In other airline, hotel and travel industry news last week…
- Reservations and gate agents at United Airlines voted to remain unionized last week, marking a big win for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). A total of 16,720 people voted – 8,305 in favor of representation, 5,865 against – and they represent United’s second largest workgroup behind the carrier’s 21,400 flight attendants. Continental Airlines agents were previously un-unionized. Separately, United reported a 3.4 percent increase in traffic for the month of February compared to last year and a 1.5 to 2.5 percent increase in PRASM, a smaller increase than the previous few months.
- American Airlines posted positive February operational results enjoying a 6 percent increase in traffic from the previous year, its largest increase in many years. Wholly owned affiliate American Eagle Airlines saw an 18.9 percent increase in traffic. A company spokesperson cited improving U.S. and Japanese economies and the inauguration of new service between LAX and Shanghai as contributing factors for the growth.
- Delta Air Lines passengers have been given free access to Amazon.com while flying on the carrier’s Wi-Fi enabled aircraft, in addition to the existing free access to Delta.com and news content from The Wall Street Journal and People magazine.
- Southwest Airlines will be moving its San Antonio customer service center to a former Kmart store location this year and add 322 new jobs in an agreement with the city. The carrier will receive up to $581,649 in incentives during the next 10 years so long as the new center employs a minimum of 800 workers.
- Virgin Atlantic opened their new Clubhouse at New York’s Kennedy Airport last week and Richard Branson was on-site for the opening party that hosted travel agents, journalists and other invited guests. The new location is airside past security and will allow Upper Class passengers to change into their “sleep suits” prior to heading to the gate, if so inclined.
- Lufthansa unveiled its new lie-flat Business Class seats that will be initially seen flying on the carrier’s Boeing 747-8 aircraft and eventually rolled out fleet-wide. The new seats are angled towards each other in a V-configuration and all face the direction of travel. An eight-week trial was conducted on the FRA-JFK-FRA route where 1,349 passengers and a test crew evaluated prototypes of the seat.
- The relationship between online travel agency Orbitz Worldwide and Hilton Hotels & Resorts took a turn for the worse as the hotel chain decided not to renew its long-term agreement with the agency. As a result, the OTA reduced the prominence of Hilton properties on its website and in some cases, outright removed them from search results. According to Hilton, the move was made “in the best interests of our guests and our more than 3,800 hotels around the world.”
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open 80 new hotels this year as well as 25 new properties in Europe over the next four years. The company already opened a new W Hotel in Paris and a Le Meridien hotel in Instanbul, Turkey this year and looks to focus on other fast-growing markets, including Russia, the Ukraine and additional sites in Turkey.
- Hyatt Hotels Corporation will open new properties in Zurich and Moscow, two of the most expensive cities worldwide for hotel rates. The Hyatt Regency Moscow is planned to open in 2015 and will feature 297 rooms and 56 luxury apartments. In Zurich, Hyatt has plans for both a Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Place near the airport to open in 2017, each with more than 250 rooms.