THE BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 1 - 8, 2007
By Joe Brancatelli
· Summer-Like Troubles for Turkey Day Travel
· Good News and Bad at Continental OnePass
· Fares Are Skyrocketing Along With Oil Prices
· NASA Trashes Pilots Survey, But Will Release It
· Carlson Revamps Goldpoints Plus Loyalty Plan
· Mesa Ordered to Pay Hawaiian Air $80 Million
· The Time of the Season at StandardTime.com
Summer-Like Troubles for Turkey Day Travel
Did you hate the summer, what with the delays, cancellations, miserable service and packed flights? Get ready for a rerun over the Thanksgiving weekend. The week of November 19-25 is likely to be a nightmare and the day before Thanksgiving, November 21, is sure to be the worst of all. Airline executives I've spoken to in recent days are making dire predictions--and that's if the weather is good. "A couple of bad storms during Thanksgiving week will destroy the system," one Big Six executive admitted. "There'll be a lot of people having turkey at the airport instead of celebrating with their family." Is there a silver lining? Not really. My best advice: Stay home if you can--or drive wherever practical. By the way, the only break in what is sure to be a week of absolute hell is Thanksgiving afternoon. If you're willing to travel later in the day, flights might be less crowded--assuming, of course, that flights aren't filled with travelers reaccommodated from flights delayed or cancelled on Wednesday and Thanksgiving morning.
Good News (Theoretically) and Bad (Practically) at OnePass
There's good news and bad from Continental Airlines about its OnePass frequent flyer program. The good news? Continental has not followed Delta in placing restrictions on its unrestricted awards. But Continental's commitment to keeping seats fully available will come at a high cost: Effective February 1, a wide range of awards will go up in price. Restricted domestic first-class awards, which are now called SaverPass, will rise to 50,000 miles from 45,000. Unrestricted first-class awards rise to 100,000 miles from 90,000. Also jumping: the price of many unrestricted international business-class awards. Prices for seats to Asia, Africa and the Middle East rise to 300,000 miles, up from 250,000 miles. And some awards to South America will jump to 250,000 miles from 180,000 miles. There are other changes, too. Effective December 1, the 500-mile bonus for booking at Continental.com will be eliminated. And Continental now says it can make changes to OnePass with just 30 days notice, down from the previous 60-day notice period. … Goldpoints plus, the frequent stay program of the Carlson Hotels group, has been revamped. There are new hotels that permit earnings and awards and more global standardization among Radisson, Regent, Country Inns & Suites and other Carlson brands. But one of the advantages of the program--a wide variety of earnings opportunities at restaurants and retailers--has disappeared. There is now a separate GoldPoints program for those merchants.
It's the Time of the Season
Tens of thousands of Americans apparently detest Daylight Savings Time, which ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday (November 4). Many of these anti-Daylight Savers camp out at Standard Time, an interesting and obsessive mix of polemics and history. The Web site also makes something of a case for why business travelers should join those committed to ending Daylight Savings Time. This one is worth a look if you've got the, uh, time to consider the more esoteric components of our lives on the road. Of course, you have to wonder why the site hasn't been updated since March…
Fares Are Skyrocketing Along With Fuel Costs
Crude oil prices surged past $90 a barrel this week and seem sure to break the $100 mark this month. The reaction from the carriers has been swift. Continental Airlines led a Big Six fare increase over the weekend. Most prices rose by $10 roundtrip on routes where the Big Six don't compete with low-fare airlines. American and Delta then raised prices another $20 roundtrip today (November 1) and the rest of the Big Six are likely to match. It's hard to argue with the increases as oil prices spike and it's hard to fight the fare jumps since the airlines continue to cut domestic capacity. But here is a question: Why do full-fare, business-travel prices rise as fast as low-priced, discounted fares? And why do those of us who already pay five or ten times more than other travelers continue to be hit with the same increases? There's no logic to that.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
NASA now says it will release a suppressed 2005 report that says airline pilots believe the skies are much more dangerous than the Federal Aviation Administration claims. But NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told a House committee this week that he didn't believe the report and doubted the statistical reliability of the data. In other words, when the information you get conflicts with the accepted wisdom, go to Congress and trash the research. The survey cost NASA $11 million. … A bankruptcy court judge this week ordered the parent company of Mesa Airlines to pay $80 million to Hawaiian Airlines. The judge said the penalty covers the damage Mesa did when it used proprietary data from Hawaiian to launch go!, a low-fare service that competes with Hawaiian and Aloha Airlines on inter-island Hawaii routes. Mesa says it will appeal the verdict. … Unions at Alitalia say they will strike on November 26 to protest the carrier's decision to slash flights at its Milan/Malpensa hub.
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.