I’m still catching up after vacation

Back to work. What interesting things happened while I was gone?

1. The news of a large potential airplane purchase by American Airlines broke while I was on vacation. Although Bloomberg News in mid-June broke a story out of the Paris Air Show that American was seriously kicking the tires, the Wall Street Journal expanded on it greatly.

When and if a major deal comes through, it might very well be tied to a tentative agreement with pilots. There’s no agreement until there is an agreement, but word is that management and union negotiations have made a lot of progress.

2. United Continental is keeping the name of United Airlines’ frequent flier program, Mileage Plus, rather than Continental’s OnePass. OnePass will cease to be as of Dec. 31, 2011.

That would make sense. Mileage Plus had more than 58 million members as of Dec. 31, 2010, to 41 million in Continental. We’ll see how generous the new combined Mileage Plus will be when 2012 rolls around.

3. Loads were down for Delta Air Lines, United Continental and American Airlines in June. Delta and United traffic was down. American’s traffic was up, but not as much as its capacity.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines reported capacity of more than 1 billion available seat miles in June. It hit that mark for the first time in its history in May.

Southwest Airlines and US Airways reported record loads in June. Southwest filled 83.5 percent of its seats in June, beating the old June record of 82.1 percent, set in 2007. Southwest has set monthly records for its loads for 23 of the past 24 months. US Airways’ loads hit 87.1 percent, up 0.2 points from the previous June.

4. A federal mediator set down with American Airlines and the Transport Workers Union on June 28-30 for talks covering fleet service clerks and other ground workers. That was their first negotiations since May 28, 2010. (I’m not including separate status conferences that an NMB mediator held with American and TWU in April.)

The TWU team had agreed to a tentative agreement in the 2010 talks, but pulled back shortly afterward and never sent the deal to members. The NMB must not have liked that, seeing that there were no more mediation sessions for 13 months.

5. The market value of AMR stock fell below that of JetBlue Airways for a while. Right now, the two are neck and neck: AMR’s shares were worth $1.77 billion as of Monday’s close, while JetBlue’s were worth $1.74 billion.

Not so long ago, Alaska Air Group’s market capitalization passed that of AMR, and kept pulling ahead. As of Monday’s close, Alaska’s market cap sat at $2.43 billion.

Regardless, AMR’s market cap is still ahead of US Airways, the bottom among major U.S. carriers at $1.3 billion.

6. Southwest Airlines usually reports its quarterly financial results around the third Thursday of the month following the end of a quarter. In July, that would be July 21, if the past dictated the future.

However, Southwest won’t report Q2 2011 financial results until Aug. 4. Among other factors, I think the issue of AirTran Holdings is complicating matters.

Southwest closed its purchase of AirTran on May 2, one third of the way through the second quarter.

I’m guessing we’ll hear the words “pro forma” more than once on the Southwest earnings call.

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