This will be an odd piece, for the focus will not be primarily on the subject matter of the story…a story about the vulnerability of United Airlines compared to Delta Air Lines…but about the author who seems to be Delta’s primary online cheerleader. Yes, this is a story about blogging, motives, ulterior motives, and Tim Dunn.
How Vulnerable Is United Airlines?…Or Is Something Else Going On?
I read as much as I can each day about the airline industry in particular and about travel in general. I sift through various news feeds in search of content for Live And Let’s Fly. Sometimes I skim. Last night, I was skimming a story on Seeking Alpha that caught my attention titled, United Airlines Is The Industry’s Most Vulnerable Player.
I began reading, where the author pointed out how labor and fuel costs are higher than previously forecast, concluding that United may be in for a rough patch ahead. The author also argued that United’s aircraft expansion program represents a “risky fleet strategy.”
But I quickly noticed there were a lot of mentions or contrasts with Delta in the story. For example:
Delta and United are the largest commercial users of jet fuel in the Northeast U.S., both of which have large hubs in the New York City area, while United also has a hub at Washington Dulles airport and Delta has a hub at Boston…United has long paid the most per gallon of the big four U.S. airlines, a reflection of the size of its operations in the Northeast U.S. and its lack of fuel hedging or cost reduction efforts such as Delta’s refinery.
United has not reached an agreement with its flight attendants on a new post-pandemic contract. Delta is the only one of the big 4 airlines that has hiked the pay of its flight attendants including adding pay during the boarding process for the first time; most U.S. airlines have not paid cockpit or cabin crew members during boarding or flight preparation but rather only when the aircraft door was closed.
Fair enough to compare Delta (the only non-unionized US network carrier) with United on this.
Delta changed the paradigm, which will particularly benefit junior flight attendants who often work shorter flights and spend more of their workday on the ground rather than in the air. American has made an offer to its flight attendant union that essentially matches Delta’s pay rates and major proposals including boarding pay and Delta’s higher profit-sharing formulae but the AAL flight attendants have not adopted the company proposal.
Ok. More Delta stuff. Then he talks about United in Latin America…by talking more about Delta.
Competitively, United faces a more challenging environment as Aeromexico and Latam, both Delta joint venture partners, rebuild following their restructurings under U.S. bankruptcy laws.
United has traditionally been the second-largest U.S. airline to Latin America, but Delta is likely to displace United as the two Latin carriers cooperate more closely with Delta and expand post-pandemic and post-restructuring.
No mention of Avianca-TACA, of which United owns a stake? Or Copa, which used to be owned by Continental Airlines and works very closely with United?
Ok, but let’s get back to United…or not:
The DOT has released profitability data by global region through the second quarter of 2023 for the four U.S. airlines that operate long haul international flights and United’s international strategies have not been near as successful as Delta’s in terms of profit generation.
The author argues that “UAL for years has been willing to settle for lower profits in exchange for larger size” and to make his points compares United with…Delta:
Delta was more profitable than United flying both to Latin America and across the Atlantic. United’s profit on the Pacific was just 10% larger than Delta even though United’s Pacific revenue was almost exactly twice as much as Delta.
Thus, the author concludes, “UAL could quickly move from being one of the airline industry’s darlings from a stock performance standpoint to one of its weakest players.”
And then I scrolled up to the top to see who wrote this story…and saw it was none other than Tim Dunn, the man who loves to spend his day making pro-Delta arguments across a number of Boarding Area blogs.
I took a look at some of his recent work for Seeking Alpha and that includes:
- Southwest Airlines Suffers Through Its Annus Horribilis
- Alaska Airlines Facing Industry Headwinds
- JetBlue Earnings Show A Company Without A Flight Plan
- United Airlines Q2 Earnings Preview: Growth Might Be A Miss
- American Airlines Restrategizes – Again
- American Airlines’ Labor Cost Increases Will Likely Bite
- Beware The Enthusiasm About United Airlines Stock
(there’s more…but you get the idea)
There were also these recent stories:
- Delta Air Lines Proves It Is A High-Quality Investment
- New Planes, Pilots And Partnerships To Fuel Delta Air Lines Profit Growth
- Delta Air Lines To Thrive With New Consumer Protections
Oh Tim, tell us what you really think!
My first thought was really that Dunn must own a lot of Delta stock in order to be such a vociferous Delta cheerleader, but an analyst disclosure at the end of each story states Dunn has “no stock, option or similar derivative position in any of the companies mentioned, and no plans to initiate any such positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.”
I do have to wonder if his spouse does…
And I don’t say that in a mean-spirited way. I quite enjoy Dunn’s commentary and the fact that he can always be counted on to put a positive spin on anything Delta-related. Sometimes he is spot on and sometimes he is simply entertaining. But it just doesn’t make sense to me. Some readers accuse me of being a United Airlines apologist for my extensive coverage of United, but I write about United a whole lot because I fly United a whole lot and on the whole I’d say my coverage of United skews fair. I hold no punches when it comes to the downsides of flying United Airlines, such as its premium cabin catering or the trajectory of MileagePlus. I wonder if Dunn ever actually flies Delta?
Folks, if I ever start sounding like Dunn when it comes to United, please let me know. Because Dunn seems intelligent enough, but his nonstop pro-Delta mantra (bordering on propaganda) makes me truly question his motives. I knew he loved commenting on blogs, but was not aware of his own platform to promote Delta’s cause.
I don’t like to make stories about people instead of issues, but Dunn has been such a force on Boarding Area that I cannot help but to wonder if there is something going on that we just are not aware of. Maybe he’s simply an ardent Delta fan and if so, Delta has got a great advocate in him. But the nonstop cheerleading does make me scratch my head.
I’m happy to talk about Dunn or we can talk about how vulnerable United is…