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Charlotte-Douglas Airport (CLT) Expansion


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While I understand that this industrial action will impact thousands of travelers, I can't help but have sympathy for the ground staff.

The entire Lufthansa Group (with the exception of SWISS, see below) is simply a basket case and a shadow of its former shelf. The CEO sent Lufthansa flyers an apology letter for the mass cancellations/baggage issues/etc begging for forgiveness last month calling this summer an "extraordinary situation". 

I got one somehow and I found the letter to be intellectually insulting as this isn't an extraordinary situation. Staff did not just disappear one morning and decide not to come to work. The German government gave Lufthansa a bailout equivalent to $USD 10 Billion, and they literally used that money to streamline/cost cut/restructure their operation, and now they are somehow surprised that new streamlined operation cannot keep up with demand. I would be livid if I was a German taxpayer. 

They embarked on a massive cost-cutting program last year...from eliminating free snacks/meals/drinks in Economy on European flights to eliminating free liquor, snacks, and the pre-arrival meal in both Economy and Premium Economy on intercontinental flights (the main meal is still free, if you want an additional snacks you have to pay). I would be irritated if I spent an additional $1000 to fly in Premium Economy and then have to pay for a bag of pretzels and a Gin & Tonic. Their top-tier frequent flyers are now forced to pay for advanced seat assignments on some fares and routes. 

The only thing holding the Lufthansa Group up at this point is SWISS, which has for the most part resisted much of the group's forced Lufthansa-ization and still offers a quality product, in all cabin classes. 

I am going to the Balkans in a couple weeks and I purposely booked away from Lufthansa simply because I didn't want to have to deal with them, despite the fact that I would have preferred to fly them to collect UA miles (and fly on a 747!). I paid an extra $100 and am flying Air France there and then KLM back. While both carriers have their own issues with cancellations and bags, their performance has been been markedly better and I'm just not going to check a bag, plus they still offer free snacks/meals on the European flights in Economy. 

It looks like today's inbound flight from Munich is operating, although they cancelled the outbound from Charlotte. Both flights are cancelled all together tomorrow, although as still scheduled for Thursday. During times of industrial action, European carriers tend to do everything they can to keep their long-haul flights operational (at the expense of their short-haul network) so I wouldn't be surprised to see the flight back up and running Thursday. 

Depending on what provider AA uses in Munich, this could ultimately impact their flight as well. 

Edited by LKN704
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10-year 2nd-lien bonds (greatest risk of getting wiped out of if they file BK) are trading at ~79 cents on the dollar today, but are low coupon bonds.  Credit spread is +500 and yield is 7.8%.  A decent way to interpret that would be the market assumes they have about a 5% annual chance of filing Chapter 7 BK per year.

Actually, there is a credit default swaps market on this, and it's pricing roughly 16% annual default probability, though with a high likelihood that it would be a Chap 11 reorganization.

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17 minutes ago, LKN704 said:

Frankly you have a better chance of going to Harris Teeter, buying a lotto ticket, and winning a million dollars than AA failing.

Even if AA was on the verge of a total liquidation, you can bet that Uncle Sam will come knocking on Fort Worth's door with a massive bailout package. Consolidation amongst the industry has largely led to AA/DL/UA being too big to fail, and a failure of any of the big three carriers would likely be detrimental to the economy.

Just because they have greater liabilities than assets is no reason to file for bankruptcy. At present, AA has plenty of cash and hasn't shown any signs that they are struggling to pay their bills. 

The only reason I see AA filling for bankruptcy at present is to attempt to alter/make void union contracts in a way that's beneficial to the airline (often by rejecting collective bargaining agreements), but I suppose there isn't a guarantee that a bankruptcy judge will permit that. Keep in mind that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy doesn't equate to going out of business or liquidation. It's simply a way for a corporation to restructure their finances. United operated in Chapter 11 for a whooping four years in the early 2000s. 

In short, AA's finances aren't a reason for consumers to stay away from booking with them. Rather they should stay away from them because of their abysmal service, poor customer service rankings, and trifling baggage handling record. 

The pilots are still on the LAST bankruptcy contract as it is.  AND since 9/11 pilots are earing roughly 40% less than they were then (corrected for inflation).  If a bankruptcy judge were to gut our already garbage contract I think AA would be in pretty dire straits before then.

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The pilots are still on the LAST bankruptcy contract as it is.  AND since 9/11 pilots are earing roughly 40% less than they were then (corrected for inflation).  If a bankruptcy judge were to gut our already garbage contract I think AA would be in pretty dire straits before then.

That’s not true. All represented workgroups have JCBAs post merger. Pilots’ was in 2015. They are currently negotiating the next contract. If your point is that they are still trying to get back some of the concessions they made during (or more accurately for AA to avoid) bankruptcy post 9/11 then yeah fair enough.
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13 hours ago, TCLT said:


That’s not true. All represented workgroups have JCBAs post merger. Pilots’ was in 2015. They are currently negotiating the next contract. If your point is that they are still trying to get back some of the concessions they made during (or more accurately for AA to avoid) bankruptcy post 9/11 then yeah fair enough.

The jcba was essentially the current book post concessions.   It's the worst contact I've worked under in my career by a long shot.  And yeah it's time we get some or all of what was given up after 9/11.  Airline management already usurped billions from it's employees by taking pensions.  Then came the pay cuts.  Etc.    

I know it's a business but I'm the same period executive compensation increased significantly.   Isom's first act was to double his pay (millions) and then offer the pilots 4% during a period of record inflation.

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While I understand that this industrial action will impact thousands of travelers, I can't help but have sympathy for the ground staff.
The entire Lufthansa Group (with the exception of SWISS, see below) is simply a basket case and a shadow of its former shelf. The CEO sent Lufthansa flyers an apology letter for the mass cancellations/baggage issues/etc begging for forgiveness last month calling this summer an "extraordinary situation". 
I got one somehow and I found the letter to be intellectually insulting as this isn't an extraordinary situation. Staff did not just disappear one morning and decide not to come to work. The German government gave Lufthansa a bailout equivalent to $USD 10 Billion, and they literally used that money to streamline/cost cut/restructure their operation, and now they are somehow surprised that new streamlined operation cannot keep up with demand. I would be livid if I was a German taxpayer. 
They embarked on a massive cost-cutting program last year...from eliminating free snacks/meals/drinks in Economy on European flights to eliminating free liquor, snacks, and the pre-arrival meal in both Economy and Premium Economy on intercontinental flights (the main meal is still free, if you want an additional snacks you have to pay). I would be irritated if I spent an additional $1000 to fly in Premium Economy and then have to pay for a bag of pretzels and a Gin & Tonic. Their top-tier frequent flyers are now forced to pay for advanced seat assignments on some fares and routes. 
The only thing holding the Lufthansa Group up at this point is SWISS, which has for the most part resisted much of the group's forced Lufthansa-ization and still offers a quality product, in all cabin classes. 
I am going to the Balkans in a couple weeks and I purposely booked away from Lufthansa simply because I didn't want to have to deal with them, despite the fact that I would have preferred to fly them to collect UA miles (and fly on a 747!). I paid an extra $100 and am flying Air France there and then KLM back. While both carriers have their own issues with cancellations and bags, their performance has been been markedly better and I'm just not going to check a bag, plus they still offer free snacks/meals on the European flights in Economy. 
It looks like today's inbound flight from Munich is operating, although they cancelled the outbound from Charlotte. Both flights are cancelled all together tomorrow, although as still scheduled for Thursday. During times of industrial action, European carriers tend to do everything they can to keep their long-haul flights operational (at the expense of their short-haul network) so I wouldn't be surprised to see the flight back up and running Thursday. 
Depending on what provider AA uses in Munich, this could ultimately impact their flight as well. 

Saw the first flight I’ve seen in a week or two this evening. I guess that’s partly why I haven’t seen it in a while.
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1 hour ago, JeanClt said:


Saw the first flight I’ve seen in a week or two this evening. I guess that’s partly why I haven’t seen it in a while.

It actually looks like their Charlotte flight was only cancelled once (yesterday). 

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On 8/4/2022 at 11:38 PM, KJHburg said:

CLT set a record for passenger traffic in June pre- post or during covid the new record high for June of anytime.

""Charlotte Douglas International Airport reached a milestone in June on its path to a post-Covid recovery, as passenger traffic for the first time surpassed the level set in the same month pre-pandemic.  The airport recorded nearly 4.36 million total passengers in June, split almost evenly between people boarding a plane and those returning. That figure represents a 4.9% increase from the 4.16 million passengers in June 2021 — and a 1% increase from about 4.32 million people in June 2019. In June 2020, during the throes of the pandemic, passenger traffic at CLT plummeted to just 1.57 travelers, about a third of what it is two years later.""

from the Biz Journal today 

Just out of curiosity, do we know what % of those passengers either started or ended their journeys in Charlotte? Versus those passing through on connections.

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19 minutes ago, Reverie39 said:

Just out of curiosity, do we know what % of those passengers either started or ended their journeys in Charlotte? Versus those passing through on connections.

I'm not sure of the most recent statistics, but historically an average of 70% of traffic at CLT is connecting, with the remaining ~30% being origin/destination traffic. 

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32 minutes ago, LKN704 said:

Now that we are approaching the time of the year when airlines tend to announce their summer transatlantic schedules for the following year, I am wondering if there is a possibility that Finnair could start service to Charlotte. I haven't seen anything that would indicate that they would do so and this is all hypothetical but there are a few datapoints that could make the flight work:

  • As a member of the AA/BA/Iberia/Aer Lingus transatlantic joint-venture, they partner and codeshare with AA extensively and have recently added flights to DFW that have been quite successful. Finnair seems to prefer to only fly to Oneworld hubs for their US destinations. 
  • Their pre-pandemic strategy was largely designed around connecting Europe and Asia...IIRC their slogan used to be something like "The Shortcut Route Between Europe and Asia".  With quarantine restrictions still in place in Asia, coupled with the fact that Russian airspace between Europe and Asia is now closed due to the Ukraine War, they have somewhat altered their strategy to focus on the transatlantic market and now have the slack in their fleet to open up new US gateways. 
  • Finnish foreign investment in Charlotte has grown significantly in the past several years. In 2022 Q2 alone Finnish companies invested $47 million in the region. There are also a number of other Nordic companies with operations in Charlotte, with Electrolux standing out. I'm not sure who maintains the Electrolux travel contract between Charlotte and Stockholm (most likely AA or Lufthansa), but the fastest way (both in terms of distance and transit/travel time) would be via Helsinki. 

Granted, I am not sure if there is room on the D Concourse during peak hours to support another carrier, and I could see them also flying to Philadelphia over Charlotte. I seem to recall reading somewhere (it honestly might have been here) that Finnair representatives visited Charlotte in the beginning of the AA/US merger to discuss possible service. 

Just something I thought of on a slow Monday...

Without broad connections to Asia, I'm not sure what the point is tbh. Helsinki is probably the least convenient hub from which to connect onward to other European destination if you're coming from CLT. AA already offers service to MAD, DUB, and LHR which are oneworld and joint business hubs. And whenever Lufthansa sorts their labor issues out, they can offer connections via their service. I guess there's the argument that the other European hubs are currently crumbling due to staffing and demand, but that's just a this summer problem so isn't likely to influence next summer's route decisions. And if they wanted to try anyway, Finnair isn't going to be able to make widebody service to CLT work profitably and they don't have a narrowbody with the range to fly HEL-CLT. But even if Finnair was still offering a huge network of connections to Asia, I'm still not sure CLT makes sense for them. There's not a ton of demand from CLT to Asia anyway. Plus, the joint business agreement with AA only covers Europe so AA would most likely prefer to route their passengers via their own metal from DFW or with JAL through Tokyo (who they also have a joint business agreement with that does cover Asia) and would therefore push bookings away from the Finnair connection(s).

Regarding Stockholm, CLT-LHR-ARN is only 11 miles longer than CLT-HEL-ARN. Which is a moot point anyway because Finnair operates a non-stop JFK-ARN which is better than any connection over a European hub. As long as Asia remains a challenge for Finnair (and SAS remians in crisis), I'd expect more nonstops from ARN to major North American cities rather than attempts of HEL to secondary and more distant cities like CLT.

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3 hours ago, TCLT said:

Without broad connections to Asia, I'm not sure what the point is tbh. Helsinki is probably the least convenient hub from which to connect onward to other European destination if you're coming from CLT. AA already offers service to MAD, DUB, and LHR which are oneworld and joint business hubs. And whenever Lufthansa sorts their labor issues out, they can offer connections via their service. I guess there's the argument that the other European hubs are currently crumbling due to staffing and demand, but that's just a this summer problem so isn't likely to influence next summer's route decisions. And if they wanted to try anyway, Finnair isn't going to be able to make widebody service to CLT work profitably and they don't have a narrowbody with the range to fly HEL-CLT. But even if Finnair was still offering a huge network of connections to Asia, I'm still not sure CLT makes sense for them. There's not a ton of demand from CLT to Asia anyway. Plus, the joint business agreement with AA only covers Europe so AA would most likely prefer to route their passengers via their own metal from DFW or with JAL through Tokyo (who they also have a joint business agreement with that does cover Asia) and would therefore push bookings away from the Finnair connection(s).

Regarding Stockholm, CLT-LHR-ARN is only 11 miles longer than CLT-HEL-ARN. Which is a moot point anyway because Finnair operates a non-stop JFK-ARN which is better than any connection over a European hub. As long as Asia remains a challenge for Finnair (and SAS remians in crisis), I'd expect more nonstops from ARN to major North American cities rather than attempts of HEL to secondary and more distant cities like CLT.

I'm not really sure what Finnair's Asia network has to do with CLT as the North American market was never their target market for their Asian flights…Western Europe was. No one in their right mind would fly say USA-HEL-Asia when an abundance of nonstop flights exist (well existed pre-pandemic) to Asia from the US. The only Asian markets where a connection in Helsinki would geographically make sense would be to India or Southeast Asia, but I don't recall their Southeast Asian flights being timed for US connections. Most of their US flights land in Helsinki in the span between 10am and 11am, and their flights to Bangkok and Singapore depart at 00:00 midnight. 

I think you are overlooking that the key part of a hypothetical Finnair HEL-CLT flight wouldn't just be about onward connections in Helsinki for US travelers, but rather onward connections in Charlotte for European originating travelers. They recently launched Seattle earlier this year, instead of resuming San Francisco which was discontinued during the pandemic, despite San Francisco having a higher number of passengers daily each way (PDEW) to Helsinki…the flight could easily survive without onward connections (as it did before). My point is, the only reason they added Seattle is to take advantage of onward Oneworld connections with Alaska. Outside of London and Munich (and maybe Frankfurt), no airline would be able to profitably maintain widebody service from Charlotte to Europe without connections.

From what I have seen (and I could be wrong), their Stockholm flights outside of Bangkok/Miami haven't been performing that well, and are simply a stopgap measure due to the excess slack in the fleet because of their lack of Asia flying at present. 

Personally, if I was traveling somewhere in Eastern/Central Europe, I would strongly consider going with Finnair via Helsinki over BA/LHR or Iberia/MAD simply because the mess associated with LHR and MAD...even before the pandemic. The endless and unnecessary lines and multiple checkpoints at the Flight Connections Centre in Heathrow, plus their shuttle busses leave much to be desired. IIRC, no other major European airport forces all connecting passengers arriving from the US or a "sterile" country (a country where the security screening is accepted by the EU) to clear security before connecting.  

In any case, I am not saying it is likely or anything, but rather something I was thinking about. 

Edited by LKN704
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While I would welcome Finnair to CLT I can't see a OneWorld partner joining AA at CLT vs PHL or JFK until B/C expansion is complete and even then I have my doubts that AA even attempts to position CLT as a TATL hub. Finnair would need to dedicate two wide-bodies into a market that isn't historically strong for O/D. Their smallest widebody is the A332 so you're needing to fill ~550 seats a day between CLT-HEL. Not impossible but not easy either. Maybe if SAS really tanks hard they can be the Nordic hub.

At the end of the day CLT is a domestic hub for better or worse but I would welcome AA minimizing LHR. 

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16 hours ago, LKN704 said:

I'm not really sure what Finnair's Asia network has to do with CLT as the North American market was never their target market for their Asian flights…

True, but the Asia network would've been really the only unique selling point of HEL for CLT imo. Any connections within Europe can be done more efficiently and conveniently over other hubs, and in most cases with more flight options to choose from. It's a really long flight to dedicate widebodies to just to duplicate existing service.

16 hours ago, LKN704 said:

but rather onward connections in Charlotte for European originating travelers.

And nearly all of those connections exist already with the same or less stops from other European hubs and most US destinations can be reached by more northern US hubs with existing service. Adding ARN/CPH-ORD/IAD/YYZ/BOS/etc strikes me as a better use of their planes.

Admittedly it would be cool to have them here. Would be nice to have more than just one Lufthansa flight from international airlines. It does get boring seeing only AA's flag tails at the terminal.

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I was departing Mexico City years ago and the Concorde was next to our plane. It was exciting to see so close from our  gate and then our seat, and the fueling and loading process. At that time, 1980-something it looked to be a creature from far into the future.

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