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Did ValuJet Crash Hurt DL More Than ValuJet?  
User currently offlineMijoatlanta From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 55 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 4846 times:

After reading DeltaMD90 post about DL and FL being friends, it got me motivated to start a thread about an issue I have thought about for the last couple of years. (read past posts if curious....i am open about my biases)

Before Critter's horriblle tragedy in the Everglades, ValuJet's success story was almost unprecedented (save Southwest, but still not really comparable....conservative, slow, focused growth, etc) In any case, ValuJet's story not only threatened Delta's monopolisitic hold over Atlanta, but in my opinion, was emerging as a game changer for the entire domestic industry. Even before the crash they had already ordered new planes and had or were about to enter key business markets like LGA). They had as AirTran still has many detractors, but they were a great force and fear of US domestics whether they wanted to admit it or not. ValuJet's control on pricing was phenomenal and even if the major's price-matching was called predatory by some, it still proves the point the majors were responding diligently.

The crash changed everything. Trust in the safety of discounters plummetted and for awhile, the new AirTran and others like them seemed to no longer pose the previous threat they had on pricing and market share. Had the crash not occurred, these times are when I think Delta could and would have made serious structural changes to their organization while oil was cheap and the economy was humming. Instead, they "discounted" AirTran, and years later, just when it mattered most, Delta was forced into bankruptcy, and joined the major's bandwagon to deemphasize domestic routes in favor of supposedly more profitable intl ones (of course, that mindset is changing) Yes, I have skipped key historic events including Sep 11 and today's completely unpredictable economic crisis, but the point is VaulJet's crash gave Delta a short-term break from dealing with the discounting trend at a time when discounters were still a niche. By the time the discounters held such a large share of domestic traffic, oil prices suddenly became the force for change.

Looking at that 10 year gap...approx 1996-2006, imagine the competitive landscape today had ValuJet's growth gone unabated and YES, safe during that period. It's unimaginable Delta would have not responded. It just seems to me that in certain ways, the crash hurt Delta more than anyone would have thought that beautiful May 11th Mother's Day weekend. It just took awhile for them to figure it all out when they may have been forced to compete effectively several years earlier.

R.I.P. to the victims....and hey guys, I hardly ever post on this site....just read religioulsy. Call me on my errors or your disagreements, but please cut me some slack and play nice!!!  Smile

13 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineCody From United States of America, joined May 1999, 1932 posts, RR: 9
Reply 1, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 4608 times:

This is an excellent and well-thought-out post. I agree with everything you say.....what more can I add? Isn't it something how the most horriic events can have an outcome that would almost seem impossible?

I often wonder what would have happened at IAD and the same scenario you listed above with United. One of my first jobs out of h.s was with them as an agent there. To this day it was the most exciting thing I have experienced to see new destinations pop-up from our little "focus city." YUL, every Florida city served from ATL, BOS, CMH, MDW, BDL, MSY, RDU, ATL, ....can't recall anymore. I believe at the peak ValuJet was just under 50 flights a day at IAD. After 592, and the shut-down, all routes with the exception of ATL, MDW, and BOS were ended.

ValuJet was indeed serving LGA when 592 happened. All flights went to ATL, mostly served with the newly added MD-80 "Super Critters." I was told by a "higher-up" that the next destinations to be added were going to be LAS and LIT.

Today when I see line-up of AirTran 717's and 737's I try to imagine them with ValuJet paint scheme.


User currently offlineContrails From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 1833 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 4471 times:

This is a very thought-provoking post. This is the kind of post I love. I'd like to see more of them. However, I have a problem with the reasoning used here.

You base your theory on ValuJet's growth going unabated. In fact, there's no way to predict what would have happened had the crash not happened. The carrier might have prospered, and it might not have. An argument could be made, imo, that either a crash or a downfall was coming. I heard stories about their maintenance problems well before the crash happened, stories that caused me to decide to avoid the airline at all costs. Even if there weren't a crash, the airline could have drowned in a sea of debt, caused by expanding too rapidly (a la Braniff).

What if ValuJet had prospered? How would that have affected DL? What would the airline industry look like today? We also have to factor in the increase in fuel prices, the economic environment, the downsizing of the airline industry, and a hundred other factors. The reality is that the permutations of what could have happened are too complex to be predicted by any human being.

Ironically, the DC-9 in the crash used to be owned by DL. It's a strange world.



Flying Colors Forever!
User currently offlineAtlwest1 From United States of America, joined Jan 2009, 1046 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 4448 times:

Just wanted to say that the crash was not the fault of Valujet. You can believe those crews worked valiently and hard to save the plane and the passengers. The company that emerged from that tragedy is a company that learned alot and is better then it was. Having said that I think they would have been hemmed in here in ATL due to space, I think what you would have seen would have been probably a definite defined second hub somewhere, though even that isnt that far from reality im sure.


ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co. or Airt
User currently offlineDeltaMD90 From United States of America, joined Apr 2008, 7832 posts, RR: 52
Reply 4, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 4413 times:



Quoting Atlwest1 (Reply 4):
Just wanted to say that the crash was not the fault of Valujet.

Wasn't it though? The fault of the maintenance portion of Valujet? I think officially the blame was in part on Valujet and another company that put the oxygen tanks on board.

Quoting Contrails (Reply 3):
You base your theory on ValuJet's growth going unabated. In fact, there's no way to predict what would have happened had the crash not happened.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a time where Valujet was having up to 1 emergency landing every other day and was threatened to be grounded by the FAA? I forgot my source... I think it was airchive.com.

Nevertheless Valujet wasn't doing too well. I still remember going to the airport as a kid, and despite my dad working for DL, my "second favorite airline" was the aircraft with the dolphin on it (yeah I know I was a dumb kid I thought Valujet's cute little plane logo was a dolphin)



Ironically I have never flown a Delta MD-90 :)
User currently offlineMKENut From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 699 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 4322 times:



Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 5):
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a time where Valujet was having up to 1 emergency landing every other day and was threatened to be grounded by the FAA? I forgot my source... I think it was airchive.com.

Back then I lived in the Ft. Lauderdale area and I remember seeing on the news or reading in the paper the problems with Valujet's safety record. I think the FAA was fining Valujet for one thing or another. When the crash happened and they were looking for the plane in the Everglades I have to admit, I wasn't surprised it was Valujet. I was shocked that they found very little debris or survivors. It was a sad day for sure.


User currently offlineAccess-Air From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1939 posts, RR: 13
Reply 6, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 4234 times:

Well it should have......The Valujet DC9 that went down was a former Delta Air Lines Plane...N1281L......I think that I heard at one point that CNN reported that the plane was a former Eastern aircraft.....BS!!!!!!!!!!
I always wondered why Delta would even think of equipping a potential competing carrier with their cast off DC9-30s. That is unless these planes were bought from a third party that had bought them from Delta after phase out..

Interesting to note that "Critter" was the first airline to initiate this present day madness we call ticketless travel!!!!!!!!
What a legacy to leave....

Access-Air



Remember, Wherever you go, there you are!!!!
User currently offlineAtomsareenough From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 566 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 4124 times:



Quoting Contrails (Reply 3):
Ironically, the DC-9 in the crash used to be owned by DL. It's a strange world.

In the context of the thread, I'd say it was coincidental, perhaps, but I fail to see the irony.


User currently offlineWjcandee From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 5134 posts, RR: 22
Reply 8, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 4089 times:



Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 5):
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a time where Valujet was having up to 1 emergency landing every other day and was threatened to be grounded by the FAA?

Wrong. It was nowhere near the mess that popular media have said it was.


User currently offlineDeltaMD90 From United States of America, joined Apr 2008, 7832 posts, RR: 52
Reply 9, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 4044 times:



Quoting Wjcandee (Reply 8):

Wrong. It was nowhere near the mess that popular media have said it was.

For some reason, that doesn't surprise me. Oh the media... so many problems they create in the name of ratings



Ironically I have never flown a Delta MD-90 :)
User currently offlineDeltaflyertoo From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 1644 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 3979 times:

I disagree, not sure Delta would have made the appropriate changes had Valujet survived. Valujet was already well into economies of scale before the crash, and, DL was showing no signs of making any competitive response. Also I belive that DL and UAL/AA are all one of the same when it comes to lcc response. I.E. for years before ATL United was fighting SW with really poor strategies (I'm sorry but SHuttle was just pointless, esp. when you were using crews that were already unionized and coming from UAL mainline, where was the costs savings???"

As for Valujet, I remember vivdly that time period, I was so intrigued with all of it, I would seek out the business weeks that came out every week, wall street journal articles, Aviation weeks, etc. At that point, the only time the industry had seen an upstar spread like wildfire was Peopleexpress. Was Valujet heading for the same fate? There were many paralllels. The plane that went down being an old DL plane aside, Valujet was on a WORLDWIDE shopping spree for spare DC9s. THey were at that point getting them from places like Africa, Eastern EUrope, etc,...it was no secret that the interiors were often beat up and not consistent for one a/c from the next.

Valujet was also heading a little in the Braniff directiion as well in the sense that there wasn't a lot of frequency on a lot of hte routes it was opening. A lot of stations saw one or 2 flights a day. In the end would this model have held up? Maybe, maybe not. Also fast forward today, had the crash not happened, their labor costs would be significanlty higher. They'd be probably paying for newer planes, it would be tough to say how profitable they could be.

Finally, the US industry, when the recession is over, is going to be RIPE for another Valujet. WN officially is approaching the highest labor costs of any carrier and has largely lost its low fare appeal. Add to that like the 90s there is now going to be a glut of middle aged, very proven aircraft (all those United 737s? US 737s? Godforbid a legacy goes under, maybe hundreds of AIrbuses?) Buy a group of those, get cute name, hire dirt cheap crews and get some slots in a busy market with introductory $19 one way fares and I predict its Valujet/PE all over again, at least for a couple of years,  Smile


User currently offlineQuickmover From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 2490 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 3917 times:



Quoting Deltaflyertoo (Reply 10):
Valujet was on a WORLDWIDE shopping spree for spare DC9s. THey were at that point getting them from places like Africa, Eastern EUrope, etc

Valujet was far more aggressive than Airtran. Another interesting topic might be how WN would handled a larger Valujet. WN has grown alot since 592 in 1996. I wonder how many markets Valujet would have limited WN growth in. How would Valujet have handled ATA or Midwest aquisitions?
I believe at the end, they were starting to look more for higher capacity MD 80s instead of DC9s, not sure how many they had, but I think barring the crash, they would have focused more on the MD80.

Not to mention the original 717 order (or MD95 at the time) was placed by Valujet. I wonder if they would have ever ordered new MD80s like TWA did. Perhaps the MD95 would have retired some of the older DC9s.


User currently offlinePHLBOS From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 7511 posts, RR: 24
Reply 12, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 3881 times:



Quoting Deltaflyertoo (Reply 10):
Buy a group of those, get cute name, hire dirt cheap crews and get some slots in a busy market with introductory $19 one way fares and I predict its Valujet/PE all over again, at least for a couple of years,

Other than the purchasing (actually leasing) of used planes, the above sounds a bit like the short-lived SkyBus and/or the present NKBig grin

Quoting Quickmover (Reply 11):
Not to mention the original 717 order (or MD95 at the time) was placed by Valujet.

It was still known as the MD-95 when J7 placed the order on Oct. 19, 1995 (my 30th b-day BTW).  Smile

Quoting Quickmover (Reply 11):
Perhaps the MD95 would have retired some of the older DC9s.

 checkmark  The intent of the MD-95/717 ordered by J7/FL was indeed to replace the DC-9s.



"TransEastern! You'll feel like you've never left the ground because we treat you like dirt!" SNL Parady ad circa 1981
User currently offlineAvConsultant From United States of America, joined Feb 2006, 1360 posts, RR: 3
Reply 13, posted (5 years 1 month 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 3723 times:



Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 4):
Wasn't it though? The fault of the maintenance portion of Valujet? I think officially the blame was in part on Valujet and another company that put the oxygen tanks on board.

The other company was Saber Tech, who is no longer in business. NTSB cast the largest blunt to the FAA. My employer, at the time, was recommended to ValuJet by the FAA National. The FAA is setup in 3 levels: National oversee's Regions who oversee Districts.

We were on-site making changes to the maintenance program and to our surprise, ValuJet initially had a perfect program. Some how the FAA gave ValuJet BAD advice. Districts are suppose to work with other districts, the ATL office never did. We found ourselves arguing with the FAA, eventually, by-passing the District & Regional Offices going straight to National. After the crash, there was a tremendous shake up in the ATL FSDO. The FAA Inspector General discovered the office was operating as a "good ole boy" network. Retirees from DL working in the Delta Certificate Management Office and former Eastern pilots and mechanics made up the Flight Standards District Office. Very incestuous.

I have often wondered if last years shake up in the FAA's Irving, TX District Office resembled the ATL office. The FAA has a number of safe guards in place today to prevent these occurrences.

Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 4):
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a time where Valujet was having up to 1 emergency landing every other day and was threatened to be grounded by the FAA?

NEVER!! Over hyping by the media. When we arrived in 1995, we had to provide a detailed report to National. We found the Cleveland Plain Dealer (newspaper) reprinting incidences. When the article is placed on the wire anyone can pick it up. For instance the 2nd & 3rd reprint of the over run in SAV, that particular tail number was in its C-check in Lake City, FL.

This became more than tedious and frustrating for us and ValuJet. We asked ValuJet's management why they did not take action. Everyone was too busy, there was low unemployment so they were challenged in filling positions. When these reprints occurred, the Principal Inspectors - Operations and Maintenance would show up in the office looking for answers. It was discovered, the FAA was not following the established protocols in communications. Meaning when an accident or incident occurs, the System Operations Control starts the communicaitons to key management members. High up in the chain is a call to the FAA. This lack of protocol by the FAA surfaced in the investigation of Flight 592 and the NASIP (National Air Safety Inspection Program). When the Inspectors had multiple reports on file for the same incidences with conflicting dates. Then cast blame on the media for creating confusion. Oh boy, it was a train wreck of ugliness all but admitting they did not use established protocol.

Quoting Access-Air (Reply 6):
always wondered why Delta would even think of equipping a potential competing carrier with their cast off DC9-30s. That is unless these planes were bought from a third party that had bought them from Delta after phase out..

DL replaced the DC-9's with MD-88's. In landing the deal, Douglas Aircraft Corporation (DAC) purchased the DC-9's from DL. ValuJet purchased the aircraft from DAC. Very common.

At one time, an Airbus subsidiary was the largest owner of 727's throughout the World.

Quoting Access-Air (Reply 6):
Interesting to note that "Critter" was the first airline to initiate this present day madness we call ticketless travel!!!!!!!!

Again in 1995, ValuJet asked that we attend a company orientation. We learned they issued a "confirmation number". I remember to this day many of us shaking our heads in disbelief that these innovations existed in a small airline in Georgia. I believe they told us, the idea originated from Morris Air out of SLC who was later purchased by SW.

Quoting Deltaflyertoo (Reply 10):
Valujet was also heading a little in the Braniff directiion as well in the sense that there wasn't a lot of frequency on a lot of hte routes it was opening. A lot of stations saw one or 2 flights a day. In the end would this model have held up? Maybe, maybe not

At that time, that was their success offering limited service. When you have two flights a day with +90% load factors most being the higher fares, this was the recipe for their success. Plus Braniff was a full service airline where ValuJet was cattle cars. Also, ValuJet operated a reduced schedule on Tuesday evenings, Wednesdays and Thursday mornings. We thought it was nuts because it was less traditional, but very successful. No since in flying when the demand was not there; besides Allegiant does the same thing today.


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