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A BRIEFING FOR MARCH 27-APRIL 10, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· We're Collateral Damage in the Delta-Alaska War
· Southwest Expands Fast at Washington/National
· Half of SFO's Runways Close in Spring, Summer
· Lufthansa Will Keep Its Charlotte-Munich Route
· Delta Rolls Out Gogo WiFi on International Runs
· Virgin America Ekes Out Its First Annual Profit
· Welcome to New York City, You Tourist Jerks!
Now We're Collateral Damage in the Delta-Alaska Battle of Seattle
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and global interloper Delta Air Lines have been skirmishing at Sea-Tac Airport for years even though the two carriers continue to be code-share and frequent flyer program partners. At least until this week, the battle for Seattle has benefited flyers with more flights, new services, lower fares and mileage bonuses. But now we're beginning to look like collateral damage as the carriers up their attacks on each other. Last weekend, for example, Alaska Air pulled its code off Delta flights to four cities from Delta's Salt Lake City hub. Delta is retaliating in June by taking its code off Alaska Air flights from Seattle to nine U.S. and Canadian cities. And this week the carriers slashed benefits for their elite flyers who travel on the other airline. Effective on flights after April 30, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan elites who fly Delta lose baggage-fee waivers, priority boarding, access to express security lanes and the 50 percent discount on Delta Economy Comfort upgrades. Delta elites who fly Alaska Air after April 30 will lose bag-fee waivers and priority security access, too. For more specifics, Alaska Airlines flyers should click here and Delta elites should click here.
Southwest Expands Route Network From Washington/National
As a winner of the Washington/National merger slot divestiture, Southwest Airlines has started filling out its DCA schedule. On August 10, it will add six daily nonstops to Chicago/Midway, three roundtrips to Nashville and two roundtrips to New Orleans. On September 30, there'll be two new nonstops to Tampa and three more flights to Midway. The final tranche kicks in November 2 with new routes to Akron-Canton, Dallas/Love Field and Indianapolis. It'll also add more flights to existing routes to Houston/Hobby and St. Louis. By the end of the year, Southwest says it'll offer 44 daily flights to 14 cities from National. ... Separately, Southwest is introducing St. Louis-San Francisco flights (beginning September 30) and Los Angeles-Omaha service (starting June 9). ... Virgin America, which began flying in 2007, eked out its first annual profit in 2013. The carrier earned $10.1 million compared to a 2012 loss of $145 million. It accomplished the feat by reducing capacity by 2 percent and refinancing more than $300 million in debt. ... JetBlue Airways says it'll fly to Albany, the capital of New York State, next year. No routes or schedules have been announced.
Half of San Francisco's Runways Close This Spring and Summer
Two of the four active runways at San Francisco will close later this spring and summer for a federally mandated safety upgrade. Beginning on May 17 and running through September, the runways will be unavailable for flight departures or arrivals. Airport officials are oddly dismissive of the closure's possible effect on on-time performance, noting that at least two runways were closed by inclement weather for about 100 days last year. Of course, what they don't say is that San Francisco is one of the worst airports in the nation for on-time performance. For the period of May to September, 2013, government statistics show that SFO operated just 65.9 percent on-time. Needless to say, you may want to plan around the runway work and consider flying into Oakland or San Jose instead. If you use SFO to connect to international flights, consider heading north to Seattle or south to Los Angeles. If your home airport is San Francisco, lotsa luck. ... A Miller Clubhouse bar and restaurant has opened in Milwaukee, Miller's hometown. ... Several new bars and locally themed restaurants open next week at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood. But the big news: Starbucks will replace Dunkin' Donuts as the airport coffee vendor.
Lufthansa Stays in Charlotte After US Airways Moves to OneWorld
When US Airways and American Airlines merged late last year, it was a given that US Airways would move to OneWorld and exit the Star Alliance. And the assumption was that Star Alliance carrier Lufthansa would quickly dump its Charlotte-Munich nonstop as soon as US Airways, which controls about 75 percent of traffic at Charlotte, stopped feeding flyers to the German carrier. But guess what? Lufthansa says it'll keep the Charlotte route on the schedule even after US Airways bolts Star next week. "It's definitely a different marketing challenge now," admits Don Bunkenburg, North America managing director of sales for the Lufthansa Group. "But we think we can make it work." About 60 percent of the passengers using the Lufthansa flight have been connecting at Charlotte, Bunkenburg says, so now he'll have to beat the weeds for more Charlotte-area travelers. "But we don't have to rely solely on Charlotte-Munich flyers," he says. "Munich is very good for connectivity from Europe and there are a lot of German businesses in the Carolinas." (One example: BMW's U.S. factory is in Spartanburg, South Carolina.) Bunkenburg also suggests the route will survive because he can appeal to Europe-bound flyers between United's hub at Washington/Dulles and Delta's hub in Atlanta. "Munich has plenty of great connections to Southern Europe and fast connections to India." But Lufthansa is also hedging its bets by reducing capacity. At the moment, the airline is using 313-seat Airbus A340-600s. By the fall, it'll use 216-seat Airbus A330s configured with Lufthansa's new premium-economy cabin.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines has begun rolling out aircraft configured with the new Gogo in-flight international WiFi service. The first planes are Boeing 747-400s on the Tokyo/Narita-Los Angeles and Tokyo/Narita-Atlanta runs. Delta says its entire international fleet will be wired for WiFi by the end of next year. ... United Airlines says it is installing almost 500 electronic charging stations at airports around the country. More than 110 stations will be in place by the end of the month in Concourses B and C at its Chicago/O'Hare hub. Stations will be added to its other hubs as well as New York/LaGuardia and New Orleans. ... US Airways is killing its Charlotte-Rio de Janeiro route at the end of the summer. It will be revived for the Christmas season, but will die permanently in January.
Welcome to New York City, You Jerk
As a born and raised New Yorker--a Brooklynite, to be precise--I find this New York tourist tips video hilarious and largely true. I invite you to watch it all the way through because there is very funny--and very useful--stuff right to the credits. I'm happy to discuss this, of course, but please don't E-mail me from your hotel between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m.
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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.