E-MAIL JOE    PRINT    2008 COLUMNS    ARCHIVES    SEARCH ARCHIVES
A BRIEFING FOR MARCH 6-MARCH 20, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli

· US Airways: Worst to First the Mussolini Way
· Get Ready for the Heathrow Land Rush
· JetBlue and AirTran Connect Dots, Add Cities
· Singapore Air Gives Up on Executive Economy
· Continental Shuffles Its Flights at Newark
· ATA Drops Its Last Flights at Midway Airport
· Delta Air Lines Starts Flagging Carry-ons


US Airways Goes From Worst to First the Mussolini Way
How does the nation's least-reliable Big Six carrier, US Airways, go from worst to first in the monthly on-time ratings? It employs a scheduling trick made famous by Fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Benito once decreed that no train in Italy could run late. Then he made them run on time by padding the schedule. US Airways has employed exactly the same tactic in moving to the top of the Big Six ratings for the last two months. According to the Transportation Department's Air Travel Consumer Report, released on Tuesday, US Airways operated 79.5 percent on-time in January. That was better than the industry-wide average of 72.4 percent and better than all but Hawaiian and Aloha airlines. A casual search of US Airways' schedule, however, reveals exactly how the flight times are padded. One example: Continental has five flights a day between Philadelphia and Houston and scheduled flight times are between 3:42 and 3:57. By contrast, US Airways' four flights on the route are scheduled for between 4 hours and 4 hours and 13 minutes.

Get Ready for the Heathrow Land Rush
British Airways opens Terminal Five at London/Heathrow Airport on March 27, just two days before the U.S.-E.U. Open Skies treaty becomes effective. The result? An unprecedented land rush at Heathrow. As British Airways begins a month-long effort to consolidate most of its flights at Terminal 5, U.S. carriers once shut out of Heathrow will pile in. Beginning on March 29, Continental will launch Heathrow service from its Newark and Houston/Intercontinental hubs; Delta Air Lines will add flights from hubs in Atlanta and New York's Kennedy Airport; US Airways will launch from Philadelphia; and Northwest will fly from its Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul hubs. Meanwhile, Air France and Delta will code-share on new service between Los Angeles and Heathrow and United Airlines will add new flights from its Denver hub. But that's not all. By the end of April, American Airlines will shift its Dallas/Fort Worth and Raleigh-Durham flights from London/Gatwick. Also moving from Gatwick to Heathrow: BA's DFW and Houston flights. And in case you didn't have enough Heathrow options, Northwest says it will launch flights from Seattle in June. Still more London news: Eos Airlines, which currently flies from Kennedy to London/Stansted will expand. It will add a Newark-Stansted flight on May 5 and a Stansted-Dubai route on July 6.

JetBlue and AirTran Connect Dots and Add Cities
The high cost of fuel--in case you hadn't heard, oil hit another record this week--has put the brakes on most carriers' domestic expansion plans, but JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways continue to build their networks. JetBlue is filling in the dots on its route map and will launch flights to four cities from Austin: Long Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and San Francisco. The flights begin May 1. The carrier will also begin Salt Lake City-Las Vegas service on the same day. Over at AirTran, the news is new cities. It will begin flying from Burlington, Vermont, on May 21 with flights to Baltimore/Washington. On June 11, it will begin service to San Antonio with four daily flights to its Atlanta hub. Say goodbye to ATA Airlines' hub at Chicago's Midway Airport. It will dump the remainder of its domestic flights from Midway on April 14 and drop the last of its international service on June 7.

Making Business-Class Lemonade From Long-Haul Lemons
When Singapore Airlines launched nonstops to Singapore from Los Angeles and Newark in 2004, there were two reasons to cheer. The airline had proven the ultra-long-haul Airbus A340-500 aircraft could extend the concept of a nonstop flight to routes as long as 18 hours. And Singapore outfitted the 181-seat plane with a comfortable coach cabin that beat the living daylights out of anything else in the air. As I wrote in a column back then, the 18-hour ride in Singapore's so-called Executive Economy cabin offered a better price-value ratio than its existing business class. But almost everything about the nonstops has been lemons for Singapore Air. For starters, the spike in fuel prices since 2004 has turned ultra-long-haul service into a costly nightmare. (Singapore Air executives have admitted that they would have never launched the flights at these oil-price levels.) And it turns out that nobody wants to pay a premium to fly coach, even a good one. So Singapore bit the proverbial bullet this week and announced that it will convert the nonstops into Asia's first all-business-class flights. The planes will be reconfigured with 100 of Singapore's newest C-class product: extra-large 30-inch wide seats that convert to flat, 76-inch-long beds. The cabins will have a 1-2-1 layout, guaranteeing all passengers direct access to an aisle. The switch begins in mid-May.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Continental Airlines flyers at Newark Airport take note: Commuter flights are being relocated to Terminal A so that Continental can consolidate mainline service in Terminal C. That means a bus ride between terminals if you are making a connection. The Big Six pushed through another $10 roundtrip fare increase over the weekend. The first airport location of Bruegger's Bagels has opened in Terminal 2 in Cincinnati. A second location, at Boston/Logan, should open this month and a third outlet, in Raleigh/Durham, is due this summer. ... The dollar hit another record low against the euro this week, dipping to $1.54. It also slumped back below $2 against the Britsh pound. Delta Air Lines is beginning to flag "acceptable" carry-on bags with a red tag. Watch this move carefully, folks. Sounds like Delta is getting ready to reduce its free checked-bag limit and wants to make sure flyers don't try to carry on larger and/or heavier pieces.
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 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.