Ontheroad
By Joe Brancatelli

Denver and Minneapolis fill up with politicos: You might as well
cross Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul off your route maps for the next
few weeks. Why? The political conventions. The Democratic Party will
meet in Denver between August 25 and August 28. That means rooms will
fill up a few days before. The Republican Party will meet in the Twin
Cities between September 1 and September 4. Airline seats will also be
tight. And remember: Denver is an air hub for both United and Frontier
airlines. Minneapolis-St. Paul is the hub of Northwest Airlines.

THE AUTUMN OUTLOOK

Don’t worry about a shortage of seats: Too many so-called "experts" are bloviating about the impending seat shortage we’ll face when the airlines make their deep schedule cuts immediately after Labor Day. But the hard facts tell a completely different story. As the economy slows, airlines are actually having a harder time than ever filling the seats they are flying. According to the July statistics, traffic is falling both domestically and internationally. Southwest Airlines, for example, saw its load factor (the number of seats occupied) fall 5.1 points in July compared to July 2007. US Airways’ load factor dropped a more modest 1.1 points. At American Airlines, load factors at the mainline operation fell 2 points while American Eagle, the commuter airline, experienced a 6.5-point drop. Systemwide load factors dropped 2.3 points at United Airlines and its Pacific service suffered a 5.8-point decline. The passenger loads at JetBlue, Frontier, Northwest and Delta were essentially even year-over-year, but Midwest Airlines’ load factor fell 4.3 points and Continental Airlines‘ loads were down by 2.2 points. The only carrier to be in positive territory this July compared to last year was AirTran Airways. Its system grew by about 10 percent and its passenger traffic increased by 14 percent. That resulted in its load factor increasing to 89.2 percent compared to last July’s 86 percent.

IN THE LOBBY

The new hotels just keep on coming: Travel demand may be slowing, but the new-hotel pipeline continues to gush with new properties. Hilton has opened three new properties overseas, for example. Two are in Beijing — the 235-room Hilton Wangfujing Beijing and a 547-room Doubletree Beijing — and the 155-room Hilton Garden Inn is near London’s Luton Airport. … At home, InterContinental has opened two new properties: a 75-unit Candlewood Suites on the outskirts of downtown Sheridan, Wyoming, and a 92-room Hotel Indigo near Ontario Airport in California. … Hampton Inn opened more than a dozen new hotels last month. Most notable: a 105-room hotel at Oakland Airport and a 123-room property in downtown Saratoga Springs, New York. … Meanwhile, there’s also been another burst of hotels tied to the Starwood Preferred Guest program. There are newly built Sheraton hotels in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Quebec City, Canada, and another new aloft property in Charleston, South Carolina.

MILEAGE METER

Delta restores a SkyMiles perk: Delta Air Lines slapped restrictions on its unrestricted-level awards late last year. But now Delta is restoring last seat award availability, although the perk now comes at a very high price. Delta’s new frequent-flier program will has three levels: a heavily restricted tier that is almost identical to the old SkySaver category; a somewhat less-restricted tier that is priced at about the same as the old unrestricted SkyChoice awards; and the new last-seat-availability, unrestricted award level. The domestic prices: 60,000 miles for a coach seat; 100,000 miles for a first-class seat; and 90,000 miles in coach and 180,000 miles in first class to Hawaii. Internationally, an unrestricted business-class seat to Europe will cost 350,000 miles and an unrestricted business-class seat to Asia will cost 370,000 miles. At the same time, however, Continental Airlines has announced that it would put restrictions on EasyPass awards, the formerly unrestricted level of its OnePass award. Unless you are an elite members, all Continental award now come with capacity controls and other restrictions.

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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers.

Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use

Tagged: Business Travel, Road trip!

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