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THE BRIEFING FOR MAY 9 TO MAY 23, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· The Big Airlines Should Brush Up Their Dylan
· Comings and Goings, Aspirational Hotel Division
· This Should Improve the Bradley Terminal at LAX
· From Luxury to Limited: A Rare Hotel Conversion
· Dollar Hits 100 Yen for the First Time in Years
· Hilton Opens Two Hampton Inns in Amsterdam
· Lipstick on a Pig, Turkish Airlines Edition
Airlines Stumble on the Side of Twelve Misty Mountains
The big airlines are riding relatively high on Wall Street again, some even turned a rare first-quarter profit and Delta Air Lines this week announced it would reinstate a quarterly dividend and buy back about $500 million of its shares. But as I warned 15 years ago, the last time the carriers looked profitable, good financial news is a sure sign that chaos is just a few flights away. The first signs of traveler resistance to high fares and abusive fees popped up in March's dreary passenger and revenue numbers. Airlines released their April numbers in the last few days and, if anything, they are worse than March's results. United's April traffic fell 3.8 percent compared to April, 2012, and its key revenue indicator, PRASM (passenger revenue per available seat mile), fell one percent. Over at US Airways, passenger numbers were up, but revenue plummeted four percent compared to last April. Delta's traffic fell fractionally, but PRASM dropped two percent. American Airlines' revenue dropped nearly 3 percent. And Southwest Airlines' April revenue fell as much as five percent. The airlines insist that May and June look much better. Of course, that's what they said about April, too.
Comings and Goings, Aspirational Hotels Division
If you are a traveler who hordes hotel points for stays at "aspirational" properties in faraway, fanciful and high-cost destinations, there's good news and bad news to report. The good news? The Luxury Collection's Gritti Palace in Venice has reopened after a 15-month renovation that Starwood claims cost 35 million euros. The 82-room hotel on the Grand Canal is one of three Starwood Preferred Guest properties in Venice and was tagged a Category 7 hotel, the same as the Hotel Danieli. ... Hilton HHonors has lost one of its two properties in the Maldives. The owners of the Iru Fushi Resort tossed Hilton as managers on May 3. The property on Noonu Atoll is now unaffiliated with a chain; Hilton only said that its ouster was "unforeseen." Hilton HHonors players can still use points at the Conrad Maldives. ... Club Carlson adjusted its award chart on May 1. About 100 hotels will cost more for an award night and about 150 will cost less. The changes are detailed here.
At Least This Will Improve the Bradley Terminal at LAX
I heard from several JoeSentMe members about the admittedly sad state of the terminals at Los Angeles International after last week's Seat 2B column on LAX. I didn't ignore the dilapidated state of LAX as much as I focused on the competitive reality of the airport. LAX is a dump, but a dump that all the major airlines want to control. That said, some tasty news about the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), the least-appealing part of LAX. The top-notch chefs who shot to prominence in the 1990s as the Too Hot Tamales on the Food Network are bringing their Border Grill concept to TBIT. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's modern Mexican restaurant, which has outposts in downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Las Vegas, will open at Bradley this summer. ... Down the freeway a bit, Global Entry, the customs-bypass program, is now available at John Wayne/Orange County airport. ... Chicago/O'Hare will be the first U.S. airport to get Canadian-style, self-service passport scanners at customs facilities. Read about it at the Chicago Business Journal. ... The TSA says that PreCheck, the popular security-bypass program now running at 40 airports, will expand to international flights. As usual, though, the agency won't say when or where or how often PreCheck-approved travelers can expect the bypass treatment on their international flights.
From Luxury to Limited: A Hotel Conversion You Rarely See
The small Loews Hotel chain has been on a roll lately, but in February it lost control of its much-admired Loews Denver (fka Loews Giorgio) in the Cherry Creek neighborhood. The hotel closed when the 183-room property was purchased by the owners of the respected Hotel Teatro in downtown Denver. Here's the twist: the upmarket former Loews Denver will be converted to a Hyatt Place, Hyatt's newish limited-service chain. Besides the standard Hyatt Place amenities (free WiFi, sectional sofas, free breakfast), the new owners will transform some public space to expand the room count to 194. The hotel should open in the fall. ... Hampton Inn is opening two properties in Amsterdam. A 181-room branch, located one train stop from Schiphol Airport, is a converted office building. The second, due to open later this month, is a 254-room property near the Amsterdam Arena railroad station in the city center. ... The often-reflagged 207-room riverfront hotel in downtown Binghamton, New York, is now a DoubleTree by Hilton. The property has previously been known as the Best Western Regency, the Binghamton Regency and, most recently, the Riverwalk. ... Marriott has lost its second property in as many months in Atlanta. The former Marriott Gwinnett Place has been reflagged as the 426-room Sonesta Gwinnett Place. ... There are two new Courtyard by Marriott properties in the Midwest: a 119-room branch in Evansville, Indiana, and a 153-room outpost at 2021 Cornell Road in Cleveland.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Ever wonder why checked bags always seem to go missing in Italy? Here is a possible reason: Police have arrested at least 29 people around the country for luggage thefts that were captured on video. At least 86 other people have been investigated at airports in Rome, Naples, Milan/Linate and several smaller Italian cities. ... Hertz, which has an exclusive discount deal with the AAA automobile clubs, has added its Dollar and Thrifty brands to the offer. ... The Setai Hotel on New York's Fifth Avenue has become the 214-room Langham Place. Langham is a Hong Kong-based chain of about two dozen hotels that takes its name from the Langham hotel in London. ... The U.S. dollar closed above 100 yen for the first time in four years. That's less a commentary on the strength of the greenback than the impact of Abenomics, the fiscal policy initiated by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in an attempt to shake Japan out of its 20-year economic torpor. ... United Airlines said this week that it now serves Tito's as its only onboard vodka. Yeah, that'll solve all of its problems ...
Lipstick on a Pig, Turkish Airlines Executive Edition
Turkish Airlines has turned itself into a terrific international carrier and its Istanbul hub is a key cog in the Star Alliance network. But Turkey's intense local politics--which pits defenders of the secular state against a new wave of conservative Islamic thinking--has leaked into the airline's day-to-day operations. Earlier this month, the airline suddenly banned flight attendants from using red and dark pink lipstick and nail polish. It was seen as a nod to the sensibilities of the ruling AK Party, which traces its heritage to a banned Islamic party. But today (May 9) Turkish Airlines chief executive Temel Kotil said there was no lipstick/nail polish ban after all. Then he threw his junior managers under the bus. "Low-level managers put together [the rule] without asking us," Kotil explained. "We're a great global carrier and we know what we are doing."
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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 © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.