US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated microscope examination revealed fatigue cracks emanating from at least 42 of the 58 rivet holes connected by the fracture in the lap joint of a piece of the B737 fuselage from Southwest Flight 812 (AINOnline, 02-May-2011). Misshapen and misaligned rivet holes in parts of the fuselage removed from the aircraft has lent more credence to theories that a manufacturing flaw led to the eventual failure of the lap joint during an 01-Apr-2011 accident in which a five foot long tear opened in the roof of the aircraft.
NTSB finds more evidence of manufacturing flaw on Southwest B737
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Southwest Airlines and jetBlue take different paths to sustaining balance sheet strength
At nearly 46 years old and 17 years old, respectively, Southwest and jetBlue approach their financial priorities differently. jetBlue is in the process of buying a certain level of aircraft off lease to reduce debt and raise its levels of unencumbered aircraft. Southwest is concluding a hefty investment in a long overdue overhaul of its reservations system and making other significant technology investments.
Each airline also has a different capital allocation strategy. Southwest has engaged in some level of shareholder returns since the 1990s, whereas jetBlue’s shareholder return strategy is just starting to take shape – the airline is reaching a point in its leverage performance where it can contemplate more meaningful levels of shareholder returns in the medium term.
One area where Southwest and jetBlue hold similar visions is balance sheet strength, and the airlines have similar leverage goals: to support capex commitments, maintain manageable debt levels, and expand or sustain return to shareholders.
Alaska Air Group: capacity uptick in 2017 and fleet changes as Virgin America integration starts
Now that Alaska Air Group has completed its acquisition of Virgin America, the combined company is offering capacity guidance for 2017 that is higher than the industry average. But Alaska is stressing that the projected growth is 2ppt below the combined increase of the two airlines in 2016. Much of the growth is driven by Alaska’s delivery of 18 Embraer 175s used on routes to enhance network offerings from the hubs of both Alaska and Virgin America.
Adding Virgin America’s network to its operations appears to be creating a competitive shield for Alaska. The company has refined competitive capacity growth estimates downward for 1Q2017 as the broader scale created by absorbing Virgin America gives Alaska the strategic network diversification that it lacked prior to the merger.
The merger integration between Alaska and Virgin America remains in its infancy, and many questions about fleet composition and branding remain unanswered. But in the short term Alaska aims to slow delivery streams for the Airbus A321neos in Virgin America’s order book until it can properly determine fleet needs for the combined airline over the long term.