Tag Archives: Pinnacle Airlines

What’s In A Name?

On this rare Saturday post, I thought I’d follow up with the one I wrote about regional carrier Pinnacle Airlines back on May 7.  In that post, I talked about all the changes the airline was undergoing after emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  And now MinnPost.com reports the airline is going for a complete reboot by changing its name to Endeavor Air.  A new logo will be unveiled on June 26.

So now the transformation of Pinnacle is complete — new management, new parent, new headquarters and new name. Onward and upward!

The End Of An Era For Another Regional Airline

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A Pinnacle Airlines CRJ200. Photo courtesy of Caribb, via Flickr.

Regular readers know that I covered the regional airline industry worldwide from 1993 to 2001.  During that time, I had a front-row seat to regionals that grew from small airlines to behemoths that were publicly traded.  So I felt a little sad when I read in Aviation International News that Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines had emerged from bankruptcy and is now owned by Delta Air Lines.  And as part of the deal, the carrier is moving to the old Northwest Minneapolis hub.

When I started writing about Pinnacle, it was known as Express Airlines I, with hubs in Minneapolis and Memphis, based in Atlanta.  It was privately held and run by Mike Brady, who was pressured to sell the airline to Northwest in 1997.  It was taken over by Phil Trenary, formerly of Lone Star Airlines.

Trenary moved the operation to Memphis and oversaw a complete overhaul of the carrier’s fleet.  He also renamed the airline Pinnacle and gave it a totally new brand.  I was lucky enough to be there on the day the carrier took its first Bombardier CRJ200 regional jet, dubbed The Spirit of the Memphis Belle. It was a thrill to meet Col. Robert Morgan, captain of the original Boeing B17 Memphis Belle.  I also got a VIP tour of Graceland.

In 2000, I named Trenary regional airline executive of the year for 1999 in recognition of his rebuilding of Pinnacle.  Fast forward to 2011, when Trenary resigned two years after subsidiary Colgan Air had an aircraft crash outside of Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 49.  After that, the airline went into a slide, which led it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection April 1, 2012.

At its peak, Pinnacle had almost 300 aircraft in its fleet.  The new, post-bankruptcy airline will shed all of its 50-seat CRJs and operate 81 CRJ900s with two-class seating. So now, the airline lives to see another day, albeit at a shell of its former self, a pattern that I’m seeing way too much in the regional aviation sector.

 

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

  • Have you seen the April issue of Airline Passenger Experience magazine?  Editor Mary Kirby has been hitting it out of the park with great content, with stories on the science of aircraft boarding, the fun of onboard retail therapy and the ongoing debate on paid versus free WiFi.  Full disclosure — I have a ball writing a regular column for the magazine (this month, I review the food offerings in JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK Airport).
  • Former FlightGlobal reporter Jon Ostrower hit the ground running in his new gig as the aerospace beat reporter for the Wall Street Journal a day early, writing about how tornadoes in Wichita affected aircraft and aerospace manufacturers.
  • My flight instructor, Alyssa Miller, has a great job.  She spent this week writing for the AOPA Pilot Blog about a major photo shoot of the timed departure of 20 B-25 World War II bombers.
  • Was everyone else geeking out over the last “flight” of the space orbiter Discovery as it made its way to the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum yesterday?  I saw a lot of great photos, but the one shot by Steve Trimble of FlightGlobal (from his office in Old Town Alexandria, Va.) was by far the best I saw.
  • I know we all have to get paid, but one has to question the timing of Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines.  Weeks before the carrier filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection on April 2, its board gave two top executives healthy pay raises even as it was asking for employee paycuts, reports USA Today.  Maybe the raises were justified, but the timing was not good.
  • I had to take a flight out of my hometown BWI Airport on Saturday at the crack of dawn.  I was surprised at how crowded both security checkpoints were in Concourse A.  But I saw a small sign posting about a new security line on the baggage claim level.  I scooted down, and the line was practically empty.  I had a good laugh with four other folks who saw me leave and followed me downstairs.  So check and see if your airport has lower level security lines!

I’ll end this rant with the video clip, below.  Mary “Runway Girl” Kirby left FlightGlobal in December and Jon “Flightblogger” Ostrower left last week.  But I always enjoyed their videos from the major air shows.  So enjoy their last one, from the Paris Air Show in 2011.

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

  1. Last July, I flew to Chicago O’Hare to celebrate United Airlines passenger Tom Stuker flying his 10 millionth mile. My blog post on that event is here. During the event, United CEO Jeff Smisek presented Stuker with several gifts, including a Boeing 787 model. And in his remarks congratulating Stuker, Smisek made a not-so-subtle dig at Boeing over its delay in delivering the aircraft.  And now it seems the gloves are off.  The airline filed an SEC 10-K report that noted it was seeking damages for the aircraft’s delay, reports Aviation Week.
  2. Before filing for Chapter 11 in late November, American Airlines had been working hard to cut its labor costs.  In mid-November, the carrier’s  Allied Pilots Association rejected a contract, and less than two weeks later, the airline filed for bankruptcy protection in order to cut labor costs and slash debt.  American has already announced it was cutting 13,000 jobs; now management is warning its labor groups that it “needs concessions from its labor groups in a matter of weeks, not months, in order to emerge from Chapter 11 in the near term,” reports Reuters.
  3. Back in late August 1997, I flew down to Memphis to do some articles on Express Airlines II, now known as Pinnacle Airlines.  The company, which flew as Northwest Airlink, had been privately held, but was bought by Northwest Airlines. Its headquarters had just moved from Atlanta to Memphis, and then-CEO Phil Trenary, who had been brought in to take the airline to the next level, was optimistic about the future. Fast forward to now, where the airline is teetering on the edge of a Chapter 11 filing, reports the Commercial Appeal.  “Unless we have long-term agreements in place, the best way for us to improve our financial performance and ensure a viable future for our company may still be the court-supervised Chapter 11 process I explained earlier,” wrote CEO Sean Menke in a letter to Pinnacle’s employees.
  4. I want to thank Huffington Post for this story on why we really need to keep our cell phones off in flight.  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) wrote in a confidential report that was leaked to ABC News “that between 2003 and 2009 errant electronic signals caused 75 incidents of “possible electronic interference” on airplanes, 40 percent of which were attributed specifically cellphones.”
  5. I’m a big fan of KLM’s efforts to incorporate social media as a way to reach out to their customers.  When I flew the carrier from Washington Dulles to Geneva in May 2010, I sent out a tweet about watching movies on the flight. The airline tweeted back a link to their movie selection and continued to check on me via Twitter until the end of my flight.  But I’m not sure about this latest initiative, which allows passengers to use Facebook or LinkedIn profiles to help select their seatmate, reports the New York Times.

Last week I wrote two posts on Pinterest — one on how I’m using the boards to show off my love of travel and one on what travel-related Pinterest members you should be following.  Since the second post, some of my favorite aviation/travel folks have joined up.  They include:

 

Suing Over Turbulence? Really? Really?

I shook my head in amazement when I read this story — Turbulent flight lands in court — in the Houston Chronicle.  This story seems better suited to my Friday column, Strange But True Aviation News.

Long story short, Colleen O’Neal is suing Continental Airlines (who she bought her ticket from), United Airlines (Continental’s parent company) and Pinnacle Airlines (the airline that flew the turbulent flight) after experiencing severe turbulence during thunderstorms and tornadoes that were happening during her flight in October 2009.

I take issue with this lawsuit.  First and foremost, airlines cannot control weather.  And weather can change in an instant.  Once you’re up, the crew is responsible for making your flight as safe as possible, but they cannot change the weather.

I guess we’re all entitled to our day in court, but for the life of me, I don’t understand how it even got to this point.  So what am I missing here?