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THE BRIEFING FOR MAY 8 TO MAY 22, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· First Class Dying, Leaving a Good-Looking Corpse
· Amex Will Open Centurion Club in Miami Airport
· JetBlue Adds Flights From Pittsburgh, Salt Lake
· 10-Gate DFW Complex for American Eagle Opens
· Service 'Limited,' Growth Curve Seems Unlimited
· Airlines Add New Routes to Europe, Latin America
· American, US Air Stitching Together Networks
International First Class Dying, But Leaving a Good-Looking Corpse
You may have heard this week about sybaritic new first-class suites from Air France and Etihad, but the fact is that first class is a dying product on international routes. TAM, the Brazilian carrier now merged with LAN, said last week that it was dumping first-class cabins. Qatar Airways this week announced it would slash its commitment to first class by pulling the cabin from all aircraft except soon-to-be-delivered Airbus A380s. "I don't think there will be a return to first-class travel," claims Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker. Lufthansa, the world's largest operator of international first-class cabins, is trimming the number of first seats it offers. Even Air France, which unveiled a snazzy new first suite this week, is cutting back. There will only be four suites per aircraft compared to the eight seatbeds currently in first. Etihad made an even bigger splash with so-called First Apartment and the three-room First Residence. But there will be many fewer of those uber-spacious first suites than would normally be installed on Boeing 787s and Airbus A380s. So it comes down to this: First, where you can find it, will be better than ever. But lots of luck finding aircraft outfitted with the cabin.
American Express Will Open a Centurion Lounge in Miami
American Express Platinum Cardholders lost access to American Admirals Clubs and US Airways Clubs in March, but they'll like this news. American Express is opening a Centurion Lounge in the North Terminal of Miami International. It'll be the fifth lounge in the network, joining existing Amex locations in Las Vegas and Dallas/Fort Worth and the soon-to-be-opened clubs in New York/LaGuardia and San Francisco. ... JetBlue Airways is filling in some gaps in its route network. On October 29, it'll begin a daily nonstop between Pittsburgh and Fort Lauderdale, the third-largest airport in its system after New York/JFK and Boston/Logan. And beginning on November 12, it'll launch a daily nonstop between Salt Lake City and Orlando. ... A 10-gate extension of Terminal B at Dallas/Fort Worth has opened to serve American Eagle commuter flights. The new gates are numbered B30 through B39. ... A branch of Jamba Juice has opened at Gate 23 in Terminal C of St. Louis/Lambert.
Service Is 'Limited,' But the Growth Curve Seems Unlimited
Major hotel chains are ramping up the openings of "limited-service" brands because they seem much more popular (and profitable) than the traditional (and often unfocused) full-service properties. Consider this week's barrage. From Marriott, for example, there is a 120-room TownPlace Suites in Dodge City, Kansas, and a 107-room outpost in Corpus Christi, Texas; a 97-room Courtyard in Lehi, Utah; and a 131-room Residence Inn in Pullman, at Washington State University. ... From Hilton, there are new Hampton Inn properties in Harvey, Louisiana (83 room); Painted Post in New York's Finger Lakes (98 rooms); and Farmington, Utah (83 rooms). There's also a 154-room Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Charleston, South Carolina; a 165-room Homewood Suites in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood; and a 115-room Home2 Suites in Long Island City in the New York borough of Queens. ... From InterContinental, there's the 119-room Staybridge Suites in St. Petersburg, Florida. ... Starwood has converted the 160-room Grace Inn near Phoenix/Sky Harbor Airport into a Four Points. It's located at the intersection of I-10 and Elliot Road.
After Years of Trims, a Few New International Routes
U.S. and Canadian carriers have mostly scaled down their international route networks as a way to shore up their profitability. But as the airlines are throwing off profits again, there's now a few new runs being added to the route map. From Delta Air Lines, it's a new flight between New York/Kennedy and Zurich starting June 19 with Boeing 767-300ERs. It will also add or revive some flights between Kennedy and Rome; Atlanta and Paris; and Atlanta and Amsterdam. The last three runs connect to SkyTeam hubs operated by Alitalia, Air France and KLM, respectively. ... United Airlines says it will launch flights between its Denver hub and Panama City, Panama, starting on December 3. The route will operate five or seven times a week using Boeing 737-800 aircraft. ... Air Canada launches three weekly flights between its Toronto hub and Rio de Janeiro/Jobim International on December 11. The year-round route will operate using Boeing 767-300ERs. ... A 210-room Hyatt Place hotel has opened in Dubai.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines and US Airways are trying to stitch together their route networks. The thread? Mostly regional jets operated by American Eagle or US Airways Express. Beginning September 3, there will be new flights to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from US Airways' hubs in Charlotte and Philadelphia. On October 2, there will be RJ flights to Fort Wayne, Indiana, from Charlotte and Philadelphia; to Bismarck, North Dakota, from Dallas and Chicago; and between Charlotte and Evansville, Illinois. Also new beginning October 2: A320 flights between Phoenix and Cleveland. ... AT&T, the nation's second-largest mobile-phone company, says it'll enter the in-flight Internet market next year. AT&T is promising 4G LTE speeds, which would be a dramatic improvement over the service offered by Gogo, which currently has the most planes wired.
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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.