By Joe Brancatelli
ANNALS OF RECESSION I
More Charges for Comfy Coach Across the Pacific: Trans-Pacific premium-class traffic is plummeting, falling even faster than trans-Atlantic travel up front.
According to IATA, the airline trade group, premium-class travel fell by almost 30 percent in March compared to March, 2008. Qantas, the Australian carrier, has been among the hardest hit.
Besides the 30 percent traffic decline, Qantas says that those fliers still buying premium-class flights are paying just half of last year’s going rates. As a result, Qantas has simply stopped selling first-class tickets on at least three routes, including its San Francisco-Sydney service.
That means some lucky fliers will get business-class service, but be upgraded to the seats in the larger, plusher first-class seats. However, coach passengers who want to score a roomier exit-row seat will have to pay for the privilege. Qantas now charges a premium of $60 to $100 for an exit-row seat assignment. That essentially matches the exit-row premium imposed last fall by Singapore Airlines on many of its trans-Pacific flights.
ANNALS OF RECESSION II
Down-on-Their-Luck Luxury Hotels Bankrupt and Abandoned: Some of the nation’s best-known hotels are going through extremely hard times now that business travel has slumped.
- In Southern California, the owner of the W Hotel San Diego has been abandoned by its owner. The property is now in the hands of its lenders.
- Not far away, in Carlsbad, the owner of the Four Seasons Aviara complex is trying to fire Four Seasons as the manager of the luxury resort. Four Seasons is resisting, has posted guards and checkpoints to keep the owners out, and now the tiff has moved from the courts into arbitration.
- A little further up the road, in Dana Point, the St. Regis Monarch Beach is scheduled to be auctioned off next month now that the owners are in default of their loans. The St. Regis may be best-known as the resort where AIG spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on meetings shortly after it got a taxpayer bailout.
- Meanwhile, in Hawaii, the owner of the former W Hotel in Waikiki (it’s now called the Lotus) has filed for bankruptcy. The same owner has already lost control of the iconic Ilikai hotel.
- Want more? The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia went into bankruptcy earlier this year and has recently been bought by a local businessman.
- The Fountainbleau project in Las Vegas has declared bankruptcy and construction work on the 3,000-room resort has stopped.
- And at least two luxurious Arizona resorts, the W Scottsdale and the InterContinental Montelucia, are in various stages of loan defaults and foreclosure.
HOTEL HOT SHEET
Hotel Crisis? What Crisis? More Hotels Continue to Open: Even with all the of turmoil in the lodging industry, major chains continue to open new properties and reflag existing ones.
- Leading the parade is Courtyard by Marriott, which has opened new branches in the District of Columbia; Honolulu’s Waikiki neighborhood; and Pune, India. The Washington property is in the NoMa district on 2nd Street N.W. near the New York Avenue Metro Station. The Honolulu branch is a conversion of the failed 307-room Wyland Waikiki hotel that opened two years ago.
- Into one of the hardest-hit hotel markets, South Florida, Starwood has injected still another property, the 517-room W Fort Lauderdale.
- A 104-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened in Dothan, Alabama.
- InterContinental has opened a 216-room resort on Fiji’s Natadola Beach.
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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.