Archive: September, 2008
Tom BeldenOil prices plunged this morning, something that we would normally celebrate as helpful to air and road travelers. But the reason for the decline apparently is because of concerns that the bailout legislation Congress passed may not be much help to world economic growth. The dollar also strengthened against the Euro, in part because of worries about Europe's economy. More detail can be found at this link.
This morning's Wingint It column looks at the close ties between economic recovery and travel. Read it all here.
Last week's Winging It column reported on efforts by the travel industry to find funding to promote the United States better to foreign visitors, and help explain to would-be visitors how to meet entry requirements. The nation, it seems, has developed an unwanted reputation since 9/11 for some of the least-friendly welcomes at internatonal gateways for travelers from overseas.
Now the Travel Industries Association, representing 1,700 organizations and busineses, reports that Congress is moving ahead on legislation that sets up a public-private partnership to help with the effort. The private sector will contribute some funds and the rest will come from a $10 entry fee on visitors who don't already pay for a U.S. visa. The association says 50 senators and 245 House members now co-spnsor the legislation. It has been reported to the Senate floor and approved by a House subcommitte, with the House Commerce Committee expected to act this week. This kind of effort could help Philadelphia and any other city or region that wants to welcome more of those free-spending folks from overseas.
Tom BeldenBusiness travel, to many people who do it regularly, isn't the dreary chore we usually think it is. Winging It took a look at surveys that landed last week that probed the habits of travelers, who say they often combined business and leisure on the road and that many try to use their trips to experience new and interesting places. Read it all here.
Tom BeldenAirlines may be over a barrel again themselves with oil futures rising again on economic worries. Read more here.
Tom BeldenPhiladelphia air tavelers may not be surprised by this story but more media companies are opening stores in airports as a way to extend their brands, USA Today opened its first one at Detroit Metro Airport yesterday, as the story reports. PHL has had nine CNBC newsstands in five of its six terminals for more than two years. They're situated at heavy traffic points in Terminals A-East through E. Besides the usual newspapers, magazines, books and sundries, the newsstands each have a TV monitor -- tuned to CNBC, of course -- where you can check on the stock market, if you dare these days. Each time I'm at PHL, I notice many eyes looking up at the monitors as travelers stand in line or browse.
Tom BeldenUnited Airlines, like all carriers that bet on oil prices continuing to rise, now faces the flip-side of the coin -- falling prices that could cost it money in the third quarter because of the futures contracts it holds. The good news, as you will see in this AP story, is that the losses on the futures could be offset by what United actually has to pay for fuel. Analyst Jamie Baker of JP Morgan estimates that airlines saved about $3 billion in fuel costs in just a week as crude oil prices fell. The plunging price of crude is going to be an important ongoing story as this quarter closes and airlines report the results.
Tom BeldenSpeaking of plans of British Airways, American's pilots' union has filed a grievance with management over its proposal to enter a code-sharing alliance with BA in which the carriers would coordinate their service and pricing. Read a little more on what the pilots say here.
British Airways opened its new Terminal 5 at its London Heathrow Airport last spring with great fanfare. Unfortunately, the terminal really wasn't functioning fully, with major snafus in baggage-handling equipment and other problems giving an ugly shiner to the airline's service reputation. Slowly but surely, BA has worked out the problems and as of this morning, opened Terminal 5 to another 30 long-haul flights, including the daily roundtrips it makes between PHL and LHR. Also using the terminal for the first time today are flights to other U.S. cities and destinations in Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America.
As it does with all its international operations, BA it touting the facilities for business- and first-class passengers. Last fall, the airline opened a new lounge for those customers at PHL, in Terminal A-West, across a wide corridor from its gate. BA officials say the PHL lounge is similar in decor and amenities -- although smaller -- to what the business traveler will find at the other end of the trip, in Terminal 5. As we've written about before, competition for premium passengers on all airlines serving Heattrow is about as keen as it gets in the airline business. Travelers who can afford to sit up front prefer LHR to other London airports, helping explain why US Airways added a PHL-LHR flight last year while still serving the PHL-London Gatwick route. And Continental recently decided to give up serving Gatwick from its Newark hub in favor of flying just to LHR.