The Tactical Traveler
JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JUNE 2 - JUNE 16, 2005
AirTran and Delta Go to War in Richmond and Wichita
- AirTran and Delta Go to War in Wichita and Richmond
- Is a Strike 'Inevitable' at Northwest Airlines?
- A Merged America West-US Air Will Be 10% Smaller
- Giorgio Armani Is Starting a Hotel Chain
- United Plans a Big Shift at LAX Next Week
- Will a U.S. Airline Start Service to Africa?
- JetBlue and Spirit Expand in the Caribbean
The battle between the desperate Big Six carriers and the well-managed alternate airlines has two new fronts this week: Richmond, Virginia, and Wichita, Kansas. The players: AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines. Back in April, AirTran announced it would begin service in Richmond. Effective June 23, it launches daily flights to Atlanta and Philadelphia. Flights between Richmond and Orlando are due to start on November 8. That raised the hackles of Delta, which last week announced that it would do some nonstop flying from Richmond, too. Beginning July 1, its commuter affiliates will launch flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. They will then add service to Tampa on July 15. An even bigger battle is shaping up in Wichita, which lured AirTran in 2002 with a pledge of financial support. Since then, the city has paid AirTran almost $7 million to bring low-fare Atlanta and Orlando flights to the Wichita area. City officials claim the subsidy has saved Wichita travelers about $85 million. The payments enraged Delta, however, which demanded subsidies to maintain its 11 daily flights to Atlanta, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City. Despite pressure from the Federal Aviation Administration, however, Wichita has refused, claiming that subsidizing Delta would be like a shepherd feeding a wolf "so that the wolf can get bigger and stronger and slaughter more sheep." Delta hit back this week by announcing it would drop seven of its 11 Wichita flights.
United Plans a Big Shift at LAX Next Week
United Airlines is planning a big shift at Los Angeles next week. Starting June 7, the airline will consolidate all of its 104 mainline jet flights at Terminals 6 and 7. All of the 140 United Express departures at LAX will operate from Terminal 8. That eliminates the need to bus connecting customers from the remote terminal. The entire hub will also be "de-peaked," which means the 244 daily flights will operate throughout the day rather than be bunched into hourly "banks." The move should reduce passenger inconvenience and mishandled luggage and save United $1.4 million annually.
Seven airports in six cities face serious summer delays, according to the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation. Philadelphia, Washington/Dulles, Newark, New York/Kennedy and New York/LaGuardia, Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta are "the airports to watch," Kenneth Mead told a Senate Subcommittee last week.
United Dodges a Strike, but Northwest Is Now at Risk
United Airlines and its machinist unions came to a negotiated contract settlement on Tuesday (May 31), avoiding a possible strike because United wanted its bankruptcy court to impose new contract terms on the union.
Negotiations between not-yet-bankrupt Northwest Airlines and its mechanics unions are going badly, however. Northwest wants the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse, which could lead to a mandatory 30-day cooling off period and eventually to a mechanics strike. Needless to say, that is a radical step because the contract only became amendable on May 11. (Airline contracts technically never expire.) Northwest wants to eliminate more than half of its 5,300 mechanics and related positions and cut wages by 27.5 percent for the remaining employees. A union official said this week that he thought a strike was "inevitable."
The merger of America West and bankrupt US Airways would mean big cuts in the combined airlines' service. America West has already publicly committed to eliminate its remaining transcontinental flights from New York and Boston to Los Angeles. But details from the merger paperwork filed with the bankruptcy court indicate that the combined airline will be about 10 percent smaller. Most of the capacity cuts will come from US Airways' transcontinental flights from Charlotte and Philadelphia. About half the transcon flights will disappear as will about 60 aircraft from the two carriers' current fleet of 417 planes.
Also getting smaller: United Airlines, which has lost the lease on four Boeing 767s. As a result, the airline will drop Chicago/O'Hare-Buenos Aires flights.
You Know What They Say: The Clothes Make the Hotel
Fashion designer Giorgio Armani says he has cut a deal to open at least ten Armani hotels and resorts. The financing will come from a Dubai-based company. The first Armani is supposed to open in Dubai in 2008 followed by properties in Milan, London and New York.
The second Hotel Indigo, a new boutique brand from InterContinental Hotels, has opened in Chicago. The former Claridge Hotel has 165 rooms. The first Hotel Indigo opened to decidedly mixed reviews in Atlanta.
The Hyatt Regency Los Angeles (that's the one linked to the Macy's Plaza Mall) has become the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown.
In Fort Collins, Colorado, an $8 million renovation has turned the University Park Holiday Inn into the Hilton Fort Collins.
Howard Johnson hotels will offer free high-speed Internet access in all guest rooms by next March, the company says.
Back to Africa (Maybe)
North American Airlines says it will begin a weekly flight between New York/Kennedy and Accra, Ghana, on July 1. It would be the first service to sub-Saharan Africa by a U.S. flag airline in almost a decade. Good news? Absolutely. But there is some reason for doubt. North American, which currently flies to Hawaii from Oakland, was recently purchased by the parent company of World Airways. And World has flirted with Africa service before only to pull flights after just a few weeks or announce service and then never fly the routes. So take the Ghana news with a huge pinch of salt.
Air India says it will resume flights to Dhaka, Bangladesh, after a 30-year absence. Effective June 18, Air India will operate three weekly Boeing 777 flights on the Delhi-Dhaka-Kolkata-London route.
Lufthansa says it will launch five weekly flights between its Frankfurt hub and Algiers, Algeria, beginning July 15. Lufthansa hasn't operated that route for almost 15 years.
Spirit Airlines is adding new service from Florida to Jamaica and the Bahamas. Effective November 10 it will launch Fort Lauderdale-Montego Bay flights followed by Fort Lauderdale-Kingston flights on December 15. It will launch Orlando-Nassau service on November 10.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
JetBlue Airways launches daily flights between its New York-Kennedy hub and Ponce, Puerto Rico, on June 17. The daily service is in addition to JetBlue's six daily flights to San Juan and two daily flights to Aguadilla.
Northwest Airlines will no longer give out free peanuts or stock magazines on its flights. The airline says the cuts will save about $2.5 million annually.
United Airlines and Chase have introduced a new frequent-flyer credit card. The Mileage Plus Platinum Class Signature Visa has no cap on mileage accrual and double-mile earnings on purchases of United Airlines ticket, gasoline and groceries. Using the card also gets you 5,000 miles toward Mileage Plus Elite status. The annual fee is a hefty $140 a year.
SAS Scandinavian says Connexion high-speed Internet access is now available on all its flights to the United States and Asia.
Copyright © 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.