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THE BRIEFING FOR DECEMBER 1-15, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli
· JetBlue, WestJet Buy Their Way Into LGA, DCA
· What to Know About the American Bankruptcy
· Meet the New Hotels. Same as the Old Hotels. · Now United, UA and CO Start Swapping Routes
· Airlines Want to Delay the New Baggage Rules
· Terminal C at John Wayne/Orange County Open
· JoeSentMe Now BradPittforBusinessTravel.Com
JetBlue and WestJet Buy Their Way Into New York/LaGuardia
The deal between Delta Air Lines and US Airways to swap assets--Delta will get most of US Airways' operations at New York/LaGuardia and US Airways will get most of Delta's slots at Washington/National--includes a government-mandated divestment of some take-off and landing positions. Through a secret auction process, JetBlue and WestJet are going to split a nice chunk of former US Airways and Delta slots. WestJet, the Canadian discounter, has won the bidding for eight pairs of LGA slots. That'll mean eight new roundtrips to and from Canada. JetBlue Airways, which currently has 10 LGA and nine DCA flights, won eight pairs of slots at each airport. According to data on a government Web site, JetBlue bid $72 million for its package of slots and WestJet bid around $18 million for its bundle. Expect to hear about WestJet's and JetBlue's route plans in the next few weeks.
What to Know--And What to Expect--About the American Bankruptcy
American's bankruptcy filing on Tuesday (November 29) was surprising only for the timing. After all, the carrier was already sinking fast. But one notable fact about the bankruptcy: American and its parent company, AMR Corp., chose not to go for debtor-in-possession financing. It'll underwrite its own reorganization from a $4.1 billion war chest amassed by earlier borrowing on its unmortgaged assets. Self-funding its reorganization will give the airline a bit more control of its destiny. Going forward, expect American to begin dropping routes early next year. In fact, it has already applied to reject leases on about two dozen planes in its aging fleet. The airline insists that it won't change its "key city" strategy and will continue to focus on major gateways such as New York, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago and Los Angeles. But it faces brutal competition in all of those cities except Miami and Dallas and it's ill-equipped to fight given its old fleet and outdated premium-class cabins. It's hard to see how the airline can avoid turning more of its flying over to Oneworld partners such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Don't be surprised if American relies more on regional partners such as Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways, too. And as you've surely already heard, the airline will continue to scapegoat labor unions and demand (or impose) gigantic concessions, even though the unions agreed to substantial givebacks in 2003, when AMR first threatened bankruptcy.
Meet the New Hotels. Same as the Old Hotels.
The insane pace of hotel building took a breather this week, but that didn't stop the major chains from playing the real-world version of Monopoly. And while no one built on Boardwalk or Park Place, there were a lot of reflaggings to note. Hilton's DoubleTree division picked up a former 465-room Radisson in the Pittsburgh borough of Green Tree. Marriott's Courtyard division slapped its name on the old King Kamehameha hotel in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. The 452-room beachfront property reopened this week after a two-year, $35 million upgrade. Starwood's Sheraton chain has hoisted its flag over the 730-room hotel in Kansas City's Crown Center formerly known as the Hyatt Regency. The 152-room Athens Park Hotel in the northern part of the Greek capital has become a Radisson Blu and the 210-room Excelsior Creek Hotel in Dubai's embassy district has become a Holiday Inn.
Now Officially One, United and Continental Start Swapping Routes
United and Continental airlines, financially merged for more than a year, got their joint operating certificate this week. That means they are one airline as far as governmental regulators are concerned. And the carrier wasted no time in moving planes around its route network. That normally wouldn't be a problem--except that United ran a three- or four-class operation and Continental jets have been configured with just two classes. Jets formerly in the Continental fleet are getting Economy Plus, but just one aircraft has been converted to date. Without notice, however, Continental aircraft are picking up former United routes such as Baltimore/Washington-Denver, Los Angeles-Boston and Washington/Dulles-Seattle. On the other hand, United aircraft are taking over Continental routes such as Los Angeles-Cleveland. Perhaps worst of all, at least a dozen other routes will mix and match United and Continental aircraft on specific flights, which means travelers may never know what classes will be available to them on which flights. The bulk of the switches occur in April, although at least a dozen international routes have already swapped aircraft. ... American Airlines and Japan Airlines now jointly run JAL's Sakura Lounge at Honolulu. That means American Admirals Club members need to find the Sakura Lounge, which is located on the third level of the overseas terminal. ... Terminal C at John Wayne/Orange County officially opened last week. Frontier and Southwest use the terminal, but baggage glitches in the first few days have scrambled the carriers' operations. Check carefully if you're using those two airlines.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Express Membership Rewards and AirTran's A+ Rewards program are parting ways ahead of AirTran's merger into Southwest Airlines. If you want to transfer Amex points to A+, the transaction must be completed by February 29. ... Airlines want a one-year delay for implementation of the Transportation Department's new rules on baggage fees. The new rules, all aimed at making the fees and rules more transparent, are due to go into effect on January 24. The airlines are actually complaining that the fees, which they have imposed with increasing frenzy since 2008, are too complex to disclose in full. ...Chase says the British Airways Visa card is now available with the "chip-and-pin" technology that is standard on most credit cards issued in Europe.
And I'll Be Changing My Name to 'Brad Pitt for Business Travel'
The Air Transport Association, the airline-industry trade group that lobbies for the carriers' interests in Washington, has decided to change its name. Best known for taking consumer-unfriendly stances and making the most absurd claims about the realities of air travel, the organization now wants to be called Airlines for America. Its new tagline, which is about as misleading as everything else the organization says publicly, is: We Connect the World. In that spirit, I'm changing my name to Brad Pitt. The new name of JoeSentMe.com is now officially BradPittforBusinessTravel.com
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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.