Flight Blog

May 16 2008 The Weight Factor BY sgf-adminTAGS Airlines


"Airlines have reduced the amount of spare fuel on airplanes in a money-saving effort that is raising concerns among some pilots and a government watchdog."


That's the lede sentence in a story today from USA Today. What the story lacks is perspective. It's common industry knowledge that airlines have been asking pilots to conserve fuel—and it's been going on for sometime.


I recently talked to an airline pilot who was telling me some of the different tricks of fuel conservation. But the main point of his conversation was that the airlines EXPECT pilots to conserve fuel.


The weight of an airplane, and the role is plays in the business of airlines, is little understood by either the media or the public. Let's start with a couple of obvious points: 1) if a plane is overweight it can't fly safely. 2) There are three main weight variables that an airline deals with on every flight: the weight of people, the weight of fuel, the weight of baggage.


How does this affect you? Here's an example: pilots calculate the combined weight of these three variables before take off. If the math says the plane is overweight, the airline might have three passengers (and their luggage) get off the plane. But there are other, less obvious, things that this math affects...


Here's an example: for the past few years the airlines have mostly flown regional jets (RJs) into markets our size (they've done this for economic reasons that you're about to get a taste of). RJs are small; usually 40, 50, or (if you're lucky) 70 seats. The fact that most of our service is on RJs makes it extremely hard for us to convince an airline to provide direct service to either coast. Why? In a word...weight.


Suppose we're talking about a hypothetical flight between Springfield and Los Angeles on a 50-seat RJ. To fly that far the plane has to carry A LOT of fuel—so much fuel that 50 people, plus their baggage, makes the plane overweight. So what does the captain do? He might make ten people and their bags get off. Now here's where the math gets nitty-gritty. With only 40 paying passengers onboard the flight can't make a profit.


Doesn't airline math make your head hurt?!


Columbia is getting a new EAS airline. EAS in a federal program that subsidizes air service in small communities. In Missouri it includes Joplin, Columbia, Kirksville and Cape Girardeau. In Arkansas it includes Harrison and several other towns. Without EAS, these places would probably not have any commerical air service.


Several months ago Air Midwest said it was leaving many of these markets. Now, we're finding out who will replace them in Columbia. The Columbia Tribune reports that Mesaba Airlines will provide service between Columbia and Memphis—three flight a day.


Mesaba is a subsidiary of Northwest Airlines. It's interesting to note that Mesaba is pursuing EAS markets—even in the shadow of the pending merger between Northwest and Delta.

Apr 07 2008 Another Airlines Bites the Dust BY sgf-adminTAGS Airlines


Skyway Airlines, a regional carrier for Midwest Airlines, shut down over the weekend.  It's the fourth airline to close in less than a week. The other three are Aloha, ATA and Skybus. A fifth airline, Champion Air, says it will close before summer.

Apr 05 2008 Skybus Folds BY sgf-adminTAGS Airlines


skyb.gifThe airline famous for having a few $10 seats on every flight ends operations today. On Monday it plans to file for bankruptcy. It's the third airline closing this week.


Skybus began business less than a year ago and was based in Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch quotes aviation analyst Michael Boyd: ""They had a dumb model. The original plan never had a chance, at $50-a-barrel oil or $100-a-barrel oil. But I really thought someone could come in and turn it around. The pressures on airlines today are very different than they have been in the past. They're shutting down suddenly now to preserve whatever assets they have for the creditors."


Read the company announcment here.

Apr 04 2008 Axe Falls at Northwest Arkansas BY sgf-adminTAGS American


The Northwest Arkansas airport is losing service to Miami and Raleigh, NC. American Airlines will end the routes in May and June. The Morning News quotes the airport director as saying the routes were losing money.