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A BRIEFING FOR FEBRUARY 4 TO 18, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli
· Continental Bulks Up on Newark-London Route
· Washington/Dulles Gets an Inter-Terminal Train
· Fugly Old Sheraton Hotels By Any Other Name
· Have Subsidy, Will Fly: AirTran Expands Again
· Northwest Airlines Is Dead! Long Live Northwest! · United Introduces One-Way Mileage Plus Awards
· New Hotels for Super Bowl and Olympics Fans
Continental Bulks Up on 'Underserved' New York-London Route
For as long as I've covered business travel, there have been too many seats between New York and London, thus making it the cheapest international route for advance-purchase travel. But airlines slashed the number of flights and the size of the aircraft they used on the so-called NyLon run in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse of financial markets in New York and London. The failure of the three all-business-class carriers on the route (Maxjet, Eos and Silverjet) has reduced the seat supply, too. As financial markets have stabilized in recent months, however, something astonishing has happened: There are days when getting a seat to London for last-minute travel is a dicey proposition. So carriers are once again paying attention to the "underserved" NyLon market. First to move: Continental Airlines, which will increase its Newark capacity by as much as 25 percent this year. It launches its fourth daily Newark-London/Heathrow flight on March 27 and its fifth daily flight on October 28. The carrier will use Boeing 757s on four of the flights and a Boeing 777 on the fifth. Continental adds that all of its flights to and from London will be outfitted with its new lie-flat seat beds by June 1.
Washington/Dulles Gets Its Inter-Terminal Train--and It Breaks
One of the least favorite "amenities" at any airport are those so-called "mobile lounges" at Washington/Dulles. The lumbering buses connect the beautiful, but dated, Eero Saarinen terminal with the airport's gates. After nearly a decade of construction work and $1.5 billion in expense, the Dulles AeroTrain has finally opened to replace some of the "lounges." The four-mile system connects Dulles' main terminal and its A, B and C gates. The AeroTrain opened last week and then promptly broke down on its second day of operation. It does seem to be operating normally now, however. But the bad news is that the buses aren't completely gone. You still need them to get from the main terminal to Dulles' D and H gates and for the trip between your international flight and the Customs and Immigration facility. … Six airports in the BAA system in the United Kingdom have added Boingo's WiFi service. The airports are in London (Heathrow and Stansted), Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Southampton.
Sheratons By Any Other Name, Or, Teaching an Old Brand New Tricks Starwood prides itself on trendy brands like Westin and W Hotels, but it is also saddled with Sheraton, one of the least impressive, least consistent and downright dreary of the old-line lodging names. Starwood says it is pumping $6 billion into an overhaul of Sheraton--and by that it means property owners, not Starwood, bear the cost of upgrades and renovations--and has taken the Sheraton name off nearly three dozen hotels that no longer meet the new standards. But then there's the matter of the 655-room Sheraton Times Square, which old-timers may recall was once called the City Squire. It will be "deflagged" in April because the managers apparently don't want to foot the bill for upgrades. The problem? Starwood is the recalcitrant manager of the Sheraton Times Square that no longer meets its own standards. So Starwood says it will continue to operate the hotel after it stops being called a Sheraton and explore redevelopment options for the property, which occupies a full city block. The Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, across the street from the Sheraton Manhattan and once upon a time called the Americana, will get a $90 million upgrade. Meanwhile, another substandard Sheraton--the castle-like Sheraton Braintree in suburban Boston--closed its doors on January 31. Two days later, it was sold for $9.1 million and will reopen soon with a new name. Old-timers who recognize the "Americana" and "City Squire" names will probably remember the Sheraton Braintree when it was called the Tara Hotel and, later, the Sheraton Tara.
Have Subsidy, Will Fly: AirTran Expands Again
AirTran Airways makes money and one of the reasons it does is that the airline flies to communities willing to subsidize the service. The latest: Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is waiving some airport fees and reimbursing AirTran for $250,000 worth of marketing expenses. Beginning May 4, AirTran will fly twice a day from Grand Rapids to Baltimore/Washington and once a day to Orlando. Speaking of BWI, AirTran will also launch twice-daily flights to Jacksonville, Florida, on May 4. That'll put AirTran in direct competition with Southwest Airlines on the route. AirTran will also add weekend Orlando-Des Moines flights on March 6. … JetBlue Airways continues to grow in Boston. It'll launch flights between Boston/Logan and San Jose, California, on May 13. Also new: Logan-Punta Cana, Dominican Republic service, due to launch on May 8. Two days earlier, the airline is scheduled to begin New York/Kennedy-Punta Cana flights. … Midwest Airlines resumes flights from its Milwaukee hub to San Francisco and Raleigh/Durham. The San Francisco flights return April 19 while the RDU run resumes on April 1.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Northwest Airlines died on January 31. Delta Air Lines officially eliminated the NW code and, effective February 1, all former Northwest flights carry the DL code. There are still plenty of aircraft outfitted with Northwest livery, of course. … United Airlines now offers one-way awards as part of Mileage Plus. Details and award costs can be found here. Just like American Airlines, which introduced one-way awards in AAdvantage last year, there is a catch: Free stopovers are eliminated. All awards are now valid for a single flight segment. … Still looking for a room for Sunday's Super Bowl? A 148-room Crowne Plaza has opened a half-mile from Fort Lauderdale Airport. … Still looking for a room for the Winter Olympics? The 176-room Westin Wall Centre has opened in Richmond, British Columbia. That's four kilometers from Vancouver Airport and near many of the Olympic venues.
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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 © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.