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THE BRIEFING FOR OCTOBER 10-24, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· United and Delta Duke It Out in the West
· AA Bails on Barbados, JetBlue Picks Up Slack
· Western Hotels Open New Branches in Asia
· Air Canada's Hot to Fly From Montreal Again
· Life After US Airways at Pittsburgh Airport
· Frontier Airlines Adds More Trenton Flights
· Powerscourt Hotel in Ireland Dumps Ritz
United and Delta Duke It Out in the West
Delta Air Lines has been making a bold play for Western flyers in the last year or so by adding a slew of flights at Seattle-Tacoma and invading the California Corridor with a shuttle service between Los Angeles and San Francisco. That apparently hasn't gone down well at United Airlines and it's fighting back with some typically lame shots across Delta's bow. On April 1, United will resume flying between its SFO hub and Delta's hub and hometown Atlanta. There'll be two daily flights using Boeing 787-800s. And United is using its United Express partner Skywest to begin flying two daily CRJ-700 regional jets between its LAX hub and Delta's Minneapolis hub. United also is upgrading its SFO-SEA service by switching to traditional jets from United Express regional aircraft. In what is probably coincidence, Delta this week confirmed that it was dropping its San Francisco-Tokyo/Narita flights at the end of the winter schedule in March.
American Bails on Barbados and JetBlue Picks Up the Slack
American Airlines announced last week that it was dropping its long-standing New York/Kennedy-Barbados flights on January 15 and it didn't take long for JFK-based JetBlue Airways to respond. Starting December 19, JetBlue will add more than 550 seats a week on the route during peak periods. It'll use newly acquired Airbus A321 aircraft. JetBlue first launched service to Barbados in 2009. ... Separately, JetBlue announced it would launch a daily flight between Boston/Logan and Savannah on February 14. It'll use EMB-190s on that run, its 50th nonstop destination from Logan. ... JetBlue also announced this week that its TrueBlue frequent-flyer program allows families to pool and share their credits. Full details are here. ... Frontier Airlines, well on its way to being an unflyable "ultra low cost" carrier that charges fees for everything, continues to try to build a hub at Trenton/Mercer County airport. It'll launch four weekly flights to Charlotte and three weekly flights to Cincinnati beginning February 12. Effective March 7, it'll also add twice-weekly flights to Memphis from its existing Denver hub. All three routes will use Airbus A319s.
A Whole Mess of Western Brands Open New Branches in Asia
Never let it be said Western hotel brands won't cultivate global connections--and that means more branches in more places in Asia. That's especially true in China and India. Starwood, for example, has opened a 448-room Westin resort on Hainan island in the South China Sea. Marriott opened a 353-room Ritz-Carlton in downtown Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. In India, Marriott opened a 148-room Fairfield Inn in Bangalore. But it's not like any Fairfield you've visited in the United States. The Bangalore branch has a restaurant, a bar, a 24-hour market and a rooftop pool. Meanwhile, Four Seasons has opened a 266-room hotel in the new business district of Futian in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. ... Hilton has opened a 116-room Hampton Inn at Lech Walesa Airport in Gdansk, Poland. ... Speaking of Hilton, the 139-room Fontana Park Hotel in Lisbon is now flying the flag of DoubleTree, Hilton's conversion brand. ... Speaking of conversions, the Powerscourt Hotel about 15 miles south of Dublin has ditched its affiliation with Ritz-Carlton. But Marriott Rewards members can rest easy. Powerscourt has lined up with the Autograph Collection, Marriott's collection of independent hotels.
Air Canada's On-Again/Off-Again Affair With Montreal Is Back On
It's impossible to keep track of how often Air Canada has pulled down and expanded service in Montreal. Service is on an upswing again, however. It will resume flying to Barcelona on a seasonal basis with two weekly flights from June to September. There'll also be three weekly summer flights between Montreal and Nice from June through mid-October. Those routes will be operated by Rouge, Air Canada's new discount brand, using Boeing 767-300ERs. Rouge flies two-class planes configured with coach and premium-economy cabins. Meanwhile, Air Canada is moving two Montreal routes--Brussels and Geneva--to Airbus A330-300 aircraft offering business-class and coach cabins. And Montreal-London/Heathrow service moves to Boeing 777-300s that have Air Canada's new premium-economy class. ... Etihad Airways will launch daily flights from its Abu Dhabi hub to Los Angeles on June 1. Etihad will use Boeing 777-300ERs on the 8,400-mile run. ... Aegean Air has won EC approval to buy Olympic Air, the flagging former flag carrier of Greece. Aegean first tried to buy Olympic in 2011. ... Speaking of hopeless flag carriers, Alitalia is getting a bailout from the Italian Post Office. If you have ever used Poste Italiane, you know how simultaneously hilarious and horrific that prospect is. Amazingly enough, officials at the post office want changes at Alitalia because it's too inefficient even for Poste Italiane.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A special master overseeing details of the Justice Department's antitrust suit against the American Airlines-US Airways merger has shot down the two carriers' request for documents and information about the government's case. Judges almost never go against a special master's recommendations. The case is due to begin November 25. ... Delta Air Lines says the last of its aging fleet of DC-9 aircraft will be retired in January. Some of the jets, many acquired in the merger with Northwest Airlines, have been in service for more than 30 years. ... Aeroflot says it will launch a discount carrier called Dobrolet. Sorry, I don't know what to make of that. ... Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed today (October 10) due to a wildcat strike of French air-traffic controllers. They oppose the consolidation of Europe's air space. According to FlightStats, Air France had 132 cancellations and 320 delays. EasyJet, which has extensive operations in France, dumped 75 flights and had more than 550 delays. ... Silvercar, a boutique car-rental firm that only uses silver Audi A4s, has opened at Los Angeles Airport. It is the company's fifth location.
It's Probably Better Than Having a US Airways Hub, Too...
Pittsburgh International Airport has reduced the landing fees that it charges airlines for the second time this year. The reason? Income from a gas-drilling deal on airport-owned land. Airport executives have also announced that a half-dozen new shops, including the first branch of Italy's Pinko fashion chain, will open before the end of the year. In case you haven't been to Pittsburgh since it was "dehubbed" by US Airways about a decade ago, Southwest Airlines and its AirTran Airways subsidiary are now the big players. Together they control about 30 percent of the passenger traffic at PIT.
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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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