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A BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 5 TO 19, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli
· This Is Why We Hate the Airlines, Part 6,297
· JetBlue and AirTran Expand Networks Again
· Still More Fallout From the Lodging Crisis
· SkyTeam Adds Facilities at Heathrow Terminal 4
· Three Midwest Cities Are Back on the Route Map · Amtrak Loses $32 a Rider; Acela Makes Money
· Another Slew of Amazing Tales of United Airlines
This Is Why We Hate the Airlines, Part 6,297
Midwest Airlines grounded its last aircraft this week and switched to planes owned and operated by its corporate parent, Republic Airways, and Frontier Airlines, another Republic subsidiary. But here's the ugly part: Republic EMB-190s will be used back-to-back on flights, sometimes operating as Midwest Airlines and then taking off on its next leg as a Frontier Airlines flight. This strange state of affairs will be most noticeable on flights to and from Tampa and Orlando. Consider one aircraft's run: The EMB-190 leaves Omaha at 7:50 a.m. and flies to Orlando as a Midwest Airlines flight. After landing at 11:50 a.m., it departs at 12:20 p.m. and flies to Oklahoma City as a Frontier flight. After arriving at Oklahoma City at 2:15 p.m., it leaves at 2:50 p.m. and flies back to Orlando, again as a Frontier flight. After landing at 6:30 p.m., it leaves Orlando at 7 p.m. and flies back to Omaha as a Midwest Airlines flight. Obviously, Frontier and Midwest are different airlines. Frontier is all-coach with in-flight television service. Midwest runs a two-class airline. The EMB-190s flying as both airlines certainly can't offer both carriers' service. So there goes the airlines' brand integrity and there go passenger expectations--again.
JetBlue (in Boston) and AirTran (in Milwaukee) Expand Again
JetBlue Airways has emerged as the power player in Boston and it looks like it'll be fighting for control of Logan, New England's primary airport, with Southwest Airlines. (We discussed the battle of Boston back in April. The latest shot from JetBlue is a 30 percent increase in departures from Logan beginning next year. There'll be additional flights to Chicago/O'Hare, Washington/Dulles, Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham; more transcons (San Diego and San Francisco); more flights to leisure destinations (Fort Lauderdale and the Caribbean); and some additional service in direct competition with Southwest (Baltimore/Washington and Denver). Meanwhile, AirTran Airways continues to bulk up in Milwaukee. Using its own Boeing aircraft, AirTran will begin Milwaukee-Dallas/Fort Worth flights in April. And it has cut a deal with SkyWest, a former commuter carrier for Midwest Airlines, to operate six routes from Milwaukee. SkyWest will use 50-seat regional jets to fly from Milwaukee to Akron, Des Moines and Omaha. Skywest RJs will also replace AirTran jets on Milwaukee routes to Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The new service will phase in next month through February. As you may recall, AirTran tried and abandoned commuter service several years ago. AirTran also tried to merge with Milwaukee-based Midwest in 2007. Midwest rejected a merger, sold itself to an investment firm, went bankrupt and was eventually purchased by Republic earlier this year.
More Fallout From the Lodging Crisis
Hotels have suffered from plummeting occupancy rates and falling room rates for more than a year and the situation has gotten so bad that more lodging properties are late on their mortgages than private homes. The result? More craziness as individual properties and chains scramble to keep their corporate heads above the oceans of red ink. The latest news: Starwood is selling the Bliss spa and body products company to raise $100 million. Starwood purchased Bliss for $25 million in 2004 and started putting Bliss and Remede branded spas in W and St. Regis hotels. Meanwhile, the much-troubled Hilton hotel in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh is being sold. The current owner halted a major renovation several months ago after it stopped paying contractors. That left the property an eyesore in the center of Pittsburgh. The new owners are bringing in a respected third-party management company and pledge to finish the renovations. … A 235-room W hotel has opened in Boston in the city's Theater District.
SkyTeam Shifts Terminals in London and Barcelona
The SkyTeam Alliance is moving to new facilities in two major international airports. At London/Heathrow, for example, SkyTeam is essentially taking over Terminal 4, British Airways' former digs. (BA is now in the new Terminal 5.) Three SkyTeam carriers--Delta, KLM and Kenya--are already sharing a new 1,600-square-meter check-in facility. Several more SkyTeam carriers (Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia, Czech and Korean) move in during the rest of this month. And a second level of a shared SkyTeam lounge is scheduled to open next week. The first level opened in the spring. Meanwhile, the SkyTeam carriers have completed their move into new facilities in Terminal 1 in Barcelona. … Three Midwest cities--Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Quincy and Marion, Illinois--are back on the route map. Effective November 8, Cape Air will use turboprops to connect the cities to St. Louis. … Qantas opened a new lounge on Level 5 of Hong Kong International. It is also available to qualifying Oneworld members. … Police in Phoenix have arrested a husband and wife team and charged them with systematically stealing more than a thousand bags from baggage carousels at Sky Harbor Airport. "It's a God awful lot of luggage, you can't even imagine," a police spokesman said. The couple allegedly sold items from the luggage (and the bags, too) at regular weekly yard sales.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Bangkok/Suvarnabhumi now offers free WiFi service, but you'll have to present your boarding pass at an airline ticket counter to get a user name and password. The airport already has 126 computer kiosks that offer free Internet access. … AirTran Airways cut the price of its in-flight WiFi by offering two-for-one rates until the end of the year. All of the airline's fleet of Boeing 717 and 737 aircraft are wired with GoGo Inflight. … Speaking of GoGo, it is struggling to find a market for the service it offers on AirTran, American, Delta and Virgin America flights. It has cut the price of its 30-day pass to $24.95. That's a 50 percent reduction. … A private transportation foundation says that the average subsidy per rider on Amtrak is $32. One of the few profitable parts of Amtrak is Acela, the comparatively high-speed service in the Northeast Corridor. It earns a profit of about $41 a passenger. The biggest Amtrak loser: the Sunset Limited between Los Angeles and New Orleans. It loses a startling $462 a passenger.
Another Week, Another Slew of Amazing Tales of United Airlines
Submitted for your approval (and without comment from me): United Airlines lost the luggage of David Carroll last week on a flight to Denver. Does the name David Carroll sound familiar? He's the Canadian singer/songwriter who became famous when United broke his guitar and he created a video about the airline's response. … United refused to allow a vice president of Best Buy to sit in its first-class cabin on a flight this week. The passenger had paid for the upgrade, but a gate agent refused to allow him into first class because he was wearing a track suit, which the agent deemed inappropriate attire. … A survey created by a company called Glassdoor.com says United chief executive Glenn Tilton is the third-worst CEO in the nation. His eight percent approval rating from employees was better than only the chief executives of Office Depot and Frost & Sullivan.
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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.