Delta Air Lines insists that no hubs will be closed if it gets approval to merge with Northwest Airlines. But anyone who looks at a route map and sees the Delta hubs in Cincinnati and Atlanta and the Northwest hubs in Detroit and Memphis knows better. Of course, the way Delta is cutting at Cincinnati, it might all be moot. Besides a nearly 27 percent cut in flight schedules this month, Delta is abandoning Cincinnati’s Concourse C. All flights will now operate from Concourse A and B. Delta will be on the hook for the lease on all 48 gates at Concourse C until 2025. … The Transportation Security Administration has opened its Self-Select lane program at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It’s the 36th airport to add the black expert, casual and family lanes this year. … Frontier Airlines has switched to Terminal 6 at Los Angeles. … There are now 520 USB ports and power outlets under terminal seats and tables scattered throughout Boston Logan Airport. … Atlanta fliers take note: The airport is now selling another type of personal parking license. Members who pay $405 for the Silver Reserve program get the right to park in a new members-only lot; a transponder; and 12 days worth of free parking. .. Effective November 1, United is trimming more flights in Los Angeles. Most notable cuts: The end of nonstop flights to Newark and Philadelphia.
Starwood starts a frequent-flier program — sort of: Starwood Preferred Guest, the frequent-guest program that includes Westin, Sheraton, Four Points and W hotels, is rolling out a new program called SPG Flights. In plain English, it allows you to trade Starwood Preferred frequent stay program points for airline seats. Since Starwood will buy the seats from the airlines, there are no capacity controls or restrictions and you can use your points to pay for everything, including taxes and fees. Everything is based on the price of the ticket. The cost chart starts at 10,000 points for airline tickets worth up to $150 in value. A $500 ticket will cost 40,000 points. A ticket worth up to $999 will cost 75,000 points and a $10,000 ticket will cost 775,000 points. The program is clever because travelers hate all the new fees, rules and restrictions slapped on frequent-flier programs. But it’s not necessarily an effective use of your SPG points. Consider: 48,000 points will get you four nights at the Sheraton Waikiki and a fifth night free. Buying that room would cost $199 a night and taxes of about 12 percent. That makes the 48,000 points worth about $1,100 of accommodations. But it would only buy you about $600 worth of airline travel via SPG Flights.
NEED TO KNOW
On-the-road intelligence to help you travel smarter: Continental Airlines has joined the crowd of airlines charging you to check a bag. Effective immediately for travel beginning on October 7, most Continental flyers will pay $15 for a checked bag. (The second bag checked already costs $25 on most carriers.) Only full-fare coach, premium-class flyers and elite One Pass program members are exempt from the charge. … Sun Country Airlines has added a $12 first-bag fee, too. … United Airlines has climbed down from its plan to eliminate meals in coach on trans-Atlantic flights from its Washington/Dulles hub. … GrandLuxe, the rail line that was formerly known as American Orient Express, has folded. … Zoom Airlines, a discount Canadian carrier that specialized in trans-Atlantic service, has folded. … Southwest Airlines has gone to a cashless cabin. Only credit cards will be accepted on board. … United Airlines is now selling double and triple Mileage Plus miles for each flight. The program is called Award Accelerator is the cost is about 3 cents a mile, which is very expensive when you consider frequent-flier awards rarely yield as much as 3 cents a mile of free travel.
Related Orbitz resources:
Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers.