The Tactical Traveler
JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR JUNE 1 TO JUNE 15, 2006
The Irrational Exuberance Is Over at US Airways
- Merging Is Getting Hard to Do at the 'New' US Airways
- Vongerichten Creates Dining 'Concepts' for Starwood
- What's the World Cup in Germany Mean to You? Traffic
- Denver Juggles Gates for United and Frontier--Again
- Aer Lingus Will Drop Out of the Oneworld Alliance
- Surprise! The New Airport in Bangkok Is Delayed Again
The ever-credulous airline community went berserk last month when US Airways reported a first-quarter profit of $5 million. But as I warned you then, the small profit was a result of US Airways management harvesting the low-hanging fruits of the US Airways-America West merger and deferring the tough challenges. But now that the airline has attempted its first difficult tasks--a new Web site and a combined frequent flyer program--reality has set in. Fast. The Web site is plagued with serious glitches, including lost or mysteriously altered reservations. The new Dividend Miles program is being panned for everything from its sharply reduced fare-related and elite-level bonuses to a new policy of canceling "inactive" accounts after just 18 months. And more bad news is coming: After initially deciding not to sell a premium class on the airline's hastily acquired and ill-equipped domestic Boeing 757s, US Airways will be playing an ugly game of bait and switch on its new routes to Shannon, Lisbon and Glasgow. It will sell a $200 "first-class" upgrade, but passengers will get an inferior seat and a coach meal. And no flight attendant will be dedicated to the cabin. The airline won't get around to installing its Envoy business-class cabin on the planes until next year.
Comings, Goings and the Inevitable Reflaggings
Hilton has opened a 227-room hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Hilton in the Carillon Park business district is 15 minutes from Tampa International.
Meanwhile, Crowne Plaza replaces Hilton at the hotel that has most recently been known as the Hilton Philadelphia/Cherry Hill. The New Jersey hotel opened as a Hyatt in 1975.
Joie de Vivre, a well-regarded boutique-hotel company, has taken over two more properties in its hometown of San Francisco. The Radisson Miyako and the Best Western Miyako Inn are now in the fold. Don't expect either to maintain their brand affiliations for long.
Speaking of Radisson, it has lost the Waterfront Place hotel in Morgantown, West Virginia. The hotel now operates independently.
Superstar chef Jean-George Vongerichten has cut a deal with Starwood, which operates the Westin, W, Le Meridien and St. Regis hotel brands. Vongerichten will create "restaurant concepts" for Starwood hotels. Don't we all love dining at a "concept"?
There's This Thing Called the World Cup
Americans pay scant attention, but the largest and most popular sporting event on the planet, soccer's quadrennial World Cup, begins on June 9 in Germany. The month-long tournament will make traveling into and within Germany a lot more difficult than usual. Don't head anywhere in the country without a confirmed hotel and flight reservations. Flights will be especially tight in Munich, where preliminary rounds and the championship game will be contested.
And just in time for the World Cup crowds, a new central rail station has opened in Berlin. Built at a cost of about $850 million, the station is located in the former no-man's land between East and West Berlin, not far from Checkpoint Charlie.
Denver Will Juggle United and Frontier Again
The ongoing battle at Denver International between United and Frontier airlines has been settled--again. Frontier will now get six gates on Concourse A that United has been using for its low-fare Ted operation. United Express gets a new $41.5 million regional-jet complex at the east end of Concourse B. This deal replaces a more expensive construction project that would have been required because United had previously refused to give up its underused gates on Concourse A. Frontier will get one of the Concourse A gates next month, a second in mid-November and the others when the regional-jet facility is completed next year.
The new airport in Bangkok is now scheduled to open in September. The project is two decades in the making.
Belfast City Airport has been renamed in honor of George Best, the city's most famous soccer star.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Aer Lingus says it will leave the Oneworld Alliance. The Irish carrier, which joined Oneworld six years ago, has simplified its fares across the Atlantic and eliminated first-class on its intra-Europe flights. Both moves made continued membership in Oneworld illogical.
Aeroplan, the frequent flyer program for Air Canada, says it will soon introduce a new way to "price" its unrestricted award seats. The carrier will base the required mileage on load factors and demand on a day-by-day basis.
Florida officials say two federal air marshals were "legally justified" when they shot and killed a passenger at Miami Airport last December. No charges will be filed.
A traveler who disrupted a United Airlines flight headed from Orlando to Washington last year has been sentenced to seven months in prison. The flyer was accused of urinating in an aisle and lighting a cigarette, forcing the plane to be diverted to Charlotte.
Bankrupt Delta Air Lines solved all of its outstanding pilots issues yesterday (May 31). Current pilots approved a concession-laden contract and Delta struck a deal with the carrier's retired pilots. The new contract was opposed by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. (PBGC) because the agency claimed that the agreement would increase its costs if Delta eventually dumps its pension plans. Delta's bankruptcy court dismissed the PBGC objections, however.
Copyright © 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.