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THE BRIEFING FOR OCT. 24 TO NOV. 9, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· The Quarterly 'United-Sucks-Still-Denies-It' Item
· Delta Is Walking on Memphis, Building in Sea-Tac
· The High Cost of a 16-Day Government Shutdown
· Qatar Airways Says It Will Fly to Miami Next Year
· US Air Adds Four Europe Cities From Charlotte
· Atlanta Won't Switch to Free WiFi This Year
· Warning: Loose Lips Sink Business Travelers
The Quarterly 'United-Still-Sucks-Still-Denies-It' Item
Another quarterly earnings report, another total failure for the empty suits at United Airlines. The carrier announced today (October 24) that it earned $379 million in the third quarter, which is substantially better than the $6 million it eked out last year. The context: Delta Air Lines this week reported $1.4 billion in third-quarter earnings and United's results fell far short of even the reduced estimates that the carrier warned were coming. There was certainly no hint of the supposed billions of dollars in synergies that chief executive Jeff Smisek promised when he pursued the United-Continental merger in 2010. If you've got time, plow through the transcript of today's earnings call for United's endless list of excuses for its poor performance. (It is also notable for a phantasmagoric claim that passengers are now happy with United service.) And, of course, United bosses completely miss part of the obvious problem at the airline since it announced still another route overhaul. After confusing flyers earlier this year by shifting its Boeing 747s to San Francisco, United is now moving the aging aircraft around the system again. Read details of the latest upheaval here and try to figure what United flies when and why.
Delta Is Walking on Memphis and Building in Sea-Tac
Delta Air Lines has put the final stake in the heart of the Memphis hub that it inherited in the 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines. Memphis once had 240 flights a day from Northwest, but Delta has been downsizing for years. After more trims earlier this year, Delta's MEM schedule stood at just 64 daily flights. But even that is too many for Delta. It announced this week that Memphis will be cut to 40 daily flights by December 3. The reduction means the end of nonstops to Nashville; Milwaukee; Columbus; and Louisville, Kentucky. Where is Delta going instead? Seattle-Tacoma, as it continues to invade the hub of its supposed partner Alaska Airlines. "We're building Seattle-Tacoma as a West Coast gateway to Asia," Delta chief executive Richard Anderson explained this week. By next year, Delta will fly from Sea-Tac to nine international destinations, including six in Asia (Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Osaka and Tokyo) and three in Europe (London, Paris and Amsterdam). Delta has also upgraded service to Sea-Tac from its New York/JFK hub and is adding West Coast feed from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Much of the Sea-Tac service has been "out-of-the-box profitable," explained Delta executive vice president Glen Hauenstein. "We're very pleased with our Seattle expansion."
Us and Them: The High Cost of the Government Shutdown
The 16-day federal government shutdown earlier this month may be history, but we and the airlines are still paying for it. On the airline side, the major carriers say the loss of government travel will ding their October revenue and profits. But the biggest loser seems to be US Airways, the big player at Washington/National, the airport of choice for government flyers. Revenue from tickets sold at government rates dropped 57 percent in the first two weeks of this month, according to US Airways president Scott Kirby. Moreover, US Airways' close-in bookings at National, Washington/Dulles and Baltimore-Washington fell 54 percent during the shutdown. "Quite clearly," Kirby said, "the government histrionics had a near-term impact on revenues." And what about us? We're paying, too. Since the shutdown, the dollar has plunged on currency markets, raising our prices around the world. Two examples: The euro has jumped to $1.38 and the British pound, which had been trading in the low $1.50 range for months, now commands $1.62.
Qatar Airways Says It'll Fly to Miami Next Year
Qatar Airways never did launch its previously announced flights between New York/Kennedy and underserved Athens, Greece, but now the Gulf powerhouse says it will start flying between Miami and its Doha hub. The service is due to start June 1 with four weekly Boeing 777-200ER flights. If it does launch, it'll be Miami's first nonstop service to the Middle East since El Al pulled out in 2008. Logic dictates that the Miami flights will start because Miami is an American Airlines hub and Qatar joins the Oneworld Alliance later this month. ... US Airways says it needs the merger with American Airlines so it can compete on a global scale. But it does seem to be doing well enough on its own, especially from its Charlotte hub. The airline announced this week that it will fly four new Europe routes next summer. The seasonal service will be to Barcelona, Lisbon, Brussels and Manchester. The Charlotte-Barcelona run will be serviced with A330-200 aircraft configured with US Airways' surprisingly good lie-flat beds in business class. The others will get US Airways' crappy old Boeing 757s. The new routes mean that US Airways will fly to 10 European cities from Charlotte next summer.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A federal air marshal was arrested last week and charged with using a mobile phone to take "upskirt" pictures of women at Nashville Airport. ... Korean Air and American Airlines are having a tiff. Korean has cancelled its interline agreement on AA routes via Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and LAX. Logic would dictate that Korean moved because it is in the Skyteam Alliance with Delta Air Lines, but Korean is feuding with Delta, too. ... Southwest Airlines continues to abandon flyers in Birmingham, Alabama. The carrier is dumping nonstops to New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida. In the last two years, it has also dropped nonstops from Birmingham to three other cities. ... Atlanta/Hartsfield, which promised last year to make its WiFi free by this fall, now says it'll keep up a paywall until at least 2014. The airport charges $4.95 a day for access and generates about $1.5 million from the fee. ... GoodLife Fitness, the Canadian health-club chain, has opened a branch at the Terminal 1 arrivals area of Toronto/Pearson airport.
He Must Have Thought Acela Was an Undisclosed Location
You'd think that Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, would know a little bit about secure communications on the road. But this week he was blabbing so loudly on an Amtrak Acela train that the passenger in front of him could hear the his phone conversation. And like every good American, the passenger promptly Tweeted what he was hearing for the world to know. The lesson here, fellow travelers? If you're talking business on a plane or a train or in an airport or a hotel lounge, you're probably not doing right by your company or your clients.
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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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This column is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.