Issue No. 750

The Decade Ahead

Pushing Back: Inside This Issue

Fasten your seatbelts. Fourth quarter earnings season starts this week, covering the period from October through December. As usual, Delta goes first, sure to unveil another strong set of results. One reason for the airline’s success: All the new technology it’s introducing, some of it on display at last week’s consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. Another reason for Delta’s success in 2019? Industry capacity shortages with MAXs unavailable to Southwest, American, and United.

It’s now 2020, and MAXs still aren’t flying. Boeing says test flights for recertification purposes should happen soon, one of the final steps before the FAA and its regulatory counterparts across the world sign off on letting the plane fly again. Boeing, though, now recommends that all MAX pilots undergo simulator training. That would add costs, complexity, and time to the process of re-introducing the plane. And it would negate one of the MAX’s key advantages relative to the A320 NEO—A320 pilots don’t need sim training when moving from CEOs to NEOs. In the meantime, Boeing’s preoccupation with the MAX crisis implies a diminishing likelihood of ever seeing the much-discussed new NMA plane that many airlines covet. 

Two of the world’s biggest MAX customers, Ryanair and Gol, badly need the MAX to achieve targeted cost efficiencies. But for now, both airlines are doing just fine without their new planes. Ryanair, for its part, said the winter holiday rush was stronger than expected, offsetting bruises incurred at its Niki affiliate. Ryanair thus raised its net profit forecast. Gol, meanwhile, told investors to expect extraordinarily high profit margins for Q4, with Q1 looking good too. But Q2? Not so good. Industry capacity, especially in Sao Paulo, will be up sharply. IAG’s Willie Walsh is the latest high-profile executive to announce retirement. Oil prices, to the industry’s relief, dropped after spiking a week earlier. The retreat came as U.S.-Iran tensions cooled a bit. But tragically in Iran, an accidental missile strike on a Ukrainian B737 killed all passengers and crewmembers aboard.


Right now, we’re concerned about the capacity coming in.

Gol’s CFO Richard Lark, expressing caution about yield trends next quarter, in contrast to favorable trends this quarter


  • Delta: Tuesday
  • United: Jan. 21 
  • American: Jan. 23 
  • Southwest: Jan. 23
  • JetBlue: Jan. 23 
  • Alaska: Jan. 28
  • Allegiant: Jan. 29
  • Wizz Air: Jan. 29
  • Ryanair: Feb. 3
  • Norwegian: Feb. 7
  • Finnair: Feb. 7
  • Air Canada: Feb. 18
  • Air France/KLM: Feb. 20
  • Qantas: Feb. 20
  • Virgin Australia: Feb. 26
  • Air New Zealand: Feb. 27
  • IAG: Feb. 28
  • Gol: Feb. 20
  • Aeroflot: Mar. 4
  • Azul: Mar. 12
  • Lufthansa: Mar. 20

Weekly Skies

Another week, another high-profile executive retirement. Latam’s Enrique Cueto is retiring. United’s Oscar Munoz is retiring. Tim Clark of Emirates, just two weeks ago, said he’ll retire this summer. And now Willie Walsh, mastermind of the IAG empire, says he…

Sky Money

Good news for Ryanair. The Christmas/New Year travel rush, it said, was stronger than expected, especially with respect to higher-yield, close-in bookings. The first four months of 2020, moreover, show stronger-than-expected forward bookings. As a result, the airline raised its…


The headlines about Boeing’s corporate culture keep getting worse. But efforts to get the B737 MAX flying again appear to be moving forward. Jeff Haber, a Boeing executive, spoke at Gol’s investor event in São Paulo last week, telling attendees…

Landing Strip

As first announced last February, joint venture partners American and British Airways are spending $344m to co-locate at New York JFK’s Terminal 8. The project, now underway, will add five widebody gates and four widebody hard stands. New baggage-handling systems,…

Routes and Networks

The distance from Miami to the northern coast of Colombia is not much greater than the distance from Miami to New York. Cities in Colombia’s interior, including the capital Bogota, are a bit a farther. But all are easily reachable…


Delta CEO Ed Bastian became the first airline chief to address CES, the annual tech-industry gathering better known for debuting innovative technologies, like rotating-screen TVs and robotic cats. Bastian’s keynote speech put Delta’s technological innovations in context for a tech-savvy…

Feature Story

In the year 2030, Alitalia will be the greatest airline on earth.