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THE BRIEFING FOR JULY 11 - JULY 25, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· United's Dreamliners: Less Reliable Than United
· New Hartsfield Eatery Not Average Airport Fare
· Aer Lingus Will Add Nonstops to SFO and Toronto
· Frontier Says No More Free TV for Elite Flyers
· DoubleTree Hasn't Seen the Hotel It Won't Reflag
· Alaska Airlines Jacks Up Baggage, Change Fees
· Airport Transport Guide Is Available for Android
United's Dreamliners Are Even Less Reliable Than United
It will come as no surprise to anyone flying United Airlines, but the carrier-that-couldn't-merge-straight had another dreadful showing in the latest Air Travel Consumer Report, the monthly Transportation Department rating system. According to the report for May, released this week, United continues to run below the industry average for on-time operations; keeps flights on the tarmac more than two hours almost twice as often as the industry average; is worse than average in mishandled luggage; is worse than average in denied boarding; and had more passenger complaints than any other carrier. And guess what? The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which United chief executive officer Jeff Smisek has been touting as the future of the airline, is actually faring worse than United in general. According to Bloomberg News and FlightAware.com, 3.8 percent of United flights scheduled to operate with Dreamliners were cancelled between May 20 and June 26. That's nearly four times United's systemwide cancellation rate during the same period. United currently has six Dreamliners in its fleet and is the only U.S. flag carrier operating the newest Boeing long-haul jet. How has United responded to the bad news about its Dreamliners and the dreary DOT report? Earlier today (July 11), it raised fares by $10 roundtrip. According to FareCompare.com, it's the third time this year that United has tried to raise fares. The other two attempts failed.
A New Eatery at Hartsfield Is Not Your Average Airport Fare
Even given the dining and drinking revolution at airports in the last few years, the colorful new LottaFrutta outlet on Concourse B at Atlanta-Hartsfield stands out. Opened this week, its offerings are unique: a blend of pan-Latin American specialties such as paletas (Mexican icepops) and Ecuadorian helado (ice cream) and Latin takes on fruit cups, soups, sandwiches, smoothies and coffees. It's the first expansion for the 7-year-old LottaFrutta flagship shop in Atlanta's Fourth Ward. ... The SkyTeam Alliance has opened a new lounge at Istanbul/Ataturk Airport. It's located on the second floor departure level and is open to first- or business-class customers flying on SkyTeam carriers or travelers holding SkyTeam Elite Plus status. ... The operative word at the airports in Beijing and Shanghai this summer? Chaos. There have been a large number of cancellations and long delays in recent weeks and the problems are expected to last through the summer. Plan accordingly.
Aer Lingus Will Add Nonstops to San Francisco and Toronto
The U.S. airlines have poured capacity into Ireland in recent years, but Aer Lingus has soldiered on, holding off both the Americans and Ryanair, the homegrown giant that is the largest no-frills carrier in Europe. In fact, Aer Lingus is now expanding its transatlantic route network. Starting in April, Aer Lingus will fly five times weekly from San Francisco to Dublin using Airbus A330s. The carrier will also begin flying from Toronto to Dublin in April using a Boeing 757. ... Here's something you almost never hear anymore: an airline is adding a first-class service. Garuda Indonesia has taken delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ERs and those planes have a first-class cabin. Garuda's first Boeing 777 route is Jakarta-Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Hertz Devalues Gold Plus, Frontier Says No More Free TV for Elites
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members are getting a haircut. On October 1, Hertz is raising the cost of awards in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by as much as 15 percent. ... The Frontier EarlyReturns program is contracting almost as fast as Frontier Airlines itself. The airline announced this week that elite members will no longer receive free in-flight TV as a perk. The downgrade starts on August 1. The replacement: a free snack. ... The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has added Aeromexico as a partner. The bigger news: miles flown on Aeromexico will count toward qualification for MVP elite status.
If It's Tuesday, DoubleTree Must Be Reflagging a Hotel in Belgium
Okay, okay, DoubleTree by Hilton hasn't reflagged a hotel in Belgium this week. But Hilton's so-called "conversion brand"--which is lodging jargon for "we'll put our name on almost anything"--continues to reflag any number of properties that have fallen out of other hotel chains. This week's additions: a 200-room former Sheraton in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina; the 270-room former Fiesta Resort in Tempe, Arizona; a 295-room former Marriott in Williamsburg, Virginia; a 237-room former Holiday Inn in Richmond, Virginia; the 92-room former Landmark Hotel in Dundee, Scotland; and the 171-room former Pruneyard Plaza Hotel in Campbell, California. Please stay tuned for debut of the DoubleTree Cold Spring, formerly the attic of the vast worldwide JoeSentMe headquarters. (Just kidding, we have much higher brand standards than DoubleTree.) ... Starwood opened two new properties in Canada: a 152-room Element in Vaughan, Ontario, and a 120-room Four Points near Kelowna Airport. It also opened two in Latin America: a 172-room Sheraton in San Jose, Costa Rica, and a 134-room Four Points in Miraflores, Peru.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Now that everyone from The Wall Street Journal to our own Chris Barnett has lauded Alaska Airlines for its customer-friendly policies, guess what the carrier is doing? Jacking up its fees, of course. Starting October 30, Alaska will raise the fee for checking the first or second bag to $25 each. Checking a third bag will now cost $75. (All three currently cost $20.) Alaska is also increasing its change fee to $125 from its previous $75. ... The U.S. dollar briefly rose to its highest level in three years against the British pound this week. It closed today (July 11) at $1.52, still a quite favorable rate. ... The price of oil surged to the $105-a-barrel mark this week on New York markets, the highest level in 14 months. Oddly, however, gasoline prices have had their longest fall this year in recent weeks. And jet-fuel prices are now around $2.77 a gallon, down from its $3.09 high in January. Go figure...
Now For Your Android Phone: The Airport Transit Guide
I understand why he made the move, but I've never completely forgiven the affable Ron Salk for retiring the print edition of the Airport Transit Guide. That compact little book was one of my constant companions on the road because it gave complete, concise airport-to-city travel information and options. Salk made the move to app-only late in 2010, but it was only available for iPhone. Now Salk has released an edition for smartphones that run Android. It sells for $4.99 and you can get it from the Android marketplace here. The iPhone edition is here. Go buy it. You'll save money and learn things.
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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.