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A BRIEFING FOR MAY 27 TO JUNE 10, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli
· A Blizzard of Hotel Openings and Reflaggings
· American Selling AAdvantage Miles by the Flight
· JetBlue and Southwest Go to War With USAirways
· Frontier and AirTran Are Battling in Milwaukee
· Third Time the Charm for Obama's TSA Nominee? · Euro Drops, But Not as Fast as the 'Experts' Say
· Alaska Adds In-Flight WiFi, Continental Adds TVs
Another Blizzard of Hotel Openings and Reflaggings
The hotel world is awash in excess capacity--four in ten rooms are empty on an average night and daily rates have plunged--but new lodgings continue to open in mad bursts. This week, for example, three new properties opened in New York: a Kimpton (called the Eventi) near Penn Station; a 310-room Staybridge Suites near Times Square; and a 321-room Sheraton in Brooklyn. Hyatt, meanwhile, has opened new Hyatt Place properties in Madison, Wisconsin; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Austin, near the University of Texas campus. It has also opened a Hyatt Summerfield Suites property near Denver Airport. Starwood has opened the doors on Aloft properties in Glendale, Arizona, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There's also a new Four Points by Sheraton in Oklahoma City. Marriott has added a Courtyard in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Country Inns has opened a branch two miles from Bowling Green Airport in Kentucky. And when they can't build new, they reflag. Doubletree, for example, now has its name on the former Radisson in Monroeville, near Pittsburgh, and the former Willow Valley Resort in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Wyndham has slapped its name on two Florida hotels: the old Bel Aire in Miami Beach, which was originally expected to convert to the Hotel Indigo brand, and the former Crowne Plaza in Tampa, which has also been known as the Quorum. Meanwhile, the old Settle Inn near Houston/Intercontinental Airport has become a Park Inn.
American Starts Selling 'Bonus' Miles by the Flight
Since United Airlines has had some limited success selling travelers "bonus" Mileage Plus credit on a per-flight basis, American AAdvantage has decided to do the same. The airline's so-called Mileage Multiplier Option will appear when you check in for your flight via airport kiosk or on AA.com. For the outrageously inflated price of about 3 cents a mile (plus tax), you can buy double or triple flight miles. And American thinks it's giving you a bargain since the 3-cent-a-mile price is positioned as an "introductory" offer. If you're a sucker, you can find out more details here. … Stash Hotel Rewards is the name of a new frequent-guest program that claims to be a loyalty plan for "fiercely independent hoteliers," about 65 of whom are currently participating. But "independent" is in the eye of the beholder. Among the properties in Stash Rewards are the Hotel Sierra chain, run by LodgeWorks, and a handful of lodgings operated by Greystone Hotels of San Francisco. For more information, surf here.
JetBlue and Southwest Go to War With USAirways on Boston-Phoenix
US Airways has been the only nonstop operator between Boston/Logan and its Phoenix hub. And it has charged accordingly. A one-way flight tomorrow (May 28) is $613 (nonrefundable) or an astonishing $1,177 on a refundable basis. But that monopoly comes to an end in September. Southwest Airlines, which already operates a Phoenix hub and is growing in Boston, will launch a daily Logan-Phoenix flight. And JetBlue Airways, the biggest player at Logan, will also add a Boston-Phoenix flight in September. JetBlue's opening rate was $99 one-way. It is currently selling nonrefundable fares for $129 one-way. … Speaking of war, it's Frontier Airlines, which now includes Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines, versus AirTran Airways, which once tried to buy Midwest. Frontier has severed its frequent flyer program link with AirTran and AirTran has responded by offering 32 credits in its A+ Rewards program to any Midwest customer who donates 50,000 miles to charities associated with the Midwest Miles program. The 32 credits are good for one business-class roundtrip wherever AirTran flies. (Details are here.) And while Frontier and Midwest are merging their fleets and schedules, AirTran is bulking up. It is adding flights from Milwaukee to Washington/National and Boston and introducing two new routes (Milwaukee-New Orleans and Milwaukee-Sarasota, Florida). Just for a final tweak, AirTran has painted one of its planes with the logo of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team.
Is the Third Time the Charm for Obama's TSA Nominee?
The top job at the troubled Transportation Security Administration has been empty since the end of the Bush presidency. President Obama delayed choosing a nominee, then settled on Erroll Southers, who withdrew after a controversy surrounding background checks in a personal family matter. Obama's second nominee, Robert Harding, also withdrew after questions about his past as a defense contractor. Earlier this month, Obama named a career FBI man, John Pistole, to the post. Shockingly, Pistole seems to be on the glide path to a quick confirmation. Since January 20, 2009, the TSA has been run by Gale Rossides, a Bush era holdover. Her main "accomplishment?" She sent TSA agents to harass travel bloggers when they reported the new security rules imposed on passengers after the Underwear Bomber incident on Christmas Day, 2009. Judith Miller, the former reporter for The New York Times, has an interesting look at Pistole and the TSA here.
The Euro Plunges, But Not as Far or as Fast as 'Experts' Predicted
The euro climbed to near-record heights against the U.S. dollar earlier this year, but it's been on a steady (and somewhat tumultuous) decline ever since the Greek debt crisis began. Some "experts" predicted it would fall to the $1.20 level this week. It didn't. In fact, it's been relatively stable in the $1.23 range--and that was before China expressed confidence in the euro yesterday (May 26) and Spain passed austerity measures to ease its debt crisis. So don't expect the euro to fall much further in the run-up to the heavy travel months. … Chicago travelers take note: Chicago mayor Richard Daley wants to raise the fee on rental cars picked up at O'Hare Airport by as much as $8. The new fee would come on top of the 8 percent tax and a flat $2.75 surcharge. The fee would supposedly be used to fund a centralized rental car facility at O'Hare. … Good news in the ongoing battle over the right of airlines to charge you to use a credit card when you pay for a ticket on their Web sites. The practice, common in Europe and Australia, ran into the buzz saw called the German consumer-rights lobby. The German federal court ruled last week that Ryanair could not impose its credit card fee (usually around 5 euros) because it did not offer an "established" method for a fee-free online payment. If history is a guide, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary will bitch and moan, then have one of his minions invent a new name for the fee.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Alaska Airlines has begun installing in-flight WiFi on its aircraft. Six of the carrier's Boeing 737s now offer GoGo Inflight connections. … Continental Airlines has made surprising (if extremely quiet) progress equipping its flights with in-flight Live TV service. About 100 planes in its domestic fleet are now covered. (Details are here.) … Air New Zealand says that it will introduce mobile texting and E-mail service on Boeing 777 aircraft later this year. The airline has provided no further details. … Say goodbye (at least for now) to the Charlotte-Honolulu nonstop launched by US Airways last year. Flights will end on September 8, but may be revived as a seasonal service.
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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.