AirTran’s legacy for Southwest. With Southwest subsidiary AirTran Airways due to fly off into the pages of aviation history this week as its last remnants are fully absorbed into its parent airline, Forbes takes a look at just what AirTran has brought to the larger carrier. Besides making Southwest the largest U.S. airline (in passengers flown), AirTran has given it international routes, a bastion in Delta’s fortress hub at ATL, and set the stage for new domestic growth. The magazine also notes that Southwest’s integration of AirTran was one of the smoothest mergers of the past several years. Here’s a good WABE/NPR report on AirTran’s final flight. What do you remember most about AirTran? What will you miss most? Please leave your comments below.
More summer Europe routes: UA, DL. United and Delta have both announced additional seasonal summer service to Europe. United plans to fly from Chicago O’Hare to Rome from June 3 to September 23, using a three-class 777. Delta will begin 767-300 flights from Atlanta to Dublin five days a week on March 29, increasing to daily June 1; 757-200 service from New York JFK to Stockholm four times a week as of June 5, increasing to five a week June 15; and 757-200 flights from JFK to Malaga, Spain beginning with five weekly frequencies June 4 and increasing to daily on June 29. Good news: More summer flights to Europe usually means better award seat availability.
Hyatt’s free Wi-Fi: Everyone, everywhere. Just days after Starwood Hotels matched Marriott by saying it would offer free standard Wi-Fi systemwide to members of its Preferred Guest program who book directly through a Starwood channel, Hyatt has upped the ante on those two lodging giants. Starting in February, Hyatt said, it will offer free Internet in all guest rooms and public spaces of all its brands worldwide — and you don’t have to book through a Hyatt channel or even be a member of Gold Plus Rewards to get it. “Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity. It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation,” said Kristine Rose, Hyatt’s VP for brands. “Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it.” Currently, free Wi-Fi at Hyatt is limited to certain brands and to elite Gold Passport members. The company noted that where it is available, Gold Passport Diamonds and Platinums will get a free upgrade to premium Wi-Fi service.
Free hotel Wi-Fi: Great perk or gimmick? Now that Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt have all announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi systemwide in the weeks ahead — launching a bandwagon that other chains are likely to jump on — travelers will have to judge whether the free version is fast and reliable enough. In each case, the three hotel companies will also provide “premium” Internet access for free to the top elite members of their loyalty programs. As Starwood defines it, “Standard Internet access is sufficient for web browsing and emailing. Premium Internet access allows for streaming content and downloading large files.” But those are fairly vague definitions. With increasing numbers of travelers carrying more and more devices, all siphoning data through that same “standard” Wi-Fi pipe, will current hotel systems be sufficient for the demand? Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, suggested in a USA Today column last week that it’s time for the lodging industry to develop common standards for the levels of Wi-Fi connectivity hotels offer their guests, with clear guidelines as to who gets what, and for what cost (if any). In our own reader poll, conducted after Marriott started the free standard Wi-Fi ball rolling in October, only 28 percent were happy with a basic Wi-Fi connection, while 54 percent said they would use it, but it was “frustrating,” and 18 percent preferred to pay for a faster link. What’s your opinion on this issue? Share your comments below.
Openings, rebrandings: Marriott, Starwood, Four Seasons, etc. The first U.S. property in the AC Hotels by Marriott brand — which has 75 locations in Europe — opened this month in New Orleans. The AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon is in the old cotton exchange building on Carondelet Street at the edge of the French Quarter … Also newly opened in The Big Easy is Starwood’s 410-room Le Meridien New Orleans, a remaking of the former W Hotel … There’s a second new Le Meridien in the South: Le Meridien Charlotte, close to that city’s Uptown Business District, is a transformation of the hotel previously known as the Sheraton Charlotte and the Charlotte City Center Hotel … Philadelphia will lose its Four Seasons Hotel in June, when the property is due to close for renovations before reopening under an as-yet-unnamed brand … Newly opened in the heart of downtown Miami is the YVE Hotel Miami, an upscale concept property that will, for instance, offer its guests bikes, scooters and Car2Go vehicles to get around town … Outside the U.S., the former Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, will become the InterContinental Dublin on January 1 … In Colombia, Starwood has cut the ribbon on the 168-room W Bogota in the center of town, its third W property in Latin America.
SkyTeam aligns priority perks. Delta’s SkyTeam global alliance — which includes Air France, KLM and 17 other carriers — said last week it has become the first alliance “to deliver aligned priority services worldwide” for Elite Plus, first and business class customers at some 1,000 airports. And at the world’s top 60 airports, SkyTeam said, it is currently rolling out SkyPriority Fast Track lanes at security checkpoints (already at 39 locations) and immigration (now available at 21 airports) for its premium flyers. The global program offers premium customers priority check-in areas and baggage drop-off, priority service at ticketing and transfer desks, and priority boarding and baggage handling. Readers: What’s your experience with finding common procedures and policies in place when you connect across global alliance partners? Any problems?
Sydney gets two new lounges. The International Terminal at Sydney, Australia’s airport has added two new lounges for weary travelers. American Express has cut the ribbon on a new Lounge that seats 60 and offers Wi-Fi, power outlets, food and beverages and more. It’s open to AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders for free, and to other AmEx cardholders for $55. Meanwhile, Delta’s SkyTeam alliance also has a new lounge at SYD, with seating for 150 travelers as well as showers, massage chairs, food and beverage service and Wi-Fi. It’s available for business class passengers on SkyTeam carriers, and for elite members of their loyalty programs.
In Case You Missed It…
- American ups the mileage ante for premium flyers.
- Evaluating new hotel discount websites.
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!
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