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THE BRIEFING FOR MAY 3 TO MAY 17, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli
· Suntrust and Delta Revive Miles on Debit Cards
· TSA Adds Sea-Tac and Orlando to PreCheck Plan
· It's a JetBlue World. We Just Fly Its Partners.
· Just In Case You Need a Hotel Room in Doha...
· Milwaukee's Days as a Hub Are Officially Over
· Icelandair Returns to Minneapolis, Adds Denver
· American Lays Off the Guy Who Does the Layoffs
We Won't Have the Durbin Amendment to Kick Around Anymore
Remember last year when banks blamed the Durbin Amendment and its cap on fees for their decisions to dump mileage-earning checking accounts and debit cards? That excuse is so last year. Suntrust Bank has just jumped back into the game with a checking account and debit card that offers Delta SkyMiles. For a $75 annual fee, you'll receive a Delta SkyMiles World Check Card that will give you one mile for each dollar spent and two miles for each dollar spent with Delta. But wait, as the late-night infomercials say, there's more. You'll receive upwards of 30,000 bonus SkyMiles when you get the checking account, debit card and open the account with a direct deposit. Complete details are here. American Airlines' partner, BankDirect, never fully abandoned its checking program (see here). It'll be interesting to see if the banking partners of United, US Airways and other airlines find their way back into the mileage game for checking and debit cards.
The TSA Adds Sea-Tac and Orlando to the PreCheck Program
The Transportation Security Administration has added two more airports to its wildly popular, if not yet widespread, PreCheck security bypass program. At Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the PreCheck system is open to qualified elite travelers of Alaska Airlines at Checkpoint 5. The TSA has also opened up PreCheck service for elite Delta Air Lines flyers at the East Checkpoint in Orlando. Travelers who are members of Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS are also eligible for PreCheck. The two new airports mean there are 14 around the country where Alaska, Delta and American flyers can take advantage of PreCheck. For those of you lucky enough to qualify--the TSA says that it has processed more than 800,000 flyers since last October--PreCheck allows travelers to leave on jackets, belts and shoes and keep their laptops and toiletries kits in their carry-on bags. For more details and upcoming airport locations, check here.
It's a JetBlue World. We Just Fly Its Partners.
JetBlue Airways is a mostly domestic carrier, but it has quietly built up an impressive list of international partners. More than a dozen--including Japan Airlines, Singapore Air, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic--now interline or code-share with JetBlue, mostly at its hubs at New York/Kennedy and Boston/Logan. Robin Hayes, JetBlue's chief commercial officer, won't disclose the total number of flyers that book a combination of JetBlue and an international airline. But he said that JetBlue now moves as many as 150 overseas-originating travelers a day between Kennedy and Logan. Other big lures are JetBlue's JFK-Austin flights and its Florida service, says Hayes. And Jack Foley, executive vice president North America for Aer Lingus, JetBlue's first partner, says that its passenger numbers have jumped dramatically since the partnership began in 2008. "In the first year, we were hoping for 10,000 flyers. We're now at 50,000 a year," he says. Much to both carriers' surprise, Foley adds, the passenger mix is nearly 50-50 between U.S. flyers using JetBlue to get to an Aer Lingus flight and Irish travelers flying Aer Lingus and continuing on with JetBlue. JetBlue's next move is with Hawaiian Airlines, which will be the first partner carrier actually located in JetBlue's JFK Terminal 5. Hawaiian launches New York-Honolulu nonstops on June 5.
Just In Case You Need a Hotel in Doha...
Hilton and Starwood both opened hotels this week in Doha, capital of the Persian/Arab Gulf state of Qatar. Starwood debuted the 336-room St. Regis and Hilton added a 309-room Hilton hotel. ... Mandarin Oriental opened a 127-room property in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. ... Renaissance put its flag on the former Diplomatic Hotel in Barcelona. The 211-room property, at the edge of the Paseo de Garcia district, has undergone a complete renovation. ... Another Marriott brand, TownePlace, opened a 99-room property that's about 10 miles from Denver Airport and 20 minutes from downtown. ... The former Legado Hotel in Gilbert, Arizona, has been reflagged as a DoubleTree by Hilton. The property currently has 129 rooms and 121 more will be added this summer.
Milwaukee's Days as a Hub Are Now Officially Over
When Republic Airways Holding picked up both Frontier and Midwest Airlines three years ago, the company claimed it would be adding jobs at Midwest's hub in Milwaukee. Not only was that a lie, but Midwest's hub is also history. Effective June 1, the mashed-up carrier now known as Frontier will drop flights to New York/LaGuardia and five other cities. That'll leave Frontier with just seven daily departures from Milwaukee, down from about a hundred a year or so ago. ... Icelandair is gearing up its summer schedule and its seasonal service to Minneapolis returns on May 15. Four days earlier, Icelandair will add a totally new destination: Denver. There will be daily flights to Reykjavik from Minneapolis and four weekly flights from Denver. ... Lufthansa now has its first Boeing 747-800 and it'll begin flying it between Frankfurt and Washington/Dulles on June 1. ... If you need to fly to Iraq, be aware that there is a new option: Qatar Airways will launch flights from Doha to both Baghdad and Erbil. The Erbil flights begin May 23 and the Baghdad service launches on June 7.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The long pilots strike at Iberia is over after some pressure from the Spanish government. ... Air Canada and its machinists union are talking again after the Canadian government sent that contract dispute, and the carrier's fight with its pilots, to binding arbitration. ... Delta Air Lines has purchased that disused oil refinery south of Philadelphia and hopes to use it to cut jet-fuel prices, now the highest on record. ... British Airways, which purchased British Midland International from Lufthansa, has now matched the status of BMI flyers in BA's frequent flyer program. The details are here.
Ask Not for Whom The Layoff Bell Tolls...
American Airlines is trying to convince the judge in its bankruptcy hearing to allow it to abrogate union contracts and lay off about 20 percent of its pilots, mechanics and flight attendants. American says it is also cutting an equal number of non-union management types. One of the management types being dumped: Jeff Brundage, senior vice president of human resources. Brundage was the American official negotiating contracts and layoffs with the carrier's unions.
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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 © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.