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THE BRIEFING FOR APRIL 25-MAY 9, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· Southwest Will Dump AirTran's Atlanta Hub
· Alaska Airlines Stuffing More Seats on Its Planes
· US Airways Follows United, Ups Change Fees
· The FAA Officially Clears Dreamliner to Fly Again
· Dual-Branded Hilton Opens in Downtown Denver
· Southwest Says Use Cheap Fares or Lose Them
· JetBlue Will Fly to Peru From Ft. Lauderdale
Southwest Will Dump AirTran's Atlanta Hub This Fall
AirTran Airways was already downsizing its Atlanta/Hartsfield hub even before it sold itself to Southwest Airlines in 2011. So it should come as no surprise that Southwest, which didn't even fly to Atlanta when it purchased AirTran, is shutting down its subsidiary's Hartsfield hub operation. By the fall, whatever is left of AirTran in Atlanta will be focused on point-to-point flying rather than connecting service. Southwest claims that it can turn what it says was an unsuccessful Atlanta hub into a profitable service by following the same formula that has made it the nation's only consistently profitable carrier. For one thing, Southwest-style point-to-point flying is less labor-intensive than a hub operation, so Southwest will lay off 300 ground employees in Atlanta. And the 175 or so daily flights to 45 destinations that the two carriers will operate from Hartsfield in the fall will focus on departure times attuned to the needs of local Atlanta flyers rather than the demands of connecting travelers. AirTran once ran about 260 flights from Atlanta and, although Southwest has added a few cities from Hartsfield since it took over, it has also dumped about a dozen routes, including service to Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington/Dulles and Bermuda.
Alaska Airlines Will Stuff More Seats on Its Boeing 737s
Whenever a carrier announces an aircraft upgrade, you can be sure the jargon means less comfort for us. So step right up, Alaska Airlines and give us your brand of mumbo-jumbo. It claims a $100 million project to upgrade the interiors of its Boeing 737-800, -900 and -900ER aircraft will bring state-of-the-art Recaro slimline seats, each equipped with power outlets. What Alaska only mentions sotto voce is that the "upgrade" means six extra coach seats stuffed into its 737-800s and nine extra chairs on its 737-900s. After the reconfiguration, Alaska's 737-800s will have 16 first-class seats and 147 coach seats. The airline's 737-900s will have 16 first-class seats and 165 coach seats. ... JetBlue Airways continues to expand in South America. Effective November 21, it will launch a daily Airbus A320 roundtrip to Lima, Peru, from Fort Lauderdale. The Lima flights are timed to offer easy connections via Fort Lauderdale to major JetBlue cities such as Boston, New York and Washington.
Where Are All the Heads to Fill All These New Beds?
The good news about the hotel industry's endless worldwide expansion? Plenty of new places to lay our heads on the road. Here's what is new and noteworthy this week. Hyatt has opened a 136-room Hyatt Place hotel in Pittsburgh's Southside neighborhood. ... In Denver, a developer has converted the former Xcel Energy headquarters into a dual-branded, 302-room Hilton operation. The 13-story building on 15th Street now houses a Hampton Inn and a Homewood Suites. ... Marriott has opened a 122-room Courtyard in New Albany, Ohio. ... InterContinental has opened two new Crowne Plaza properties on the Arabian Peninsula. There's a 259-room hotel in the holy city of Madinah and a 213-room operation in Duqm, Oman. ... One notable conversion: a former Clarion hotel in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, has become a DoubleTree by Hilton.
US Airways Follows United's Lead and Ups Change Fees
Without advance warning last weekend, United Airlines raised the change fee on domestic tickets to $200 from $150. It also raised the change fee on many international tickets to $300 from $250. It took just three days for US Airways to follow suit. ... Southwest Airlines, which proudly trumpets that it doesn't have fees, is going draconian on its lowest-priced Wanna Get Away and Ding! fares. For reservations made on or after May 10 and travel beginning September 13, if you don't cancel or change those fares before departure, you'll lose the entire value of the ticket. In other words, folks, use 'em, change 'em--or lose 'em. ... This is why we hate fees: The Italian government has fined Ryanair more than $500,000 for hiding from travelers a variety of mandatory fees, including a processing charge for using credit cards. The Dutch government fined Ryanair $500,000 last month for similar fee games.
The FAA Officially Clears the Dreamliner to Fly Again
The Federal Aviation Administration today (April 25) officially cleared the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to fly again. The FAA's acceptance of Boeing's fix for its lithium-ion battery technically covers United Airlines, the only U.S. operator of the plane, but Japanese officials should follow suit Friday. That's key because All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines together operate about half of the 50 Dreamliners flying before January's grounding. Lot Polish Airlines, whose inaugural Chicago-Warsaw Dreamliner flight was grounded at O'Hare when the 787 issue came to a head, has already announced when it'll get its aircraft back in the air. Dreamliner service between Chicago and Warsaw begins June 5. Toronto-Warsaw flights begin on June 7. Dreamliner flights will launch in July on LOT's New York/Kennedy-Warsaw run. ... Air Canada, which doesn't know an Arab Gulf carrier it doesn't want to keep from expanding in Canada, has decided it hates Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi least. The two airlines have announced a code-share deal that will kick in beginning in the third quarter.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
US Airways says it will restore some minor perks to its international coach passengers. Effective May 1, coach flyers will receive free headsets and be offered free wine with their main meal. ... Want another reminder of how valuable take-off and landing slots at London/Heathrow Airport are? Delta Air Lines said this week it paid $47 million for just two pair of slots. By comparison, it's paying $360 million for a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow's second-largest carrier. ... The deal that ended the airline strike in Israel this week after the government approved an open skies agreement with the European Union is all about money. The Israeli government agreed to pay for 97.5 percent of El Al security costs. Previously, it paid 80 percent of the tab.
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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.
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