The Tactical Traveler


Delta's Latest Gambit: More Hub Flying
The seemingly endless and nearly inexplicable route realignment at bankrupt Delta Air Lines took another turn this week as the carrier unveiled a new burst of mostly commuter flying from its Salt Lake City hub and its shaky international nexus at New York/Kennedy airport. This time the "strategy," if you can call it that, is being spearheaded by a former Continental executive, who apparently is determined to mimic Continental's Newark buildup a decade ago. From Salt Lake City, Delta plans to add six new regional-jet destinations on June 8 and mainline Delta flights to Toronto. Over at Kennedy Airport, the airline is launching 50-seat regional-jet and 37-seat turboprop flights to 11 destinations between June and September. There will also be new mainline Delta flights to San Diego. All of the Kennedy flights are designed to feed Delta's growing European network at JFK, which itself is controversial because Delta failed with a similar European strategy 15 years ago. Delta will compete with JetBlue and other airlines on eight of the JFK routes; new flights to Albany, Hartford, Philadelphia and Providence have no direct competition from Kennedy.

Back to the Future for United at Dulles
United Express passengers at Washington/Dulles take note: commuter flights are moving back to Concourse A during the next 45 days. As you may recall, Concourse A used to be the United Express terminal when flights were operated by Atlantic Coast. But when Atlantic Coast broke with United and launched the now-defunct Independence Air, United Express flights were forced to move into Concourse G. … Bermuda is suddenly in the eye of a tiny storm. JetBlue's decision to launch New York/Kennedy flights to Bermuda in May has led US Airways to drop its seasonal service from New York/LaGuardia. And Spirit Airlines is now rethinking its plan to launch Bermuda flights in May. Meanwhile, two incumbents on the Bermuda run from the New York area, Continental and American, have reduced prices to match JetBlue's fares.

On The Avenue, Fifth Avenue…
Lodging chains, especially the upscale ones, are convinced that you want to live at a hotel--or at least buy a timeshare there. The latest player: The St. Regis on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. The Beaux Arts landmark, flagship of the St. Regis chain, will convert four floors of the property into residences. Two floors will have timeshares and two floors will be converted to wholly owned units. … Radisson has lost two hometown properties. The 475-room Radisson Riverfront in St. Paul, Minnesota, is converting to a Crowne Plaza and the 275-room Radisson City Hotel is going independent. The property has been renamed the City Center and will be renovated before it is reflagged with another chain name.

Who Can Keep Track of All This?
United Airlines' Mileage Plus program has followed Delta's push into merchandise awards. The program's Merchandise Rewards plan allows elite-level members to claim products rather than airline seats until December 31. … Midwest Airlines is dumping its frequent-flyer alliance with American AAdvantage and renewing its partnership with Northwest Airlines. Effective May 1, WorldPerks and Midwest Miles members can earn and redeem for flights on either carrier. … Spirit Airlines has launched a frequency program called Free Spirit. … AirTran Airways has joined the American Express Membership Rewards program. … Continental Airlines says OnePass members can now claim restricted awards for 20,000 miles if the roundtrip is less than 1,500 miles. But the award doesn't appear anywhere in the OnePass documentation, so proceed with caution.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines has learned what you would have thought they'd have already known: Passengers don't want to pay for soft drinks or juices. So the carrier's American Eagle commuter unit has dropped a test program that charged travelers $1 for a beverage. … United Airlines now features some XM Radio broadcasts in-flight. But unlike the live XM Radio broadcasts offered on AirTran and JetBlue, United is using pretaped programming. … Bankrupt Northwest Airlines and its pilots struck a new contract deal that includes salary concessions and the creation of a new Northwest subsidiary to fly smaller jets. Northwest pilots still must vote on the deal. … A court in the Philippines awarded a passenger $238,000 in compensation for a lost bag. It was lost eight years ago on an itinerary from Manila to Almaty, Kazakhstan; the flyer says he was humiliated because he was forced to address a World Health Organization conference in jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. The defense from KLM, which lost the court case and says it will appeal, is that there is no proof that it lost the bag because the Manila-Almaty itinerary included some segments on other carriers.

Your Fare Dollars at Work…
The lead lawyers in the 38-month saga that was the United Airlines bankruptcy have submitted their final bill: $99.8 million. In fairness, that's not all fees. The firm, Kirkland & Ellis, says that $6.1 million of the total is expenses and $2.3 million of that is related to copying and binding services. Kirkland says more than 300 of its lawyers worked on the case, including partner and team leader James Sprayregen, who billed $3.45 million for his 4,419 hours of work. (That's $780 an hour.) Kirkland partner David Seligman billed even more: $5.5 million for 10,231 hours. (That's a mere $537 an hour.) Also notable: $4.9 million for the 7,200 hours of work by partner Marc Kieselstein. (That's a cool $680 an hour.) But let's put all these numbers in perspective: Kirkland & Ellis's nearly $100 million in bills in less than a third of the $336.9 million in "professional fees" that United ran up in its bankruptcy.

Copyright © 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.