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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 19 - JUNE 30, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· Believe It or Not, Aircraft Seating Gets Worse
· United Will Fly From Houston to Santiago, Chile
· Marriott Opens a Second Property in Siberia
· American Bulks Up at LAX With Four Routes
· Airspace Opens a Public Lounge in San Diego
· Hard Hotel Times in California's Inland Empire
· Hawaiian Adds Routes That Bypass Honolulu
Believe It or Not, Aircraft Seating Is Getting Even Worse
We've discussed the race to the bottom on seating for several years, but, believe it or not, it's getting much worse. Major airlines continue to skimp in coach and the seat crunch is even reaching business class. This week, for example, American Airlines grudgingly confirmed that the retrofit of its Boeing 777-200ERs won't be as grand as originally announced two years ago. American will go to 10-across in coach compared to the current 9-across configuration, of course, but it has decided to reduce the size of both the business and Main Cabin Extra premium-economy cabins. There will now be just 37 business class and 36 premium-economy chairs, about 20 percent fewer than originally announced. Also gone: the stand-up bar that American was promoting. The space saved will be devoted to more 17-inch-wide coach seats. There'll now be 209 in cattle class, up from the originally announced 170 seats. Meanwhile, British Airways announced that it'll rework the short-haul aircraft used on its U.K. and intra-European routes. Startlingly, Club Europe business-class seats will be slashed to just 30 inches of legroom, down from the current 34 inches. That means short-haul business class, configured 2x2 thanks to jury-rigging the middle seat as workspace, will have no more legroom than BA's coach cabin. And in Asia, All Nippon Airways joins its Star Alliance partner United Airlines going nine-across in coach on its newest Boeing 787 Dreamliners. ANA, launch customer for the Dreamliner in 2011, originally configured coach with eight-across seating.
United Will Fly to Chile While Marriott Doubles Up in Siberia
United Airlines says it will launch daily flights to Santiago, Chile, from its Houston/Intercontinental hub. Flights begin on December 7 using Boeing 767-300s configured with 30 business-class beds, 49 Economy Plus seats and 135 coach chairs. The airline is also adding Houston-Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, flights. The weekly service begins December 20. On the same day, it'll add seasonal flights between Chicago and Belize. The weekly service will run until May. ... Marriott has opened its second hotel in Siberia, a 170-room full-service Marriott on Lenin Square in Novosibirsk. And its Renaissance brand has opened a 267-room property in Minsk, capital of Belarus, which last month joined an economic union headed by Russia. Wonder what Marriott board member and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks about all this cozying up to Russia, which he claims is our biggest geopolitical foe. ... Starwood opened a 114-room Four Points hotel in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. ... InterContinenal has opened a 110-room Holiday Inn Express in Rio Branco, capital of the Brazilian state of Acre. ... Hilton has opened a 104-room Homewood Suites in Ajax, Ontario.
American Bulks Up in Los Angeles With Four New Routes
No one carrier seems to be able to get the upper hand in Los Angeles and the battle to control LAX continues apace. The newest move comes from American Airlines, which is adding four more routes in the fall. Daily flights to Edmonton, Alberta, and twice-daily flights to both San Antonio and Vancouver, British Columbia, begin on October 2. A daily run to Tampa launches on November 6. Except for the Tampa route, which will be flown with Boeing 737-800s, the new routes will operate with CRJ-900s. ... An Airspace Lounge has opened in Terminal 2 at San Diego. It's the fourth Airspace location. Admission is free for American Express Platinum cardholders or $25 per visit for others. ... PZA, which serves pizzas, meatballs and salads, has opened its first branch at Ottawa airport. The new chain is from HMSHost, the airport food-service giant.
JetBlue Launches Transcon Premium Service, Adds in Washington
Times surely are changing at JetBlue Airways, the 14-year-old carrier that once focused on New York City and only offered a single class of service. On Sunday (June 15), JetBlue launched Mint, its business-class concept, on flights between its Kennedy hub and Los Angeles. Mint includes seats that become lie-flat 78-inch beds, 15-inch monitors, power outlets and USB ports, amenity kits and multi-course meals. All JFK-LAX flights will offer Mint by August 24. It'll expand to the JFK-San Francisco route on October 26. Prices start at $599 each way and top out at $999 each way. Separately this week, JetBlue also launched its expanded flight network at Washington/National Airport, beginning flights to Charleston, South Carolina; Nassau, Bahamas; and Hartford, Connecticut. It even announced two more DCA routes, to Fort Myers and West Palm Beach, Florida. They'll begin on December 18. The expansion is thanks to the auction JetBlue won for slots that American Airlines agreed to shed as part of its merger deal with the Justice Department.
Hard Hotel Times in California's Inland Empire
Motor east from Los Angeles, then keep driving and you'll find yourself in California's Inland Empire. And these aren't good travel times in the empire. Besides the nearly moribund Ontario Airport, the sparser-than-it-should be lodging scene is undergoing some upheaval. The region's largest hotel, the 251-room property that has been known until recently as a Hilton, is now an independent called the Hotel San Bernadino. It is under renovation and hoping to catch on with another chain. Meanwhile, a few miles down Interstate 215 in Riverside, the owner of the two-year-old Hyatt Place has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a spat with the city. The fight is over a downtown revival that's gone south and has never been completed. ... New from Hampton Inn: a 105-room branch in Coconut Creek, Florida, and a 131-room outpost in downtown Des Moines. New from Hilton Garden Inn: another Manhattan property, this one on East 52nd Street, and another outpost in Little Rock, Arkansas. ... A 105-room Courtyard by Marriott has opened in Pearl, Mississippi.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Ohana, the newish commuter division of Hawaiian Airlines, announced three new nonstops that bypass its Honolulu hub. Beginning July 8, Ohana will fly between Maui and Molokai and between Maui and Kona on the Big Island. On July 10, there'll be a new run between Maui and Hilo, Hawaii's second-largest city. ... Even, the new chain created by InterContinental, this week opened its initial hotel in Norwalk, Connecticut. If you can figure out what the chain is about from its Web site or its incredibly buzzword-laden introductory announcement, could you please let me know?
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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.
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This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.