US Department of Transportation announced (08-Jan-2010), after conducting a thorough review, it has found that Virgin America "remains a US citizen and remains under the actual control of US citizens". Under US law, only airlines that meet the standards for US citizenship may hold authority to operate as a US airline. [more] [more - Perspective]
Virgin America remains a U.S. citizen, DOT finds
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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.
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.