A BRIEFING FOR JULY 16 TO JULY 30, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli
· How Do You Spell Business-Travel Disaster?
· Delta Gets Fined for Mishandling the Bumps
· DOT Approves Continental for the Star Alliance
· American and Etihad Code-Share to Abu Dhabi
· Aircell Creates 24-Hour Pass for In-Flight WiFi
· Continental Has JetBlue's LiveTV on 15 Aircraft
· Southwest Airlines Proves Goldfinger Wrong
How Do You Spell Disaster?
The head-in-the-sand folks who run the nation's largest airlines and hotels have been claiming that the disappearance of business travelers from their planes and properties was just a cyclical kind of thing. Some were even claiming that they were seeing those fabled "green shoots" of recovery. Well, a big ugly bully called reality tramped all over those green shoots this week and it's clear a major realignment of business travel is under way. The parent of American Airlines kicked off the second quarter reporting period on Wednesday (July 15) and said its revenue dropped 21 percent and with a loss of $390 million. Today was Marriott's turn and the hotel giant reported a 20 percent decline in second-quarter and a 76 percent slide in profit. And then there are the little anecdotal things: The owner of the swanky Four Seasons San Francisco defaulted on a two-year $90 million loan and the now-closed Watergate Hotel in Washington will go on the auction block next week since the owners have defaulted on their loans. And premium-class travel plummeted for the 10th consecutive month. According to the airline trade group IATA, year-over-year international premium-class travel fell by 23.6 percent in May compared to a 22 percent decline in April and a 19.2 percent fall in the first quarter.
Delta Gets Fined for Mishandling the Bumps
This won't surprise you: Delta Air Lines was fined $375,000 for mishandling denied boarding procedures at the airport. The Transportation Department says that an examination of Delta records and passenger complaints from January to July, 2008, indicates that the carrier didn't inform bumped travelers of their rights. … US Airways has closed its airport lounge at Las Vegas; it is also reducing staff at its US Airways clubs at its Phoenix hub. … A former 194-room Ramada Inn near General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee has been reflagged as a Crowne Plaza hotel after a $14 million renovation.
Justice Be Damned, DOT Approves Continental for the Star Alliance
Despite a vociferous dissent by the Justice Department, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has approved Continental Airlines' application to join the Star Alliance. It also granted antitrust immunity to Continental and United Airlines, the U.S. anchor of the Star Alliance. As a sop to the Justice Department's concerns, however, the DOT did insist on some "carve outs." Continental and Star won't be able to cooperate on routes to four European cities--Copenhagen, Geneva, Lisbon and Stockholm--and to Beijing. Certain transborder routes between the United States and Canada are also off the table. All that's left now is the timing. Continental leaves the SkyTeam Alliance late in October and has said it wants to immediately (as in the next day) move into Star.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines has another code-share partner: Etihad Airways, which flies to Abu Dhabi from New York/Kennedy and Chicago/O'Hare. Those are American Airlines hubs, too. … Delta Air Lines flight attendants--or at least some of them--are seeing red. Specifically, they are annoyed that the bright red dress with the cinched waist that is now part of Delta's work-wear options is not available in sizes larger than 18. … Continental Airlines has equipped 15 of its aircraft with LiveTV, the system owned by JetBlue Airways. Continental's version offers 77 channels of live television. It's free for first-class passengers and costs $6 for coach flyers. … Aircell, the in-flight WiFi provider, has a new price category: $12.95 for a 24-hour pass. It is valid for 24 hours on any AirTran Airways or Delta Air Lines flight. However, the pass is not valid on Virgin America or American Airlines flights equipped with WiFi.
We Told You That Goldfinger Scene Wasn't True…
A Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore to Nashville made an emergency landing in Charleston, West Virginia, this week after the Boeing 737 aircraft developed a foot-wide hole in the fuselage. The plane was traveling at 30,000 feet on Monday (July 13) when the hole appeared and caused a rapid decompression of the passenger cabin. No one was injured in the incident and Southwest says it has inspected all of its other jets. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are also investigating. If nothing else, however, the incident proves that the great scene in Goldfinger--when beefy Gert Fröbe is sucked out of a plane after a gunshot penetrates the private jet's fuselage--is fiction.
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 © 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.