The Tactical Traveler
A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR SEPTEMBER 24 TO OCTOBER 9, 2003
BY JOE BRANCATELLI
In this report: Miami's hotel glut; JetBlue bails on CAPPS II; more food options and hotel rooms at the airport; two airlines yield on elite frequent-flyer rules; strikes planned on the Heathrow Express; a luxury bus plans service between New York and Boston; 'wisdom' from an airline CEO; and much more.
COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Dying at a Discount in Miami
The Four Seasons Miami opens on October 1, the first of another wave of new hotels that will engulf the already saturated Miami lodging market. The 221-room Four Seasons will open in a 70-story tower at 1435 Brickell Avenue, just
a few steps from 1301 Brickell, where the 203-room Conrad Miami will open in January as part of the new Estoril Santo Plaza. Both downtown hotels are close to the 300-room JW Marriott at 1109 Brickell, which is just a brisk walk from the Marriott Biscayne Bay and Marriott's Courtyard Downtown. Of course, the Mandarin Oriental Miami and the Sheraton Suites are on Brickell, too, and there are a slew of properties dotting nearby Biscayne Boulevard. Oh, and let's not forget the new Hyatt Regency Victor and the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, both set to open in December in the over-hoteled South Beach neighborhood just a few miles away. Are any of Miami's hotels doing any business? "We're dying and we're dying at rock-bottom rates," one glum Miami hotelier told me this week. "I think there are two rooms for every guest in this town." Which may explain why the Four Seasons is throwing in the third night free if you buy two nights at the $325 posted nightly rate. That's a big discount by Four Seasons standards, but you may do even better at the Mandarin or any of the zillion other good hotels in town.
ALTERNATE ARRANGEMENTS: JetBlue Bails on CAPPS II
Humiliated by the disclosure that it turned over millions of passenger records to a Defense Department contractor in violation of customer-privacy standards and its own published privacy policies, JetBlue Airways now says it will not help the Transportation Security Administration test the controversial CAPPS II passenger-screening program. The privacy violation has already led to at least one class-action suit against JetBlue and caused the airline to hire a high-profile consulting firm to help it strengthen its privacy procedures. ... Effective October 1, Midwest Airlines, formerly known as Midwest Express, is launching two new routes from its Milwaukee hub. There will be two roundtrips each weekday to both John Wayne/Orange County and Kansas City. The flights will use Boeing 717s configured with a 2x2 layout in coach. ... AirTran Airways is planning a massive increase in service this fall and winter. The first of the new routes begins October 4, with daily nonstop flights between Orlando and both Dallas/Fort Worth and Minneapolis/St. Paul. ... Southwest Airlines launches daily nonstop service between Las Vegas and Raleigh-Durham on October 5.
AIRPORT REPORT: More Food and More Hotels at the Airport
What are the watchwords at the airport these days? Food and hotels. Delta Air Lines, for example, is testing food sales at Delta Crown Rooms in Atlanta, Chicago/O'Hare and Tampa. And American Airlines says it is now testing at-the-gate food sales at New York/Kennedy airport. American says food sales will be tested until late October at the gates dedicated to Miami and St. Louis flights. ... A 525-room Hyatt Regency hotel has opened at Seoul Incheon International Airport and the 422-room Dorint Sofitel hotel has opened at Amsterdam/Schiphol airport. ... Watch out for this one: Workers on the nonstop Heathrow Express train that links London's Heathrow Airport with Paddington Station are planning a series of one-day strikes. The strikes are scheduled for 24-hour periods beginning October 3, October 10 and October 12.
MILES & POINTS: Continental Yields (a Bit) on Elite Rules
Continental's decision to limit One Pass elite-mileage credit next year on low-fare tickets raised such a firestorm of protest that the airline has backed off--but only a bit. Low-fare tickets will continue to accrue full elite credit in 2004, but only if you purchase the low fares at the Continental.com Web site. ... Delta announced this week that it was partially reversing an earlier decision that would have all but eliminated automatic upgrades for elite SkyMiles members. In a convoluted process that only an airline could create, Platinum Medallion and Medallion members will receive upgrades in 500-mile chunks based on the fares purchased. To be perfectly honest, the rules are nearly inexplicable, so you might want to examine the changes yourself.
INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Swiss Joins the Oneworld Alliance
Swiss International, the successor carrier to Swissair, is joining the Oneworld alliance on October 26. The financially strapped carrier is also striking a side deal with British Airways, one of the sponsors of Oneworld. Swiss will sell eight of its 14 slots at London's Heathrow Airport to BA in exchange for some financial assistance. ... Hawaii will be losing still more of its flights to Japan. Japan Airlines will drop its Sapporo-Honolulu route on October 1 and Northwest Airlines says it will cut its Osaka-Honolulu route on October 26. ... The Eurostar train will get even faster on September 28 when a 46-mile stretch of high-speed track opens in the British countryside. The new track should cut the travel time on the Eurostar to two hours and 35 minutes between London's Waterloo Station and the Gare du Nord Station in Paris.
VERBATIM: Mismanaging the Delta Way
Want to know what's wrong with the Big Six airlines? Leo Mullin, the terminally clueless chief executive of Delta Air Lines, offered a telling (if inadvertent) explanation during an interview with Cincinnati Enquirer aviation reporter James Pilcher. According to Mullin, the Big Six apparently believe customer service and financial results are somehow unrelated and mutually exclusive. "There's no question that in the last year, Delta's primary focus has been on our financial performance ... and what that did is take our eye off the customer service ball," he said. "It was something we had to do given the grave uncertainty and our commitment to avoid bankruptcy. Now that we have sufficiently removed the specter of bankruptcy, we've made the decision to really get back on track with our customer service."
THE PARTING SHOT: Bussing It to Boston and Back
Fed up with the Acela Express and the air shuttles between New York and Boston? Then LimoLiner may be for you. The company says it will begin a luxury-bus service between the two cities on October 1. The 28-seat buses will offer high-speed Internet access at each seat and 41 inches of legroom per passenger. The bus will also have a lavatory, galley and a conference room. The one-way ride is four hours door-to-door between Boston's Back Bay Hilton and the New York Hilton and Towers. One-way tickets will cost $69; four daily roundtrips are on the schedule.
This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.
Copyright © 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.