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A BRIEFING FOR OCTOBER 8 TO 22, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli
· The Right Price for Aircell's In-Flight WiFi? Free
· 'Q' Fares Can Now Be Upgraded With AA Miles
· Suddenly, Airlines Add Flights to Hawaii Again
· Hyatt (and Some Old Names) Return to Kowloon
· More Days for the $10 'Holiday-Travel' Surcharge
· Hilton Reflags the Hotel at Kentucky's Rupp Arena
· Light Loads, Fast Stops for BA's LCY-JFK Flights
Aircell Finds the Right Price for In-Flight WiFi: Free
Now that Aircell has outfitted about 500 Delta, American and AirTran planes (as well as the entire Virgin America fleet and a single United Airlines aircraft) with WiFi, it has apparently realized what some of us have been saying for several years: There's simply no market for paid Internet in the sky. At least no market that can be served profitably. Desperate to convince travelers to sample its GoGo service, Aircell is now giving away the WiFi to all comers. If you are on an American Airlines flight with WiFi, just enter the promo code AATRYGOGO when prompted for payment. Then click "update total." On Delta flights, use the code DELTATRYGOGO. At AirTran, the promo code is AIRTRANTRYGOGO. According to Aircell, the codes are meant only for first-time users of the service, but that restriction is easily circumvented by creating a new account each time you travel. The promotion is scheduled to last until December 31--or until Aircell realizes that no one is going to pay for WiFi when free codes are out there.
American Drops Upgrade Restriction on Cheaper International Tickets
Want tangible proof that the airlines aren't expecting a recovery of high-yield international business-class travel anytime soon? Here it is: American AAdvantage has dropped its restriction on mileage upgrades for cheaper business-class seats. The airline quietly changed its rules this week and tickets purchased in Q class to Europe, Asia, India or Latin America can now be upgraded using standard AAdvantage mileage awards and the cash co-pay. The airline also made some other changes to its upgrade awards and raised the price of a few of its domestic upgrade co-pays. Complete details are here. And, yes, I know: Making Q fares available for upgrade is simply restoring a benefit previously available to AAdvantage members. That's my point: There's no paid travel left to fill the business-class seats, so American figures it might as well get the upgrade co-pay revenue from travelers booked in the cheaper classes of coach.
Suddenly, Everyone Is Adding Flights to Hawaii Again
Last year's run-up in fuel costs destroyed Aloha and ATA, two carriers with heavy schedules to Hawaii. No one moved to fill the gap last year, but this year has been a different story. First it was Alaska Airlines with new flights from the West Coast to several airports in Hawaii. Then American Airlines announced last month that it would restore Hawaii flights from its Chicago/O'Hare hub. In December, Air Canada launches flights to Honolulu from Calgary and US Airways adds a nonstop from its Charlotte hub. And now Continental Airlines, which currently operates the only nonstop to Hawaii from the East Coast (from its Newark hub), is adding more West Coast flights. Beginning in March, Continental will fly from Los Angeles to Kahului, Maui, and from John Wayne/Orange County to Honolulu. It'll also begin a second daily flight from LAX to Honolulu. All three flights will be operated with two-class Boeing 737s. … Speaking of Continental, it will move its Tokyo flights to the South Wing of Narita's Terminal 1. That'll put it near United Airlines, a logical move since Continental joins United in the Star Alliance on October 24. … Speaking of the ever-shrinking United, the airline is closing its Red Carpet Club in Frankfurt. That's no surprise since the Frankfurt club facilities of Lufthansa, its Star Alliance partner, are several orders of magnitude better. … A branch of the local Panini's Bar and Grill chain has opened on Concourse C at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.
Some More Details on BA's New London/City-New York Flights
The new British Airways all-business-class flights between London/City Airport (LCY) near Canary Wharf and New York's Kennedy Airport now have about 10 days in the books. As you know, the westbound flight makes a refueling stop at Shannon because LCY's short runway cannot handle a fully fueled Airbus A318. BA has been promising a 45-minute stop in Shannon, but most days it has been around an hour. However, one day this week the aircraft spent just 39 minutes on the ground. And BA has finally provided specifics on the seats. They offer 21.37 inches between the armrests and 75 inches of legroom. Oh, passenger loads on the flights (the JFK-LCY leg is a nonstop) have charitably been described as "light." Look for deeply discounted promotional fares when BA adds a second daily frequency later this month.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Remember that $10 holiday-travel surcharge that the Big Six slapped on fares for three days later this year? It's now expanded to about a dozen more days around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter and Memorial Day. … Speaking of fees, Chris Elliott of ConsumerTravel.com reports that Avis now charges you a $10 fee if you extend your rental. It's called, appropriately enough, a "rental extension fee." … Eurofly, a privately owned Italian carrier, won't fly from the United States this winter. Its last flight is next week. It's the first time in a few years that the carrier hasn't maintained at least one New York-Rome flight throughout the winter months. … Hilton has slapped its flag on the Lexington Downtown Hotel, the property adjacent to the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. The 367-room hotel is undergoing a $13 million renovation.
Hyatt Returns to Tsim Sha Tsui With a New Hyatt Regency
Many business travelers have fond memories of the towering Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, the Tsim Sha Tsui landmark on Nathan Road that closed on New Year's Day in 2006. The hotel was also a big deal for Hyatt, since it was the chain's first property outside the United States when it opened in 1969. Hyatt has now returned to the heart of Kowloon with this week's opening of the 381-room Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui. Located just a few steps from the old Nathan Road outpost, the new property occupies floors 3 through 24 of the new K11 multi-use development on Hanoi Road. The top two floors of the hotel have been reserved for Regency Club rooms and they have floor-to-ceiling windows and views of Victoria Harbor. The new hotel also revives some of the old property's food and beverage outlets. There's a kitschy bar called Chin Chin; a joint called Hugo's that serves old-style, tableside European cuisine; and even an unthreatening Cantonese restaurant named, well, The Chinese Restaurant.
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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.