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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 3 - 17, 2005


Delta Dumps Song--Or Is Delta Abandoning Delta?
Suggesting that bankrupt Delta Air Lines is in chaos is a gentle understatement. It is hastily slashing its domestic network and piecing together a massive increase in international service next year. And the carrier's latest announcement--that it is abandoning Song, the airline's second failed attempt to launch a low-fare carrier--only adds to the chaos. According to Delta's public pronouncements last week, the current fleet of one-class Song jets--48 Boeing 757s that once flew two-class Delta service--will be reconfigured again. This time the planes, which have 199 coach seats equipped with seatback satellite-television service and 33 inches of legroom, will be reconfigured with 26 first-class seats and an as-yet undetermined number of coach chairs. Moreover, at least 50 other existing Delta aircraft will be outfitted with the mysterious new two-class configuration. But Delta did not say which aircraft would be converted, what the new first-class service will be like and whether any or all of the coach seats on the 100 or so rejiggered planes will retain Song's generous 33-inch pitch. Song goes out of business as a separate brand next May, but Delta didn't say where the 100 Song-like planes will fly, what the service will be called and how seats will be priced. Worst of all, when I asked one very highly placed Delta executive for more details this week, his answer was frightening: "I do not know the answers to your questions because we don't have the answers yet," he said. "We're making this up as we go along." Delta spent $65 million in 2003 to launch Song and probably burned through another $100 million trying to establish the brand and position it as an alternative to JetBlue and other discount airlines.

AirTran and JetBlue Expand While ATA Contracts
Two of the nation's most stable alternate carriers, AirTran and JetBlue, are about to embark on big expansions. But a third, bankrupt ATA, is shrinking rapidly. … Over at AirTran Airways, next week brings a slew of new routes: Richmond, Virginia-Orlando; Flint, Michigan-Fort Myers, Florida; and New York/LaGuardia-Sarasota, Florida. All the routes launch Tuesday (November 8). On the same day, AirTran launches service from Detroit. There will be flights to both Orlando and AirTran's Atlanta hub. And new service between Boston and Sarasota launches November 16. … JetBlue Airways rolls out its new EMB-190 planes on Tuesday. The aircraft, a cross between full-size and regional jets, are configured 2x2 with 32 inches of legroom at each seat. The plane's first route, Boston to New York/Kennedy, puts JetBlue in direct competition with the US Airways and Delta Shuttles between Logan and New York/LaGuardia. JetBlue will operate eight daily Boston-Kennedy flights with one-way fares as low as $40. Also launching Tuesday with EMB-190s: two daily flights between Boston and West Palm Beach. … ATA Airlines, however, is shrinking fast. The carrier announced this week that it is abandoning all service from its hometown of Indianapolis and is also dropping all flights to Denver and San Juan. The cuts are effective on January 10.

Flying's a Gamble, So Why Not Gamble for Fares?
Ryanair, the aggressive European discount airline that has been described as "Southwest without the frills," has a new idea: Free seats for everyone. Chief executive Michael O'Leary says he may introduce in-flight gambling in 2007 and that would allow him to give away all his seats. "Ultimately, entertainment is where the money is," O'Leary says. … Never mind: Northwest Airlines decided not to launch its Amsterdam to Bangalore, India, flights. The service was due to launch last weekend. … Speaking of Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport has opened a new facility specifically for low-fare airlines. Pier H has no passenger bridges, toilets, shops or food stalls. … North American travelers headed to the underserved Middle East now have a new option. Etihad Airways has launched three weekly flights from Toronto to its home base of Abu Dhabi via a connection in Brussels.

LA's Round Hotel With Closed Doors and a New Flag
One of the nation's most iconic buildings, the round, 16-story hotel tower at Sunset Boulevard and the San Diego Freeway in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, has closed. The 209-room property, most recently a Holiday Inn, will reopen in February as the Hotel Angeleno after a $12 million renovation. The property will be managed by Joie de Vivre, a respected, San Francisco-based boutique hotel company making its first foray out of the Bay Area. … Speaking of San Francisco, a 40-story St. Regis Hotel & Residences has opened on the corner of Third and Mission streets. The property has 214 guestrooms, 46 large suites and 102 private residences. … A 42-story Westin hotel has opened in Bellevue, Washington. The 337-room hotel has sweeping views of the Seattle skyline across Lake Washington.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Fare surfers take note: AirTran Airways has pulled its fares and seat inventory off Expedia.com. … American Airlines, which moved its international flights to Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth last week, has opened a 21,000-square-foot Admirals Club in the building. … United Airlines and Swiss International begin code-sharing on Wednesday (November 9). United will put its code on Swiss flights to Zurich from Los Angeles and Chicago/O'Hare. … Southwest Airlines continues to reallocate planes that once served New Orleans. Effective Saturday, November 12, Southwest will begin daily roundtrip flights between Las Vegas and both Oklahoma City and Providence, Rhode Island. The airline also announced that it will return to Denver on January 3. It will add flights to Chicago/Midway, Phoenix and Las Vegas. … The U.S. dollar, which has settled in at about $1.20 to the euro, is continuing to make gains against the British pound and the Japanese yen. As of the close of trading today, the pound had dropped to $1.77 and the dollar was buying more than 116 yen, a 20-month high.

Oh, Shut Up…
Part of what's wrong with the Big Six carriers and the nation's major airports is the consultants they use. Witness this from a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story on airport clubs: " 'Generally the clubs are very expensive to build, and for the most part, they're not a profit center,' said Pat Gleason, a former [Dallas/Fort Worth Airport] executive who is now vice president of the Center for Airport Management, an industry consultancy in Portland, Oregon. 'They break even or make a little bit of money.' " Has anyone told this fool that the Big Six hasn't made a profit from flying in more than six years, so if airport clubs "break even or make a little bit of money" that makes them a lot better investment than the airlines themselves?

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