In other airline, hotel and travel industry news last week…
- Virgin America announced Philadelphia will be the carrier’s newest destination beginning in April 2012. Three daily LAX-PHL flights will commence April 4th and two daily turns SFO-PHL will follow starting April 10th. If history repeats itself, we should see some pretty decent fare wars in these markets. Presently, both United Airlines and US Airways offer Philly flights from SFO and LAX, and Delta also flies LAX-PHL nonstop. Based on Virgin America research, “50% of travelers flying from PHL to the Los Angeles market now use connecting flights and 45% of those traveling from PHL to the San Francisco Bay Area are connecting passengers.”
- Frankfurt Airport broke passenger records in 2011 by handling 56.44 million people during the year, up 6.5% from 2010 and making it an all-time best. Contributing to the success was the opening of the airport’s fourth runway and Germany’s stable and slightly growing economy compared to other parts of Europe. Air freight, however, took a hit with Fraport handling 2.8% less metric tons in 2011 as compared to 2010.
- William Shattner has been the Priceline spokesperson for 14 years, but that’s about to change. Beginning today, commercials will be airing showing the “Negotiator” (Shattner’s character) plunging to his death off a bridge after saving a bus full of passengers. Priceline’s CEO, Christopher Soder, said a change is needed “to reflect the company’s broader strategy.”
- AAA released the names of the newest Five Diamond Award properties to grace the company’s elite list. The additions are: Aria Sky Suites at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, SC, Jumbay Bay in Antigua, the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, FL, Montage in Beverly Hills, CA, Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, CA, The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto and the St. Regis Houston, TX.
- In hotel news, the current Crowne Plaza near Cleveland’s convention center will be undergoing a $64 million renovation and reopen next year as a Westin property. It will house 481 rooms and 26,000 square feet of meeting space. Also opening next year will be New York City’s first SpringHill Suites property, a Marriott brand. It will feature 137 rooms in the 19-story hotel Herald Square property.
- Anyone heading to Australia in the next couple of months during peak season? One website I follow occasionally posts a comparison of hotel prices and this one features Aussie hotel rates from January through March 2012. If you’re headed to Sydney in February, for example, and staying in a four-star property, you can expect a minimum rate of US$97.03 per night for the Great Southern Hotel. A five-star hotel, their example as being the Hilton Sydney (not five stars in my opinion), will set you back US$148.13 per night.
- Finally, I keenly watch the Global Distribution System (GDS) world, namely, those reservation systems both airlines and travel agencies use to sell airline tickets and other services. Travelport, GDS provider of Apollo (my favorite), Gaileo and Worldspan, previously rolled out a change to its Agility suite of programs last month that would have cost some agencies $35 per terminal per month to use features they’re currently using today for free. Travelport rolled back the fees after agency backlash, but CEO Gordon Wilson says their relationship with agencies needs to change in order to provide them with the tools they need at a price adaptive with the marketplace. I smell a bit of B.S. here and merely think GDSs are beginning to see their dominance in travel distribution on the wall.