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THE BRIEFING FOR NOV. 10 - NOV. 24, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli
· The Beginning of the End Game at Frontier Airlines
· Exiting LGA, US Airways Plans New Phoenix Flight
· Courtyard By Marriott Is Like Staying in Siberia · American, Alaska Air Flyers Get Reciprocal Perks
· Marriott Rewards Gets 80 More Hotels in Europe
· United, Continental Juggle International Routes
· Duh! Airline CEO Prefers to Fly in His First Class
And Now, The Beginning of the End Game at Frontier Airlines
The mashup known as Frontier Airlines, a barely recognizable amalgam of Midwest Airlines (fka Midwest Express) and the old Frontier, is headed for another frontier. Republic Airways, the commuter carrier that gained control of both carriers and merged them last year, now says it will spin off or sell the airline so it can focus on what it knows: flying regional jets for the legacy lines. The problem with Republic's logic: Like everything else it has done since it grabbed Frontier in bankruptcy in 2008 and acquired the ailing Midwest in 2009, there's probably no market left for what's left of Frontier Airlines. Eighty percent of Frontier's flights operate from a hub in Denver, where it battles both United Airlines and Southwest, which has made the Mile High City its fastest-growing destination ever. Republic has gutted service at Milwaukee, where Midwest had its hub. To replace Milwaukee, Frontier has focused on Kansas City. And while everything might be up to date in Kansas City, it's a brutal airline town. Every carrier that's tried to maintain a hub there--Eastern, TWA, US Airways, Vanguard and at least one of the Braniffs--has failed. Atop all that, Republic plans to reduce the capacity of Frontier by at least 10 percent next year. Almost no one even remembers what planes Frontier flies or what type of service it offers. And despite more than $100 million in recent cost cuts and employee concessions, Frontier still lost $4 million in the third quarter.
Exiting LaGuardia, US Airways Plans a New Phoenix Flight
US Airways will dump the vast majority of its flights at New York/LaGuardia in the slot swap with Delta Air Lines. But it is planning one new route: daily service to its hub in Phoenix beginning March 10. On March 4, US Airways also plans to add another long-haul from its Charlotte hub. The new daily flight will link Charlotte with Salt Lake City. US Airways says it will use an Airbus A319 on LGA-PHX and an A320 on CLT-SLC. John Wayne/Orange County has a logical new food-service operation. An airport-sized branch of the California Pizza Kitchen is now located in the Thomas F. Riley Terminal. SuperShuttle, the shared-van operator, says that it will begin runs to and from Orlando International on February 1. Priority Pass, the global airport club access service, is now accepted in three more lounges: the Plaza Premium club in Langkawi, Malaysia; the new Almost@Home club near Gate 32 in Helsinki; and the US Airways Club in Concourse A at Philadelphia.
Courtyard By Marriott Is Literally Like Staying in Siberia
A new Courtyard by Marriott property that won't top your "must visit" list: the 208-room hotel in Irkutsk, Siberia. Marriott straight-facedly tells us that the hotel is "perfectly situated to explore the sights of Eastern Siberia." And those would be? Speaking of Siberia, a former Ramada hotel is now an 80-room Holiday Inn Express, which the chain is designating "downtown West Los Angeles." It's located at 611 S. Westlake Avenue, near MacArthur Park, which, Richard Harris song nothwithstanding, remains something of a gangbanger battleground. New hotels in Louisiana: Marriott has opened a 91-room TownePlace Suites in Monroe and DoubleTree by Hilton has converted the 127-room Aspen Suites to its flag. Starwood opened the 77-suite Le Meridien Koh Samui. It's located on Lamai Beach, Thailand.
American and Alaska Airlines Flyers Get Some More Reciprocal Perks
American AAdvantage and Alaska Mileage Plan members will have more reciprocal privileges thanks to a new agreement forged by the two carriers. When traveling on Alaska Airlines, AAdvantage elite members receive priority check-in and boarding and are permitted two checked bags at no charge. Platinum and Executive Platinum members will also get preferred seating on Alaska and have access to exclusive security lanes open to Alaska Airlines flyers. Meanwhile, elite level Mileage Plan flyers will receive about the same benefits when flying American Airlines. AAdvantage members can read about the benefits here. Mileage Plan members can get info on their benefits here. Here's some notable bad news: Air Canada Aeroplan now imposes fuel surcharges on award tickets issued for flights on Star Alliance carriers Lufthansa, ANA, Asiana and Thai. Marriott Rewards members can now earn points and claim awards at 80 AC Hotels in Europe. The Spain-based AC Hotels chain recently added the "by Marriott" tag to its name.
United Juggles International Routes, Virgin Atlantic Adds Vancouver
United and Continental continue to juggle their international routes. United is moving its daily Buenos Aires flights from its Washington/Dulles hub to Continental's Newark hub beginning in April. Meanwhile, Continental will add daily flights from Dulles to Manchester (in May) and Dublin (June). Continental will also begin a weekly flight from Los Angeles to Durango, Mexico, in March. Virgin Atlantic says it will launch four weekly flights between Vancouver and London/Heathrow beginning in May. The Airbus A340 service will continue until the end of October. Here's one to watch: The parent company of British Airways and Iberia has agreed to buy British Midland International from Lufthansa. The deal requires government approval and the question is simple: Why should BA, the largest carrier at slot-controlled Heathrow Airport, be allowed to buy the airline that has the second-largest number of take-off and landing slots? Together, BA and BMI would control 52 percent of the slots at Heathrow.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Virgin America has switched to a new reservation system and--surprise!--travelers are paying for it with lost and mangled reservations. After a couple of days of "nothing-we-can-do" apologies, Virgin is now allowing flyers to make changes without penalty through November 13. Travelers who had trouble from October 28 to November 7 are getting some compensation, too. The information is posted here. United Airlines says Panasonic will install WiFi on 300 of its aircraft. That's the same satellite-based system used by Lufthansa, its Star Alliance partner. Of course, United and Continental have made about a zillion other WiFi announcements in the last few years and all but about a dozen of its planes remain unwired. Even this deal won't begin until the middle of next year. In other words, believe it when you can log on in-flight and not before.
And The Sun Sets in The West Department
Jeff Smisek, chief executive of the combined United and Continental airlines, gave an interview this week to the Associated Press. (Read it here.) You can judge for yourself the quality of the interview and what Smisek says, but here is a snippet worthy of special note. "Do you ever fly in coach?" the reporters asked. "I do," said Smisek. "I prefer first class."
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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.