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THE BRIEFING FOR JANUARY 16 TO 30, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· American's New Gospel: Thou Shalt Not Compete
· Delta SkyClub Changes: Worse Than You Think
· Get to This Hampton Via Last Train to Clarksville
· Southwest Says In-Flight TV Will Be Free in 2014
· Hilton Opens Three More Home2Suite Properties
· Five Hurt by Turbulence on United Beijing Flight
· Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives & Chase United Lounges
The Gospel According to 'New' American: Thou Shalt Not Compete
The gospel according to American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker is quite simple: Don't compete if you can avoid it. When he ran US Airways, he preached the gospel of "consolidation" because he knew fewer carriers meant less competition. He also practiced what he preached: He traded most of US Airways' assets at New York's competitive LaGuardia Airport to Delta in 2011 in exchange for more heft at his fortress hub at Washington's National Airport. He also dropped almost all routes that didn't operate to or from USAir hubs. So it really shouldn't surprise you that he's applying the same gospel at American. American this week claimed that it would drop routes at LaGuardia and National due to slot divestitures negotiated with the Justice Department, but the truth is more in line with Parker's desire to avoid competition. American and US Air will actually add routes at LaGuardia, with flights to 10 new destinations. But American will drop service to Atlanta, Minneapolis and Cleveland. What do those cities have in common? The first two are Delta hubs and the third is a United hub. At National, American says it'll shutter routes to more than a dozen smaller cities, but also Detroit and Minneapolis, two strong Delta hubs. Another slick twist: After fighting for a law last year that allowed US Airways to begin flights between Washington/National and San Diego, Parker will drop San Diego and use the slots to add another Washington flight to American's Los Angeles hub.
Delta's SkyClub Devaluation Is Worse Than You Think
As I mentioned in last week's newsletter, Delta Air Lines has jacked up the price of membership in its network of SkyClub airport lounges. Stripped of the spin, it boils down to this: Basic membership remains $450 a year, but you're no longer allowed to bring guests. For that privilege, you'll pay $29 a person per visit. Want to maintain your traditional membership with the two-guests-free policy? That'll now cost $695 a year. (In Delta's defense, existing SkyClub members maintain their guest privileges until their membership period ends. Discounts based on elite SkyMiles status continue, too.) Currently get your SkyClub access free with an American Express Platinum card? You'll still get in free, but you'll now pay $29 a pop for each guest you bring along. But it's actually worse than you think. Delta is also downgrading lounge access for SkyTeam Elite Plus members who fly on international coach tickets. Effective May 1, they'll only get free access to SkyClub or SkyTeam lounges. Entry to the dozens of third-party lounges that Delta uses for international flights is no longer complimentary. For complete details (if not clear and transparent verbiage), surf here. Oh, in case you're wondering: Delta's "we're doing this because the clubs are getting crowded" excuse is a crock. This is about money: getting more of it from SkyClub members who want to bring guests, squeezing bucks from Amex Platinum cardholders and paying less to third-party lounge operators who charge Delta for every flyer who's given entry.
You Get to This Hampton Via the Last Train to Clarksville
There are more important lodging stories this week, but I couldn't resist this one: an 85-room Hampton Inn has opened in Clarksville, Tennessee. You know, Clarksville as in close to Fort Campbell and, of course, Clarksville from The Monkees' first hit. No word if Hampton plans a branch in Pleasant Valley, however. ... Back to real life: Hilton has opened three new branches of its newish Home2Suites chain: an 89-room hotel in Rochester, New York; a 92-room location in Rahway, New Jersey; and a 107-room outlet in Lakewood, Colorado. ... New from Marriott this week: a 101-room TownePlace Suites in York, Pennsylvania; a 172-room Courtyard near the Navy Yard in Philadelphia; a 112-room Residence Inn in Austin, Texas; and a 352-room Marriott in Dubai. ... Starwood has opened a 72-room Four Points on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, and a 176-room branch in Charleston, South Carolina. The latter is a renovation of the old Charleston House Hotel. ... Finally, this note: A 272-room hotel in Tampa is moving up the velcro hotel list. The property in the Westshore business district was once the Crowne Plaza. It became the Quorum hotel in 2005 and the Wyndham in 2010. But it stripped the Wyndham name from the property late last year and is once again operating as the Quorum. At least until March, when it becomes a Holiday Inn.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Airlines says it'll continue to offer free live and on-demand TV in-flight thanks to a deal underwritten by Dish Network and Row 44, the airline's WiFi vendor. ... American Airlines and US Airways have begun code-sharing flights, mostly from each other's respective hubs and US Airways' East Coast Shuttle. ... Speaking of US Airways, it'll add seasonal flights between its Philadelphia hub and Edinburgh using Boeing 757s configured with business and coach cabins. ... Avis says it'll open car-rental stations in Laos and Cambodia thanks to a licensing agreement with a local operator. ... Virgin Australia says it'll open its lounges to coach customers--but they'll pay for the privilege. For access up to two hours before departure, flyers will pay A$65. ... Five flight attendants were injured today (January 16) when a United Airlines flight from Newark to Beijing hit turbulence. No passengers were injured and the plane returned to Newark after reaching Canadian airspace.
Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives--and a Pop-Up Lounge for United Cardholders
Got a United Explorer or United Club credit card from Chase? Going to be in New York for the Super Bowl? Going to be in town anytime between January 29 and February 2? Then you have exclusive access to a "pop-up lounge" that Chase will operate in the heart of Times Square. Well, not so much a lounge as an entire restaurant. Chase is buying out Guy Fieri's American Kitchen and Bar for the week and stocking it with complimentary beverages and snacks, football- and food-related events, football-themed dinners and even a "tailgate" party on Super Bowl Sunday. It's the brainchild of David Gold, a frequent flyer, sports fanatic and (not coincidentally) the guy who runs Chase's United credit card portfolio. Full details of the special events and entry policies are here.
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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.
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