SEND MOBILE LINK
THE BRIEFING FOR EARLY JULY, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli
· Urgent! Bad Week for Global Flight Disruptions
· Look Out! Falling Glass Closes W Hotel in Austin · A Hotel Boomlet for Elvis' Hometown of Tupelo
· JetBlue Adds More Service in the Caribbean
· Southwest Ends Commuter Flights in Milwaukee
· Delta Upgrades Business Class on 777s, 767s
· The Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Train Opens
Urgent! I Didn't Send Out All of These Travel Warnings!
If I'd dropped an E-mail on you this week whenever there was an important travel disruption somewhere in the world, you'd still be digging out from the verbiage. Besides, with the holiday weekend upon us in both Canada and the United States, I got the sense you might not be all that urgently interested. But for history's sake, consider the following: Greek aviation was grounded by the two days of protests against the austerity measures that the government accepted as a condition of a financial bailout from Euro Zone nations. Travelers arriving in Britain late yesterday (June 29) and today (June 30) have faced longer-than-usual customs lines due to a strike by UK Border staffers. Australia and New Zealand flights continue to be disrupted by ash clouds from the Puyehue volcano in Chile. Check here for the best update on current conditions. Air France has rescheduled some flights into and out of Paris/CDG today and tomorrow (July 1) due to a maintenance worker's strike. Remember that many Delta flights are code-shares with Air France and could be affected, too. And we're still waiting for news from Virgin Atlantic pilots on when or if they will strike. Under British law, pilots must give seven days advance notice and begin a job action by July 19 or else take a new strike vote.
Look Out Below! Falling Glass Closes W Hotel in Austin
So much for that cool glass faηade on the seven-month-old W Hotel in Austin, Texas. After three separate incidents of glass falling from the south side of the building, the hotel has been closed indefinitely. There's a hotel boomlet in Tupelo, Mississippi, best known as the birthplace of Elvis. Within the next few weeks, look for an 88-room Hampton Inn, an 87-room Fairfield Inn and an 80-room Best Western. No word on whether Elvis has left any of those buildings yet. And as if to underscore my column last week about the mushy middle of the hotel landscape, there are a raft of new focused-service openings this week and nary a new full-service property to be seen. You'll a find new Homewood Suites in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A Fairfield Inn opened in Fenton, Michigan. Hilton Garden Inn hotels debuted at the airport in Springfield, Oregon, and Santiago, Chile. A SpringHill Suites from Marriott opened in Bloomington, Minnesota, two miles from the Mall of America, and a Residence Inn by Marriott opened in Jackson, Tennessee. Home2, Hilton's newest brand, opened a branch in downtown Baltimore. It's a conversion of a former apartment building that once housed a Comfort Inn. And a Candlewood Suites opened in Avondale, Louisiana.
JetBlue Adds More Flights in the Caribbean
As American Airlines downsizes its Caribbean hub in San Juan, JetBlue Airways is moving right in with more service around the region. Among the carrier's newest route announcements: Boston-St. Thomas, which begins December 15; Hartford-San Juan, beginning in January, 2012; and more inter-island flights (San Juan-St. Thomas and San Juan-St.Croix) that start on December 15. JetBlue previously said it would add a route between San Juan and St. Maarten on November 17. True to its no-regional-jet mantra, Southwest Airlines has severed the code-share agreement between its AirTran Airways subsidiary and SkyWest, the commuter carrier. The SkyWest arrangements at Milwaukee, an AirTran hub, end on September 6. The change means that AirTran will use its Boeing 717 aircraft on routes to Akron/Canton and Des Moines and Southwest Airlines will add its Boeing 737s on the Milwaukee-St. Louis route. But that leaves three routes (Milwaukee to Indianapolis, Omaha and Pittsburgh) at least temporarily off the Southwest-AirTran map.
Delta Air Lines Gets More Business-Class Heads on Beds
I've lost track of how many international business-class configurations are now flying at Delta Air Lines, which is still integrating Northwest Airlines equipment and NW's outdated World Business Class cabins into the mix. But Delta is slowly whipping its planes into some sort of competitive shape. The airline announced this week that all 18 of its Boeing 777 aircraft are now configured with fully flat BusinessElite seat-beds. The carrier's 21 Boeing 767-400ERs are also done. The 777s have 45 seats while the 767-400ERs have 40 seats. Next up for reconfiguration are the Boeing 767-300ERs and they should be done by the end of August. But the airline admits that its fleet of 140 international aircraft won't be fully updated until (yikes!) the end of 2013. By now, you've probably heard about (and seen news film on) the new high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai. The trains, which travel upwards of 300 kilometers an hour, officially went into service today (June 30). The five-hour or less ride on the 1,300-kilometer run costs about US$65 each way in standard class. A lie-flat, airline-style bed will cost about US$275. Tickets are available at the Shanghai and Beijing stations from kiosks that offer English-language instructions.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Blow me over with a 16-ton weight: United Continental Holdings has chosen the handle Mileage Plus for the combined frequent flyer plan that launches in January. The airline announced the name this week and promised to auto-enroll Continental OnePass members. But the airline remains mum about the important details of the new program. Boingo customers take note: You can now use your Boingo credentials to log in for service on aircraft equipped with Gogo Inflight WiFi. However, the cost of Gogo is not--repeat, not--part of your monthly Boingo subscription. It's an ΰ la carte purchase at Gogo's going rates. Virgin America flyers at four big airports--San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston/Logan and Dallas/Fort Worth--can test a Google Chromebook computer during flights until September 30. Details are here. . Samsung this week installed charging stations at Washington/National airport. Each station includes six electrical outlets, two USB charging ports and four micro-USB ports.
HOME E-MAIL JOE PRINT SEND MOBILE LINK 2011 COLUMNS JOE'S ARCHIVES SEARCH
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.