There will be some pretty epic changes in the airline industry in 2018, and here is a short list of some of the very important ones that you’ll want to watch as we enter into the new year. Some of these are confirmed stories, others are speculative, but they will indeed be disruptive and revolutionary. Furthermore, you can partake in the making of history by flying on a certain route or aircraft before it starts, or is retired.
Qantas Launching the First Nonstop Route from Australia to Europe
In March 2018, Qantas will launch its first nonstop route connecting Australia to Europe with a 787-9, which will fly from Perth, Western Australia to London Heathrow. The 9,009-mile route will take over 17 hours to operate on the westbound sector, and offer 232 seats spread between Business, Premium Economy, and Economy class.
Qantas is also evaluating options to commence nonstop flights from Sydney to London Heathrow as well as Sydney to New York JFK. It currently has only one 787-9 in service, but it has an additional 7 on order and another 42 of the -8 or -9 on option.
In addition to the aforementioned routes, Qantas may also look into expanding its U.S. network by adding additional routes from Australia to Dallas/Ft. Worth or even Chicago.
The Gradual Disappearance of the Virgin America Brand
We learned that the VRD callsign will disappear on January 11 for all flights departing after 2 AM PST. From then onwards, the Alaska Airlines ASA callsign will be used. Virgin and Alaska will obtain a Single Operating Certificate (SOC) on this date and later in the year, will have a unified Passenger Services System (PSS).
More 747 Retirements
This year, the last two U.S. carriers retired their 747 fleets, but there are still several operators of the passenger service version of the aircraft, including:
- Iran Air
- Mahan Airlines
- Saudia Airlines
- Wamos Air
- Iraqi Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
- China Airlines
- Thai Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
- Atlas Air
- Max Air
- Air China
- Air India
- El Al
- Korean Air
- British Airways
But, we can expect this number to dwindle even more in 2018. Make sure you catch them if you can.
Southwest to Actually Announce its Hawaiian Markets
This one is self-explanatory. But, we all really want to know if Southwest intends to fly inter-island, as it said it might consider, or will just simply add a salvo of new routes from its West Coast “focus cities” to Honolulu, Maui, Lihue, Kona, etc.
I suspect this will be one of the most anticipated stories of the year, and one that will generate significant buzz for several weeks. It should be exciting.
The Delivery of the CSeries to AeroMexico, err Delta
The 75 Bombardier CSeries planes that Delta ordered in 2016 are expected to begin delivery in early 2018, but currently, Bombardier is involved in a trade dispute with the Trump Administration, who wants to slap a 300% tariff on each CSeries jet brought into the U.S.
We thought the saga was over when Airbus Industrie of Toulouse, France bought a stake in Bombardier and stated that the jets would be assembled in Mobile, AL, thereby evading the necessity of the tariffs. But, as we discovered, we have to wait a few more weeks as a U.S. trade agency makes a decision on whether Boeing’s complaint that Bombardier has received, “unfair subsidiaries” is valid and that Delta received these jets below cost in order for Bombardier to receive a cash infusion for the troubled CSeries program.
This stupid trade war as created friction between the U.S. and Canada, where Bombardier is headquartered, and now, Mexico has been lumped into the mix. Delta, which owns 49% of AeroMexico, is considering giving some of its CSeries to AeroMexico, which would help evade any U.S. duties, should the trade agency rule in favor of Boeing’s allegations.
Ensuing Merger Talks Between Embraer and Boeing
As if the plot wasn’t thick enough, Boeing and Embraer have disclosed publicly that there have been merger talks between the two aircraft manufacturers. Embraer, who is based in Brazil, is one of Bombardier’s chief rivals, particularly in the regional carrier manufacturer space. A merger, which really would be an acquisition, in that Boeing would purchase Embraer, is not favored by the Brazilian government, who owns a golden share in Embraer.
Ironically, AeroMexico’s fleet is comprised entirely of Boeing and Embraer aircraft, and this would obviously change if Delta indeed hands some of the CSeries over to AeroMexico.
China Airlines to Touchdown in Ontario, CA
We thought it was cute that airports like San Jose, CA, St. Louis, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Cleveland, Providence, Newburgh, etc. were finally receiving international service after some lost years of neglect and reduction from U.S. and foreign-flag carriers alike. But the concept of an airport like Ontario, CA receiving service from a foreign airline that only serves four U.S. markets? Well, we didn’t expect that. For context, Ontario is a smaller airport than Albuquerque, NM, and Buffalo, NY.
But, unlike ABQ and BUF, ONT is also surrounded by 2,035,210 residents in San Bernadino County, CA, and presumably, 30% of them are Asian. Subsequently, China Airlines is moving one of its two daily flights from Taipei to LAX over to Ontario, using a 777-300ER for the flight.
Sun Country Continues the Perpetual Hunt to Find Itself
Without going into the major details here, Sun Country is trying to convince the world that it is not suffering from an identity crisis and plans to go ultra-low-cost. The only problem is, it doesn’t have the size, scale, and existing cost structure to revamp itself in the same way that major ULCC competitors like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant have done in years past. So, Sun Country is trying to go about it a different way, but it recently changed owners and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to have the same luxury of time as some of its competitors have had. Cranky Flier has an excellent analysis and summary of the topic which provides some really salient details on the Sun Country situation.
Meanwhile, in ULCC-land, will Frontier finally Go Public?
Frontier abandoned plans to issue its IPO in 2017, instead opting to revamp its network and bring the focus back into its Denver hub (which it formerly de-emphasized when it converted to the ULCC model in an effort to become a more point-to-point oriented carrier). So, will 2018 be the year?
United/Avianca Deal to Go Through?
Towards the end of 2017, Avianca’s Chief Executive Hernan Rincon has stated that the carrier is “weeks away” from finalizing a joint venture with United. The process would entail seeking anti-trust immunity from US regulators, which of course is a very lengthy process, simply because Avianca is a multi-national company with operations in numerous countries, including its sister carrier Avianca Brazil. The inclusion of Avianca Brazil into the mix, however, depends heavily on whether Open Skies agreements are passed between the U.S. and Brazil, even though this was supposed to materialize in 2015 (but presumably has been put on the back burner with Brazil’s economic malaise during the middle of the decade).
JetBlue to go Transatlantic?
We all know there are some pretty epic things that JetBlue has accomplished in its East Coast hubs, namely at New York JFK, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Boston Logan. One of them has been simply gaining a massive (and lucrative) slice of the local market share, and another has been the evolution of JetBlue’s partnerships with carriers such as TAP, Aer Lingus, Hawaiian, and Emirates to feed domestic passengers onto foreign carriers operating out of BOS, MCO, FLL, and JFK.
But will it be time for JetBlue to consider expanding across the pond on its own metal? Its MINT product is highly revered by customers, and this could pave the way for future long-haul flights to Europe or parts of Latin America beyond its current reach.
Alitalia to Finally Find Amore (or Death)?
Alitalia is bankrupt and continually reincarnates. It’s customer satisfaction ratings, on-time performance, business decisions, and leadership potential are perpetually disappointing, and Etihad Airways, which once had 49% stake in the carrier, has left it out in the cold to survive or perish. Though it didn’t succumb to the same fortune as Air Berlin (yet), something will eventually have to give, whether through a purchase or a liquidation.
Millennials Take Flight
Air France’s new JOON subsidiary, targeted towards millennials, began flying from Paris to Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, and Porto in December 2017, and in summer 2018, will fly to Fortaleza, Brazil, and Mahe, Seychelles.
I’m really hoping that someone at creative at Air France has thought of taglines, like this:
- “Fortaleza #OnFleek”
- “#MaheIsBae”,“Slay in Mahe & Get Cray Cray”
- “L-I-V-I-N-G Lisbon”