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A BRIEFING FOR MAY 6 TO MAY 20, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli
· Will Registered Traveler Programs Live Again?
· DOT Slams the Door Again on a Delta-US Air Deal
· Hotel Profits Plunge in 2009, So New Hotels Open
· Second-Guessing Sully's 'Miracle on the Hudson'
· American AAdvantage, Marriott Rewards Part · Avis Says It May Top Hertz' Bid for Dollar Thrifty
· Have an Amex SkyMiles Card? You Get a Free Bag
Will Registered Traveler Programs Live Again?
Nearly a year after the Clear registered traveler program unceremoniously folded and promptly took its two smaller competitors down with it, there may be new life for security line-cut programs. The somewhat ill-defined bones of Clear were purchased out of bankruptcy this week by a new firm that claims it is about to relaunch the plan. The company, Alclear, paid about $5.9 million for the assets of Clear and the firm's chief executive promises to begin enrolling new members this summer. Caryn Seidman-Becker also says that frequent flyers who joined the old Clear program will have their original membership terms honored. The problem? Clear has no remaining airport locations and no contracts to re-open them. And one former Clear location, Indianapolis Airport, this week hired a previously unknown firm called iQueue to relaunch a registered traveler program there. IQueue, which shares a relationship with and some management of the old FLO registered traveler program, is already taking pre-enrollments, but hasn't announced a date for reopening in Indianapolis. If all of this sounds sketchy, well, it is all in form for the cursed concept of registered traveler. For more information about the "new" Clear, click here. For details about iQueue, click here.
The DOT Slams the Door on the Delta-US Airways Deal Again
For nearly a year, Delta and US Airways have been trying to swap slots and facilities at New York/LaGuardia and Washington/National. The initial deal would essentially make Delta the dominant carrier at hard-to-enter LaGuardia and help US Airways get control of equally difficult-to-access National. But the Department of Transportation opposed it and demanded changes back in February. Delta and US Airways then floated a proposal to allow the two airlines to off load a few slots to carriers they specified. The DOT opposed that offer, too, and this week issued its definitive ruling. For Delta and US Airways to do a deal, the DOT wants the carriers to divest 14 pairs of takeoff and landing positions at National and 20 pairs at LaGuardia. The slots would have to be sold at a blind auction to airlines without a substantial presence at either LaGuardia or National. But neither Delta nor US Airways want to do it the DOT's way and they are now threatening to sue. Their legal rationale for opposing the DOT ruling is unclear.
Hotel Profits Plunge, So New Hotels Open
How bad are things in the hotel business? Profits were down 35.4 percent last year, the worst decline since the 1930s. According to PKF Hospitality Research, 81 percent of hotels in the nation rented fewer rooms in 2009 than in 2008. The average daily rate dropped 12 percent and nightly occupancy dropped by 7.5. percent. The declines were across the board, too. Although the profit drops were most severe at resorts (37.8 percent) and full service and convention hotels (about 37 percent each), suite hotels were down 23-25 percent and limited-service properties dropped almost 30 percent. … Do all of these dreary numbers mean hotel firms and investors have put the breaks on new openings? Of course not. In Rockville, Maryland, for example, Hilton has opened two properties in the same building. A 112-room Hilton Garden Inn and an 87-unit Homewood Suites share a property adjacent to the Interstate 270 Technology Corridor. And in Curacao, a 350-room Hyatt Regency has opened at the 1,500-acre Santa Barbara Plantation Resort.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American AAdvantage and Marriott Rewards players take note: Marriott is out of AAdvantage effective July 1. The last day to earn AAdvantage miles for Marriott stays is June 30. It's also the last day you can convert Marriott Rewards points to miles. … Delta Air Lines flyers take note: Effective June 1, you'll get to check a bag for free if you carry a Delta SkyMiles American Express Card. The benefit matches what several other carriers offer travelers who hold a credit card tied to their frequency program. … Virgin America won't launch its flights to Orlando from Los Angeles and San Francisco on August 19 after all. The airline claims it won't have planes to service the route until at least the fourth quarter of the year. … Not so fast: the $1.2 billion Hertz offer to buy Dollar Thrifty may not be a done deal. Avis Budget says it may make a higher offer for the Number 4 car-rental firm. … The volcanic ash cloud that created havoc with European flights last month has reappeared. It briefly closed some airports in Scotland and Ireland this week. Some airports in Ireland, but not Dublin, will be closed on Friday, too.
Second-Guessing the Miracle on the Hudson
The National Transportation Safety Board issued its report this week on last year's emergency landing of a US Airways flight on the Hudson River. The verdict on Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's handling of Flight 1549? Not surprisingly, he and his crew were hailed as heroes. However, some testimony during the NTSB hearings suggested that Sullenberger might have been able to guide the jet back to LaGuardia even though the Airbus A320's engines were knocked out by a bird strike. Pilots who used simulators to recreate the accident consistently managed to land their "virtual" aircraft back at LaGuardia. Of course, no matter how accurate, simulators can't match the real thing. Sullenberger didn't comment on the NTSB report. In his book, however, he dismissed a run back to LaGuardia because it would "rule out every other option" and might cause him to kill "who knows how many people" if he crashed into the crowded New York streets below.
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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.