Daily Points: FAA MAX Review Reveals High Risk; Bamboo Airways Get First 787; JetBlue Expanding in Boston

Daily Points

An FAA internal review details a high risk of 737-MAX crashes after the Lion Air Crash. Bamboo Airways gets their first 787-9, and Air France orders ten A350-900s. JetBlue is expanding in Boston. Plus several good travel deals today.

FAA Review Reveals High Risk of 737 MAX Crashes

Photo: GARY HE/REUTERS

According to the WSJ, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decided to allow Boeing’s 737 MAX jet to keep flying after the first fatal crash, despite their conclusion that the plane could be one of the most dangerous without further design changes.

The internal analysis revealed that the MAX could have averaged one fatal crash every two or three years unless there were major fixes to the MACS flight-control system. 

FAA officials had major concerns about the MAX’s MCAS system after the first crash. But they permitted to the MAX to remain in service the understanding that Boeing would install a revised software code for the MCAS system, and that Boeing would brief airline crews about the possibility of a similar MCAS issue. 

Unfortunately, the second crash in Ethiopia happened within five months of the Lion Air crash. The pilots struggled to regain control of the aircraft as the MCAS system repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down until the eventual crash.

MAX planes have been grounded for over a year, but are expected to potentially return to service in the first quarter of 2020 if a fix to the MCAS system is approved. Boeing will also have to get approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, who is expected to have more stringent requirements to return the MAX to service.

Vietnamese Startup Bamboo Airways Takes Delivery of First 787-9

Vietnamese startup airline Bamboo Airways took delivery of its first Boeing 787-9. Bamboo Airways currently has about 21 aircraft, but is rapidly expanding with an order of 30 Boeing 787-9s and 50 Airbus A321neos.

This 787-9 features four first class suites, 24 lie-flat reverse herringbone business class seats, and 274 economy seats. Economy seats will have 31 inches of pitch, but 78 seats in the rear will slightly more room with 32 inches of pitch.

The airline will initially operate the 787 on domestic routes between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi and Da Nang, but will deploy the 787s on much longer routes to Asia, Europe, and the U.S. 

JetBlue Expanding in Boston

JetBlue announced expansion plans for its Boston hub. JetBlue will be adding more flights on the following routes from Boston:

  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
  • Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
  • Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
JetBlue is also expanding the shuttle service between Boston and New York-LGA to 10 daily round trips per day using Embraer 190 aircraft.

Travel News

  • A new Priority Pass lounge will be opening on January 8th at Palm Beach (PBI) airport. The Primeclass Lounge will open in Concourse A/B and will be 2,955 square feet. [TPG]
  • Southwest released their schedule for flights through August 10, 2020. Southwest prices are generally the cheapest at the end of the calendar. Southwest also added several new seasonal routes:
    • Atlanta to Charleston (SC), Panama City (FL), and Norfolk (VA)
    • Baltimore to Pensacola (FL) and Tulsa (OK)
    • Nashville to Portland (ME), San Juan (PR), and Portland (OR)
    • Houston-Hobby to Nassau, Bahamas
    • Kansas City (MO) to Charleston (SC) [only Saturdays]
  • Air France placed an order for an additional 10 Airbus A350-900s, bringing their total order up to 38 A350-900s. Air France is planning to use the A350 to replace their A380s that will be retired by the end of 2022. 
  • United is rolling out the ability for premium passengers to pre-order meals between 5 days and 24 hours before departure. Only a few routes are offered, but United will be expanding the service in the coming months. [TPG]
  • Air Canada’s A220-300 took its maiden flight yesterday. The aircraft will be configured with 12 business class seats and 125 economy seats. Air Canada plans to use the A220 on several Montreal and Toronto flights to the U.S. west coast.
  • Airline startup Starlux Airlines will start flying on January 23, 2020 with Airbus A321neo aircraft. The initial routes were outlined as Taipei to Da Nang, Macau, and Penang. 
  • Qantas is increasing the frequency of the Sydney to Dallas route from 6x to 7x per week on their Airbus A380. 
  • Qatar Airways signed an agreement for a 60% stake in Rwanda’s new Bugesera International Airport. The deal is projected to be around $780 million. It will be interesting to see the future strategy for this major investment. I think Qatar will likely to to establish a hub (or acquire RwandAir) for flights to southern Africa especially considering South African Airways is in bankruptcy.  [Simple Flying]
  • American Airlines is adding Truly Hard Seltzer on select flights starting January 1, 2020, and all flights by February 1, 2020.
  • El Al is testing non-stop services to Melbourne, Australia in April and May 2020 using a 787-9. [Flight Global]
  • Wizz Air is launching a low-cost carrier in Abu Dhabi, which is slightly bizarre considering Etihad Airways and Air Arabia announced in October they were forming a joint venture to create low-cost carrier in Abu Dhabi.

Deals and Points News

  • Alaska Airlines is offering a 20% discount for economy fares Monday to Thursday and a 10% discount for Friday to Sunday for travel booked by this Friday (December 13th) for travel between January 7, 2020, and March 4, 2020 using promo code IFLYALASKA. (February 13-23 is excluded)
  • KeyBank has a $200 bank bonus  for a single direct deposit of $500+ for AK, CO, CT, ID, IN, MA, ME, MI, NY, OH, OR, PA, UT, VT, or WA. [DOC]
  •  Alaska Airlines is having a points flash sale starting at 5,000 points + $6.00 one-way for flights booked by December 14, 2019, for travel between Janaury 7 and March 11, 2020.
  • Hyatt is offering 3,000 bonus points per paid stay at over 300 destinations form Small Luxury Hotels of the World. You must register between December 10, 2019, and January 31, 2020, for stays before March 2, 2020. 
  • Avianca is offering 40% off flights for their 100th birthday for today (December 12, 2019) only.
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