Skift Airline Weekly Editor Madhu Unnikrishnan caught up with Anders Lindström, Norwegian's director of communications for the U.S., at San Francisco International Airport on Monday when the carrier launched San Francisco-Barcelona flights. Lindström explained why Norwegian is moving some flights from Oakland to SFO, and what routes in the U.S. are doing well for the carrier. He also talked through the third-quarter results and why he thinks the carrier has turned the corner from its tough year.
The UK government this week engages in another set of inquiries on why Thomas Cook went bankrupt, which is the perfect time to ask Skift Europe Editor Patrick Whyte, who has been covering the story, what happened. How did the "booking clerk to the empire" go belly-up after more than 150 years? Whyte explains that the company was struggling under a massive debt load and had struggled with maintaining a large number of travel agencies as booking habits changed. But Whyte noted that parts of the business remain — Condor, in Germany, and the subsidiary in the Nordic countries.
European and UK holidaymakers may see fares rise in the short term as airlines backfill the capacity hole left by Thomas Cook's bankruptcy, but Whyte believed the capacity shortfall would be filled by next summer.
Back in the aughts, Airlines for America's Chief Economist John Heimlich often showed a slide with an alarming statistic: Coffee giant Starbucks' market capitalization was more than that of the entire U.S. airline industry combined. So much has changed in the last 10 years, as the airline industry recovered from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, SARS, and oil prices of $148 per barrel, among other trials and tribulations.
Skift Airline Weekly Editor Madhu Unnikrishnan and Heimlich had a chance to catch up at the Boyd Group's International Aviation Forecast Summit in August. Unnikrishnan reminded Heimlich of that slide and asked him if those turbulent times could return. Heimlich explained how the industry has changed: different management, improved aircraft technology, and consolidation being among the most important factors. But he warned that the airline industry is uniquely exposed to exogenous shocks, like geopolitical turmoil, weather, and the price of oil.
The airline industry is continuing to evolve, with new aircraft technology, like the Airbus A321 XLR, making low-cost, long-haul a better business proposition, Heimlich said. But will anyone crack that low-cost, long-haul code? And what about small-community air service in the U.S. and Canada, now that airlines have retired or are in the process of retiring their smallest aircraft?