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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 13 - JUNE 27, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· The US Airways-ing at American Airlines Begins
· Omni Hotels Takes Over Five Iconic Indy Resorts
· Again: The Airlines Should Brush Up Their Dylan
· Ritz-Carlton Gets Booted From Palm Beach Hotel
· Spooky: Hilton Opens a Hampton in Transylvania
· Dollar Drops Against the Pound, Yen and Euro
· United Goes All Flat-Bed on Long-Haul Flights
It's Beginning to Look Like US Airways at American Airlines
The biggest fear most of us have about the pending merger of American Airlines and US Airways is that the combined carrier will look too much like stingy, slapdash and do-it-on-the-cheap US Airways. Guess what? That's exactly what's happening. Since US Airways is doing a reverse-merger with bankrupt American, we already knew that the combined airline will be run by current US Airways chief executive Doug Parker. But we learned this week that virtually all of the top managers of the merged airline will be coming from US Airways, too. Scott Kirby, president of US Airways, will become the combined carrier's president. US Airways chief operating officer Robert Isom will take the same job at the new carrier. US Airways chief financial officer Derek Kerr will be CFO. And Elise Eberwein, who runs the US Airways communications and human resources departments, gets the same gig at the new American. The only American execs to get top positions will be William Ris, AA's chief lobbyist; Maya Leibman, the chief information officer; and Beverly Goulet, the chief integration officer. In fact, the US Airways-ing of American is already well under way. American announced this week that it will soon stuff more coach seats into its MD-80s and Boeing 737s, which comprise nearly two-thirds of the current AA fleet. American didn't give details, but you can be sure that first-class and/or premium-economy seats will be ripped out to make room for the extra coach chairs, thus reducing your chance of an upgrade. Several years ago, US Airways reduced the number of first-class seats it flew because management felt too many elite flyers were getting their complimentary upgrades.
Omni Hotels Will Fly Its Flag Over Five Iconic Independent Resorts
Omni Hotels is suddenly a big player in the luxury-resort market. It has purchased five classic American resorts from their current owner and will reflag them as Omni properties on July 1. Included in the deal are The Homestead in southwest Virginia; the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California; Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, California; the Barton Creek Resort in the Texas Hill Country; and the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. ... Marriott has opened still another Courtyard hotel in midtown Manhattan. The newest, a 167-room property at 71 West 35th Street near Herald Square, is just a few blocks from a Courtyard that opened last month on West 37th Street near Eighth Avenue. ... Marriott has also opened two more TownePlace Suites outposts, a 71-room branch in Roswell, New Mexico, and a 120-room location across from the airport in Buffalo, New York. In other words, one for Canadians who come to Buffalo for the cheap flights and one for aliens looking for accommodations after their much longer inter-galactic trips. ... Hilton has opened a 199-room branch of its Home2 Suites brand in the McCandless Crossing Town Center in suburban Pittsburgh.
Like I Said, Airlines Are Flying to Twelve Misty Mountains
As I tell you over and over, whenever airlines start crowing about their financial stability, pull out your Dylan and put A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall in heavy rotation. After slumping traffic and declining PRASM (passenger revenue per available seat mile) in March and April, major carriers insisted May would be better. Well, results are in and the airlines were wrong--again. United and US Airways each said their May PRASM was down about 1 percent. Per-passenger revenue at American and Southwest fell around two percent. Delta, which has outpaced competitors in recent years, managed only a half-percent revenue growth in May. And it looks like resistance to higher fares and fees is here to stay. At an investor conference this week, Southwest chief financial officer Tammy Romo admitted PRASM for the second quarter will be down compared to last year. "Revenue trends since March have been softer than we anticipated," she said.
Ritz Booted From Palm Beach, Hilton Gets Old Ritz in Las Vegas
Looking to claim Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards points for a stay in Palm Beach? Scratch the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach from your list. Ritz has been booted from the 310-room beachfront property in Manalapan and will exit on July 1. The hotel will be renamed the Eau Palm Beach. The development is the result of a lawsuit filed two years ago by the hotel's owners. They claimed Ritz-Carlton was skimming profits via unjustified fees and kickbacks. A judge this week allowed the owners to replace Ritz, but he dismissed many claims against the chain. Ritz-Carlton says it will now sue the hotel owners for breach of contract. .... Your Marriott Rewards points are less valuable in Miami Beach, too, since Marriott is also out at the iconic Eden Roc Hotel. As I previously reported, a court ruled the hotel's owners could remove Marriott's Renaissance brand. Marriott now says the Eden Roc's last day as a Renaissance will be July 10. And, of course, Marriott say that it will sue for breach of contract in this case, too. ... Meanwhile, the former Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas, which closed in 2010 during the hotel downturn, has become the Hilton Lake Las Vegas. The 10-year-old resort reopened in 2011 as the Ravella. The 349-room property, located about 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip in Henderson, has been pegged as a Category 6 award in the Hilton HHonors program. ... Speaking of HHonors, if you always wanted a free room in Transylvania, there's now a Hampton Inn in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The newly built 109-room hotel has been pegged as a Category 2 award. I assume the Transylvania Hampton offers the brand-standard free breakfast buffet, but, you know, with so many of the locals asleep in the morning ...
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines says that it has completed the installation of lie-flat seats in the premium cabins of all long-haul international routes. ... The TSA has added a PreCheck facility in Terminal D/E at Philadelphia International for qualified passengers on Alaska, Delta, United or Virgin America flights. There's also a PreCheck in Terminal B/C for US Airways flyers. ... The U.S. dollar is slipping again against several major world currencies. The euro has surged back above the $1.34 level and the British pound has rebounded to the $1.58 mark. And after climbing above the 100-yen mark last month for the first time in years, the dollar is back down to around 95 yen. ... Frontier Airlines continues to shrivel. Systemwide capacity last month was 18 percent below its May, 2012, level. Frontier's parent, Republic Airways, is trying to sell the airline to concentrate on its commuter carriers. ... The three-day strike of French air traffic controllers this week took a huge toll on flights in France. According to FlightStats.com, Air France cancelled around 1,200 flights and delayed about a thousand more. Its commuter carriers dumped about 175 additional flights.
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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.