A BRIEFING FOR APRIL 24 - MAY 1, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli
· Who Knew the Big Six Still Had Good Will?
· More Hotels Open in More Important Places
· United Airlines Tries a Massive Fare Increase
· Get the Icky Stuff Off Your Laptop Hard Drive
· Frontier Shrinks and Southwest Grows in Denver
· Atlanta Won't Open Registered-Traveler Lanes
· JetBlue Will Charge $20 to Check a Second Bag
Big Six Carriers Have Good Will Worth Writing Off?
Never say you're too old to learn something about life on the road. As you may have heard, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines on Wednesday (April 23) reported a combined first-quarter loss of about $10.5 billion. Startling, to be sure. But it turns out their actual first-quarter operating losses were substantially lower: $274 million for Delta and $191 million at Northwest. So where did the other $10 billion in losses come from? Those were non-cash, non-operational write-offs of "good will" related to the carriers' slumping stock prices. After 25 years of writing about business travel, I didn't even know Big Six carriers still had any good will that was worth writing off .
More Hotels Open in More Important Places
Meanwhile, back at the relatively sane part of the travel business A batch of notable new hotels has opened while we've been paying attention to stupid airline tricks. Westin opened a 210-room property in Huntsville, Alabama. The lakeside hotel is part of the Bridge Street Town Center that is located within Cummings Research Park, the second-largest technology park in the country. Marriott opened a 245-room Courtyard hotel in Hong Kong. The harborfront property is located on Hong Kong Island near the Macau Ferry Pier. Rates start around US$200 a night. A 97-suite Cambria Suites hotel opened at Savannah Airport on Y. Johnson Hagins Drive. St. Regis opened a 299-room property in Singapore. Joie de Vivre renovated the former Radisson in Sunnyvale, California, and reopened it as the 124-room Domain Hotel. If you think that name is Silicon Valley cute, consider this: The hotel's restaurant is called Bytes. Crowne Plaza hoisted its flag on the Brock Plaza hotel in Niagara Falls, Canada.
United Airlines Tries a Massive Fare Increase
United Airlines is going for an across-the-board 3-5 percent fare increase, which would raise fares by as much as $70 roundtrip. United loaded the fares this afternoon (April 24); we probably won't know until Monday whether any or all of the hike will stick. (Update on Saturday, April 26: All of the Big Six have now matched the increase.) Earlier in the week, United raised the change fee on domestic tickets to $150. It then bumped up the international change fee to $250. El Al says it is raising fares by 6.5 percent next month. Thai Airways and Air France have raised their fuel surcharges. JetBlue Airways will charge for a second checked bag on June 1. The fee will be $20. The U.S. dollar fell to a record low $1.60 against the euro earlier this week, although it has "firmed up" to $1.58. New Orleans car renters take note: A $5 airport-imposed fee will be applied to all airport rentals. The funds will be used to build a consolidated car-rental facility.
Better Get That Icky Stuff Off Your Laptop's Hard Drive
A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that Customs agents at the airport don't need any evidence of wrongdoing to search the contents of a passenger's laptop, thumb drives and other storage devices. The theory supported unanimously by the court's three judges this week: A laptop is luggage and Customs agents don't need evidence of wrongdoing to search luggage because it is the equivalent of a border search. (The Supreme Court previously ruled that luggage searches at the airport are the equivalent of border searches.) All of this would be a fascinating legal argument in and of itself, but keep this in mind: The case began in 2005 when a Customs agent stopped a traveler on his return from the Philippines and asked him to turn on his computer. The agent then found images he believed to be child pornography. The flyer was arrested for transporting child pornography and traveling to the Philippines to have sex with a minor.
Frontier Shrinks and Southwest Grows in Denver
Bankrupt Frontier Airlines is dumping service to five cities from its hub in Denver. In the next 45 days, the carrier will drop flights to Sioux City, Iowa; Jacksonville, Florida; Little Rock; Memphis; and Tulsa. All of the service was operated with commuter jets. Meanwhile, Southwest is growing again in Denver. Beginning on June 4, it will launch two daily nonstops to Portland, Oregon, and two daily nonstops to Indianapolis. Clear registered-traveler lanes have opened in Salt Lake City. But officials at Atlanta Hartsfield have decided not to launch registered-traveler service after all. Instead, it will add four new security checkpoints available to all travelers. Dewar's Clubhouse, a golf-and-scotch bar, has opened in the Central Concourse in Honolulu. And a Gordon Biersch restaurant and brewery will open in the Ewa Concourse next month.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A bullet dodged: Maine passed new regulations that bring its drivers license in compliance with a new federal identification law. That means all state licenses now qualify as airport/airline ID--or have been given a waiver by the federal government. A passenger on an American Airlines flight from India in December has tested positive for drug-resistant tuberculosis. Passengers on the December 13, 2007, flight between Delhi and Chicago/O'Hare were not exposed long enough to be infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Remember the Honolulu-Hilo flight on go! that overshot the airport because federal investigators believed that the pilots were literally asleep at the switches? Well, the pilots have been fired. Speaking of Hawaii, the island of Molokai is basically out of the tourist business. The 22-room Molokai Ranch and the 18-hole Kaluakoi Golf Course have both closed after the owners feuded with local residents, most of whom oppose tourism development.
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.