In other airline, hotel and travel industry news last week…
- The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics released 2011 full-year data for a variety of airline metrics last week. Among them are several positive results when compared to 2010 and previous years, including the best on-time results in a December for the past 17 years, a record low rate of mishandled bags and fewer flights where passengers were involuntarily denied boarding. Complaints, however, were up 3% likely due to airlines reducing capacity causing packed flights.
- United Airlines is selling a hotel it has owned for decades in Waikiki to an undisclosed buyer. The Waikiki Seaside Hotel has acted as a layover property for flight crews and a popular destination for United’s employees and retirees. Having previously worked very closely with Hawaiian hotels when I managed the Hawaii market of two vacation packaging companies, my best guess is it will become a low-to-mid range property in the Aston or Outrigger chain.
- The USA Today recently sat down with five top hotel executives discussing trends in the lodging industry. One of the hot topics discussed was internet access and whether or not to charge for the service. It’s definitely an ancillary fee many chains would hate to see end, but at the same time executives are aware of the demands from business travelers wanting it for free. Other items discussed were the new Room Key hotel search site, customer reviews, smartphone capabilities, increasing nightly rates and property refurbishments.
- InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) will be overhauling the Crowne Plaza brand, as well as launch a new midscale brand in the United States and a five-star offering in China. The new brand names have not been disclosed and the company was quick to note the newest U.S. incarnation appearing in the next three years will result in “minimal cannibalization” to their current midscale offering, Holiday Inn. For Crowne Plaza, IHG plans to remarket the brand as an upper scale property through upgrades or having up to 41 properties leave the chain in the next two years.
- Air Australia, who rebranded from a primarily charter operation last November, met its death this past week. The airline suddenly went into “voluntary administration” (bankruptcy) on Friday, stranding thousands of passengers from Thailand to Honolulu. The airline bluntly released a statement saying, “It currently appears that there are no funds available to meet operational expenses so flights will be suspended immediately.”
- Hundreds of flights were canceled at Frankfurt Airport this past Thursday and Friday due to striking apron and runway workers. The airport’s operator, Fraport, claims it will lose approximately €5 million for every day workers strike. The union is demanding pay increases of up to 70%, for which Fraport deems ridiculous. Both parties are willing to return to the negotiating table, though further industrial action may occur this week.
- The “idiot airline traveler of the week” award goes to a man who tried to bring a loaded handgun through security at California’s Ontario International Airport. TSA officers and airport police arrested the man who claimed he forgot the weapon and additional ammunition were in his bag. He was cited and released, though was not allowed to fly to Phoenix as planned.
- Finally, many of my BoardingArea readers will thoroughly enjoy an article that appeared in the USA Today on Monday. It reviewed the recent oneworld MegaDo event where many mileage runners and “extreme fliers” participated in a multi-city (and country) behind-the-scenes experience. American Airlines and other oneworld alliance member airlines sponsored the event which allowed participants to meet with executives, ride in a flight simulator and slide down emergency evacuation slides at a flight attendant training center, among other things.