The Tactical Traveler
JOE BRANCATELLI'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL
BRIEFING FOR LATE JULY, 2006
Suddenly, Small Airports Are a Hot Ticket
- Suddenly, Small Airports Are a Hot Ticket
- New United Upgrades, Cheaper American Awards
- Caveat Emptor in the International Skies
- Marriott Hoists the No-Smoking Sign Systemwide
- Northwest Dodges at Least One Strike (for Now)
- American Airlines Has a New Business-Class Cabin
- Where No In-Flight Advertisement Has Gone Before
While the Big Six and alternate airlines focus on primary and secondary airports, start-up commuter airlines are bringing service to close-in, smaller airports. Example one: Destination One, which hopes to launch on July 31 with flights between Burke Lakefront Airport (BKL) in Cleveland, Detroit City Airport (DET) and Lunken Field (LUK) in Cincinnati.
Example two: Vision Airlines, which is already operating between North Las Vegas (VGT) and Williams Gateway Airport (IWA) in Mesa, Arizona. The carrier is also working to launch flights to Scottsdale, Arizona (SDL), and McClellan-Palomar Airport (CLD) in Carlsbad, California.
Useless United Upgrades and Cheaper American Awards
United Airlines now allows Mileage Plus miles to be used for confirmed Star Alliance upgrades on carriers such as Lufthansa, ANA, Asiana, Austrian and Thai. But curb your enthusiasm: The upgrades are almost worthless since they are restricted to full or nearly full-fare tickets. To jump from coach to business, for example, you'll need to buy a Y or B ticket; upgrading to first from business requires a C or D class ticket. There are almost always better premium-class deals available than buying a full-fare ticket and burning miles for an upgrade.
American Airlines is once again offering reduced-priced American AAdvantage awards for short-haul flights. Available from September 1 through February 28, 2007, they are designed for flights of less than 750 miles. Restricted coach is 15,000 rather than the normal 25,000 and restricted premium-class awards are 30,000 rather than 45,000.
Alamo Rent A Car has joined the US Airways Dividend Miles program.
Caveat Emptor in the International Skies
It's getting harder and harder to know the airline you're flying internationally these days. The reason: code-share agreements that all but obliterate the identity of the carrier that actually operates the service. The latest example: Delta Air Lines has received government approval to slap its code on flights operated by SkyTeam partner KLM. KLM flights also carry the code of Northwest Airlines and Delta already code shares with carriers like Air France and Alitalia.
Air Canada continues to bulk up its transborder service. Effective September 7, Air Canada and its Jazz subsidiary will fly three times a week between Edmonton and Las Vegas and twice a week between Winnipeg and Las Vegas. Daily nonstops between Calgary and Palm Springs begin on December 15.
Marriott Hoists the No-Smoking Sign
Marriott says all of its hotels in the United States and Canada are going the no-smoking route. Beginning in September, the Marriott empire--which encompasses 10 brands, about 2,300 hotels and 400,000 rooms--will be smoke-free. That includes guestrooms, restaurants and bars, meeting rooms and public spaces. The Marriott move follows the decision of Westin to go smoke-free in January.
Major hotel chains continue to expand in China. After a nine-month renovation, Raffles has opened a 171-room property in Beijing. The elaborate building was built in the early 1900s and sits just outside the Forbidden City. And Shangri-La has opened the first section of a planned 390-room property in Suzhou, a fast-growing city about 60 miles from Shanghai.
Northwest Dodges at Least One Bullet--for Now
Bankrupt Northwest Airlines has at least temporarily avoided a strike by its flight attendants. The new flight attendants unions and Northwest came to a contract agreement this week, but the concession-laden deal still requires rank-and-file approval. Earlier this year, the flight attendants overwhelmingly rejected a contract loaded with givebacks and ousted the union that negotiated it.
The situation is at least as murky at bankrupt Mesaba, a Northwest Airlink commuter carrier. After initially rejecting management's request, Mesaba's bankruptcy judge last week said that the airline could void its contracts with pilots, mechanics and flight attendants. He told the airline that it must give 10 days notice to employees before dumping the contracts. Mesaba workers say they will strike if the airline voids contracts unilaterally.
Bankrupt Comair, the commuter carrier owned by bankrupt Delta Air Lines, is talking with its flight attendants again. That airline is also trying to void its contract; the bankruptcy judge in that case is currently reconsidering his April decision to keep the flight attendants contract in force.
Bankrupt Varig, the former flag carrier of Brazil, was sold at auction today (July 20) for about US$500 million. The new owners have cancelled all flights through July 28.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines unveiled a new business-class cabin at a Chicago trade show this week. Major features are drop-down armrests; two tray tables that can be used separately or locked together; and a seat that converts to a 77-inch-long lie-flat bed. The in-flight entertainment system does double duty: It operates both as a portable video player or can be placed into a seatback for use as a static system. Another tweak: The seat moves forward up to ten inches, which theoretically offers more privacy by moving you out of the line of sight of your seatmate. The first American aircraft with the new cabin are expected to appear on international routes next spring.
US Airways and America West flyers at Dallas/Fort Worth take note: Flights now operate from Terminal E and use Gates E35-E38.
Follow the flag, boys: After a much-needed $10 million spruce-up, the former Radisson Hotel at New York/Kennedy Airport has been converted to a 386-room Doubletree hotel. Meanwhile, the former 110-room Doubletree at Kennedy has been converted to a Fairfield Inn.
In case you were lucky enough to miss the chaos this week, both New York/LaGuardia and Los Angeles International suffered power outages this week. The LAX outage halted traffic for about an hour on Tuesday (July 18) evening. Earlier in the day, American and Delta flight schedules at LGA were disrupted by a power failure.
Where No Ad Has Gone Before
US Airways, which already slaps ads on tray tables and in-flight menus, said this week that it is hoping to sell advertisements on air-sickness bags. Honest. That's not a joke.
Copyright © 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.