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THE BRIEFING FOR MARCH 13 TO 27, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· Must Avoid: United Airlines to Heathrow in June
· JetBlue, American End New York, Boston Alliance
· Of Course It's Time to Dump Your SkyMiles Fast
· Lots of New Limited-Service Hotels Worldwide
· Hawaiian Airlines Returns to Lanai and Molokai
· AAdvantage Gold Flyers Lose an Upgrade Perk
· Just 6.2 Percent of Flyers Used Gogo Last Year
Must Avoid: United Airlines to London/Heathrow in June
The long-awaited and completely rebuilt Terminal 2 at London's Heathrow Airport is due to open on June 4. But after the brutal and chaotic debut of Terminal 5 in 2008, Heathrow officials are preparing for the worst. Their solution: a phased opening of the 2.5 billion pound facility that is earmarked for use primarily by Star Alliance carriers. During the first days, in fact, just one carrier will tiptoe into the terminal. And I guess because United Airlines can't really run any worse than it runs now, United is the guinea pig. How many days will it take United to get it right at Heathrow? Who knows? After all, it's already been two years since the big computer transition and the badly merged carrier still isn't operating correctly. My advice: Skip United to London during the entire month. The schedule and sanity you save may be your own. In fairness, however, when United gets its Heathrow act together, that will be good news for business travelers. Right now, United operates from two separate Heathrow terminals. Pre-merger United flights from Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington/Dulles use Terminal 1. Former Continental flights from Newark and Houston still use Terminal 4.
JetBlue and American Airlines End New York, Boston Partnership
To the surprise of absolutely no one, JetBlue Airways and the merged American Airlines are ending their loose partnership. Concentrated mostly at Boston/Logan and New York/Kennedy, where JetBlue is strong and American Airlines needs to feed its international flights, the alliance was created in 2010. The deal is unraveling so quickly that you no longer can purchase a joint ticket on the two carriers. Effective April 1, you won't be able to earn American AAdvantage miles on JetBlue flights or TrueBlue points on American flights. The deal was ended at the behest of American Airlines, which now hopes to feed international passengers into the US Airways network at Philadelphia. JetBlue chief executive Dave Barger called the end of the deal "not overly meaningful." In other words--actually Cole Porter's words--it was just one of those things, one of those crazy flings, one of those bells that now and then rings. ... Separately, JetBlue announced that it's adding summer flights between Kennedy and Hyannis on Cape Cod. The service will run between June 26 and September 9. The airline already runs seasonal flights from Kennedy to both Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. ... Frontier Airlines is moving into Cleveland in the wake of United's decision to de-hub the Ohio City. Effective June 13, the à la carte airline will run several flights a week to Atlanta; Fort Lauderdale; Fort Myers; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham; and Tampa.
Of Course It's Time to Dump Your SkyMiles As Soon As Possible
The release of some details of the 2015 Delta SkyMiles program may have helped Delta reach its public relations goals of bamboozling the general media and low-information flyers, but you shouldn't be fooled: You'll earn fewer miles and pay more for awards, too. Delta has confirmed that it expects the program will issue fewer miles for flying in 2015 than this year and a deeper dive into the award charts is discouraging, too. Consider Delta's boast that it is retaining the 25,000-mile award for restricted domestic seats. What Delta doesn't tell you is that your earning power is reduced by about 50 percent. Right now, if you fly approximately five transcontinental roundtrips and have no status, you'll earn enough miles for a 25,000-mile award. Next year? If you pay $500 for a transcon run and have no status, you'll have to fly ten roundtrips to earn 25,000 miles. Top-level Diamond flyers currently can earn 25,000 miles by flying just 2.5 transcon roundtrips. Pay $500 in 2015 and Diamonds will need to fly five roundtrips to earn 25,000 miles. Prefer the bellwether high-value award, a restricted BizElite seat to Europe? Right now, that seat costs 100,000 miles. On June 1, a previously announced price increase will bump it to 125,000 miles. But there is virtually no availability at either price. Delta's solution? Slot a 160,000-mile award level into the 2015 chart. In other words, expect to spend 60 percent more to get that award next year. So cash out now if you can find seats. Next year is going to be ugly.
Lots of New Limited-Service Hotels Open Worldwide
You know what I always say: American contributions to world culture do not end at baseball and jazz. There are good, cheap(er) hotels, too. Here are this week's global newbies thanks to American lodging hegemony. ... A 246-room Four Points by Sheraton opened in Brisbane, Australia. ... A 182-room Homewood Suites opened in Hamilton, Ontario. ... A 75-room Holiday Inn Express opened in Golden, British Columbia, just off the Trans-Canadian Highway. ... A 119-room Hotel Indigo opened in St. Petersburg, Russia. ... And a 104-room Hyatt Place opened in Manati, Puerto Rico, at the edges of metropolitan San Juan. ... Back here at home, there's a new 80-room Holiday Inn Express in North Hollywood at 11350 Burbank Boulevard and a 92-room Hampton Inn in Whitestone, a suburb of Indianapolis.
More Links for Philadelphia Via US Airways Express
American and US Airways may have merged, but the US Airways Express brand ain't dead yet. Under the commuter moniker, US Airways is adding three new routes from its Philadelphia hub. Effective June 5, there'll be daily Dash-8 flights to Charleston, West Virginia; three daily CRJ-200 flights to Lexington, Kentucky; and three daily CRJ-200 flights to Memphis. ... The former Radisson in Brisbane, near San Francisco International, has converted to the DoubleTree by Hilton brand. The 210-room property is about three miles from the airport. ... Hawaiian Airlines is returning to two smaller islands, Lanai and Molokai. The carrier abandoned flights from its Honolulu hub in 2004, but it has launched a commuter carrier called Ohana to service the routes. The Molokai flights began on Tuesday (March 11). The Lanai flights begin on March 18. ... Atlanta-Hartsfield is buying 74 passport kiosks to speed up customs formalities. First installed at Vancouver Airport, the kiosks have also been installed at five other airports this year.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Effective on March 18, American AAdvantage Gold members lose their complimentary advance access to American's Main Cabin Extra premium-economy section. Until now, Golds who booked full-fare coach seats were able to confirm the upgrades immediately. Now they'll only be able to score an upgraded seat 24 hours before departure. Full details of the new policy are here. ... Gogo, the in-flight WiFi provider, said this week that its "take rate" was 6.2 percent of flyers in 2013, up slightly from 2012's 5.3 percent. That slow adoption rate by travelers helped create a wider 2013 loss of $44.6 million compared to $27.4 million in 2012. Probably not coincidentally, Gogo announced separately that it will raise the price of the single-airline monthly rate to $49.95 on April 6. The price has been $39.95. Travelers with existing monthly agreements are grandfathered at the lower rate.
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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.