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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JANUARY 27 TO FEBRUARY 10, 2005


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Delta is revising half its network; a new international arrivals building opens in Houston; ATA dumps its Indianapolis hub; Philadelphia taxpayers are underwriting US Airways; big changes at iconic hotels in New York, London and Miami; Hyatt Gold Passport adds Amerisuites; Starwood Preferred loses four hotels down under; and much more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Delta's Big Bang Explodes Next Week
Monday, January 31, is what Delta Air Lines insiders have been calling "big bang" day. More than half of the airline's network will be revised. That includes the closure of its Dallas/Fort Worth hub and the elimination of more than 230 flights. At the same time, Delta will redeploy the DFW flights and aircraft to its hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City. And, just for good measure, Delta will "de-peak" Atlanta, meaning that flights will arrive and depart throughout the day rather than in huge banks. I would suggest you plan accordingly on Monday and throughout the entire first week of the big bang.

AIRPORT REPORT: Houston Gets Its New International Arrivals Building
A new International Arrivals Building opened at Houston/Intercontinental (IAH) airport on Tuesday. The $440 million, three-level, 784,000-square-foor structure is linked to the existing Terminals D and E. It also features a transit lounge and a ticketing facility for Continental Airlines, the airport's hub carrier. Speaking of Houston, Southwest Airlines says it will pull out of IAH on April 2. Southwest flights to Houston/Hobby (HOU) will continue, however. And speaking of Southwest, the airline is getting prime space when it launches service to Pittsburgh in May. Southwest will be given gates on the A Concourse, which has been the exclusive province of US Airways. However, US Airways has downsized its Pittsburgh hub and has been renting most of its A Concourse gates on a month-to-month basis. ... A consolidated car-rental facility opened today (1/27) at Fort Lauderdale Airport. Brand-specific rental-car shuttles have been eliminated in favor of a single combined shuttle-bus operation for 10 rental firms.

ALTERNATE AGENDA: ATA Dumps Its Indianapolis Hub, Too
Bankrupt ATA Airlines is essentially closing its hub in Indianapolis. It will dump 50 flights and 19 routes, only retaining nonstop flights to Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando. Part of the massive cancellation is the airline's intra-Indiana service launched earlier this month. Flights to Gary, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, have also been shelved. The move from Indianapolis-based ATA comes a few weeks after it announced a code-share deal with Southwest to maintain most of its hub at Chicago/Midway. The ATA withdrawal from Indianapolis is due in part to a ferocious attack by Northwest, which has tripled service to 49 daily flights at Indianapolis in recent months. AirTran and Independence Air have also stepped up their Indianapolis flights lately.

ANNALS OF BANKRUPTCY: United's Losses Balloon Again
It's hard to underestimate the downward spiral that United Airlines is in. Now well into its third year of bankruptcy, United lost a staggering $235 million on operations in December. That's about $7.5 million a day. That's up from about $6 million a day in November. The airline posted an operating loss of $493 million for the entire fourth quarter. Attention Philadelphia taxpayers: Your tax dollars are at work propping up US Airways. The city-owned Philadelphia Airport, US Airways' primary hub, has cut a very cozy deal for the carrier. Not only has the airport authority agreed to wipe out $3.9 million in rental charges, but it also will give US Airways a $4.8 million credit toward other fees; a $522,000 reimbursement for security costs; and $500,000 worth of promotion for the airline's seasonal European flights from Philadelphia. And then there's this: The airport is paying US Airways $6 million to buy the airline's 30 jet bridges used to board passengers in the B and C Concourses. US Airways will lease back the bridges on a month-to-month basis. Quebecair Express has been grounded. The airline filed for the Canadian version of bankruptcy last April.

IN THE LOBBY: Big Changes at Iconic Hotels in New York, London and Miami
This has been an amazing week for changes at iconic hotels around the world. In New York, the new owner of The Plaza is closing the property by April 30. The 805-room hotel will be converted to condominiums, shops and a new, 150-room boutique hotel. The developer promises to maintain the hotel's famous public spaces such as the Oak Bar and the Palm Court. In London, The Savoy, which was recently sold, will now be managed by Fairmont, the Canadian company that has been managing the Plaza. The Savoy's new owner says the 263-room hotel will get a $50 million renovation. Meanwhile, the hotel's former management firm, inconveniently named The Savoy Group, has been renamed the Maybourne Hotel Group. Maybourne continues to manage three other well-known London properties: The Berkeley, Claridge's and The Connaught. And then there is the Fountainbleau, the largest hotel in Miami. The 920-room property, built in 1954 and designed by architect Morris Lapidus, has been sold to the company that built the Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura, Florida. Turnberry Associates says it will spend $150 million to restore the comma-shaped Fountainbleau, which is currently managed as a Hilton. Turnberry will open a new 462-condo tower at the hotel next month and begins construction on another condo tower in the spring.

MILES & POINTS: Gold Passport Expands, Priority Pass Doubles Up
AmeriSuites, the economy-hotel brand that Hyatt bought late last year, will join the Hyatt Gold Passport program on April 1. Speaking of Hyatt Gold Passport, the program eliminates bonus points for flying partner airlines on March 1. It has also dropped the three-night stay requirement on mid-week awards. Most airlines plying the U.S.-London routes have now matched the British Airways promotion that offers more than 40,000 bonus miles for each business-class and first-class roundtrip flown before April 30. Priority Club Rewards is offering double miles or points beginning with the second stay at any InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites or Candlewood Suites property. The promotion runs until April 30, but Priority Club members must register for the promotion. Starwood Preferred members take note: Sheraton has lost four hotels in Australia and New Zealand. The Sheratons in Melbourne and Auckland have been converted to Langham hotels and the Four Points in Port Macquarie has become a Rydges. And the Sheraton Brisbane will be converted to a Sofitel next week.

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
After being passed over twice when President Bush chose others to become Secretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson has resigned from the department's number-two post. But that's no loss. Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas, was one of the architects of the reviled and invasive CAPPS II passenger-screening system. America West says it now offers electronic interline ticketing with Northwest Airlines. Boeing says it will end production of the B-717 next year.

This column originally appeared at joesentme.com.

Copyright 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.