Delta hits and misses; American rewards; death by airfare; LAX grows; Tiger flies; cheap hotels and terrible IFE

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

  • I’ve flown Delta Air Lines and have had pleasant experiences, but as most know the SkyMiles program for redemption opportunities remains the most ridiculous of the majors in the U.S. The good right now: Delta is giving a 100% bonus on purchased and transferred miles through September 30, 2011. The bad: The carrier is changing their policy to prohibit award ticket changes & cancellations within 72-hours of departure. Separately, Delta is buying an equity stake of 3.5% ($65 million) in Aeromexico further strengthening their partnership with the Mexican carrier.
  • American Airlines launched elite rewards this week granting exclusive bonuses for achieving elite qualifying point thresholds depending on your status at year-end. Further evidence, in my opinion, that the evolution of frequent flyer elite levels here in the U.S. will be going the way of foreign carriers where the all mighty dollar rules. How long do we have until the cheapo fares still earn 100% elite miles? Anyway, the spend required to hit the milestones is significant for mileage runners like me and I’ll have a post next week analyzing the program.
  • My hometown airport, dear little Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), has been seeing a boom in passenger volume lately. The half-year figures show a 5.4% increase in passengers carried through June 2011. Spurring international growth was new service by Turkish Airlines and Iberia, along with the new Shanghai routes offered by both American Airlines and United Airlines. Domestic passengers carried also grew by 5.9%.
  • We all have seen airfares rising this year compared to last, but is it really a fatal condition? Apparently so. Protests in New Caledonia turned ridiculously violent where four people were killed and another two dozen injured on the French island of Mare. Air Caledonie instituted a new fare structure and locals took their anger up a notch, which caused the carrier and airport authority to build blockades at Mare’s airport. The French overseas minister said the blockades would be taken down on Monday. Why not sooner?
  • Troubled low-cost Australian carrier Tiger Airways resumed flying as of this posting. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) lifted the grounding order on Wednesday and the carrier was further ordered to overhaul operational manuals and safety procedures. Would this happen in the United States? Would such a “clear and present danger” shutdown of an airline with questions over safety even allow a carrier’s reemergence into the skies? It’s pretty scary to me and I certainly wouldn’t book a ticket on the carrier. I’ll be curious to watch their reemergence unfold and see if demand returns.
  • Ever wonder about average hotel pricing at major U.S. cities for the coming months? One of the websites on my bookmark list publishes this forward looking data and while your mileage may vary, it’s still an interesting snapshot perhaps useful in planning potential vacation destinations. Not surprising, the Circus Circus in Las Vegas has rates as low as $28.99 this month whereas New York’s lowest rate comes in at $150 per night.
  • Finally, the inflight entertainment on Qantas is a bit questionable. A documentary entitled “The Female Orgasm Explained” is one of the options on Qantas’ television channel The Edge, which of course comes with a mature rating. The article states flight crew can block the program from unaccompanied minors traveling alone, but regardless… really? I’m sure there isn’t anything graphic about it, but is an airplane the appropriate venue for such a showing? I think not.

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