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THE BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 15-29, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli
· A Timely Reminder: United Airlines Still Sucks
· Global Entry Now Works for Australia Travel, Too
· American Is Sorry, Gives Double Elite-Status Miles
· Delta Air Lines Wants to Sell You Elite-Status Miles
· Marriott Opens Really Tall Hotel Tower in Dubai
· Europe's Austerity Plans Play Havoc With Travel
· The World's Most Global Carrier Is Turkish Airlines
Today's Reminder: United Airlines Still Sucks
After releasing a disappointing third-quarter report last month, top executives at United Airlines insisted that they had solved their operational problems and were focused on winning back disaffected customers. Today (November 15), of course, was another reminder that United bosses are full of crap. For at least the third time since the airline switched passenger-service computers in March, another part of United's information-technology infrastructure melted down. The multi-hour collapse of a system called Unimatic led to massive delays throughout the day. As of 9 p.m., FlightStats.com says United was only running at 59 percent on-time for departures and 66 percent for arrivals. Nearly 700 United flights were delayed and more than half of them were more than 45 minutes late. And just so you understand how dysfunctional the "merged" United still is, the computer failure only affected flights of the former United division. The former Continental side of the airline ran fine because it is does not use Unimatic to handle ground-operations chores.
Global Entry Now Works for Australia Travel, Too
U.S. travelers who are Global Entry members can now use Australia's automated border-processing service to bypass customs formalities Down Under. The SmartGate system (explained here) is available at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and five other Australian airports. It's the second overseas partnership for Global Entry. It is also good for access to Privium at Amsterdam/Schiphol. Global Entry also works for the TSA's PreCheck program and Canadian customs-bypass schemes. ... The first airport eatery with the Food Network brand has opened at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood. It's located in Terminal 3. ... Lorena Garcia, the Venezuelan-born chef who tries to convince you that she has improved the menu at Taco Bell, has opened her first airport location. Lorena Garcia Tapas opened this week at Atlanta/Hartsfield. The dining room is located beyond security in the Concourse F Mezzanine of the international terminal. ... And speaking of food, a pub-like joint selling specialty Anheuser-Busch beers and casual fare has opened in Terminal 2 of St. Louis/Lambert. It's called the Brewmasters Tap Room.
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Elite-Level Requalification Time
American Airlines is slowly returning to normal after its pilots kerfuffle in mid-September and October. But American is justifiably worried about losing the momentum (and traffic) it won thanks to the constant meltdowns at United Airlines. Its solution wrapped inside a promotion wrapped inside an apology? Double AAdvantage elite qualifying miles on all American and American Eagle flights until the end of the year. The catch? You must register in advance for the promotion using code AATHX. (Register here.) ... Delta Air Lines has run fairly well all year, so it doesn't feel it needs to apologize. If you want elite-qualifying miles from SkyMiles to reach your preferred Medallion status level for 2013, then you're going to have to buy them. It'll cost you $395 for 2,500 MQMs and $995 for 10,000 MQMs. Delta is also using the promotion to convince you that it's cheaper to buy elite-status miles than fly last-minute mileage runs. Delta's sales chart shows you what routes you'd have to fly to earn the equivalent amount of MQMs. ... Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin America are linking frequent flyer programs. HawaiianMiles members can claim awards on any Virgin America route and Elevate members can cash in for awards on Hawaiian's flights. ... Some United MileagePlus upgrades, specifically GPUs (global premier upgrades) and RPUs (regional premier upgrades), are now valid for longer periods of time. The full explanation is here.
If You Like Your Hotels Tall, Marriott Has 804 Rooms for You
Marriott says the JW Marriott it opened last week in Dubai is the world's tallest hotel. The property currently has 804 rooms and three dining outlets although more guestrooms and a half-dozen other food-and-beverage spots are under construction. The hotel is in a tower that measures 355 meters (1,164 feet) high. ... This week's other hotel firsts: The first Hyatt Place outside the United States has opened in San Jose, Costa Rica. The 120-room property is part of a mixed-use commercial complex on the east side of the Costa Rican capital. Meanwhile, Hilton says that the 140-room Hilton Garden Inn in Davos is the chain's first mid-market property in Switzerland. ... Speaking of Hilton, it has slapped the DoubleTree name on the newly renovated Strathallan Hotel in Rochester, New York. The 155-suite property first opened in the late 1970s as a senior-housing complex.
Fun With Austerity: Unhappy Employees Meet Tone-Deaf Employers Widespread strikes and public demonstrations in Europe this week created havoc with the continent's transportation network. Hundreds of flights in Spain and Portugal were cancelled due to a general strike. Job actions in Belgium shut down part of the Eurostar train network. And with Europe now officially sinking into another recession, it's hard to see how the strikes and job actions will end any time soon. How have some of Europe's major airlines reacted? Iberia, owned by the same parent company as British Airways, unveiled a plan to lay off 4,500 employees. It's right out of the playbook of Willie Walsh, the boss of the BA-Iberia parent company. When he ran BA, Walsh employed a series of unilateral layoffs, wage freezes and punitive actions that led to more than a year of passenger disruptions. Meanwhile, financially stressed SAS said that it would lay off 6,000 employees. "We have very little room for negotiations," said SAS chief Richard Gustafson. And, as airline CEOs always do, Gustafson is selling off one of SAS's profitable businesses to help fund the fight against Norwegian Air Shuttle, a former subsidiary that SAS cast off two decades ago.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Who says there'll never be a new airline? Air Cote d'Ivoire launched this week. It was created by government decree because the Ivory Coast's former flag carrier, Air Ivoire, tanked last year. And, you know, adding the words "Cote d' " makes all of the difference. ... Bet you didn't see this coming: Turkish Airlines can now claim to be the world's most global carrier. It flies to 90 countries, more than any other airline. ... Qantas says its new business-class "sleep service" has premiered on the Sydney-Los Angeles run. It includes mattresses for the lie-flat beds; duvets instead of blankets on request; and a special "doze-inducing" tea service. ... United Airlines says it has launched a turndown service in its international first-class cabins. Because, you know, that's what United has needed to solve its problem with customers. ... Delta Air Lines has unilaterally closed the frequent flyer account of a classical musician who purchased separate seats for his cello and collected SkyMiles for the instrument's ticket purchases. The story is detailed 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 © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.