US' Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler stated (21-Nov-2013) the agency is considering an increase in passengers' access to mobile broadband while on-board, stating: "Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules." Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) stated the FCC "should not proceed with this proposal" with concerns aviation safety and the air cabin environment could be jeopardised. JetBlue Airways spokesman Morgan Johnston said customer feedback indicates passengers may not welcome the FCC proposal, although the carrier would ensure the cabin was welcoming for both those using mobile services and those wanting "peace and quiet" (Associated Press, 22-Nov-2013). The FCC will work closely with the FAA and the aviation industry reviewing the new mobile opportunities. [more - original PR - FCC] [more - original PR - AFA]
US Federal Communications Commission to consider increasing on-board mobile access
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US airlines Part 2: LCCs and ULCCs face the same cost overhang as their larger rivals
US low cost carriers and ULCCs observed many of the same trends in the country’s marketplace at the end of 2016 as their large global network rivals – namely, that weak pricing trends in the domestic market were improving. Each airline has its own nuanced view of that general operating environment, but they feel encouraged by what they hope is an inflection point in pricing that will lay the groundwork for a return to positive unit revenue.
Those lower cost and ultra-low cost airlines also face similar challenges to their larger counterparts – cost pressure from new labour contracts and rising oil prices. And like their larger rivals, most of the lower cost US airlines are plotting lower capacity growth in 2017 as a means to improve their respective revenue performances.
For now, pricing improvement that began in late 3Q2016 and a bump in demand after the US presidential election are sustaining the cautious optimism expressed by US airlines as 2017 gets under way. But no US airline is ready to declare that pricing traction in the country’s domestic market is on a sustained upswing.
This is Part 2 of two reports examining the outlook for US airlines in 2017.
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.