The Tactical Traveler
JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR OCTOBER 6 - OCTOBER 20, 2005
Bankruptcy Ballet: Delta Is Consolidating Flights
- Bankrupt Delta Is Consolidating Scheduled Flights
- An Expansion at O'Hare Is Approved, Then Blocked
- Hotels Around the World Continue to Change Flags
- Alternate Carriers Launch Flights to Sunny Climes
- Strike-Bound Northwest Slides in On-Time Ratings
- Eos Airlines Will Launch to London on October 18
- Quality Airline Service--at Least for Beer Drinkers
The exact magnitude of the contraction of Northwest and Delta airlines now that both are operating in bankruptcy is becoming clear. Based on information gleaned from public announcements, filings with bankruptcy courts and well-placed leaks from their respective headquarters, expect both airlines to fly schedules about 15 percent smaller by the end of the year. The situation is worse at Delta because the airline admitted this week that it is also arbitrarily consolidating scheduled flights with light passenger loads. Although Delta promises to give passengers two days notice of the selective and unannounced cancellations, it refused to say which types of flights are at risk or what the airline considered an unacceptable low load. But logic dictates that first and last flights of the day and midday service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are likely to have the lightest loads. So book accordingly--and don't assume Delta will actually be giving you the notice it promises.
An O'Hare Expansion Lasts Less Than a Day
A controversial, $7.25 billion expansion plan for Chicago/O'Hare got the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last Friday (October 2), then was quickly halted by a Federal court. In obtaining a temporary stay, opponents of the expansion argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington that neither the FAA nor the city of Chicago has a practical funding plan for the project. Also at issue: the plan to demolish about 500 homes and 200 businesses as well as move 1,300 graves from the 150-year-old St. Johannes cemetery to make way for the 433-acre airport expansion.
British Airways customers using Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco airports can now get an online boarding pass from the BA.com Web site 23 hours before departure. BA says it hopes to expand the service to all its U.S. gateways by the end of November.
The mostly vacant Terminal E at Dallas-Fort Worth, which airport authorities hope will be a magnet for low-fare airlines, is getting a $15 million face-lift. Delta vacated the terminal when it shuttered its DFW hub last year.
An unexploded bomb from World War II is disrupting traffic at Amsterdam/Schipol. If you're scheduled to fly through Schipol in the next few days, check with your airline for an update.
American Airlines says the high price of jet fuel is forcing it to cancel 15 flights from its DFW and O'Hare hubs during the month of October. The airline is also permanently dumping its six-month-old route between O'Hare and Nagoya, Japan.
It's Time for More Flights to Sunny Climes
As the leaves begin to turn and the Upper Midwest digs out from its first snowstorm of the season, alternate airlines are gearing up for their new fall flights to sun destinations.
Southwest Airlines, for example, is adding new flights from Pittsburgh. On October 30, it adds a daily nonstop to Tampa. It launches daily Pittsburgh-Phoenix flights on November 22.
JetBlue Airways adds its second destination from New York/LaGuardia on November 17. It will begin three daily flights to West Palm Beach.
AirTran Airways begins flights to Fort Myers from Flint, Michigan, on November 8.
And Spirit Airlines is growing in the Caribbean, which is no surprise since it is now run by the cadre of former US Airways executives that launched US Airways' Caribbean expansion earlier this year. On November 10, Spirit will launch a daily flight between LaGuardia and Nassau, Bahamas; a daily Atlantic City-Tampa-Cancun flight; and daily flights from Orlando to both Fort Lauderdale and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
And while neither Boston nor Seattle can be considered sunny and warm at this time of year, JetBlue will begin a daily nonstop between the two cities on November 3.
Northwest Slides in DOT's Monthly On-Time Ratings
The Department of Transportation released its monthly on-time report on Monday and the results were not unexpected. The report covered August, the month that the Northwest Airlines mechanics strike began, and Northwest slid to 18th out of the 20 carriers submitting data. The airline's 67.2 percent on-time rating in August was the worst among the Big Six carriers and better than only AirTran Airways and the commuter carrier Atlantic Southeast. By comparison, Northwest registered an 81.2 percent on-time rating in August, 2004, which was good enough for fourth overall and second-best among the Big Six carriers.
The parent company of Air Canada is doing so well now that it has emerged from the Canadian version of Chapter 11 bankruptcy that management wants to return C$300 million to shareholders. Makes you wonder what the airline's employees and creditors, who both made huge concessions during the bankruptcy procedure, think about that redistribution of wealth.
United Airlines is adding $3 billion in debt to get out of bankruptcy. Rather than issue new stock, the company has retained its credit-card issuer, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Citibank to syndicate the loan. The six-year deal calls for United to pay 450 basis points (4.5 percent) above the London interbank offered rate (LIBOR), which is what banks charge each other for large loans. The LIBOR rate is currently about 4.5 percent. Experts claim that's a pretty good deal given the current state of Big Six carriers.
The Conversion and Rebranding Games Continue
Get that hotel scorecard out again because we've got another slew of changes to report.
Four Seasons has taken over management of the two luxury resorts on the secluded Hawaiian island of Lanai. The beachfront, 263-room Manele Bay Resort and the upcountry, 102-room Lodge at Koele were previously part of the Starwood Luxury Collection. But beware: The Manele Bay property is undergoing disruptive renovations and similar work is expected to begin next year at the Lodge. Check details before you book.
Doubletree has taken over the 316-room Ramada Plaza Suites in downtown Pittsburgh. The hotel is just about finished with an eight-month renovation project.
Kempinski is now managing The Commune, the 46-room boutique property near Beijing that is noted for its creative architecture and sweeping views of the Great Wall. But the property won't be a boutique hotel for long: 265 more rooms are being added.
Sheraton has opened a 145-room hotel in Salta, Argentina.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Eos Airlines, the all-first-class carrier that is planning service between New York/Kennedy and London/Stansted, is moving up its launch date. After several delays over the summer, the daily flights were scheduled to begin on November 1. Now flights will launch on October 18. Prices start at $5,000 roundtrip.
US Airways has closed its city ticket offices in Philadelphia and Winston-Salem. The ticket office in its Arlington headquarters will close on November 3.
American Airlines has matched the British Airways offer of 50,000-mile bonuses for a roundtrip flight in business or first class. Registration is required (the code is LON05) and the promotion is valid until December 31.
Two European carriers, TAP Air Portugal and bmi, say they will allow passengers to use their mobile phones in-flight next year. During the three-month tests, passengers will be permitted to use phones and other handheld wireless devices after aircraft reach 10,000 feet.
Well, As Least We Know the Beer Will Be Good
Alaska Airlines has cut a deal with Juneau-based Alaskan Brewing Company to use the company's award-winning flagship beer, Alaskan Amber, as part of the carrier's in-flight service. Alaskan's seasonal ales will also be available on Alaska Airlines. But here's the news: The beer and ales will be served from glass bottles because the brewer resisted Alaska Airlines' request for canned beer. The brewery insisted its beers needed to be kept in glass bottles to maintain quality and Alaska Airlines relented and found space on its service carts for the bottles. Imagine that
a decision based on quality concerns.
Copyright © 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.