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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 16 - JUNE 30, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli
· The End Game Begins at Mashed-Up Frontier
· The Short, Strange Strike at Air Canada Is Over · Marriott Opens a Raft of New Hotels Nationwide
· Air France Strike May Hit Transatlantic Flights
· Meanwhile, Back Under the Volcanic Ash Cloud
· American Will Use Tablet PCs on Some Flights
· W Opens a Hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia
The End Game Begins at Mashed-Up Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines has been a big mess ever since the parent company of a bunch of commuter carriers snatched Frontier and Midwest Airlines out of bankruptcy in 2009. The service philosophy of the two airlines never matched, neither the fleets nor the employees were a good fit and the buyer, Republic Airways Holdings, knew zilch about running a "branded" carrier that had to market its own flights and determine its own policies. The company even admitted that it settled on Frontier as the name of the mashed-up carrier because the Midwest brand connoted a level of quality that Republic wasn't capable of offering. Now it looks as if the end game is upon us: Republic this week said it needs to sell a majority stake in the operation to raise $70 million and requires $120 million in cost savings and employee givebacks to survive. Frontier, which lost $51 million in the first quarter, is being pummeled by Southwest Airlines at its Denver and Milwaukee hubs. Southwest has already unseated Frontier as the Number 2 carrier behind United Airlines in Denver and Southwest's AirTran Airways subsidiary has been growing in Milwaukee ever since it unsuccessfully tried to buy Midwest in 2007. Long-term survival chances of Frontier: probably a little less than zero. In fact, it's hard to see how Frontier can fly through the lean winter travel season if oil prices stay near or above $100 a barrel.
The Short, Strange Strike at Air Canada Is Over
The union representing about 3,800 of Air Canada's airport check-in agents and other employees called a strike on Tuesday (June 14). The employees walked but, except for a few cancellations and some longer-than-usual lines during the morning rush hours at Air Canada's Toronto/Pearson hub, the airline has operated relatively smoothly. But no one told the Canadian government that the sky wasn't falling. Conservative Labor minister Lisa Raitt rushed into the Canadian House of Commons today (June 16) and demanded an emergency law to force the union back to work. Her rationale? The Canadian air travel system would collapse next week if the striking employees didn't return immediately. When challenged by opposition parliamentarians, who pointed out that the system was running just fine, Raitt insisted the situation couldn't last and collapse was imminent. I guess we'll never know, though. Late this afternoon, the striking union and Air Canada settled their dispute by referring a contentious pension issue to arbitration.
Marriott Opens A Raft of New Hotels Across the Nation
It's been a busy week for Marriott, especially at the "select service" end of its brand spectrum. Get our your scorecard and mark these new additions. From Fairfield Inn, there's an 83-room hotel in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and a 131-room property in downtown Wichita, Kansas. There is also an 84-room TownePlace hotel in Elko, Nevada. Courtyard has added a 124-room outlet in Washington, Pennsylvania, which is 26 miles from Pittsburgh airport. A 100-room SpringHill Suites branch opened on Main Street in Grand Junction, Colorado. Finally, the former 86-room Hotel Schiller in Lucerne, Switzerland, has been restored. The 100-year-old building has been dubbed the Renaissance Lucerne. It's the smallest Renaissance property in the chain's inventory. On the flip side, however, the Renaissance Chancery Court in London is out of the system. It's now managed by New World, a Hong Kong firm whose other hotels are all in Asia. W Hotels has opened a 137-room branch in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Voznesensky Prospect. Hilton has opened a resort complex between the seaside resort towns of Bodrum and Turkbuku, Turkey. The hotel has 433 guestrooms, 53 suites and eight villas.
Back Under the Volcanic Ash Cloud
Last week's volcanic eruption in Chile continues to play havoc with flight schedules in Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. Qantas has cancelled the most flights this week, but was due to run a full schedule, including to Perth and Tasmania, today (June 16). The airline says trans-Tasman flights to New Zealand are due to resume tomorrow. The same is true for its Jetstar division. Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have cancelled a number of trans-Tasman flights this week and their schedules today and tomorrow have been sketchy. Meanwhile, LAN, Aerolineas Argentinas and other airlines have resumed service at Buenos Aires' primary international airport, most commonly known as EZE. However, flights at Aeroparque, the Buenos Aires airport that handles many domestic and intra-South America routes, continue to suffer from delays and many cancellations. A strike at Air France that began on Monday (June 13) has mostly caused short-haul cancellations this week. But some long-haul and transatlantic flights may be affected in the next few days. Check carefully if you're booked on Air France or any SkyTeam carriers that put their codes on Air France flights.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines says it will replace its in-flight entertainment system with Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets. American will use about 6,000 Tab units with 10-inch screens in premium-class cabins on transcontinental flights between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco; flights to Los Angeles from Boston and Miami; and select flights to Europe and South America. Most of the tablets will be used on flights operated with Boeing 767-200 and -300 jets. China Southern Airlines has launched three weekly nonstops between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Guangzhou. China Southern uses three-class Boeing 777-200ERs. US Bank is beginning to deploy chip-and-pin technology on its FlexPerks Visa cards. Chip-and-pin is the system used in many parts of the world instead of magnetic-stripe technology. FlexPerks is the card US Bank issued after it lost the Northwest WorldPerks card after Northwest's merger with Delta Air Lines.
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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 © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.