.
The Air Transport Association (ATA), which called the House’s bill “business as usual,” and its various airline members are still pushing hard for user fees. In an e-mail last week to frequent fliers, United Airlines chairman, president and CEO Glenn Tilton requested the airline’s most loyal customers support user fees, claiming that the fees will support air traffic modernization.
By next year, the giant Airbus A380 will be transporting passengers around the globe on nonstop flights of as much as 8,000 nm.
The FAA has proposed fining Sterling, Va.-based Atlantic Coast Airlines $1.5 million for failure to perform mandated maintenance work on “several aircraft.” The proposal accompanied a parallel action against code-share partner United Airlines, which faces a civil penalty of $1 million for similar violations.
With election time nearing, look for presidential candidates to fuss, fret and be defensive about government spending. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report that took issue with President Bush’s promise to cut the budget deficit in half in five years. Bush predicts a budget drop from $521 billion this year to $239 billion in 2009.