E-MAIL JOE    PRINT    2008 COLUMNS    ARCHIVES    SEARCH ARCHIVES
A BRIEFING FOR MAY 1 TO MAY 15, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli

· Another Week of Soaring Fares and Fees
· New Hotels and Reflaggings Keep on Coming
· JAL Adds a 'Fourth' Class on Some U.S. Flights
· US Airways Is Cashing Out Its Hub in Las Vegas
· Virgin Atlantic Drops the In-Flight Massages
· Continental Pulls Out of Chicago/Midway
· Silverjet Says It Has New Cash to Keep Flying


Another Week of Soaring Fares and Fees
Another week, another passel of supposedly fuel-related fare hikes, fees and surcharges. After last week's 3-to-5 percent fare jump, the Big Six followed it up this week with a $10-$40 roundtrip jump in the fuel surcharge. And more of the lemmings fell in line over the matter of baggage. Effective May 12, American Airlines will join the other Big Six carriers and charge $25 for a second bag. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines and its commuter carrier, Horizon Air, will go to a second-bag fee sometime this summer. (Both carriers will exempt their elite frequent flyers and most full-fare customers.) On May 21, Alaska will also increase some of its junk fees: The overweight-bag charge goes to $50; the price for tickets at the airport or via telephone jumps to $15; and the charge for unaccompanied minors rises to $75. Up north, Air Canada will charge some of its low-fare flyers a fee (C$25) for checking a second bag. Want some more? Most of the Big Six have now followed United Airlines and jumped their change fee for domestic tickets to $150 and British Airways and LAN said that their fuel surcharges were rising.

The New Hotels--and the Reflagging--Keep on Coming
The lodging industry has not yet hit the same slump that is causing havoc with the airlines. Hotels continue to open and reflag at a near-record pace. Here is this week's news: Hyatt has opened a 375-room Grand Hyatt in Guangzhou, China. The hotel has four restaurants and bars; leisure facilities include a 25-meter indoor rooftop pool, a health club and spa. The former Radisson in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has reopened as a 203-room Courtyard by Marriott. A 201-room Doubletree Hotel has opened in Springfield, Missouri. It is a $9 million makeover of the old Hawthorn Park Hotel. In Chicago, a dual-branded Marriott has opened. One part of the hotel is a Residence Inn and the other part is a SpringHill Suites. The two properties have a total of 523 rooms. The historic Dolder Hotel in Zurich has reopened after a four-year, $400 million renovation. Four Seasons has opened a property in Mumbai, in the city's distant, but fast-growing, Worli District. In New York, Morgans, the first hotel opened by disco entrepreneur-turned-hotelier Ian Schraeger, is closing for a renovation. It'll be shuttered from mid-May through the summer.

US Airways Is Cashing Out in Las Vegas
US Airways is planning to gut its hub in Las Vegas. Employees have been told the downsizing will begin in mid-August. US Airways once operated more than 130 daily flights to and from Sin City, but recently trimmed down by more than 20 percent. The cuts came from the airline's late-night banks of flights and employees are speculating that the new downsizing will totally eliminate the night flights. Continental Airlines is folding its cards at Chicago/Midway Airport. On May 31, the airline will dump its three flights to its Cleveland hub and its two flights to its Newark hub. KLM has opened a lounge at Houston/Intercontinental Airport. The facility offers free WiFi. Northwest Airlines has reopened its WorldClub at Tokyo's Narita Airport. The renovated facility is located on the fourth floor of Satellite 2 and features a business center with 32 iMacs; shower rooms; a family room; and other new amenities. The 14-hour power failure at Memphis Airport yesterday (April 30) caused 60 cancellations and dozens of delays. Two branches of the Jose Cuervo Tequileria have opened at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. One is located in Terminal A near Gate 16 and the other is at Terminal E near Gate 12. Most tequila shots cost $3. A 77-room Microtel Inn has opened in Jacksonville.

Japan Airlines Adds a 'Fourth' Class on Some U.S. Flights
Add Japan Airlines to the list of carriers rolling out a "fourth" class--the so-called premium economy sections located between coach and business class. Seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration and are 19 inches wide with 38 inches of legroom. The cabin, first installed last December on Tokyo-London flights, began popping up on Paris flights last month. JAL will add the cabin on flights to New York/Kennedy beginning August 1 and on flights to San Francisco on September 1. Air France will operate late-night flights between New York/Kennedy and Paris/DeGaulle from June 23 to October 28. Flights to Paris depart JFK at 1 a.m. and arrive at 2:10 p.m. The night route from CDG departs at 8:45 p.m. and arrives in New York at 10:50 p.m. Lufthansa will open a small hub in Milan/Malpensa next year. Flights will be operated on intra-Europe routes with regional jets owned by Lufthansa's Air Dolomiti subsidiary. Alitalia recently slashed service from Malpensa in anticipation of the purchase by Air France that never happened. United Airlines continues to delay the launch of its new route from San Francisco to Guangzhou. Flights were supposed to start on March 25 and then June 30. United wants to push the launch back until June, 2009.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Virgin Atlantic no longer offers massages and in-flight beauty treatments to its business-class travelers. Nice work if you can get it: Delta Air Lines chief executive Richard Anderson earned $11.3 million for the four months he ran the airline last year. Hawaiian Airlines and Mesa Airlines have reached an out-of-court settlement concerning a judge's decision that Mesa's go! unit illegally competed on inter-island routes. Mesa will pay $52.5 million to Hawaiian; the original court judgment was $80 million. Silverjet, the last of the three all-business-class carriers flying between New York and London, says that it has signed a deal worth as much as $100 million in new working capital. Of course, EOS said that it had signed a deal worth $50 million just days before it folded last month. Noted: According to government figures for March travel, the three largest alternate carriers--Southwest, JetBlue and AirTran--now command a combined total of almost 16 percent of the nation's passenger traffic. Meanwhile, the Big Six share of market has dropped below 70 percent.
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.