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THE BRIEFING FOR MAY 1 TO MAY 14, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· There's Never Any Love Lost at Dallas/Love Field
· United Finally Gets a United Terminal in Boston
· TSA PreCheck Now Works on Air Canada Flights
· Marriott Finally Opens By DC's Convention Center
· Southwest Ends AirTran A+ Rewards November 1
· Frontier Airlines Now Charging for Carry-on Bags
· Who's Betting on Smisek at United? Jeff Smisek
There's Never Any Love Lost at Dallas/Love Field
Virgin America promoted its new routes from Dallas/Love Field last week with a big, fast fare sale. But the same problem that plagued the fare sale--Virgin doesn't actually have the right to fly from Love Field--remains a fact right now. After a week of political and aeronautic wrangling, council hearings and consultant reports, Dallas city officials still have not given approval for Virgin America to use the two gates it seeks. Those gates, technically, still belong to American Airlines, which agreed to divest them as part of its US Air merger settlement with the Department of Justice. Virgin isn't the only one who wants the gates, of course. Both Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines, which currently provides virtually all of the service at Love, lust after them. But the Justice Department only has eyes for Virgin and has told American to sell them to Virgin. The problem with that? Some Dallas officials want the gates to go to Southwest and the Justice Department can't require Dallas to sign off on a transfer to Virgin. The ultimate irony of all? The gates don't even exist in the physical sense. They are still being built as a part of the expansion of Love's facilities. One more irony: Virgin America is now run by David Cush, a former American Airlines executive who once led American's drive to kill Legend Airlines, a carrier that launched from Love in 2000 and folded within months.
That New Airport Smell in Boston, Baton Rouge and Chattanooga
It took nearly four years after United and Continental airlines announced their merger, but the combined United Airlines now operates from a single location at Boston/Logan. United this week opened a newly renovated 10-gate concourse in Terminal B. The $170 million, 97,000-square-foot facility includes a new ticket lobby with 24 self-serve kiosks, lots of power points, several new dining options, a farmer's market and a United Club lounge. ... The renovation of the main terminal at Chattanooga has opened after a $7.2 million upgrade. There are new restrooms and escalators as well as power points and flat-screen monitors in the departure areas. ... The $12.5 million renovation and expansion of the terminal and rotunda at Baton Rouge opened this week. There are new vending options and TSA checkpoints have been moved into the rotunda. At-seat power points have also been added to the waiting areas. ... Air Canada is the first international carrier to play in the TSA PreCheck program. That means if you have PreCheck, and the TSA is in the mood to allow you to use it, the security-bypass program should be offered on Air Canada flights.
Decades in the Making, the Marriott Marquis Opens in Washington
Capping decades of real estate, political and social battles, the 12-story, 1,175-room Marriott Marquis has opened next door to the Convention Center in the District of Columbia. The project eventually broke ground in 2010 and is the first of three new Marriott properties expected to open near the convention center in a neighborhood that locals now call Shaw. Meanwhile, Marriott has designated the Marquis as the chain's 4,000th property because the company started 87 years ago as a root beer stand down the street from the hotel. ... Marriott's other openings this week are far afield from that first root beer stand. A 282-room Courtyard opened in the Pangyo Techno Valley, a suburb of the South Korean capital of Seoul. And a 282-room Marriott opened in the Jixian district of Tianjin, China.
The One Person Who Still Thinks Jeff Smisek Is Fit to Lead United
I predicted the eventual ouster of United chief executive Jeff Smisek nearly two years ago. Trailing the industry in virtually all financial and consumer-service measures, security analysts are now openly challenging Smisek and other United C-suite executives during the quarterly earnings calls. And the union representing the airline's Newark-based pilots this week called for Smisek to go. "We have absolutely zero confidence in the ability of present management to lead a turnaround," said a statement issued by leaders of the local chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association. Still, there remains one person squarely in Smisek's corner and, to his credit, this backer is putting his money where his judgment is. Who is the bold contrarian? Smisek himself. He spent $792,000 this week to buy 20,000 additional shares of United Continental Holdings (UAL), United's corporate shell. Smisek's total holdings in UAL are now valued at about $20 million.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Must to avoid during the month of May: Air France. The airline's pilots are pledging to strike, perhaps for several hours each day, because they are unhappy about potential new government regulations about strikes. (Don't try to understand it. They're French, 'nuff said.) Bottom line: Air France may be even less reliable than usual this month. Remember that many Delta Air Lines flights are code-shares operated by Air France. Friday, May 2 update: The pilots have cancelled their potential strike action. Go figure. ... Surprising absolutely no one, since it was purchased by the guy who once owned Spirit Airlines, Frontier this week remade its pricing along the all-fees-all-the-time model pioneered by Spirit. That means, among other things, a charge for carry-on bags. Here's Frontier's smarmy, we-did-it-all-for-you explanation. ... The AirTran A+ Rewards program ends on November 1. Remaining accounts will be folded into Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards. Complete details 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.
This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.