A BRIEFING FOR JULY 23-AUGUST 6, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli
· The Last Three Airport RT Locations Close
· United Drops More International Flights
· Airlines Lose Tons in 2Q, Slap New Fees on Us
· Turnberry Golf Resort Reopens in Scotland
· San Jose Terminal B Opens Its First Five Gates
· Shuttle-Bus Collision Kills One at Newark Airport
· Canada's Via Rail Girds for a Strike Tomorrow
Final Nails in RT's Coffin: Last Three Airport Locations Close
Now you can write a definitive obituary for registered traveler programs. The last two players in the game, Flo and Vigilant, have closed their airport lanes. After Clear folded last month, Flo, which operated line-jump lanes in Reno, and Vigilant, which operated in Jacksonville, Florida, and Louisville, Kentucky, insisted that they would continue to man their stations. However, both operations have quietly disappeared and Jacksonville Airport authorities say Vigilant skipped out on bills of around $250,000. As with Clear, neither Flo nor Vigilant are expected to refund membership dues. But if you paid or renewed recently, call your credit card company and contest the charge. And if you're steamed that Clear itself has refused to issue refunds even though it has not declared bankruptcy, you might consider joining one of the class-action suits filed by outraged members. One suit is run by a San Francisco law firm and the other has been filed by a New York firm.
Lose Tons of Dough, Then Slap New Fees on Us
Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines reported huge quarterly losses this week and their response was typical: Higher junk fees on us. Continental, which lost $213 million in the second quarter, tacked $5 more on both its checked-bag fees and its telephone-reservation charge. The fee is now $25 whenever you purchase a ticket or claim an award seat by phone. As for checked bags, the fee is now $15 for the first bag if you pay online and $20 if you pay at the airport. The second-checked-bag fee is $25 when paid online and $30 at the airport. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, which lost $257 million in the second quarter, added $5 to its checked-bag charge at the airport, too. The fees are now $15 (online) and $20 (at the airport) for the first bag and $25 (online) and $30 (at the airport) for the second bag. … This week's across-the-board, $10 roundtrip fare increase, initiated by Delta, has apparently fizzled. Most of the fare increases have been rolled back. It would have been the third price hike in six weeks.
Turnberry Reopens in Scotland, a W Hotel Opens in Washington
If Tom Watson's epic run--and playoff collapse--in last week's British Open whetted your appetite for a little Scottish links action, take note: Turnberry Golf Resort has reopened after a $65 million renovation and restoration. The 211-room property's Ailsa Course was the venue for last weekend's dramatic showdown between the 59-year-old Watson and little-known Stewart Cink, who won the four-hole playoff. Turnberry is now part of Starwood's Luxury Collection. … Speaking of Starwood, it has also opened a 317-room W Hotel on 15th and E streets in Washington; Sheraton hotels at Toronto/Pearson and Vancouver airports in Canada; and a 130-room Four Points across from the University of Texas at San Antonio. … Meanwhile, Hilton has opened a Hilton Garden Inn in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and a Hampton Inn in Yonkers, the Westchester County suburb north of New York City. … Two months ago in Tactical Traveler, I mentioned new hotels located inside old aircraft in Costa Rica and Sweden. Now comes a third: the Airplane Suite, which is carved out of an Ilyushin 18 built in the old Soviet Union in 1960. The 40-meter-long aircraft has been turned into a suite for two people at a cost of about $650,000. It sits at the end of a runway at the airport in Teuge, just outside of Amsterdam. The suite costs 350 euros a night.
San Jose Terminal B Concourse Opens Its First Five Gates
Aging San Jose Airport in Silicon Valley is getting a $1.3 billion makeover and here's the first evidence of the upgrade: Five gates have opened in the new Terminal B Concourse. All the gates will be used by Southwest, which now splits its San Jose operation between Terminal A and B. The downside of Terminal B: Travelers must clear security in Terminal A and take a long, long walk to get to the Terminal B gates. … There was a crash at Newark Airport this week, but it didn't involve aircraft. Two shuttle buses were involved in a head-on collision. One bus was operated by the Marriott hotel at the airport and the driver was killed in the crash. Three passengers were injured. … A business center has opened in the South Terminal at Miami Airport between Concourses H and J. The operation, with five computers, photocopiers and printers, is run by a currency-exchange firm. … Continental Airlines is moving to Terminal 3 at Beijing International on July 30. Continental's check-in facilities at the sprawling airport will be located at Aisle D/Counters 11-16. … Air Jamaica now sells day passes to its Executive Lounge clubs in Kingston and Montego Bay for $30 a visit.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines continues to shrink. As it announced a second-quarter $323 million net loss this week, it detailed more international route cuts: Gone by the fall will be flights to China from its Washington/Dulles hub and Denver-London/Heathrow nonstops. And if you don't think United's woes are hurting crew morale, consider this: A United flight from Sao Paulo to Chicago/O'Hare was diverted to Miami on July 14 after the pilot got into an argument with a senior flight attendant. … Canadian rail travelers take note: Via Rail may be hit with a strike tomorrow (July 24) and the entire Canadian passenger-rail system is likely to shut down. Via Rail has already begun canceling long-distance trains. … Goodbye to MyAir.com, the Italian discount airline. Its financial difficulties led to a shutdown by Italian regulators. Meanwhile, Mexican regulators have shut down Aviacsa for safety violations.
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.