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THE BRIEFING FOR SEPTEMBER 8-22, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli
· Latest Edition of Hotel War Under Way in Waikiki
· Southwest Is Really Serious About Atlanta Flights
· Hyatt Gold Passport Picks Up 21 More Properties · US Airways Drives Final Stake Into Its Vegas Hub
· New Sheraton, Four Points Reflaggings Are Odd
· Cathay Pacific Will Add Premium Economy Cabins
· Ten Years Later: 9/11 As It Happened on TV
The Latest Edition of a Long Hotel War Is Under Way in Waikiki
If you don't like it when a hotel chain doesn't live up to its promises, imagine how pissed hotel owners are when big-name chains leave them high, dry and bleeding cash. The latest edition of the war between the big chains and their property owners is being played out at the Western edge of Waikiki. That's where Honolulu's "newest" hotel has plunged into bankruptcy. The property, once known as the Yacht Harbor Tower of the Ilikai hotel, reopened last fall as the Edition, the first of a new chain of boutique hotels fronted by lodging impresario Ian Schrager and Marriott. And there's the rub. The Edition brand has been a flop since it was introduced with immense fanfare in 2007. At the time, Schrager and Marriott promised 100 Edition hotels in ten years. But only two have opened (the other is in Istanbul). If you believe the owners of the 353-room property, that has left them with a troubled asset, one that cost $112 million to purchase in 2006 and $200 million more to renovate. With nightly occupancy reportedly around 30 percent and losses above $8 million since the hotel opened, the owners sued in May to oust Marriott and void their 30-year management contract. Late last month, the owners mounted a middle-of-the-night coup, too. They changed the locks, exiled Marriott's managers, renamed the property the Modern Honolulu and installed a local hotel-management company to run it. Marriott promptly obtained a temporary restraining order to stop those moves. But when Marriott's managers tried to reassert control, they were handed a letter explaining that the hotel's owners had put the property into Chapter 11. That legally blocks Marriott for now and keeps the hotel operating as the Modern.
Southwest Is Really Serious About Fighting Delta in Atlanta
If you had any doubt that Southwest Airlines' purchase of AirTran Airways last year was all about challenging Delta Air Lines at Atlanta/Hartsfield, here's more evidence: Southwest announced this week that it would launch service between Hartsfield and two cities--Las Vegas and Phoenix--on March 10. That's in addition to the first tranche of flights from Atlanta that Southwest announced just last month. And all those Southwest-branded routes will be in addition to the current AirTran-branded schedule from Atlanta. … Speaking of Las Vegas, say goodbye to the last vestiges of US Airways' hub. The always-shrinking US Airways is slashing 40 percent of its service in Vegas by the end of the year, dropping its daily roster to 21 flights. The cuts include the end of flights to Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fresno. The remaining Vegas flights are all spokes connecting to US Airways' current hubs at Charlotte, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Reagan/National. When it flew as America West, US Airways once had around 130 other daily flights to and from Las Vegas. And if you're keeping track, US Airways (and its predecessor lines) has abandoned hubs in Pittsburgh, Dayton, Columbus, Baltimore/Washington, Syracuse and Fort Lauderdale. It killed transcontinental flights from New York/Kennedy and the entire PSA California Corridor network. And it's trading its New York/LaGuardia hub to Delta for some additional DCA slots. … Hilton has opened a second hotel at London/Heathrow. The 350-room property is a mile from Terminal 5. The other Hilton is attached to Terminal 4.
Hyatt Gold Passport Picks Up 21 More Properties
Hyatt Gold Passport players take note: Hyatt's purchase of LodgeWorks has closed, so 21 non-Hyatt branded properties are offering Gold Passport points. Seventeen of the hotels are currently called Hotel Sierra and four boutique properties are labeled Avia Hotels. Many are located in markets where Hyatt didn't previously have a presence. According to previously announced plans, the Avia properties will be reflagged as Hyatt. But the Sierra hotels, which were initially supposed to be folded into the Summerfield Suites extended-stay brand, may not disappear after all. Insiders say Sierra's exact future in the Hyatt family will be announced by the end of the month. … Bad news by any other name department: British Airways says Avios is the new name of BA Miles, the current currency of BA's Executive Club. The name change presages a major devaluation of the Executive Club awards chart. Expect to learn about that in a few weeks. … American AAdvantage players take note: American will start four weekly flights from New York/Kennedy to Antigua on November 17.
Conversions and Downgrades and Reflaggings, Oh My!
Starwood likes to talk about its trendy W Hotels and its upmarket Westin full-service brand, but it has a lot more dreary Sheraton and Four Points properties in its worldwide portfolio. And despite all of Starwood's talk about upgrading those brands, the properties that it is adding don't give you confidence. For example, a tired former Hyatt on Capitol Square in Columbus, Ohio, has just reflagged itself as the 400-room Sheraton Columbus. And a former Comfort Suites near the Pike Place Market has become the 158-room Four Points Downtown Seattle Center. … Speaking of conversions, the mixed-bag Crowne Plaza brand from InterContinental has put its name on a 261-room former Hilton in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a newly built 136-room property in Tuxpan, Mexico. … The primary conversion brand in the Hilton family, DoubleTree has raised its flag on two existing properties: the 95-room Sheffield Park in Yorkshire, England, and the 88-room Bucharest City Hotel in Romania. … Meanwhile, Hilton's upmarket Conrad brand has opened an 80-villa property in Koh Samui, Thailand, while the flagship Hilton brand has opened a 311-room hotel in Xi'an, China. … Marriott has opened a 175-room SpringHill Suites hotel in Vaughan, Ontario, about 11 miles from Toronto/Pearson Airport.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong-based airline, says it will begin installing a premium economy cabin on its fleet in the second quarter of 2012. … Delta Air Lines has opened a Sky Club in the South Satellite of Seattle Tacoma airport. … New York area flyers take note: Parking Lot 1 at LaGuardia airport has closed for renovations. … A 31-year-old man on a Jetstar flight last month from Singapore to Auckland died when he choked on the in-flight meal. A doctor and two nurses aboard the 11-hour flight couldn't resuscitate him. ... Hyatt Hotels in four locations--West Hollywood, Chicago, San Francisco and Honolulu--are operating around a week-long strike of some employees. The work stoppage is part of the long-running battle between Hyatt and its unions over wages, work rules and outsourcing of jobs.
That's The Way It Was … Unfortunately
Archive.org, best known for the "Wayback Machine" collection of billions of old Web pages, has collected thousands of hours of television broadcasts devoted to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Much of the collection is devoted to the minute-by-minute live coverage as it appeared on the broadcast and cable-news networks. You can view as much of the footage as you can stomach to relive here.
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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.