Archive for the ‘Business Travel’ Category

Higher airfares, but lower hotel rates on the way

Good news for the travel industry is not always good news for bargain hunting frequent travelers.

Growing demand on the part of both leisure and business travelers means . . . you guessed it . . . higher prices. Those dirt-cheap deals the travel industry has used to keep us on the road and in the skies over the last couple years will get tougher to find in coming months.

Here’s why:

>FARES: In February, the average price to fly one mile in the U.S. increased 5 percent says the Air Transport Association. Fares are rising because airlines have been able to reduce their supply of seats by parking planes in the desert. Now that competition among travelers for the remaining seats is heating up, fares will rise accordingly.

>FEES: In addition to higher fares, airlines will continue to tack on extra fees to help firm up their mushy bottom lines. In January alone, airlines pulled in half a billion dollars in “ancillary revenue,” a term used to describe just about any airline charge other than fare [such as fees for baggage, ticket changes, upgrades, food, etc.],” said Kevin Chrissey, an airline analyst with UBS who was speaking at the Strategic Travel Symposium, a recent conference to which I was invited by the National Business Travel Association.

>AIRLINE GROWTH: Delta Air Lines, now the largest airline in the world, had to adjust its profit forecast for this quarter based on a 30+ percent jump in corporate travel volume and revenue in February. Also, Delta just announced that it’s jumping back into the hyper-competitive California Corridor with four daily round trips between SFO and LAX using both B737 and regional jets. Last week, Virgin America announced new flights from SFO to Toronto and Orlando starting later this year (but it’s dumping service to Orange County).

>SUMMER: It’s going to be a busy summer. Remember last summer nearly every flight was full and/or oversold? UBS’s Chrissey warned it could happen again this summer now that demand is rising along with the economic outlook. If you’ve got plans to fly on peak days (Memorial Day, July 4, most of August and Labor Day) you should start looking at fares now and go ahead and book.

>HOTEL GLUT: For hotels, it’s a bit of a different story. There’s been a huge boom in hotel construction over the last five years. For example, United’s Hemispheres magazine this month includes a colorful article about a handful of the snazziest of the 59 (yes, 59!) new hotels that have opened in NYC in the last 18 months. So, with a lot of extra supply out there, and only a slow return in demand, hotel rates should remain relatively flat over the next year.

>BOOKINGS UP: With all the great hotel deals out there, demand is starting to pop. For example, advance bookings at the Best Western chain were up 16.4 percent during the second week in March compared to the same time last year. (They were up over 6 percent for the month of February.) That’s significant considering Best Western’s the largest hotel chain in the world. Disclosure: I write a blog for Best Western.

>BUYER’S MARKET: The buyer’s market for hotel rooms should continue over the next year, said hotel analyst Bjorn Hanson at the symposium in New York. “For many years, I’ve advised consumers to call the hotel directly and ask for a lower rate, and they’d get one about 20 percent of the time. These days, they are getting a lower rate 50 percent of the time,” he said.

>RATES: To further illustrate his point, Hanson said that rates at luxury hotels in New York City were down a whopping 40 percent in 2009 compared to a high in 2006. And he referred to three different forecasts showing nationwide rate declines of 2-3 percent for 2010.

So folks, I’m eager to hear about your observations and plans for travel this year. Have you noticed that prices are increasing? Are you planning to travel more this year than last year? When do you plan to firm up your summer travel plans?

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The BAT on Bloomberg! (Talking Business Class)

United's Lie-Flat Biz-Class Sleeper. Now on ALL 747 and 767 aircraft

Hey Folks: Our new little BAT blog is getting some good press! Check out our quote in the following Bloomberg article about the s-l-o-w return of business class amenities on international flights.

Here’s the link: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=a10He8umbUY4

And here are a few lines from the intro:

By Mary Jane Credeur and Mary Schlangenstein

Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) — Delta Air Lines Inc. and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, the world’s two largest carriers, are counting on lie-flat seats and Tahitian crab soup to help win back their most-profitable customers.

With the easing of an 18-month global slump in first- and business-class travel, Delta’s seats that recline 180 degrees into beds and American’s Asian-fusion appetizers are lures for the corporate passengers whose ranks dwindled when the global recession ravaged budgets for international flying.

Filling the premium seats at the front of airplane cabins is pivotal to U.S. airlines’ efforts to return to profit in 2010 after weak demand forced them into discounting to woo vacationers. Business fliers are prized because they typically pay the highest prices and take to the air more often.

“If you’re flying to Japan or Seoul, it makes all the difference in the world to put your legs up and really sleep and arrive rested and ready to go,” said Chris McGinnis, editor of The BAT, a San Francisco-based newsletter and blog for frequent travelers. “You’re going to feel really taken care of.”

U.S. airlines have been playing catch-up in recent years with overseas competitors such as Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. that moved more quickly to add amenities including seats that convert into beds.

Here’s the link: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=a10He8umbUY4

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Airline offer poses ethical dilemma

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This morning I got an email from Delta Air Lines offering me a fat $500 credit for a future Delta flight if I book a round trip “Business Elite” ticket between San Francisco and New York.

The same email offered a $200 credit if I book an expensive full-coach round trip on the same route.

(Here’s a link to the offer from Delta)

That’s a huge incentive for me to book Delta. It’s also a huge incentive for me to book its most expensive fares between SFO and New York. Here’s what I mean by expensive:

  • Mid-February round trip Business Elite fares between SFO and JFK are currently $2265. (Here’s a video that shows what Delta’s Business Elite looks like.)
  • Full-coach (Y, B or M) round trip fares range from $1000 to $2200.

The cheapest round trip coach fare (T) is just $250.

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Let’s say I take Delta up on its offer and spend thousands on a ticket instead of just $250.

After the trip, I submit my expenses to my company or to my client and get reimbursed.

Then Delta sends me the $200 or $500 credit good for any flight through June 15, 2010.

To whom does that credit belong?

Me? I’d love to use it on a fare to Hawaii this spring.

Or does it belong to my company or my client? I’m sure they’d appreciate an extra $500 discount on my next business trip.

To help me with this ethical dilemma, I called on Henry Harteveldt, the principal travel analyst at Forrester Research here in San Francisco.

He said, “A company could legitimately claim that if it paid for a fare that qualifies for the rebate, then the credit should go to the company. However, the credit may be issued in the name of the traveler- and the credit is non-transferable. A company could mandate that if an employee uses company funds to buy a ticket that qualifies for the credit, that the credit should be used to defray the cost of any future company-paid travel for that employee.”

But, he concedes, “I don’t know whether corporate travel departments are equipped to monitor this. Clearly there is an issue of trust involved.”

Caleb Tiller, a spokesperson for the National Business Travel Association, a trade group that represents the interests of corporate travel managers, says that the question about who owns the credit is moot at companies with strong managed travel programs. He says, “Effective travel policies generally dictate that travelers either use a preferred carrier or purchase the lowest logical fare.”

That’s true at many large corporations that can afford to have staffers and agencies manage travel-buying decisions.

But there’s still a lot of leeway at smaller companies.

What would YOU do with the credit? What’s the RIGHT thing to do? I’d be very interested to hear your comments!

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New jetlag drug causes a stir

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The older I get, the more I’m affected by jet lag, which is not a good thing for someone who makes his living in the travel industry.

Over the years, I’ve tried every drug from Ambien to Xanax; gone the homeopathic route with melatonin and herbs; tried starving myself, avoided alcohol, and experimented with caffeine. I’ve tried sleeping with hotel room drapes open and taking long walks in the sunshine upon arriving. I even tested an oversized visor with a battery-operated light under the bill that was supposed to offer some sort of “light therapy.”

The sad news is that none of them really worked. I still get that prickly, woozy, sweaty feeling on my first few days overseas. I sleep soundly for an hour or so, then lie awake in bed for the rest of the night, and then feel sorta hollow the next day. YUCK!

So every time I hear about a new substance or practice (other than denial) that might help ease the pain of jetlag, I’m eager to learn more.

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Introducing Nuvigil

There was much talk among the international travel crowd this month when the New York Times ran a story about a new jetlag drug called Nuvigil, on the market since last June.

Nuvigil is not a sleeping pill. Instead, it is a stimulant that travelers can take to treat the daytime sleepiness associated with jetlag—it does NOT help shift the body’s clock to a new time zone. (Nuvigil and its precursor, Provigil, are frequently used by people who suffer from narcolepsy and sleep apnea.)

Nuvigil’s maker, Cephalon, has plans to sell the drug to frequent business travelers—those who might pop over to Europe for a couple of days of meetings and then return. The Times article reports that in clinical trials among adults flying to Paris from the east coast, those who took Nuvigil did not nod off during the day as quickly as those who took a placebo.

I asked physician Jim Braude, who travels to Europe several times each year, for some insight and he said, “These drugs work by somehow stimulating the brain (although the mechanism is not clearly defined), and can cause heart palpitations and raise blood pressure. So as much as I personally want to eliminate jet lag, I’m not ready to try these given the risk/benefit formula.”

Several readers have used Provigil, but not the new Nuvigil. BAT reader Matt reports, “I use Provigil. It works well at keeping you up with out giving you the jitters. I can see how it can help when you first get some place and need to make it through the first few days until you get adapted to the new time zone.”

Another reader, MG, wrote, “I have used Provigil for almost a year now, and find it to be a ‘miracle’ drug for jetlag as well as many other ailments. It is astonishing! Somewhat like a stimulant in its results, it has almost no side effects and is a completely beneficial option for dealing with stresses to both the body and mind. Insurance companies (mine, two different ones) are reluctant to pay for it and it is quite expensive.”

Hmmm. I’d still like to try Nuvigil, but I think I’d experiment first on a trip that did NOT include an important meeting.

Since I’m alway curious to try anything to help with my jet lag issues,  I’m considering trying a new herbal concoction for an upcoming trip to Tokyo made by Mountain View acupuncturist and herbalist Ted Ray. He says he’s “tested his Jet Lag Formula on Silicon Valley executives for about seven years  and almost all notice an improvement in how they feel in the days after arrival- though some more than others.” The formula consists of a round of capsules containing a cocktail of various herbs that you take before during and after your flight.

How about YOU? How do you deal with jetlag?

Please leave your comments below! Or leave them on the SFgate by clicking here

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A Mixed Bag of Newsy Nuggets: United VERY On-Time, Big New Plane Order, Vegas Packed for CES and more

Boeing's New "Dreamliner." Squint and look at that coach section at the back. Familiar?

UNITED ORDERS NEW PLANES. While they won’t be touching down at SFO until at least 2016, United recently announced that it’s placed orders for 50 new wide-body aircraft. It split the order 50/50 between the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” and the Airbus A350. Both are about the size of current Boeing 767 or 777 aircraft and will eventually replace them.

NOT SO DREAMY. We’ve got an issue with the whole “Dreamliner” name… and get irritated when we see reporters get all wistful and dreamy-eyed thinking that everyone’s going to get a massage and a flat bed for sleeping (and dreaming) on every flight. Sorry folks—the plane is a dream to the airline, because it purportedly uses about 20% less fuel. But it’s not so dreamy for passengers sitting in coach- it’s just another twin-aisle, wide-body plane…okay, with bigger windows, maybe, but still…. (See photo above. Look beyond those dreamy first class seats!)

LOOK RIGHT>>> AND CHECK OUT OUR NEW ADVERTISER! Cavallo Point, located next to the Golden Gate Bridge (down and to the right if you are headed north) has been on our list of must-see Bay Area hotspots since it opened last year. While it’s a gorgeous, historic and luxurious resort, locals should visit to sit in the winter sun on the veranda at it’s Farley’s Bar, soak in the rays and the views, have a great meal and a bottle of wine….and look for your BAT editor! I’ll be there! Really, folks, if you like what you are reading on The BAT, please support our advertisers! It helps us help you! -cjm

UAL: BEST ON TIME PERFORMANCE—EVER? Yep, it’s true. According to the DOT, United was on time 91% of the time this past November, its best performance since the government starting tracking it in 1987. How did this happen? It’s all about the money according to gadling.com. Since last winter, United has offered all employees a $100 bonus each month the airline tops the DOT on-time ranking. They get $65 for second place.

MORE JETBLUE TO THE BAY. Starting May 13, JetBlue will add new nonstop flights between San Jose and Boston. (Introductory fares start at $99 each way.) JetBlue already offers nonstops from San Jose to New York-JFK. It also offers nonstops between Boston and SFO and Oakland.

CONNECT IN THE BART TUNNEL…EVENTUALLY. If you take BART to/from the airport or to/from work, you’re gonna like this: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint/Nextel and Verizon flipped the switch on their wireless networks in the Transbay Tube on Dec 20. However, the Chronicle reports that despite the announcement, the service did not work as well as expected, so seamless use of mobile devices in the tunnel could take a while…

FLOWN LOW COST LATELY? Did you know that just 10 years ago, 90% of all air travel in the U.S. was on so-called “legacy carriers” like United, Continental, Delta, etc. Only 10% was on low cost carriers such as Southwest, AirTran or JetBlue. Well, what a difference a decade makes. Legacy dominance has declined to just 74% of the market this year…low-cost carriers have 26% of the market and low-cost giant Southwest owns 64% of that market.

NO MORE THAN THREE. Lengthy tarmac delays are a rarity at Bay Area airports, thank goodness! But they do happen (but mostly back east and most often due to snow and ice or de-icing.) Nonetheless, the feds have enacted new rules (effective later this winter) that will force airlines to provide food and water after two hours on the tarmac and a mandated return to the gate if they’ve been on the tarmac for more than three hours. If they don’t, they are fined $27,000 per passenger (that’s $5.5 million for a planeload of 200 pissed off passengers). Ouch! While the airlines are saying that the new rule will do more harm than good, the reality is that when faced with a fine like that, they will be forced to make operational changes that, in the long run, will prevent the horror stories we’ve all heard about folks stuck in stinky planes for hours on end. Your BAT editor has a comment about the whole brouhaha in this ABCNews.com article.

NEW MEMBERSHIP REWARDS PARTNER. Got a big bank of American Express Membership Rewards points that you are aching to redeem? You’ve got a new option: British Airways Executive Club recently became the 17th participating frequent flyer plan in the program. BA flies to 150 destinations worldwide from SFO via its two flights a day to London. (Stay tuned for a first hand BAT report later this winter from the Maldives…BA’s newest, and perhaps sexiest destination ever!)

VEGAS WILL BE PACKED. All indications are showing that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (Jan 7-10) is going to be full to overflowing. Why? Pent up demand. This time last year we were all in economic shock. Attendees for CES and many other conventions were forced to cancel their plans. With things looking up this year, everyone wants to go back. So expect FULL flights between the Bay and Vegas, full hotels, and the necessity of restaurant reservations. The city is expecting in excess of 100,000 visitors for this, the city’s largest event of the year.

NEW ARRIVALS TAX IN ARGENTINA. Effective immediately, all U.S. citizens arriving at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport must pay a one-time “reciprocity fee” of USD $131.00 upon arrival. Why? Because that’s the amount the U.S. charges Argentines applying for entry into the U.S. (Several other South American countries such as Chile, Brazil and Bolivia already require such fees.) While the fee might make travelers wince, the Argentine government stands to pull in a cool $52 million from the 400,000 or so Americans that arrive each year.

REGIONAL UPGRADES ARE BACK FOR 1K’s. United is getting very good at listening to their best customers. After the backlash surrounding the elimination of regional upgrades, this announcement recently appeared on the UAL site: “Sometimes no change is good news. After our last announcement, we heard from our 1K members how much they value their Regional Upgrades. To thank them for their ongoing loyalty, we’ve decided to continue issuing regional upgrades to 1Ks, even after the unlimited domestic upgrades program launches.” Regional upgrades are considered more valuable than the newer “unlimited upgrades” because they can be applied at the time of reservation.

HILTON HHONORS—GOOD AND BAD NEWS. First the good. Members of Virgin America’s Elevate program can now earn miles for stays at Hilton’s family of hotel brands. Now the bad: Hilton is increasing the number of HHonors points required for award redemptions starting on January 14. Most reward categories will require an additional 5000 points for a free night stay. Stays at Hilton’s poshest brand, the Waldorf=Astoria Collection, are now pretty much standardized at 50,000 per night in the low season and 60,000 in high season.

SOUTHWEST BUMPS UP AT OAK—REINSTATES NASHVILLE. In May, Southwest will restore a single daily nonstop service between Oakland and Nashville, Tennessee. It will also add frequency between OAK and the cities of Albuquerque, Denver, and Seattle-Tacoma.

WHICH BAY AREA AIRPORT DO YOU USE? From a VERY interesting article in the San Jose Mercury News: “Among domestic passengers departing or arriving in the Bay Area, 57 percent use SFO, up from 43 percent just three years ago. By contrast, Oakland’s portion of the region’s passengers has dipped from 33 percent in 2006 to 23 percent now, while San Jose’s share dropped from 24 percent to 20 percent during that span. The analysts contend that the turning point arrived in 2007, when SFO landed low-cost carriers Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Virgin America. Southwest and JetBlue have long been Oakland territory, with nearly six of every seven passengers taking those two airlines, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. About half of San Jose’s passengers fly Southwest. Now, Southwest has quickly become the third-most popular airline at SFO, even though it does not fly international routes.”

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Delta Offers New Upgraded “Business Elite” SFO-New York (2.5 min VIDEO)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khIytDRus58

Delta’s now offering a schwanky new transcon Business Elite service for flights between SFO and New York-JFK.  Fares run in the $1000 to $3000 range.

I have only flown United P.S Business and Delta on this route and would love it if someone could chime in with some comments below about American’s premium classes or Virgin America’s first class on the route.

Delta’s upgraded service brings it up to par with rivals on the busy route.

Like United’s PS flights, Delta flies only Boeing 757’s on the route. However, Delta offers 16 Business Elite seats in the front section of the aircraft (forward of the galley and to the left when you enter the plane). The rest of the plane is coach (no first class.)

United P.S. offers 12 first class, lie flat seats and 26 business class, cradle style seats which are similar to Delta’s. (On United, first and business class comprise about two thirds of the on-board real estate.)

Delta Transcon Business Elite offers a wide range of entertainment options, but no live TV on its in-seat AVOD system. United passes out portable, individual inflight entertainment units that offer more limited choices than Delta’s.

United currently has in-flight wi-fi on ALL P.S. flights. Delta says that its wi-fi installation on these flights should be complete by the end of Dec 2009. Both United and Delta offer in-flight power plugs for laptops.

Anyway, The BAT recently went along for a test ride— see our 2.5 min video review. Enjoy! Take a look and let us know what you think. LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!

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Video Tour: Nine business class seats in TWO minutes

I almost called this post “Business Class Exotica.” Here’s a sampling of nine different business class seats from nine different airlines from around the world. Which one do you think looks cushiest? I’m leaning toward Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways.

You’ll also see those big recliners from: American, Delta, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, V Australia and QANTAS.

I taped this at the recent National Business Travel Association trade show in San Diego where corporate travel buyers mix and mingle with travel suppliers showing off their wares….like these business class seats. Enjoy!

Better viewing tip: Double click on the video below to see it on the large screen!

Business Class Exotica

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AIRLINE NEWS

UNITED SLOWLY ADDING WI-FI ON NYC FLIGHTS. Some (but not all) United P.S. flights between SFO and New York-JFK now offer the Gogo in-flight wi-fi system offered on many other carriers. United promises that ALL P.S. flights will be outfitted my mid-November. (UAL is a little late to the game here…AirTran and Virgin America offer it fleetwide and it’s on about half of Delta’s fleet.) Fees range from $8 (for PDA’s) to $13 (for laptop users). Using it is a breeze…just log on as you would in an airport or coffee shop, pay with your credit card, and voila! High speed internet. Sure makes that five-hour schlep to NYC go by a LOT faster!

FLOOD OF NEW FLIGHTS TO FLL. Virgin America will launch new nonstops between SFO and Ft Lauderdale on November 19 using a two class Airbus A320 (the only bird in its fleet.) And guess what? JetBlue is launching nonstops on the same route on Nov 17! And both depart from SFO’s international terminal. Eastbound flights on both carriers are red-eyes (yuck) but mid-January fares are currently only $218 round trip. Not a bad place to go when its cold and wet here by the bay. Winter in Fort Lauderdale (located about 30-40 minutes north of Miami) is gorgeous, sunny and 70’s for most of the winter. JetBlue pro: more legroom in coach, a free sleep kit, and Dunkin Doughnuts coffee in the morning. Virgin America pro: in-flight wi-fi. Which one would you choose and why? Leave your comments below.

ECLECTIC EATS. Virgin America’s got a new fall menu that offers a virtual puu-puu platter of choices. Some of the more interesting-sounding fare for sale onboard: Banh mi flat iron beef sandwich: “A traditional street-vended Vietnamese sandwich made of grilled Asian marinated sliced flat iron steak with shaved cucumber, green leaf lettuce, baby frisée, fresh sprigs of cilantro and topped with a Vietnamese slaw of julienne carrots, daikon radish and red onion. Asian ginger dressing served on the side.” ($10)

HE’S A GOOD GUY! Your BAT editor recently spotted Virgin America CEO David Cush on a San Diego-SFO flight sitting in coach! With the traveling masses. Back there with the rest of us! Apparently Virgin employees, including the CEO, are forbidden from riding in those big white seats up front. Soon after witnessing this display of humility, we heard from a reader who spotted Delta CEO Richard Anderson in coach on a flight to Atlanta. Are we on to something here?

DELTA BATTLES ON SFO-JFK RUN. Delta is now flying 757’s equipped with international business class “cradle” seats on all nonstops between Los Angeles and and New York-JFK. By the end of October, the cradles will be on all JFK-San Francisco flights. Big seats are a nice addition and should do well competing against similar internationally configured nonstops from American and United P.S. as well as the swanky first class on Virgin America. Bad news is that chances of upgrades in DL flights are now slimmer— previously, the 757’s had 24-26 first class seats while the new ones will have only 16 business class cradles. (PLUS: All Delta’s 757 flights offer inflight wi-fi.)

NEW USE FOR UNITED MILES. Maybe. United is now allowing Mileage Plus members to redeem airline miles for hotels and car rentals. I’d say that this is only a good deal for folks desperate to dump miles because the redemption levels are quite steep. It also might work if you are faced with otherwise exorbitant rates. For example, if I wanted to redeem miles for a one-night stay at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago later this month, it would cost me 24,500 miles! (The best available rates are about $300/night incl tax.) That’s nearly enough for a domestic round trip award. Car rentals in Chicago are running 10,000 miles for a compact for one day.

ALASKA AIR BRINGS BACK THE NERD BIRD. Last month Alaska Air picked up where American Airlines left off, launching a new nonstop between San Jose and Austin. A second daily flight is planned starting in March. Both flights use a two class Boeing 737. Current fares are running just $219 round trip for mid-Nov departures. (JetBlue offers non-stops between Austin and SFO for about the same price.)

SJC SKIERS DELIGHT. Horizon Air will fly nonstop from San Jose to Mammoth Mountain starting Dec 17. It will use a propjet on these flights, but fares are now running just $168 roundtrip for mid-January flights.

FLYING TO NYC ON THE CHEAP. Here’s a nifty nugget from our friends at airlineweekly.com: “Q1 of 2007—before Virgin America arrived on the scene—United passengers flying between New York JFK and San Francisco paid an average of $620 each way. In Q1 of 2009, those same passengers in that same market paid only $421 each way.” Thanks, Virgin America!

LESS OF A SWA CATTLE CALL FOR $10. If you frequently end up forgetting to check in for your Southwest flight exactly 24 hours before departure, and then ending up stuck in a middle seat at the back of the plane or having to gate check your carry-on, there’s a new fix. With its new Early Bird Check-In, you pay Southwest a $10 premium (each way) when you make your reservation. Then you don’t have to play the 24-hour check-in game and you are allowed to board before everyone else, but AFTER A-Listers and those flying on Business Select fares. I personally don’t have a problem paying $10 for a nearly guaranteed good seat and space for my carry-on. But Southwest has taken a lot of heat for this new fee since it prides itself as being a fee-free airline.

NEW OAKLAND-HAWAII FLIGHTS. Picking up where Aloha left off last winter, Alaska Airlines will fly nonstop between Oakland and both Maui and the Big Island (Hawaii) on Nov 9 using a two-class Boeing 737. Mid-January round-tip fares are currently running about $500-$550.

TOILET KITSCH. Leave it to our hometown carrier Virgin America to spice up the toilet kit. For $10 you can order up a “How Could I Forget Kit” from the seatback of your next Virgin flight. (Just in case you forgot your own, or the one you had got nabbed by TSA screeners.) Contents include shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion, lip balm, night cream and breath mints all packed up in a nifty little quilted kit. There’s a similar red-eye flight kit selling for $12 that includes a blanket, pillow, eyemask and ear plugs.

MORE GOOD NEWS. SORTA. Worldwide airline passenger traffic dipped just 1 percent in August compared to the same month last year. That’s the smallest year-over-year drop in 2009, says the International Air Transport Association. The biggest decline this year was in March, when traffic dipped 11 percent year-over-year. Despite the recent improvements, airlines are still having a very tough time withpricing—economy class ticket prices are down 18 percent; first and business class fares are down 22 percent.

AIRLINES BAGGING BIG BUCKS. Those irksome new baggage fees are helping to keep a lot of airlines afloat in these lean times. According to the DOT, it’s the low-cost carriers that are bagging the most fees as a percentage of their overall revenues .The top four fee earners in q2 are (in descending order) Spirit, Allegiant, AirTran and Frontier. Nearly 9 percent of Spirit’s revenue was baggage fees. AirTran earned 7 percent of its revenue that way. Delta came in at 3 percent. Southwest, which does not charge for the first two checked bags, bagged less than one percent of its revenue that way.

FULL NAME AND BIRTHDATE, PLEASE. The TSA now requires airlines to book your ticket under the EXACT name as it appears on the ID you will be using to check in for your flight. IMPORTANT: Check your online booking profiles to be sure that your profile name matches your ID and modify it if necessary.  Airlines are also now required obtain your birth date. Why? Supposedly this should help folks mistakenly placed on terror watch lists.

Like what you are reading? Then be sure and SUBSCRIBE to The BAT so you don’t miss a single nugget of info. Look to the right>>>> and click on the SUBSCRIBE links! RSS or email! Thanks! Tell all your friends to do the same! –chris

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One Thousand Free Worldwide Roundtrips? The BAT Got One!

British Airways is definitely on to something here. I don’t know if it’s good marketing, good PR, good business or what. But it’s definitely good karma. And I got a taste of it last week in New York and London.

You may have heard by now about British Airways new Face-to-Face program. The carrier is hoping to prime the pump of international business travel by giving entrepreneurs free tickets anywhere the world it flies. The hope is that these business owners will come back to BA and buy more tickets if this opportunity to show up in person for a crucial meeting helps them realize a big gains for their companies.

Read the rest of this entry »

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