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© 2007-11, William Swelbar.

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Entries in www.swelblog.com; US Airline Industry (1)


One Year Ago Today…….No Swelblog.com

One year ago today, I barely knew what a blog was let alone think for a minute that I would own one. I remain amazed at the time it takes to “feed the blog”. The time spent reading, researching and thinking has been time well spent. This new medium is a good one. The diversity of opinion on matters in this industry is what makes it both great and frustrating during this period of change.

In my first post, Swelblog.com Taxiing Into Position, I stated: “I did not start this blog to win friends or influence anyone. I’m a data guy, and I’ve been studying the industry long enough to come up with some strong opinions . . . many of which aren’t popular in either boardrooms or union halls. My approach is analytical because, in my view, the numbers don’t lie”. Well, I know in many cases I did not win friends. And that is fine with me. Did I influence anyone? I don’t know. Do I have some strong opinions based on nearly 30 years of being in and around this industry in a variety of roles? Yes I do.

We have talked about a lot of controversial stuff over the past year: pilot scope clauses; foreign ownership; merger and acquisition activity in the US and abroad; the pull down of hubs; entitlement by labor and other stakeholders in the industry; terms of art in labor negotiations like “put it on ice” and “clear the underbrush”; rejecting comments attacking other commenter’s; sharing with readers my beginnings in this industry; Doug Parker, Glenn Tilton, Richard Anderson, Gerard Arpey, Willie Walsh, Richard Branson, Doug Steenland and other CEOs that are shaping the structure of the industry going forward; Capt. John Prater, Capt. Lloyd Hill, ALPA, USAPA, AFA-CWA, TWU and other unions; labor-management relations in general and the fact the world must be laughing at us here in the US; globalization; air traffic congestion; asset divestitures; nothing to fear from the loss of a carrier; how cool it would be to be the UPS whiteboard guy; Lufthansa and its aggressive, and brilliant, real estate plays; seniority; Lee Moak as I will not put him next to Prater and Hill; the auto industry and airlines; the banking industry and airlines; Jim “Hell NO”berstar; the Business Travel Coalition and its leader, Kevin Mitchell; creative destruction; Bob Crandall and his lost after life; Gordon Bethune; catalysts for change; executive compensation; United – Delta; Delta – Northwest; United – Continental; United – US Airways; Allegheny-Mohawk Labor Protective Provisions; the airline customer; Maryland Terrapins; March Madness; The Masters; US Open golf; US competitiveness in a global industry; wondering and wandering; Force Majeure; “Hush Money”; “A Flying Pig”; Crude oil, the crack spread and jet fuel; words that start with “c”; price elasticity; “Rent Sharing”; yawning; Back to the Future; liquidity and all things cash; unbundling; top 10 lists; STAR, oneworld and SkyTeam; Starbucks; small community air service; naysayers; speculation, consternation and detoxification; union corporate campaigns; labor arbitrage; outsourcing; capacity cuts; interdependencies; virgins; and the memorializing of dates.

WHEW. To name a few.

Not only does today mark the end of year 1 of swelblog.com, it also means that the 2008 golf season for me is coming to a close. And it has been a great year in terms of venues played: Caves Valley in Baltimore; Butler National and Medinah #3 in Chicago; Erin Hills, Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin; The Bridges and Torrey Pines in San Diego; and Wailae in Honolulu. A good year indeed. Now if I can only get that chance to play Augusta National before I die, the top 100 list will be largely played. Oh, and I do have some work to do on Long Island. For the next four days I will join dear friends (Jack Ginsburg, Pete Robison, Ro Dhanda, Bill Musto and Greg Lane) and my partner, Dr. Craig Faulks, in our annual member-guest tournament.

Readership has exploded for a blog that does not promote itself. Most cool for me is the growth in the non-US readership. I thank the students at MIT for the multiple challenges posed in answering your questions as your unaffected enquiries often prompt an idea for a blog.

First rate reporters like Susan Carey, Liz Fedor, Terry Maxon, Justin Baer, David Field, Dave Koenig, Barbara DeLollis, Ben Mutzabaugh and others offer great insight to the industry. I never know where to put other bloggers/reporters/columnists like Holly Hegeman but thanks to you as well. Whereas this blog is my own, it is made better and sharper because of people like these that challenge the industry each and every day.

Wall Street analysts like William Greene at Morgan Stanley; Kevin Crissey at UBS; Jamie Baker at JP Morgan; Gary Chase at Lehman/?; and Ray Neidl at Calyon all offer us great insight and analytically supported opinions. The chief economists at ATA and IATA, John Heimlich and Bryan Pierce, have made the trade associations most valuable resources for looking at the industry from a variety of perspectives and supplying us with material that helps to put things into a global context.

I thank the readers who agree with me and disagree with me. To know me, really know me, is to know that I do not suffer fools well. I turned 50 this year and my guess is that will not be changing much. This blog is about change and it will remain about change. Because this industry sure as hell needs to change. I hope the next 12 months results in writing more about Dubai than Dallas. But damn, Dallas is one fun place to watch, and write about, as it has it all. The good with Southwest – at least for the moment – and the bad with American.

As I close, I want to revisit a quote that I published in January as it seems most appropriate:

"Bubble to Bubble to Bubble"

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday [January 24, 2008], Stephen Roach, the head of the Asian operations of Morgan Stanley, slagged Mr. Bernanke for being "goaded into action just by what the markets are doing." Mr. Roach described the Fed's actions as "excessive monetary accommodation that just takes us from bubble to bubble to bubble." It is "a very reckless way of running American monetary policy," he said. "I'm quite astonished that they did what they did."

It really is hard to know what is right. For many, my views are wrong, or at least not what you want to hear. Despite many incorrect facts printed about me on this blog and on other blogs by Howard Putnam, APA folks and others, it is nice to know you are reading.

This transition from consulting to thinking has been, and will continue to be, great. I recommend it.

Jill, Sam and Romy - YOU ROCK!