Declining airline sales; Obama scolded; new & imploding hotels; Tilton’s United; 787 update and Strategic Airlines

In other airline, hotel & travel industry news this week…

  • The Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) reported a 4.8% decrease in tickets processed in July through which virtually all airlines account. A total of 11.6 million air transactions were settled through ARC, the lowest figure for July transactions for the last six years. This could be evidence supporting current fears of another economic slowdown like we had in 2009.
  • President Obama was gently reminded by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) that travel agents still account for more than 50% of all travel sold. In a town hall meeting, Obama said when speaking about industries that have become highly automated, “When is the last time somebody went to a bank teller? Instead of using an ATM. Or used a travel agent instead of going online?” His underlying point, however, is accurate and the industry has seen incredible consolidation over the years.
  • Many new or rebranded hotels will be popping up across the world. A 196-room Doubletree by Hilton opened in New Delhi, marking the first property of that brand in India. A Warsaw hotel, the Jan III Sobieski Hotel, will transition into a Radisson Blu property next month, and the Hilton Albuquerque will become a Crowne Plaza in September.
  • Former CEO of United Airlines, Glenn Tilton, has been unloading shares of United Continental Holdings, Inc. Since May 5th, he sold 152,733 shares for a net gain of $3.4 million, or roughly 20% of his available holdings. He’s still serving as Chairman of United Continental until the end of 2012, but also holds the same post for J.P. Morgan Chase’s Midwest business.
  • With assembly of United Airlines’ first Boeing 787 Dreamliner underway, the carrier released the configuration details noting 36 flatbed seats will be found in BusinessFirst, 63 seats in Economy Plus and 120 in regular economy. I still cringe whenever news outlets around the world title these releases as was done here: “United-Continental to offer Premium Economy on first 787.” It’s important to note the difference between truly Premium Economy service as found on British Airways, Qantas and other carriers to the enhanced legroom seats found on Delta and United. It only sets up misperception and ultimate service failures in the minds of customers who don’t know the difference.
  • Subject to government approval, Australia’s Strategic Airlines will begin twice-weekly flights to Honolulu from Brisbane and Melbourne effective December 14th. The carrier is rebranding to Air Australia from Strategic which is a brilliant decision as it would cause confusion in the minds of consumers with the former name. I had originally posted they were renaming from Air Australia to Strategic and received an email from the carrier pointing out my mistake. I’m glad they did, as the representative shed some light on the original name having been used when they were a charter airline for the defense force. Anyway, service will be operated with a two cabin A330-200.
  • Finally, MGM Resorts is looking for permission to blow up the unopened Harmon hotel in the Las Vegas CityCenter complex. Marred with construction flaws they’re claiming to be beyond repair, MGM has been in a legal dispute with the contractor who claims they just want to implode it, “to hide the fact that the Harmon is not a threat to public safety…” and “… to avoid adding the Harmon as additional glut to its other vacant properties in CityCenter.”

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