THE BRIEFING FOR SEPT. 27-OCT. 11, 2007
By Joe Brancatelli
· A Warning on Another US Airways Meltdown
· Regent Hotels Says 'Never Mind!' in Miami
· Porno and Predators at the Hawaiian Airlines
· The Floor Keeps Falling for the U.S. Dollar
· Midwest Airlines Goes Two-Class on Its MD-80s
· The Airlines Are Hiking Fuel Surcharges Again
· What to Expect on the Road in October
Another Early Warning on Another US Airways Meltdown
Two years after the merger of America West and the old US Airways, the airline is now officially US Airways. The airline finally received its "single operating certificate" from the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday (September 26) and thus is an official, unified flying entity for the first time. But that milestone actually turns out to be eyewash since US Airways management has done little to combine its fractious and feuding workforces. Four of the airline's key work groups--pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and fleet-service workers--still labor under separate, pre-merger contracts. Two years on, the situation is manifesting itself in job actions that undercut the operation of the already-limping carrier. Last Friday (September 21), more than 110 pilots, almost all of them from the old US Airways, called in sick. That's about five times the normal level and confirms the job action predicted for the day. Statistics available at FlightStats.com show that the pilot shortage led to the cancellation of 43 of the 943 originally scheduled arrivals at the US Airways division. Another 11 had been previously scrubbed, bringing Friday's cancellation rate to a notable 5.7 percent. Last week's activity indicates that a much-rumored wildcat job action around the Thanksgiving holiday has support among rank-and-file pilots. Plan accordingly.
Regent Says 'Never Mind!' in Miami
Just nine months after it opened an 80-room property in Miami's South Beach district, Regent has abandoned the hotel. The property was renamed the Vincci South Beach last week and is now managed by the Spanish chain Vincci. A 119-room Embassy Suites has opened in Tucson within the Paloma Village mixed-use development. Hyatt has opened its second hotel in Shanghai. The 631-room Grand Hyatt on the Bund features a 32,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. You're not hallucinating: London hotel prices are skyrocketing on top of the miserable dollar-pound exchange rate. Over the first six months of the year, the average price of a room in London jumped by 19 percent.
Ho, Hum. Another Record Low for the Dollar Against the Euro
The U.S. dollar continues its spectacular--and spectacularly depressing--decline against the 13-nation euro. It dropped to another record low--$1.42 to the euro--in trading today (September 27). The euro was selling for as little as 85 cents shortly after its premier as a street currency in 2002. The U.S. dollar continues to sell at parity against the Canadian dollar and below $2 to the British pound. Three airlines--Air France, KLM, and Lufthansa--have once again increased their fuel surcharges.
We're Not Predators, Just Pornographers
The two old-line carriers in Hawaii, Hawaiian and Aloha, are fighting a vicious legal and marketplace battle with go!, an all-regional-jet service launched last year by the Mesa Air Group. But unlike usual airline wars, when the old-line carriers try to crush the newcomer, things are different in Hawaii. It's the well-financed newcomer--Mesa is the nation's largest regional-airline company--trying to drive at least one of the old-line carriers, both recently in bankruptcy, off of Hawaii's route map. At various times before it launched go!, Mesa tried to buy both Hawaiian or Aloha. Now they claim that Mesa improperly used proprietary information gleaned during negotiations to launch go! A U.S. bankruptcy-court judge has already concluded that Mesa tried to drive Aloha out of business. Hawaiian's lawsuit against Mesa went to trial on Tuesday (September 25) and one of the first issues was the actions of Mesa chief financial officer Peter Murnane. He deleted hundreds of pages of data that Hawaiian Airlines claims would have proven that Mesa misappropriated proprietary Hawaiian financial information. Mesa's defense: Murnane was actually trying to delete pornographic material. "He [Murnane] was cruising on adult Web sites," explained Mesa attorney Max Blecher. Jefford Englander, a computer expert testifying for Hawaiian, couldn't help but note the incredible lengths that Murnane went to in order to delete data from computers. Besides wiping his office machines, Englander said, Murnane erased data on two laptop computers and his home PC . He even backdated the computers' clocks to make it seem that the machines hadn't been disturbed. "It would take a lot of time to accumulate that much adult content," Englander testified. "I have never seen anyone go to these lengths to erase adult content."
What to Expect on the Road in October
October is when the world's major airlines switch to their "winter schedules" and virtually all the action will be on international routes. First out of the box is Continental Airlines. Effective October 1, it launches nonstop Boeing 777 flights from its Newark hub to Mumbai, India. Another new India route comes from Jet Airways, the privately owned Indian airlines. On October 28, it launches a New York/Kennedy-Brussels-Delhi route. American Airlines begins Boeing 767 flights to Buenos Aires from its Chicago/O'Hare hub on October 28. And it will launch flights between JFK and London/Stansted; that route will put American in direct competition with Maxjet and Eos, two all-business-class carriers. United Airlines resumes daily flights between Los Angeles and Hong Kong using Boeing 747-400s and will add seasonal service between its Washington/Dulles hub and Rio de Janeiro using Boeing 767s. Lufthansa will begin service between Orlando and its massive Frankfurt hub on October 30 with five weekly Airbus A330 flights. Emirates will begin three weekly Boeing 777 flights between Toronto and its Dubai home base on October 29. And Aer Lingus launches two new routes in October. San Francisco-Dublin nonstops start on October 28 and Orlando-Dublin flights launch two days later.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Midwest Airlines has finished the reconfiguration of its MD-80 aircraft and now offers two classes (Signature and Saver) on all MD-80 routes to/from its Milwaukee and Kansas City hubs. The on-again, off-again saga of the Hawaii Superferry is off again. The inter-island ferry service did not resume as expected on Tuesday. A computer and telecommunications glitch shut down traffic at Memphis Airport on Tuesday (September 25). The shutdown lasted about three hours. Today, a package that officials claim was a "simulated explosive" device caused a four-hour shutdown of the airport in Eugene, Oregon. It's déjà vu all over again: Frequent bugs are intermittently shutting down the in-flight television and entertainment systems on Virgin America, which launched in August. The system is the same, buggy Matshusita/Dish Network equipment that frequently failed on Song, Delta's ill-fated all-coach service. Virgin America is run by Fred Reid, the same guy who was in charge of Delta's Song initiative.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.