Flights
By Joe Brancatelli

AIRLINE WARS

AirTran Airways Challenges Midwest and Northwest at Milwaukee: AirTran Airways never got over its unsuccessful attempt to buy and merge with Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines. After its 2006 bid drove Midwest into the arms of Northwest Airlines and an investment group, AirTran began bulking up its flight schedule at Milwaukee. Now AirTran has announced another 40 percent increase in flying in Milwaukee in direct competition with Midwest, which has been slashing its own schedule in recent months. In May, AirTran will launch new service to Branson, Missouri; St. Louis; Minneapolis/St. Paul, which is a Northwest Airlines hub; and seasonal flights to Denver.

THE SLUMP UP FRONT

The Premium-Class Plummet Reaches the Pacific: Premium-class traffic has been collapsing since last August and December, the latest month for which figures are available, was no different. According to IATA, the global airline trade association, premium-class traffic in December fell 13.3 percent following an 11.5 percent decline in November. The weakness had been predominantly across the Atlantic in recent months, but now the slump has reached the Pacific market, too. Transpacific premium traffic fell 19.7 percent in December and 17.3 percent on routes between Europe and the Far East. Intra-Asia premium traffic fell even faster, dropping 25 percent in December. These numbers haven't gone unnoticed by the region's major airlines, either. Singapore Airlines will reduce capacity by 11 percent in the coming months. Included in the cuts: the end of Vancouver-Seoul-Singapore flights in April. And it's logical to assume that Singapore Air won't be resuming daily service on its ultra-long-haul nonstops to Singapore from Newark and Los Angeles. (The frequency was reduced to five times weekly earlier this year.) Qantas and Virgin Blue, the two major Australian carriers, are also scaling back in the region, although Qantas is not cutting flights to the United States, and Virgin Blue's V Australia subsidiary has launched its much-anticipated Sydney-Los Angeles service.

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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.

Tagged: Business Travel, Flights, International Vacations, Road trip!, Travel news

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