I find myself experiencing deja-vu as I sit down to write this entry. It honestly feels like I was just compiling the same post hours ago as part of my 2014 concluding rites. Now, here I am doing the same thing for 2015.
The strange part is, there have been so many changes that have occurred over the past 12 months, that I’m not even sure why it feels so familiar.
For starters, I’m writing this post from Texas, instead of Minnesota. I made the decision in June to leave Consulting after nearly 5 years and work directly for the industry. So, once again, I re-located for a new career. Moving back to Texas has had its benefits, primarily weather wise: trading in snowboots for cowboy boots has been a nice respite from the winter blues thus far. Being closer to family also has its perks. Culturally, however, you never really know who you’ve become until you’ve left a familiar territory. The environment down here, despite living and growing up in Dallas for the first 18 years of my life, is so different from the Midwest lumbersexual that I had grown into over the course of 10 years.
That in and of itself has been an exceptionally dramatic change.
Separately from work, a lot of personal changes have occurred as well. There have been some highs, as well as many lows over the past 12 months. I’ve been reticent about this on social media, but 2015 threw a lot of curveballs at me, perhaps even more than I’ve experienced during any other year to date. More on that later.
Last year, the aviation industry was jolted by several salient tragedies that knocked us to the ground after several years of relative tranquility as it pertains to air safety. The two Malaysia Airlines disasters as well as the AirAsia crash brought us to our senses.
Unfortunately, 2015 was not much better. The deliberate crash of Germanwings flight 9525 due to pilot suicide prompted aviation authorities in leading developed countries to implement procedures that require two authorized personnel in cockpits at all times. Then, the purported terrorism act which brought down MetroJet flight 9268 over the northern Sinai has led to a ban on flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. These two incidents alone resulted in 374 innocent deaths, both on Airbus A320 family planes.
The more gut-wrenching truth is, they were both preventable. Just like MH17 and MH370.
On that note, we were given some semblance of hope back in August that the mystery of MH370 would be solved when a 777 flaperon was found floating onto the shores of Saint Denis de la Reunion in the Indian Ocean. However, further details of uncovering any more debris, much less insightful details into the cause of the disappearance of MH370, stalled after that point, leading largely to the same, frustrating and inconclusive rut we were stuck in on December 31, 2014.
I still firmly believe the families affected by MH370, and to a lesser degree, MH17, are owed far more than what they have been given, and Malaysia as a country, its People, Government Aerospace Regulatory bodies and Malaysia Airlines, should all still be held highly accountable and not vindicated. Sadly, however, I still feel as though things will continue to be swept under the rug.
More broadly speaking, the somberness of 2015 transcended the aviation community. People are still rattled by the Paris attacks in November 2015, months after the deadly shootings at Charlie Hedbo in January. Against this, our daily newsfeeds have been tabled with a litany of sorrowful headlines, depicting the insidious acts committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon, Jundullah in Pakistan, Al-Shabaab in Somalia and ISIL/ISIS insurgencies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Lebanon.
Against this, however, there have also been some very positive news developments in 2015: marriage equality in the United States, acts of heroism from our troops serving overseas and unification in the event of tragedy.
2016 will be another challenging year as we face another set of crossroads, particularly with major events such as the U.S. Presidential Election in November and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, among other things. There is hope for progress and change, but there is no doubt that everyone seems to be on high alert, all the time. There have been some epic leadership failures and faux pas that have created factions and distrust across multiple industries and workforces. Those who participate, work and serve in the aviation and airline community undoubtedly will continue to be impacted by major events and movements.
Despite this, the heartbeat of aviation will go on. If there is any inspiration and lessons we can learn from the Paris attacks, it is that bravery and resilience triumphs fear and shame any day.
Most significant aviation events of 2015
2015 was a slightly different year than others: over the past several decades, particularly since the de-regulation era, we’ve become more accustomed to breaking news detailing the chronic ailment of the airline industry, watching airlines disappear overnight due to financial woes and poor management decisions.
However, when it comes to financial stability, 2015 was a relatively tranquil year. In fact, it was probably one of the most successful years in the history of aviation, all things considered, with fuel prices reaching record lows and airlines reaping the benefits of consolidation.
Some airlines continue to suffer, such as Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Thai Airways. Others have turned an incredible corner, such as IAG, Aer Lingus, Qantas, Air Canada and SAS. Others are hoping to follow in their footsteps in 2016, such as Malaysia Airlines, United and aerberlin. And finally, there are those who continue to crush it when it comes to customer satisfaction, margins and operations performance, such as Delta, Ryanair, Copa, Turkish, Air New Zealand and JAL.
But there were noteworthy things we experienced in 2015, and here were some of the high-level stories that caught our attention (in no particular ranking):
- Changes at United: first, former CEO Jeff Smisek was (finally) fired from his position, replaced by Oscar Munoz for 6 weeks, who suffered a heart attack, was placed on medical leave until January 2016 and Brett Hart served as acting CEO until his return next month
- This also doesn’t exclude the sudden departures of former United CFO John Rainey as well.
- The return of the stroopwafel also gained some notable attention.
- United, along with Delta, also announced plans to suspend its remaining services to the Middle East after losing a GSA contract to JetBlue
- Delta withdrew from India after nearly 20 years of serving Mumbai from Europe (through its metal and via merger partner Northwest)
American + US Airways
- The nearly flawless passenger services system (PSS) cutover from HP to Sabre, which of course officially retired US Airways as an airline in October 2015
- The re-bAAnking of American’s hubs at Chicago O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth
- American announced a deeper relationship was in the works to formulate a JV with Qantas, while also announcing that it would return to Oceania from its LAX hub to Sydney and Auckland while Qantas would recommence service to San Francisco
- Southwest enjoyed its first full calendar year free of Wright Amendment’s restrictions in Dallas, as well as kicked off celebrating its “Year of Houston” campaign with the opening of a new international facility at Hobby airport
- Air India’s foray into the US West Coast, creating the first ever nonstop link West of the Mississippi River to India.
- Air Canada’s return to India since 2007
Europe & Asia
- IAG’s acquisition of Aer Lingus, and former EI CEO Christoph Mueller’s jump to save Malaysia Airlines from another unsuccessful restructure program
- In that vein, Malaysia also unveiled an extensive codeshare agreement with Emirates, effectively tying up with the enemy and relinquishing the vast majority of its long-haul network to Europe, aside from London Heathrow
- Thai’s withdrawal of service to the U.S. after 35 years
- Montreal landed its first ever service to Asia, via Air China, with the added bonus of a rare 5th-freedom tag-on to Havana
- Porter Airlines’ overconfidence in receiving a runway extension at Toronto Billy Bishop airport was extinguished after the plan was rejected by authorities. This puts a huge dent in its plans to operate the Bombardier C-Series to longer-haul markets from YTZ.
- The bankruptcy of SkyMall’s parent company, Xhibit
- Livery changes that come to mind: Gol, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, Altalia
- I had a summer love affair with Spirit Airlines (shhh)
My aviation year in 2015, by the numbers
- Eight new airports: Seoul, Hong Kong, Doha, Panama City, Bocas del Toro, Buffalo, San Diego, Midland/Odessa
- Three new airlines: Asiana, Qatar Airways, Air Panama
- Two new aircrafts: Airbus A380 and Fokker 50
- Three new countries: South Korea, State of Qatar, Panama
- One voluntary denied boarding
Extending my thanks, and thoughts for a safe and happy new years
To conclude on a big of an emotional tone, I’d like to thank my readers, co-workers here at Upgrd, sponsors and most of all, our fearless leader, Mike Cargian, for the thankless work and support that you have provided into mentoring my growth as a blogger. Without you guys, this job isn’t half as fun, nor as fulfilling.
Among the UPGRD team, I am particularly grateful for Rocky, James, Matthew, Brad and Sriram for the contributions they are making each day to this team. We are all far-flung over the world, but as a group, everyone offers a rich individual perspective to protect the integrity of this blog and provide the most up-to-date information to our readers as often as possible. It is a daunting task at times, but rewarding. I know I can always count on each of them for providing constructive criticism, support, information, advice and intellectual debates, even in a pinch.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Most of the shadows in this world are caused by standing in our own sunshine.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
To put this in context, as I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, 2015 was a very challenging year for me. Unforseen challenges arose which, often times, felt like I had been kicked in the gut by the Universe. I had to surrender a lot of personal securities in order to embrace these changes as positively and constructively as possible. Despite hoping for better outcomes, the results were largely mixed. And, even though I consider myself a very positive person, there were times when I felt that I had exhausted every personal, professional and emotional resource left within me.
However, I was honest about this with people closest to me, and those same people continued to remind me that attitude the driver behind motivation, and ultimately, success. Sometimes, being humbled provides the best root for personal growth.
In other words, thank you again to those who have been there, and continue to be there, and provide the feedback and encouragement I need to be a better writer and person.
My goal in 2016 is to continue to support the team of amazing and talented bloggers here on Upgrd. There will also be changes in the subjects on which I write to keep to the beat with the other writers, and I continue to be inspired by what each of them bring to enrich the knowledge of our readers and fellow #AvGeeks.
Let’s hope for a good start to 2016. Best wishes for a safe and happy new year.
Auld Lang Syne