A BRIEFING FOR MARCH 13 TO 27, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli
· The TSA Finds a Reason to Speed Up Security
· The 'Smoke-Filled' Blackstone Reopens in Chicago
· Emirates and Qatar Airways Add New U.S. Flights
· Down Goes the Dollar, Up Go the Fares and Fees
· Delta Goes to Shanghai, Ritz Opens in Guangzhou
· Canadian Airlines Start Calgary-Newark Flights
· Charlotte Travelers Get New Western Nonstops
Faster Security Lines for Us, More Woes for Registered Traveler
"Glacial" is one of the many pejorative adjectives you can fairly apply to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) since it took over U.S. airport screening after 9/11. But when the TSA has a vested interest--in this case, killing privately operated registered-traveler (RT) programs like Clear--it's amazing how quickly the agency can move. After making sure that Clear and the other RT providers can't offer any meaningful security bypass, TSA is now going after them as they try to reposition themselves as line-cut programs. Just three weeks ago, the TSA began testing its own line-cut system at Salt Lake City and Denver. At those airports, the TSA offers three separate approaches to the checkpoints: "black diamond" lanes for the experienced frequent flyers; a blue line for less-savvy travelers; and a green lane for families and novice flyers who need more time to prepare. With dizzying speed, the TSA has dubbed the test a success and promises to introduce the segmented approach to six more airports in April.
Something Old, Something New, Something Smoky, Something Black
The Blackstone Hotel on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago has reopened after a $128 million renovation and restoration. The 98-year-old building has been closed since 1999, but the property is now up and running again as a 332-room Renaissance Hotel. And in case you've forgotten, the term "smoke-filled room" originated at the Blackstone when Republican leaders met there and picked Warren G. Harding as the 1920 nominee while the party regulars were convening at the Chicago Coliseum. Ritz-Carlton has opened its fourth hotel in China. The 351-room property in Guangzhou has six dining rooms, a fitness center and a spa. The old Hilton Suites hotel in North Dallas is receiving a $10 million update and will be reflagged as a Le Meridien hotel. The 258-room property has most recently been called the Prava Suites.
Arabian Nights--and Days--on Two New Long Hauls
The well-financed, fast-growing Arab carriers continue to blaze new routes between the United States and Arabian Gulf destinations. Two new routes were unveiled this week. On September 1, Emirates will add its longest nonstop haul yet, linking Los Angeles and Dubai. The 8,339-mile route will run about 16.5 hours to LAX and 16 hours to Dubai and will be flown with Boeing 777-200LRs. The daily flights will be configured with eight private suites in first class, 42 lie-flat seat-beds in business class and 216 seats in coach. And Qatar Airways will launch three daily flights between Houston/Intercontinental and Doha on November 10. The service will go daily in December. Qatar will also use Boeing 777-200LRs, but will outfit the aircraft with 42 business class seat-beds and 217 coach seats. Delta Air Lines launches its first flights to China on March 30 with daily service between Atlanta and Shanghai. Hawaiian Airlines will begin four weekly flights between Honolulu and Manila on April 14. Alitalia has been shedding service to its shrinking Milan hub and redirecting flights to Rome. Beginning June 1, the carrier resumes its nonstop flights to Los Angeles.
Down Goes the Dollar, Up Go Fares and Fees
We're running out of ways to characterize the plunging dollar. This week the greenback crashed to the $1.56 level against the euro, dropped to the 100-yen level for the first time in 12 years and has fallen to parity (US$1 = CHF1) against the Swiss franc. It also fell to $2.04 against the British pound. United Airlines increased the domestic fuel surcharge by as much as $10 roundtrip and the rest of the Big Six followed on most routes. Hawaiian Airlines raised fares between Hawaii and the mainland by $30 roundtrip. Delta Air Lines has raised some excess baggage fees. Checked bags above the 50-pound free limit will cost $80 (up to 70 pounds) or $150 (up to 100 pounds). Extra bags, which had cost a flat $75 each, now cost between $80 and $180 each.
Comings, Goings, Eating and Drinking
Travelers headed to Changi Airport in Singapore take note: United Airlines is moving to Terminal 3 from Terminal 1 on March 28. Nashville Airport now has airport branches of three local favorites: Provence Breads and Gibson Café have opened past security on Concourse C and Noshville Deli has opened at the intersection of Concourses A & B. Autogrill, the Benetton-owned airport restauranteur, is buying two major duty-free chains: World Duty Free Europe and Aldeasa. US Airways is adding new flights at its Charlotte hub. Effective June 3, there will be daily service to both Tucson and Sacramento.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
What's the hottest new route in North America? Apparently it's Newark-Calgary, which has never had nonstop service before. Just ten days ago, Air Canada announced it would begin flying the route on June 16 using Airbus A319s. And yesterday (March 12), WestJet decided it would begin service between the two cities on June 2. Speaking of Newark, the Transportation Department says that it will cap flights at 83 per hour during peak periods. That's the same cap recently imposed on New York/Kennedy. Speaking of Kennedy, Delta Air Lines has moved up the launch of its JFK-Georgetown, Guyana, flights to June 1. The flight was originally supposed to begin on July 2. The federal government says 769.4 million passengers flew last year on scheduled U.S. airlines.
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.