US Airways and Delta Air Lines raised round-trip tickets by USD10, mostly on domestic routes where it competes with discount carriers (AP/CNN, 08-Apr-2011). JetBlue and Virgin America have matched the increase. AirTran is also raising fares on some routes which is the first time in several months. Meanwhile American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey stated: “We’re facing another fuel crisis, and crisis is not too strong of a word.”
US carriers raise fares again, in 'crisis'
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Airline JVs under scrutiny in Qantas-American; Delta-Aeromexico; Alaska-Virgin America merger
Concerns over the US Department of Justice obstructing the merger between Alaska Air Group and Virgin America were laid to rest in Dec-2016: the agency cleared the tie-up through a fairly benign requirement that Alaska and American must relinquish some codesharing routes. The result is that Alaska and Virgin America will bolster their combined positions at key US markets in order to compete more effectively with larger US network airlines.
DoJ’s blessing is a major milestone for Alaska. Since the company announced its plans to acquire Virgin America in Apr-2016, it has continually stated that it expected to close the deal by YE2016, after gaining DoJ’s approval. But the initial closing date was pushed back in order for DoJ to gain more time to review the transaction. The extended review caused jitters among Alaska’s investors about potentially onerous conditions to be imposed by DoJ, but ultimately the agency’s requests were rational.
In the last weeks of 2016 US regulators have pointed a new direction for joint venture, but the message is not entirely clear. Adopting a reasoned approach to the Alaska-Virgin America tie-up while rejecting a proposed joint venture between Qantas and American, and driving Aeromexico and Delta to reconsider their JV after imposing conditions the airlines deemed to be unworkable. In part, those decisions reflect the influence smaller airlines have exerted on the current US Presidential administration.
Alaska Air Group: locked in limbo until the government renders a decision on Virgin America merger
Alaska Air Group remains in limbo as it waits for the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to complete a review of the proposed Alaska-Virgin America merger. Alaska had originally hoped to gain government approval and close the deal in early 4Q2016, but the regulatory review unsurprisingly is taking longer than expected. However, Alaska remains confident of finalising the arrangement before the end of 2016, and is taking the proper financial steps to finance its acquisition of Virgin America.
In the short term Alaska is experiencing slightly improving trends in the US marketplace, and its unit revenue improved on a sequential basis from 2Q2016 to 3Q2016. Another positive development for Alaska is a slowing of competitive capacity growth in its markets in 4Q2016 and in early 2017. The tempering of growth is reflective of most US airlines planning to lower capacity expansion in 2017 as higher oil prices heighten the importance of returning to positive unit revenue.
Alaska also plans slower capacity growth of 7% in 2017, versus 8.5% in 2016. Approximately 3ppt of the increase is driven by longer stage lengths and the annualisation of nearly 10 new routes launched in 2016 – a mix of smaller and larger markets with varying levels of competition.