A sampling of industry news that caught my attention today:
- Catching the majority of industry followers off-guard (myself included), the U.S. Department of Justice and several states are suing to block the American-US Airways merger. The DOJ claims higher airfares and fees would result if the merger goes through. American and US Airways, of course, will “mount a vigorous defense and pursue all legal options in order to achieve this merger.” So… the DOJ gives a pass to Delta-Northwest, United-Continental and Southwest-AirTran, but suddenly American-US Airways is concerning? In other news, several lobbyists are now searching for new jobs.
- Meanwhile today, Delta Air Lines is attempting an airfare hike aimed at tickets purchased within 7-days of travel. No word as of this posting whether or not other airlines are matching (I have a sneaking suspicion that AA/US won’t).
- Oneworld alliance member Cathay Pacific announced Newark as its newest U.S. destination with Boeing 777-300ER flights to Hong Kong scheduled to begin March 1, 2014. Business class award availability is apparently quite good on the new route, which is the highest class offered. If you’re looking for first class on CX out of NYC, you’ll still need to depart from JFK.
- Asiana Airlines has offered $10,000 to each of the surviving 288 passengers from last month’s San Francisco crash landing. Accepting the payment will not, apparently, prevent passengers from suing the airline later. $10k/passenger is likely a drop in the bucket compared to what will eventually be paid out long-term.
- The 2013 Passenger Choice Awards finalists have been selected across various categories, including best overall passenger experience, several best in region(s), best cabin ambiance and best food & beverage. Voting is closed for the 2013 awards, but you can vote in your favorite airlines now for 2014.
- The Hilton Hawaiian Village has expanded its weekly fireworks show to include Tuesday nights, in addition to the existing Friday night event that has been a highlight for tourists and locals alike since the 1980s.
- Attention Club Carlson members… the new Radisson Hotel Atlanta Northwest, Marietta has opened. The Category 3 property is about 30-minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson airport and features 218 guestrooms and 26 suites.
- The most forgetful passengers with firearms in their carry-on bags appear to frequent Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Sixty-seven guns have been seized so far this year at ATL alone, and the TSA expects the total at all U.S. airports to exceed last year’s record of 1,556. For the first half of 2013, 862 total guns have been confiscated to date.
– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.
Notable Airline, Hotel and Travel News: August 12, 2013
Notable Airline, Hotel and Travel News: August 9, 2013
Notable Airline, Hotel and Travel News: August 8, 2013
In other hotel and travel industry news last week…
- In an attempt to steer traffic away from Online Travel Agencies like Expedia and Priceline – and the commissions paid to OTAs – several major hotel chains beta-launched Room Key. The brands include Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott and Wyndham, and Room Key acts as a portal to a hotel company’s website where the booking actually takes place. It’s a pretty slick site, but I found it a bit slow in uploading choices when entering a city or zip code. They’re hoping to capture more chains and will fully launch this March.
- Club Carlson (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, et al) has a pretty incredible promotion offering triple points for stays now through March 16, 2012. Registration is required and new this year (in the U.S., anyway), points are accrued for food and beverage purchases at the properties in addition to the room rate. Loyalty Traveler has an excellent breakdown of the promotion and its inherent value.
- A woman is suing the Starwood Hotels & Resorts chain claiming a man who received her room key at a property in Finland just by saying he was her husband sexually assaulted her. If true, it’s absolutely horrific. Her lawyer is Gloria Allred and whenever she enters the picture, I just never know what to think. She helped push Herman Cain out of the GOP running, but some of her other cases just seem peculiar to me. I don’t know why, but I’m always skeptical with her cases. Again, if true, by all means Starwood needs to face justice.
- The popular and well-known Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki completed its $45 million renovation of the Rainbow Tower. All 800 rooms were renovated and received new bathrooms, fixtures, furnishings and carpet. The top floor sports two suites – Duke Kahanamoku and Niumalu – both of which saw $1 million in upgrades. Pretty stunning. After the Outrigger Waikiki and Outrigger Reef on the Beach, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is my next favorite moderate hotel in Waikiki. Nothing beats the Halekulani, though.
- The former Carlton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, as a Preferred Hotel property, became a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel last week. The Autograph Collection was launched by Marriott in 2010 and features luxury and historic hotels around the world, including The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and The Algonquin in Times Square. The Vice President of the Group mentioned additional properties would be coming online this year in the U.S. in New Orleans and South Beach.
- Four Seasons recently made an $18 million investment in their website and online presence. The company refuses to break down the details, but one article quotes it likely includes “the big, bright photography seen online, new booking process, mobile optimization, social media integration and personal profile technology.” One day I yearn to holiday at one of their properties, but it remains out of reach for the time being. The article also quoted something I found revealing – 32% of Four Seasons guests cite the ability to check-in without speaking to someone as valuable versus the 78% of airline passengers who claim the same importance. I guess it’s sort of apples to oranges here, though. A Four Seasons front desk “agent” (they probably have much better titles) is a much higher caliber position I’d have to guess.
- Finally, business travel growth shows signs of slowing (except on the luxury end), but at least it’s still growing. One leisure analyst thinks it could be a marker of overall trends in both business and leisure travel, but another report reveals that travel agency air sales increased 6.1% in 2011. Total transactions were down 2.1%, but things still sound pretty optimistic. After all, the major airlines launched a fare increase this week that appears to have stuck.
In other hotel industry news this week…
- After 40 years as CEO and a total of 60 years with the chain, J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. is handing over the top spot to current President and Chief Operating Officer Arne Sorenson. This handoff takes effect March 31, 2012 and marks the first time Marriott will be led by a non-family member. Mr. Marriott will become Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board.
- Two conflicting reports came out this week with regard to the ratio of growth in budget vs. high-end hotels. One article states travelers are spending more on flights, but downgrading themselves when staying at hotels. It quoted that “first- and business-class airline tickets increased by 9.1% and 5.4% respectively,” but hotel spending on budget and luxury accommodations grew 10.5% and 2.2% respectively, pointing at slowing growth for high-end properties. Another source is forecasting that high-end hotels will excel in 2012 driven mostly by rate increases with nearly flat growth in occupancy. They see a 6.1% increase in revenue per available room particularly due to “higher demand from business and corporate travelers.” Forecasting is an art, though, not a science.
- Travel Weekly bestowed honors to the best of the travel industry during their ninth annual Readers’ Choice Awardsthis week. On the hotel side, here were the results:
- Domestic: Marriott International
- Asia: InterContinental Hotels Group
- Caribbean: Sandals Resorts
- Europe: InterContinental Hotels Group
- Mexico: Secrets Resorts & Spas
- Hawaii/South Pacific: Starwood Hotels & Resorts
- All-Inclusive: Sandals Resorts
- Luxury: Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts
- Upscale: Westin Hotels & Resorts
- Mid-Priced: Hampton Inn
- Boutique: Karisma Hotels & Resorts
- Sales & Service: Marriott International
- Google began placing its own Hotel Finder service above every other sponsored ad when a user enters something like “Las Vegas hotels” in the search box. This is drawing anger from other highlighted companies like Kayak, Expedia and Vegas.com who will undoubtedly receive fewer click- throughs with their weaker page placement. Some are calling it “reckless and evil,” but I think Google has every right to promote itself first.
- The Shanghai Marriott Hotel City Center has opened for business this week. It represents the chain’s 18th and largest property in the city and houses 720-rooms, 20,000 square feet of meeting space and five restaurants and lounges.
- Hyatt opened its first Hyatt Place hotel in Waikiki by converting the former Ocean Resort Hotel Waikiki at the Diamond Head end of the beach. The Pali Tower opened last week with 190-rooms and the 236-room Diamond Tower is planned to open sometime in the spring.
- Staying with the Hawaiian theme for a moment, the ever-popular Hilton Hawaiian Village received approval for a $760 million expansion that will add 550 timeshare units and additional swimming pools, parking and retail space.
- Finally a personal note of achievement: I’m officially a Hilton Diamond member now, my first time ever being a top-tier elite with a hotel chain. Now I need to decide who to focus my spend with in 2012. I’m considering status matching/challenging to Starwood or Hyatt for suite upgrades as Hilton currently doesn’t offer this as a perk. What to do, what to do.