Thousands Still Struggling To Return To Australia

Hindered by tight weekly international passenger arrival caps, no-one really knows how many Aussies are trying to get home by Christmas. But according to The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA), an industry body representing international airlines flying into Australia, well over 10,000 Australians will remain stranded overseas over the Christmas New Year period.

“The number of Australians overseas seeking to return home before the end of 2020 but now without an option to do so far exceeds the immediate waiting list of at least 10,000,” Barry Abrams, Executive Director of BARA said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This is because to meet the tight international passenger arrival caps, which were implemented with very short notice, many international airlines were forced to stop selling tickets some months ago.

“This means that the estimated immediate waiting list of 10,000 Australians overseas after airlines have booked flights to the permitted caps, does not include those who have been unable to book a ticket or join a waiting list.”

Tight limits on the number of arriving passengers keeps citizens out of their own country

Since mid-year, Australia has only been accepting around 6,000 inbound international passengers per week. This sees flights coming in with as few as 30 passengers allowed onboard and cries of price gouging as those airlines elect to sell pricy premium seats over cheaper economy class seats.

The Australian Government recently lifted the weekly arrivals cap by around 2,000 passengers. There is a compulsory 14-day quarantine in a government-mandated facility in place. The arrivals cap is an attempt to keep COVID-19 at bay. Further, no-one wants to overwhelm government agencies tasked with running the quarantine and health operations.

It’s a stance that’s won broad support. But the casualties have been substantial numbers of Australian citizens caught overseas. They’ve been effectively prevented from returning to their own country because they can’t snag one of the available entry spots.

It’s also bad news for the airlines who are continuing services in Australia. Allowed to sell so few seats, most of the carriers focus on selling premium-priced tickets. This allows them to recoup as much money as possible on the long flight to Australia.

Qantas plans to lay on more repatriation flights

National carrier Qantas has largely vacated the market, flying very few international flights since late March. But it has operated some government underwritten repatriation flights over the last two months on a cost-recovery basis.

 “As the national carrier, this is something we are proud to do,” said CEO Alan Joyce in October.

These flights were due to wrap up shortly. But in an interview earlier this week, Mr Joyce indicated the repatriation flights would continue into the New Year.

We’re working with the government on a lot more of those flights occurring,” Mr Joyce told ABC’s Radio National Breakfast on Monday.

“We’ve got more before Christmas, more passing into the New Year as well.”

Airline industry calls more a more nuanced approach to quarantine

That’s undoubtedly welcome news for stranded Australians. Mr Joyce, BARA, and a host of aviation insiders want a more nuanced risk-based approach to international arrivals rather than the flat 14-day quarantine period.

Through a combination of testing and looking at where you’ve flown in from, quarantine periods could be shortened. Alan Joyce won’t say by how long exactly but less than a week isn’t out of the question.

That would free up capacity in quarantine facilities, meaning airlines could bring in more people more frequently and get more stranded Australians home. BARA’s Barry Abrams says airlines are just pawns in the bigger game. He says the decision ultimately rests with the various State Governments in Australia who manage the health systems.

“The decision as to whether more Australians can return home before 31 December now ultimately rests with the individual state governments, who must decide if international arrivals can use the freed-up domestic quarantine capacity.

“For their part, international airlines are already providing more than enough flights and seats to return these Australians home,”


Rising Case Counts Delays Singapore And Hong Kong Travel Bubble

For over a month, there have been discussions about the formation of a travel bubble or travel corridor between Hong Kong and Singapore. Tomorrow was to be the launch date for this highly anticipated arrangement. Unfortunately, in light of rising case counts, the launch of this travel corridor will be deferred by two weeks. The announcement was made on November 21st via a press release on the Singapore Civil Aviation Authority’s website.

A decision reached by government representatives

According to Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority, this decision was reached following a discussion between the two states. Representing each side were Singapore’s Transportation Minister Ong Yu Kung and Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Edward Yau. “This is to safeguard public health in both cities as well as travelers’ own health,” the Singapore Civil Aviation Authority wrote. 

“Given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, Secretary Edward Yau and I discussed further this afternoon, and decided that it would be better to defer the launch of the ATB, by two weeks…I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint.”

According to FlightGlobal, Hong Kong saw more than 60 new confirmed and preliminary cases on November 20th. 21 of these cases were locally transmitted. The public had been previously warned that travel bubble arrangements would be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average number of unlinked coronavirus cases was over five.

What’s the status now, and where do we go from here?

The Singaporean government states that it, in cooperation with the government of Hong Kong, will review the new launch date of the air travel bubble (ATB) flights within two weeks, and an update will be provided at a later date.

This does not guarantee a travel bubble will be launched in two weeks. Rather, it will take this time to monitor the evolution and progress of the epidemiological situation. Should the COVID-19 case counts lower, and the situation improve to an acceptable level, it may provide sufficient justification for ATB flights to go ahead.

For now, travelers will still be able to continue their journeys on non-designated ATB flights. “However, such travelers will be subject to the prevailing border control and health requirements of both cities,” the press release states. For example, Singapore residents returning from Hong Kong will be subject to a 7-day Stay-Home Notice upon entry into Singapore. Additionally, airlines will be contacting affected passengers to provide assistance.  

The travel bubble would have allowed for leisure and non-essential travel to take place, without the need for quarantine. The plan would have seen travelers undergo pre-and post-arrival testing instead.


Azul A320neo Damaged By Hail Near Rio De Janeiro

An Azul Linhas Aereas Airbus A320neo performing a domestic flight on November 15th, 2020, in Brazil had to divert after suffering a hail strike that affected certain instruments onboard the aircraft. The aircraft safely landed at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão Airport, though the aircraft faced some visible damage.

The incident

On November 15th, an Airbus A320neo for Azul performing flight AD 4194 from Curitiba to Rio de Janeiro’s Santos Dumont Airport suffered a hails from on approach, according to a report in the Aviation Herald.

While descending and approximately 20 nautical miles (~37 kilometers) out from the airport at 4,500 ft (~1,372 m), the crew decided to abort the approach due to a nail strike. After climbing, the aircraft diverted to another airport in Rio, Galeão Airport, and landed there safely.

Brazil’s CENIPA, the agency that investigates aircraft incidents, reported that the aircraft was climbing out of Curtibia when the jet flew through heavy rain, turbulence, and probably hail. While the crew continued the flight, the crew noted a lag in the first officer’s speed indications, leading to the diversion during the descent. On the ground, it was clear that the aircraft suffered damage to the radome.

The plane involved in the incident

The aircraft operating this flight is registered as PR-YRQ. According to data from Flightradar24, the aircraft is a baby and only two years old. The plane spent two days on the ground. On November 17th, the plane positioned to Viracopos – Campinas International Airport (VCP) and was scheduled to reenter commercial services the night of November 18th.

Azul’s Airbus A320neos seat 174 passengers, according to SeatGuru. The jet is in a single-class configuration with economy class and extra-legroom economy seats. Onboard this flight, there were 135 passengers onboard and six crewmembers.

Azul has 42 Airbus A320neo aircraft in its fleet currently. In addition to the A320neo, the airline also flies Airbus A321neos, Airbus A330-200s, Airbus A330-900neos, ATR 72-600s, Embraer E190s and E195s, and the E195-E2. The widebody Airbus A330s are the only ones that feature a proper business class.

The route

Azul is one of Brazil’s largest airlines, and it has an extensive route map throughout the country. Out of Rio’s Santos Dumont Airport (SDU), Azul has a handful of routes that gives it a sizable presence out of the airport, including to Curitiba (CWB). The flight is traditionally pretty short, coming in at about over an hour. Traditionally, Azul competes with LATAM and Gol, though it has a codeshare agreement with the former.

Santos Dumont is closer to the city center of Rio de Janeiro. It is the closest to some hotspot destinations in Rio, including Copacabana. However, with SDU’s short runways, the airport can only support narrowbody aircraft, so the airport does not get any long-haul international flights. Rio’s larger Galeão Airport gets all of the long-haul international flights.


When Will Porter Airlines Finally Resume Operations?

Canadian regional carrier Porter Airlines has updated its schedule for resuming operations. Unfortunately for the airline, this date has been delayed yet again, pushed further back due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, and the domino effect of travel restrictions and low customer demand. The airline had previously aimed to resume operations in November, which it then postponed to December. This latest move will have the airline restart in February 2021.

A February 11th resumption

Porter Airlines now intends to resume operations on February 11th due to the lack of progress with the overall COVID-19 situation and travel restrictions. This is what the airline’s leadership had to say via a press release:

“Deferring service until 2021 is not a decision we anticipated having to make as COVID-19 emerged early this year…Every delay to restarting flights has the greatest effect on our team members, who are eager to do their part to help serve customers under safe conditions. Unfortunately, the continued and cumulative effects of restrictive travel advisories, border closures and quarantines have suffocated travel demand to the point that a return to sustainable levels of passenger traffic is highly unlikely in 2020.” -Michael Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines

The airline goes on to say that this date was chosen to restart as it is after the traditionally slow post-holiday January period. As such, it will provide a “reasonable opportunity to begin flying if conditions improve.” Furthermore, the airline is hopeful that progress will be made with regards to developing rapid testing solutions as a means to lift government-imposed restrictions on travel.

Porter’s small network disproportionately affected

As a regional airline, Porter serves Canada’s most populated urban area, covering much of Southern Ontario. Out of its Toronto City airport hub, the carrier connects smaller cities in Western Ontario, most of the Maritime provinces, and cities of the US East Coast with one another. Chicago is also a part of the airline’s network.

A much smaller airline than other Canadian competitors, Porter has been more severely affected by the downturn in air travel demand. Furthermore, the existence of a Canadian ‘Atlantic bubble’ means even tighter travel restrictions for a huge portion of the airline’s network.

Now that a second wave is well underway across much of Canada as well as a much worse third wave across the United States, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting further away. Canadian international travel restrictions continue to hamper transborder traffic as the government continues to renew the border closure every month or so.

Porter temporarily suspended operations on March 21st and had planned the following resumption dates:

Hopefully, this is the final postponement of service and the industry will manage to establish reliable pre-flight testing by February as a way to get people flying safely once again.


Thai Airways Selling Everything From Cutlery To Boeing 747s In Bid To Raise Funds

This year has seen a lot of new things in the airline industry. One of the more unusual innovations is the public auctioning of aircraft. Not just small single-engine two-person Cessnas, but big jets that take up a lot of garage space. Iran Air made headlines earlier this year when it started auctioning off many of its aircraft, including its classic Boeing 747s. Then embattled THAI Airways jumped on the bandwagon. Now THAI is upping the ante and looking at auctioning a whole range of aircraft consumables to raise badly needed cash.

THAI looks to raise cash from non-passenger sources

THAI Airways is in a world of financial pain. The airline has defaulted on over US$2.8 billion worth of loans and bonds and lost $926 million in the first six months of 2020. Yesterday, THAI announced its third-quarter results and another loss. The airline said domestic travel was showing some signs of recovery, but international travel was almost zero.

However, THAI’s financial problems pre-date 2020. The travel downturn is simply the catalyst that has pushed the airline to its present tipping point. Yesterday, THAI said they were placing more emphasis on earning revenue from non-passenger sources.

Which might help explain the auction of their planes and various bits and pieces.

Earlier this month, Simple Flying reported THAI Airways was auctioning off 32 of their widebody planes, including all of their Boeing 747s. The THAI 747s were a familiar sight at many airports. Regular passengers know the planes to be showing a few signs of superficial wear and tear, but super comfortable to fly in.

THAI wants to sell surplus aircraft consumables

But unlike Iran Air, THAI is also giving you the chance to accessorize your newly purchased plane. The airline is looking at selling a range of aircraft consumables designed to make flying an altogether more pleasant experience.

According to a report in Thai PBS World, THAI Airways is going through its warehouses to see what else they can flog off. In THAI’s sights are everything from salt and pepper shakers and wine glasses to seat covers and aircraft tires.

Should you be interested, THAI also wants to swap its stash of booze for cash. It could be a great opportunity to pick up some bargain Dom Perignon from the first class supplies or Veuve Cliquot from their business class hoard.

THAI’s excellent taste in champagne is a good indicator of why this airline was always such as pleasure to fly on and why it’s so sad to see THAI in its current state.

Also becoming available are various office spaces, including the head office building.

The airline is in the middle of a restructuring program under the supervision of Thailand’s Central Bankruptcy Court. The process is similar to Chapter 11.

Meanwhile, should you wish to pick up an ex-THAI widebody plane, you’d better shake out your wallet and get in quick. We could provide a link, but we don’t want to encourage reckless aircraft impulse buys that might upset your partner. However, if you must,  the auction closes today, November 13. The auctioneers would also like to remind you that they offer no offer sales warranty. So best buy a few extra tires just in case. And champagne.


American Unveils New Wifi Subscription Program & Upgraded AirPass Program

American Airlines is rolling out some new features for its inflight WiFi offerings, entertainment, and the AirPass program. These changes will offer customers more flexibility when it comes to flying with American. One of the most beneficial features is a new WiFi subscription plan that will start on November 10th.

American’s new WiFi subscription plan

Frequent fliers who also like to work inflight will note that WiFi is a must. While American Airlines offers WiFi on most domestic flights for as little as $10, WiFi charges can quickly add up– especially if you’re taking more than one flight in a day, week, or month and do not have a subscription. Now, however, American Airlines has unveiled a new WiFi subscription plan.

Starting November 10th, American is offering a domestic high-speed WiFi subscription plan for customers who travel frequently and want to save a little money on WiFi charges. This, however, also is another boost for travelers.

Depending on your aircraft, you could find yourself on a plane with Gogo-equipped, Panasonic-equipped, or Viasat-equipped WiFi. Previously, Panasonic WiFi was not included in any of the monthly WiFi plans. Now, the new subscription will allow customers to access WiFi on domestic flights in the United States or short– and medium-haul international flights to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central America with a single plan that works across all three WiFi providers.

If you already have a Gogo monthly subscription, this plan will replace that. Starting from November 16th, affected customers will get instructions on how to move their current subscription plan to the new subscription plan. The subscription plan is available to customers who are AAdvantage members and have an email and primary credit card with a US billing address saved in their AAdvantage account.

Don’t worry. The entertainment is free

Even though your flight may not have on-demand seatback entertainment screens, you can still access a plethora of holiday movies this year, with classics like A Christmas Story, Home Alone, Elf, A Christmas Carol, Die Hard, and more. All inflight entertainment onboard American Airlines is free. Passengers connect to the WiFi and can access free streaming to their phone, tablet, or laptop.

Apple Music is free on Viasat-equipped flights. Passengers can access a new holiday playlist on Apple Music. There are multiple options like “Holiday Hits,” “R&B for the Holidays,” “Children’s Christmas,” and more. In total, 70 million songs are available ad-free with music videos and live original shows through Apple Music.

AirPass is getting a boost too

AirPass is a great program for very frequent fliers. And, now, the membership has a few more perks. AirPass, just a reminder, is an all-inclusive pre-paid membership with fixed-rate fairs, no change or cancellation fees, VIP benefits, and more.

Now, AirPass can be redeemed on select airline partners. This currently Finnair, Iberia, and Japan Airlines. Although some membership benefits may only be valid on American, things like fixed-rate fares, Admirals Club access, and free checked baggage are some perks that are available when flying a partner airline as well.

AirPass members will also receive a complimentary annual WiFi subscription beginning in 2021. That, however, is not all.

With AirPass, you buy into a fixed tier. Right now, American is offering a lowered point of entry at $5,000 per traveler (down from $10,000). This gets a passenger automatic Gold status. At $20,000, a passenger gets Platinum status. This goes up to $25,000 at Platinum Pro, and $30,000 to gain Executive Platinum status. Note that you’ll get all the benefits of your status as well as AirPass exclusive benefits.

Five Star Service starts at just $350 for a solo traveler. It includes access to Flagship First check-in (where available) and Admirals Club lounges, priority boarding and re-accommodation status, and car service coordination at over 20 airports around the world. For $650, you can upgrade that to get Flagship First Dining access, American Airlines Cadillac, or cart transfer, in addition to the benefits of the lower tier. This higher tier is only available at Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), and New York-JFK (JFK).

Out of Los Angeles, for $1,200 for two people, passengers can get the Private Departure package that comes with an escort to PS, a private club, where agents conduct the check-in process. Then, passengers undergo security at a private TSA lane. From that point, you then get American Airlines Cadillac transfer to the terminal for Flagship First Dining access, gate escorts, and priority boarding.

So, if you might not be traveling that much, you can spruce up your travel experience using AirPass funds.


British Airways To Halt Gatwick Operations A Second Time

UK flag carrier British Airways will suspend its operations from London Gatwick for the second time this year. The move comes as England bans non-essential travel within and out of the country.

There’s no question about it, 2020 has been a terrible year for aviation. However, while things appeared to be on the up back in August, the industry has taken a second tumble in Europe. The spread of a second wave has seen airlines cancel flights as border restrictions increase once more. This is the case with British Airways as it trims its schedule moving forwards.

Gatwick operations suspended

British Airways will suspend its London Gatwick operations for the second time this year due to England’s second lockdown. This second lockdown began yesterday and is to last for at least a month.

While the lockdown is focused on not leaving the house for non-essential purposes, the terms also prohibit a large amount of travel outside of the country. For example, while you would be allowed to fly to another country for work, you wouldn’t be able to go for a holiday.

Of course, with outbound travel forbidden for a large number of Brits, the number of passengers on flights will also dive. While such few passengers are traveling, it doesn’t make sense for British Airways to continue all the services it has rebuilt from both an economic and environmental viewpoint.

A British Airways spokesperson told Simple Flying,

“Following the Government’s announcement of a new national lockdown for England last Saturday, we have been urgently reviewing our schedule for November. Our focus is on keeping crucial air links open – bringing home the thousands of customers currently abroad, transporting vital goods, and ensuring people who are permitted to travel… can continue to do so.”

Why suspend Gatwick operations?

Gatwick operations have been suspended a second time because the number of passengers using both the flights and the airport will have plummeted. It makes sense for British Airways to consolidate its operations at one base, in this case, London Heathrow Airport.

The majority of long-haul destinations operating from Gatwick were to holiday destinations such as the Caribbean. These will have low passenger numbers now. However, it will also save costs for the airline by only operating one facility.

Rather than paying staff to keep Gatwick open for a small number of passengers, the passengers on remaining flights can continue to be catered for by the team already working in Heathrow. During the first lockdown, the airline shifted its services that remained operational to its Heathrow Airport home.


Qantas Suspends United States Flight Sales Until Late-2021

The chances of Qantas resuming its popular transpacific flights to North America were setback last week after the Australian airline blocked bookings until the end of October 2021. Qantas normally flies to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Honolulu. In addition, flights to Chicago were slated to start this year. But it seems Qantas doesn’t expect to head back to its North American destinations anytime soon.

No United States bookings on Qantas until October 2021

Except for some repatriation and government-subsidized flights, Qantas grounded all its international flying earlier this year. While the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, has kept his options open regarding international flights to some destinations, he has been fairly unequivocal about North America.

Qantas had previously canceled its international flying through to March 2021 and started issuing refunds. Now, in a move that could indicate 2021 will be similar to 2020 when it comes to international travel, the United States is off Qantas’ books for a further 12 months.

Given Mr Joyce’s previous comments and no improvements in the broader operating environment, last week’s decision isn’t surprising.

“The United States, with the level of (COVID-19) prevalence there, is probably going to take some time. It’s probably going to need a vaccine before we can see that happening,” Mr Joyce previously said in a media briefing.

“But countries like the United States may be among the first countries to have widespread use of any vaccine. That could mean that the United States is seen as a market by the end of 2021.”

Qantas off transpacific flights, US airlines keep flying

However, Qantas’s decision does leave the transpacific market between the United States and Australia wide open to competing airlines, particularly the North American airlines who are back on the route.

In 2019, nearly four million travelers flew between Australia and the United States, or vice versa. Nearly four and a half million seats were available, and aircraft passenger load were hovering in the mid 80 percentages. In addition to Qantas; Virgin Australia, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines all competed on routes between Australia and mainland United States. Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines, and Jetstar all flew between Australia and Hawaii. Both Air Canada and Qantas jetted between Australia and Vancouver.

While Qantas, Jetstar, Hawaiian Airlines, and Air Canada have all suspended their routes between Australia and North America, the big US carriers have continued to fly across the Pacific. United Airlines, in particular, has remained steadfast this year.

“Throughout 2020, United has been the only carrier to maintain continuous daily service between the U.S. and Australia,” said United’s Patrick Quayle in July.

Qantas’ competitors snatch market share

After a relatively short absence, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines also resumed flights between Los Angeles and Sydney. There’s strong cargo demand on these flights. That helps offset the limited numbers of passengers that can be carried on these flights.

It also places these North American airlines in a strong strategic position when it comes to flying between North America and Australia, both now and down the track. By canceling all of its flights to North America for the foreseeable future, Qantas risks further long term reductions in its already diminishing pre-COVID-19 market share on the transpacific routes.

Qantas clearly knows what it’s doing, but it is also a high stakes gamble. The airline is handing market share on a platter to strong competitor airlines.

What do you think? Is Qantas right to block booking on North American flights for another 12 months? Will this boost Delta, American, and United on these routes in the long run? Post a comment and let us know.


SkyWest Swings Back To Profitability Amid New American And United Deals

Regional carrier in the United States, SkyWest, has turned a profit for the third quarter of 2020. While the airline is not out of the woods yet, it has reached new agreements with American and United on regional flying.

SkyWest turns a third-quarter profit

For the third quarter of 2020, SkyWest turned a net profit of $33.7 million. While this was down from the $91.3 million profit the carrier made in the third quarter of 2019, it is fat better than the airline’s nearly $26 million loss from the second quarter of 2020. But, in the first quarter of 2020, the airline did turn a profit.

Chip Childs, Chief Executive Officer at SkyWest, stated the following concerning the results:

“Over the past several months, we have worked with our partners and our people to respond quickly and aggressively to the worst crisis our industry has experienced. The SkyWest team continues to demonstrate exceptional dedication and flexibility, and I want to thank them for their hard work and focus through this challenge. We are committed and remain laser-focused on ensuring we are positioned for the long-term, maintaining strong liquidity, and delivering on our partners’ objectives in the recovery.”

SkyWest Airlines bolstered its liquidity in the third quarter. The airline entered into a $573 million agreement with the U.S. Department of Treasury for a five-year secured loan facility. This increased to $725 million in October amid other airlines pulling out of loan agreements with the Treasury Department.

A new agreement with American Airlines

SkyWest entered into an agreement with American Airlines on October 29th to place 20 used CRJ700s under a multi-year flying contract. The airline will be using 20 of its own aircraft that are not currently under contract with a partner.

These planes will not enter into service until 2021. Once these 20 go into service, in addition to four CRJ700s entering service in the fourth quarter of 2020 and five in 2021 under a previously announced deal, then SkyWest will be flying 90 CRJ700s under contract with American Airlines.

This also comes on top of a previous agreement for 20 new Embraer E175 aircraft flying for American Airlines. Five of those are anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2021, while 15 deliveries are scheduled for 2022.

American Airlines is working on upgauging its regional fleet, so the CRJ700s will be a great opportunity for plenty of regional destinations that traditionally see CRJ service. American’s regional arm is called American Eagle.

CRJ550s coming to SkyWest…sort of

SkyWest has entered into an agreement to acquire 21 used CRJ550s. These premium 50-seater aircraft will not fly under SkyWest. While the airline will own the aircraft, it is leasing them out under a multi-year agreement for another regional airline that operates United’s regional brand called United Express.

The aircraft purchases and leases are expected to complete in the fourth quarter of 2020. So, while SkyWest will not be operating the aircraft, it will own them.

An update with the Delta contract

Four new E175 aircraft, which will be financed and operated by SkyWest, will be delivered in the fourth quarter that will fly for Delta under their regional arm, Delta Connection. One new CRJ900, financed by Delta but operated by SkyWest, will come to the airline in 2021.

Delta and SkyWest also have a capacity purchase agreement for the CRJ200s that are expiring in 2020. Recently, Delta announced it was moving away from the CRJ200s, with retirements of those aircraft expected by December 2023.

Why SkyWest turned a profit

SkyWest Airlines does not fly its own routes or aircraft. Instead, it flies regional jets on behalf of major US airlines. While, from October 1st, US airlines were set to fly fewer regional services, SkyWest has done quite well for itself thus far.

While the carrier’s total block hours in the third quarter were down 41% from the third quarter of 2019, it still has agreements with the major carriers and has taken over a few routes from the major US airlines. With a fleet of over 400 aircraft, SkyWest has agreements with Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

Heading into the fourth quarter, SkyWest should also be in a good position to turn a profit, or at least narrow losses. With the Thanksgiving and December holiday periods coming up, SkyWest will be doing plenty of more flying than the second or third quarter, which will help the airline’s bottom line.


What Happened To United Airlines’ Boeing 747 Aircraft?

As airlines around the world take to retiring their Boeing 747s, United Airlines was one of the carriers ahead of the game. Its last flight with the Queen of the Skies happened nearly three years ago. However, what happened to the aircraft that made up its fleet?

A prominent yet small fleet

Compared to United Airlines’ distinguished Boeing 737 fleet and extensive Airbus A320 fleet, the airline’s 747 fleet was comparatively small. According to, in total, the airline once held 88 units of the type at various points in its history in four variants. Most popular was the Boeing 747-400, but United also had the -100, -200, and SP.

However, the airline no longer operates any of these models and hasn’t done so since 2017. The majority of the aircraft are stored but over 30 went onto new airlines.

First aircraft in the ’70s

United Airlines began its relationship with the 747 nearly 50 years ago. It acquired the first aircraft in 1970 and ended the year with a total of nine 747-100 in its fleet. Most of these aircraft were moved to other airlines. Between 1985 and 1986 United sent five aircraft to Pan American World Airways. Along with this, Pan Am had another deal with United in which it leased an aircraft registered N724PA. Pan Am kept this aircraft for just over a year before returning it to the airline in 1991.

But the tale of Pan Am was not a happy one. The iconic carrier collapsed in 1991. The rest of the 747 aircraft from 1970 were stored with United Airlines and have since been scrapped.

Many of the other 747 aircraft that United Airlines acquired in the 1970s were stored with the airline. The operator took delivery of a further nine units between 1971 and 1973. All of the aircraft have since been scrapped.

A momentary pause

However, before United advanced its Boeing 747 fleet, it took a pause. It wasn’t until 1986 that new orders of the aircraft returned again. In 1986, United Airlines received 11 Boeing 747 aircraft and continued to expand its fleet in the ensuing years.

Before 1990 hit, it had another 11 747s join. However, in these years, the model of the type that United acquired began to change. Whilst it still had an affinity towards the Boeing 747-100 variant, it also took delivery of three -400 variants, 11 SPs, and two -200s.

Nine of these aircraft went on to other airlines between 1992 and 2006, including Northwest Airlines, Tajik Air, and Qatar Amari Flight. Of those which were stored with the airline, only one continues to bear this status. It is registered N147UA and initially came from Pan Am but is marked to be stored and used by the FAA for testing.

Special missions

In September 1996, a former 747SP that United previously flew underwent a transformation into NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Rgistration N145UA joined from Pan Am in February 1986. With NASA, it went on to carry a 17-ton, eight-foot-wide infrared telescope mounted behind a massive sliding door. The plane is still serving the space agency as N747NA and bears the nickname of Clipper Lindbergh, which it was initially called when with Pan Am.

The aircraft flies into the stratosphere at 38,000-45,000 feet, putting it above 99% of the Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere. This system helps scientists to study the solar system.

The 747-400

The 1990s was a big decade in terms of receiving deliveries of 747 aircraft for United. In total, it took nearly 50 of them over this period between 1990 and 1999. Most of these aircraft were 747-400 variants although United was still dabbling with the 747-200. It took five -200 models leaving 43 -400 variants.

19 of these aircraft were then passed onto other airlines including Atlas Air, and Blue Sky.

The last bunch

According to, there were 20 747 aircraft in United’s fleet at the beginning of the year that the carrier stopped flying the aircraft. Thirteen of these planes have remained in storage since 2017. Meanwhile, five of them were scrapped that year.

Registration N119UA, which arrived at the carrier in March 1999, was taken on by Atlas Air in June 2019. The cargo outfit currently operates the jet as registration N480MC.

Additionally, registration N128UA, which joined United in May 2000, was handed over to TVPX Trust Services in April 2018. MAX Air then took it on and has been flying it as registration 5N-ADM since July 2018. The Nigerian airline has since named the aircraft Alhaji Dahiru Barau Mangal.

End of an era

According to a statement seen by Simple Flying, at the time of the farewell in 2017, former United CEO and current executive chairman Oscar Munoz spoke about the legacy of the 747. The businessman emphasized how the firm and the jet helped each other to serve its joint purpose of connecting people and uniting across the globe.

“With its unmistakable sloping silhouette, it came to embody the spirit of the age — allowing more affordable international travel and opening the skies to more people than ever before,” Munoz said, as per the statement.

“In that way, its legacy lives on in the next generation of aircraft that will follow in its path. Even so, it will always be ‘Queen of the Skies,’ and while it will be succeeded, it can never be replaced.”

Altogether, United is just one of several airlines that have let go of the Queen in recent years. Carriers have been looking at more modern and efficient solutions to assist on long-haul operations. Moreover, the current industry climate is catalyzing the jet’s retirement across the globe.

What do you remember of United Airlines’ Boeing 747 fleet? Did you ever fly on any of these planes over the years? Let us know what you think of the jets in the comment section.