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Continental Airlines Reinstates Houston Service September 25, 2005

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Continental Airlines is rapidly reopening its hub at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) following its recent shuttering due to hurricane Rita. The legacy carrier plans to operate 249 of its 274 regularly scheduled departures on Sunday, with all flights departing on Monday. Continental was able to resume operations at IAH because Hurricane Rita came ashore earlier than expected and largely spared the city of Houston. Chairman and CEO Larry Kellner thanked his employees, saying that the airline’s “ability to achieve this successful resumption of service was made possible by careful planning and execution by co-workers working together throughout the company.” To prepare for the buildup of service, Continental ferried in 14 empty planes full of Continental employees and TSA screeners. Continental Airlines is allowing all passengers affected by hurricane Rita to reticket without penalty, through October 3.

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Jetblue Flight 292 Successfully Completes an Emergency Landing at LAX September 21, 2005

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Moments ago, a Jetblue Airways Airbus A320 completed an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport. The flight crew of Jetblue flight 292, initially inbound to John F. Kennedy International in New York, noticed a malfunction with the aircraft’s landing gear shortly after takeoff. Inflight instrumentation indicated that the nosegear at the front of the aircraft never fully retracted; after a flyby of the control tower at Burbank Airport, the aircraft’s point of departure, photographs indicated that the front gear was fully rotated towards the left and locked in position. Subsequent attempts to correct the malfunction proved unsuccessful, so the captain declared an emergency. The Jetblue aircraft took off from Burbank, California, just outside of Los Angeles, at 3:17 pm PST. The flightcrew and passengers aboard the aircraft were forced to endure over two hours of circling over the Pacific ocean though, as the Airbus A320 was forced to burn off most of its fuel before landing. Emergency officials and the crew of Jetblue flight 292 elected to land at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) instead of Burbank, as LAX had longer runways and more emergency equipment available. The crew of the Jetblue flight performed a perfect soft-landing: a technique in which the pilot tries to keep the nosegear off the runway as long as possible. Once the front nosegear touched the runway, sparks and fire showered the underbelly of the aircraft. Finally, with 95% of the runway used, Jetblue flight 292’s captain guided the aircraft to a stop, with only the nosegear appearing to have endured significant damage. Throughout the landing, the aircraft remained perfectly inline with the center-line, an indication of the proficiency of the flightcrew of Jetblue flight 292.

Independence Air: The Little Carrier that Strived to Be So Much More September 20, 2005

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Photo: Aeroposte Editor (Flyi Airbus A319)

Tired of operating regional aircraft under the United Express banner for parent company United Airlines, Independence Air CEO Kerry Skeen broke ties with the legacy carrier fourteen months ago, with the belief that he was steering the airline toward bluer skies. Instead, he may have sent the airline in for a fiery crash landing, as Independence faces either a Chapter 11 filing or Chapter 7 liquidation in the near future. Independence Air, commonly referred to by its stock symbol “Flyi”, was to serve East coast, and eventually West coast cities with scrappy Bombardier regional jets and plush Airbus A319 aircraft. Even though regional aircraft are well-known by airline executives to be expensive to operate without high load factors, Independence Air executives showed no fear as they worked to convert the outfit from the bastard child of United to a low-fare contender. Provided of course, oil stayed at $35 per barrel, as it was at the time, the airline had a fighting chance.

Instead, Independence Air has struggled to make a profit. While its in-flight product has won accolades from various travel magazines, the bottom-line of the airline has been less than stellar. The introduction of larger, more efficient Airbus A319 aircraft has had a positive effect financially, but their effect has not been profound enough to turn the fortune of the carrier. Eight months after Flyi’s so-called “Independence Day”, management reached a restructuring agreement with its creditors. The process entailed selling off a large portion of its Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jets to other airlines while expanding its Airbus fleet. With the latest cutbacks in capacity and destinations served, Independence Air seemed in prime position to reposition itself. Then, the FAA slapped the airline with maintenance fines for violations when the airline flew for United Airlines. Load factors didn’t exactly pan out either, and now, Independence Air is at a crossroads. Since nearly all of property is leased, the airline doesn’t have many assets. Without assets, the airline doesn’t have capital to continue operations in its current state. Indeed, as Kerry Skeen was quoted, “There are tough times ahead” for the little carrier that strived to be so much more.

Independence Air May File for Bankruptcy Soon September 20, 2005

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Several sources are claiming that an Independence Air bankruptcy filing within this week is imminent. There are indications that the carrier may file for either Chapter seven or eleven bankruptcy as early as tonight. Independence Air management has been decidely mum; no press release has been circulated yet. Although it is highly unlikely, there is speculation that Richard Branson may purchase Independence Air, rehabilitate it, and use it as the foundation for his proposed (and slowly developing) Virgin America. Stay tuned for more news…

Delta Bankruptcy Filing Within this Week Likely September 12, 2005

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Photo: Aeroposte Editor

Delta may file for bankruptcy as early as Wednesday, sources close to the matter say. Aeroposte recommends it’s readers follow this rapidly developing story through one of the provided links.

Recommended Reading
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US Airlines Donate their Time & Resources September 3, 2005

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One would think that as jet fuel prices continue to spiral forward, US domestic carriers would take further action to cost their costs. Yet, in a tremendous show of patriotism, some American carriers are assigning aircraft to ferry supplies into areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, and to extradite refugees from the hopeless situation in the New Orleans area. Low-cost carrier Airtran Airways has so far delivered 52,000 pounds of supplies to the Gulfport area, while Northwest Airlines has concentrated on airlifting refugees from troubled areas. Hip Denver-based Frontier Airlines has created a program that allows its frequent-flier members to donate some of their accrued miles so that Red Cross personel and those affected by the storm can be transported free of charge. Other carriers have banded together to provide a shuttle service to move the homeless from the New Orleans area to shelters scattered across the nation. However, it’s unclear how long the airlines will provide these services. Many airlines, in particular Airtran, which has the largest presence at decimated Gulfport, Mississippi, have spare aircraft due to the closure of commercial service at the major airports within a 90,000 sq mile area destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Some carriers may pullout in the coming days as the situation in the Gulf region stabilizes, and as less national attention is given to the cleanup efforts. More importantly, the closure of many refineries has squeezed jet-fuel production; at least one airport, Washington Dulles, has reported the beginnings of a fuel shortage. Many airlines have reacted by enacting a process called “reverse-tankering”, where an aircraft is filled up with as much fuel as possible at the airport with the greatest supply, despite cost. Traditionally, carriers that utilize the hub and spoke prefer to fill up their airplanes at their hub’s, as they have a lower jet-fuel price locked in with their suppliers. Nonetheless, Hurricane Katrina has worsened the plight of all US carriers. The airline industry will endure the economic effects of the hurricane for many months to come, just as many other fuel-dependent industries, such as the trucking industry. But Katrina has also demonstrated that in times of intense need, the airline industry can be counted on to pool its resources and help out when a major disaster occurs. As Delta spokeswoman Benet Wilson said, “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We saw a need that needed to be filled, and we stepped in to help.”