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 The Tactical Traveler

joe JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR JUNE 22 TO JUNE 29, 2006
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss, at FLL
US Airways is flying the coop at Fort Lauderdale (FLL) even as Spirit Airlines is expanding and therein lies of tale of old and new bosses. US Airways is hastily dismantling its disastrous Latin American/Caribbean "mini-hub" almost as hastily as the operation was created in February, 2005. At one point last year, US Airways was flying to nine Latin/Caribbean destinations and offering connecting service from a dozen East Coast cities. Come the fall, all the international routes, save a weekly flight to Cancun, will be gone. Also eliminated are all the flights to Fort Lauderdale from Orlando and New York/LaGuardia. Fort Lauderdale service to US Airways hubs in Philadelphia, Charlotte and Phoenix will be reduced. By contrast, Spirit this fall is growing to 30 daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to about a dozen destinations in the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America. The link between the comings and goings? The so-called Killer Bs, Ben Baldanza and Barry Biffle. The pair crafted the US Airways Fort Lauderdale strategy, but Baldanza left to become president of Spirit in January, 2005. (He's now the airline's chief executive.) Biffle left US Airways a month later and is now Spirit's senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

New Hotels and New Flags in Key Locations Worldwide
The bull market in hotels continues with a raft of new openings and brand switches around the world. … In New York City, for example, the Rockefeller Center Hotel has opened in a new building between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on West 51st Street. The 80-room boutique property is managed by Club Quarters and shares the building with a members-only club and private accommodations for Club Quarters members. … The 217-room Park Hyatt Washington has reopened at 24th and M Street after a $24 million renewal. … The Westin Boston Waterfront has opened adjacent to the Boston Convention Center. The 793-room, 17-story facility has 100,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. … The 75-acre Astir Palace beachfront resort/hotel complex near Athens, Greece, is now being managed by Starwood. Beginning next month, the 123-room Arion and its 76 bungalows will become part of the Luxury Collection. The 162-room Nafsika will become a Westin. After a renovation during the next 18 months, the 165-room Aphrodite Hotel will carry the W brand. … Fairmont is taking over the 209-room St. Andrews Bay Golf Resort in Scotland. The property is two miles from St. Andrews' famed Old Course. … Rosewood Hotels has opened a beachfront property in Sunny Isles, Florida. The Acqualina has 97 guestrooms and 188 residences in a 51-story tower. One note, however: A JoeSentMe member stayed at Acqualina last week and reports that it is not up to Rosewood's usual standards.

Varig Abruptly Cancels Most U.S. Service
Brazil's bankrupt Varig airlines abruptly cancelled most of its international flights this week, including service to Los Angeles and New York/Kennedy. The cancellations will continue for at least another week although the airline was still flying to Miami as of Thursday (June 22). A Brazilian bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of the airline to an employee group that was the highest bidder in a public auction earlier this month. … El Al launches nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv on July 23. There will be three weekly Boeing 777 flights. … An operation called Mima Club says it has launched all-business-class service between New York/Kennedy and Milan/Malpensa. The 48-seat flights, on a specially configured Airbus A319, is operated by Eurofly, an Italian charter carrier. For more information, call 800-459-0618. … British Airways is changing policies on checked and carry-on bags. Effective July 5, the airline is removing the weight limit on carry-on bags. But the airline warns that "flyers must be able to lift their bag unaided into the overhead lockers." Then, on October 11, BA will reduce the free checked-bag limit to 50 pounds each.

More of the Same From the Bankruptcy Boys
Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines are following the lead of 38-months-bankrupt United Airlines. They are trying to stretch out their own bankruptcy periods. Both carriers filed for Chapter 11 protection on September 14, 2005, and are looking for extensions of the "exclusivity" period that permits only the management to file reorganization plans. Northwest wants an extension until January 15. Delta is requesting an extension until November 8. … Delta also told its court that it wants to dump its pilots pension on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. That's another trick used by United and twice-bankrupt US Airways. … Northwest faces a June 30 deadline to renegotiate a contract with its flight attendants. After that date, Northwest can impose terms unilaterally, but flight attendants have the right to strike 15 days later. … Mesaba, a bankrupt Northwest Airlink carrier, has once again asked its bankruptcy-court judge for the right to void the contract of its pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. The judge, who previously rejected Mesaba's request, has set another hearing for Monday (June 26). Employees say they will strike if Mesaba is allowed to kill the existing contracts.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Airlines is going to test assigned seating beginning July 10. Southwest says that about 200 flights departing from San Diego will be involved, but the carrier stresses that it wouldn't be capable of switching to assigned seating systemwide until 2008. … Northwest Airlines is moving to casual boarding. After premium-class and elite passengers board, all other coach passengers will be allowed to board at their leisure regardless of row. Alaska Airlines just abandoned a similar system. … Frontier Airlines travelers in the carrier's EarlyReturns frequent-flyer program can now earn mileage by staying at Marriott hotels. Travelers receive two miles per dollar spent at the chain's full-service brands and one mile per dollar spent at Marriott's limited-service hotels.

Oh, Yeah, Sure…
Air Canada has suspended four mechanics who went to the Canadian media with their safety concerns about the carrier's Jazz commuter operation. Air Canada claims the mechanics weren't suspended for whistle-blowing, but because they didn't take advantage of "numerous internal options available to them" to raise the issues.

Copyright © 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.