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THE BRIEFING FOR EARLY MARCH, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· Can All-Business-Class Flights Find Another Life?
· When Will Delta Show Us SkyMiles Award Charts?
· Everywhere You Look, Limited-Service Hotels
· Emirates Says It'll Add Flights to Chicago/O'Hare
· Azerbaijan Airlines Wants to Fly New York-Baku
· Big Airlines Add Canada, Domestic Fare Hikes
· Oracle Boss Larry Ellison Opens Airport Lounge
Can All-Business-Class Flights Find Another Life?
Nothing seemed more promising in the last decade--and flamed out more dramatically--than the concept of all-business-class international flights. Launched with a burst in the mid-2000s, most of them tanked during the oil spike of 2008. That included at least three all-business start-ups between the United States and London and carriers that operated to Paris, Amsterdam and Milan. Over the years, Lufthansa, Swiss and KLM all dropped all-business flights. Singapore Airlines dumped ultra-long-haul business runs from Newark and Los Angeles. And at least one airline tried all-business flights between Hong Kong and London. About all that's left is a pair of all-business-class flights that British Airways runs between New York/Kennedy and London/City airports. Why the history lesson? Because at least two more carriers are queuing up to try again. A start-up called Dreamjet says it wants to launch all-premium-class flights between Paris and New York later this year. And Qatar Airways claims that it will begin all-business-class flights on May 15 between London/Heathrow and its Doha hub. Now in the Oneworld Alliance with British Airways, Qatar says it'll use Airbus A319s configured with 40 seatbeds.
When Will Delta Show Us the Award Charts?
We discuss Delta's arrogance of announcing just the earnings side of next year's SkyMiles program in this week's Seat 2B column. But why didn't Delta show us the award charts--and when will it unveil them? On the first question, only crickets. Several Delta officials privately floated the idea that Delta's lawyers had claimed announcing the award charts would "signal" pricing intentions, something the Transportation Department frowns upon. Delta has used that excuse before, but it won't play this time because the airline claimed yesterday (February 26) that it would unveil the charts before they become effective next year. So the signaling excuse is off the table. So, too, are whispers that the charts aren't finalized. "Impossible," one frequency executive told me. "They've run the numbers time and time again. They know the charts down to the shortest, cheapest route." So there's only one logical conclusion: The charts have massive price hikes, especially for international business-class seats, and Delta doesn't want travelers defecting during 2014. That makes sense because Delta has said the new charts will have five levels, which indicates price hikes during the peak traffic periods. And remember: Delta is reducing its inventory of international business-class seats. Another negative indicator: Delta says restricted domestic awards will continue to start at 25,000 miles. That means Delta will pay lip service to infrequent flyers with symbolically cheap awards while backloading inventory at much higher prices. Any good news at all? Probably just this: The 2015 Delta charts will include one-way awards, something already offered by all other airline programs.
Everywhere You Look, More Limited-Service Hotels
There seems a bottomless appetite for the limited-service chains operated by major hotel families. All of the newbies, in fact, fall into that category. ... In Lincoln, Nebraska, for example, there's a new 111-room Hyatt Place in the Haymarket district. ... Marriott opened a 124-room Courtyard in the historic district of Wilmington, North Carolina; a 119-room SpringHill Suites in Corpus Christi, Texas; and a 75-room Fairfield Inn in Gainesville, Georgia. ... And a week doesn't go by when the Hilton conversion brand, DoubleTree, can't find a property to slap its name on. This week it's a 97-room former Cambria Suites at Savannah/Hilton Head Airport.
Emirates Says It'll Add Flights to Chicago/O'Hare
Emirates, one of the trio of fast-growing Gulf Carriers, will add still another U.S. gateway. In August, the Dubai-based carrier will launch nonstop flights to Chicago/O'Hare. Emirates will use three-class Boeing 777-200LRs on the route. Chicago will be Emirates' ninth U.S. destination after it adds flights to Boston/Logan on March 10. ... Another Marriott has opened in Shanghai. This one is a 317-room property next to Multimedia Valley in the city's Zhabei district. ... Here's a route you know you need: Azerbaijan Airlines wants to launch nonstops between New York and Baku, center of the region's oil industry. Azerbaijan hopes to launch flights in the fall using Airbus A340s.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines flyers take note: Flights at Phoenix now operate from Terminal 4. That allows American to co-locate with flights operated by US Airways. ... The major carriers have managed to push through a pair of price hikes in recent days. Transborder flights between the United States and Canada are about $22 higher and higher-priced walk-up domestic tickets will rise by about $10 roundtrip. American launched the first increase, Delta Air Lines gets "credit" for the other. ... Florida Express Jet, a public-charter carrier that hoped to launch intra-state service based in Tallahassee next month, has folded without ever starting service. ... Here's a unique airport club: Island Air and the two Four Seasons resorts on the Hawaiian island of Lanai have opened a lounge at Honolulu airport. Guests of the properties can check in at the lounge before their Island Air commuter flight to Lanai. The hotels and Island Air, not to mention almost all of Lanai, are owned by Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle.
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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 © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.