Issue No. 835

Is Premium Leisure the Next Big Thing?

Delta Kicks Off the September Quarter Earnings Season

Pushing Back: Inside the Issue

Delta opened the third-quarter earnings season with confidence. After posting its first quarterly profit sans government aid since early 2020, the airline is looking to a year-end holiday bump and then a pick up in business travel in the new year. But CEO Ed Bastian also pointed out a new emerging trend: premium leisure travel. An increasing number of holidaygoers are willing to pay extra for the premium seats — whether it's premium economy or business class — made available by the dearth of corporate roadwarriors who normally buy up the inventory. Delta bets the trend will continue and is investing in adding more such seats to its planes.

But while Delta was guardedly optimistic, Southwest spent the week apologizing. The airline had what some called a "burnout" when it cancelled nearly 2,000 flights over the three-day Indigenous Peoples' Day holiday weekend in the U.S. The issue was staffing, plain and simple, and not a rumored pilot sickout in response to Southwest's federal Covid-19 vaccine mandate that was popularized on social media. Southwest is the latest to join the growing list of U.S. carriers, including American, Delta and Spirit, that have faced staffing-related operational snafus as they ramp up their schedules.

Elsewhere, United has gotten ahead of the FAA by beginning modifications to its Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s in the hope of returning the jets to revenue service when the regulator issues its air worthiness directive. Etihad, Qantas and Volaris all raised recovery funds, and deliveries picked up at Airbus and Boeing in the third quarter.

The Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast

This week in the Lounge, Madhu and Ned breakdown Delta’s third-quarter earnings, and take bets on whether premium leisure is the travel trend of the future that CEO Ed Bastian thinks it is. Also, Southwest burns out and United wants its Pratt & Whitney-powered 777s back for what could be a blockbuster Summer 2022 across the North Atlantic. Find out in this week's episode. A new episode of the Lounge drops every week, and you can find the full archive here.

Weekly Skies

Delta Air Lines leadership believes the way people travel has undergone a "structural" change as more leisure passengers opt to fly in the front of the aircraft. The Atlanta-based carrier is now planning to fly more premium seats as it…


United Airlines has begun modifications to its fleet of Boeing 777s with Pratt & Whitney 4000-family engines that have been grounded since an engine failure over Denver in February.

State of the Unions

As last week went on, Southwest Airlines began to climb out an operational meltdown that started during the Indigenous Peoples' Day weekend, after cancelling close to 2,000 flights in a three-day period starting. The carrier said a combination of bad…

Routes and Networks

United Airlines is making a bet on the next big leisure destinations across the Atlantic. The Star Alliance carrier will add five new destinations — Amman, Jordan; Bergen, Norway; Azores, Portugal; and Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife, Spain — plus…

Sky Money

Etihad Airways has closed a $1.2 billion loan linked to its environmental, social and governance targets. The financing, which Etihad touts as the "first sustainability-linked" loan in global aviation, is tied to its carbon emission reduction targets, socioeconomic programs including…

Landing Strip

United Airlines and the operator of Washington Dulles International Airport are in talks over a potential multi-billion dollar upgrade that could see the airport’s widely derided Concourse C/D finally replaced.