Joe B’s web links

I admit it, I haven’t read Joe Brancatelli’s columns in a couple of months, so I’m playing catchup. They really are indispensable (when they’re not a bit too cranky, natch).Last week he offered a series of excellent useful web links, some of which were new to me. My favorite: May I direct your attention to BroadwayBox.com? It doesn’t matter whether you care about the theater or whether you actually ever go to New York and see a play. If you’re a business traveler, BroadwayBox.com offers a dose of clarity. In case you don’t know it, the New York theater has inexplicably adopted the Big Six pricing model. That means the price of walk-up orchestra seats has surged past $100. But since almost no one wants to pay $100 a seat, theaters have resorted to an…

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Joe B’s Second Thoughts About First

Joe Brancatelli’s column is dead on this morning. Conventional wisdom is that domestic first class is getting more affordable. He offers the but’s — But it’s getting more rare, as half the flights operated by major airlines are on regional jets or props, more flights are being turned over to one class products like United’s TED, and remaining first class cabins are being downsized. But the quality of first class varies widely across carriers and has been generally downgraded.But tjere are lots of terms and conditions and fineprint associated with these fares. It isn’t the case that consumers can buy what was once available, only for less money.At the same time, though, a couple weeks back I managed a no advance purchase Philadelphia-Los Angeles one-way ticket on Delta for only $500. I was pleased.

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It’s the labor costs, stupid

Tyler Cowen, citing a Washington Post article, offers several explanations for the superior economic performance of low cost carriers. In general these explanations are on point but incomplete. The story they tell overemphasizes specific decisions about what aircraft and routes to fly and underemphasizes the compounding of poor labor decisions. The major airlines are often referred to as “legacy carriers” and it’s no coincidence that profitable carriers started in the era leading up to and after deregulation of the airline industry. Certainly many more airlines have failed (such is competition), but those that succeeded started with a blank slate with labor and no built in incentives to capitulate to labor demands. Prior to deregulation, increased wages were just passed along as higher fares which the entire industry had to go along with. While carriers which…

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Independence Air: Low Fares and High Unit Costs?

Independence Air, the new name for Atlantic Coast Airlines, is taking a different tact from most of the other low cost carriers. It is flying regional jets which means it needs fewer passengers to break even but also that it will have higher unit costs.Ben Mutzabaugh says they are “trying a business plan that’s never been tested before.” He apparently forgets about Midway Airlines — something that’s easy to do because it’s no longer in business.Midway Airlines was so named because it started out at Midway airport in Chicago. In its second incarnation, it was a regional jet carrier based at Raleigh.Midway shut down after September 11th but restarted service once federal payments arrived. After struggling some more, they tried to convert themselves into a USAirways Express carrier but that didn’t last and now they’re…

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Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

Several low fare carriers plan to oppose United’s request that the government back a $1.6 billion loan. United’s response: A spokeswoman for United, Jean Medina, said the airline was “flattered that these competitors consider us a competitive threat.” It’s incredibly indicative of how much the aviation world has changed when United is the underdog that might possibly challenge the dominance of JetBlue, America West, Frontier, Airtran, and Spirit.

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Diners Club – Highly Recommended

I finally got a Diners Club credit card, and it turns out to be indispensable for the frequent flyer. It’s my new favorite credit card, more so even than my Starwood American Express which I still carry and love. The Diners Club card — Has the most extensive rewards program out there. I still like Starwood’s mileage earning, especially for its bonus of 5000 miles when converting 20,000 points. But Diners Club offers at least one mile per dollar on the airline or hotel of your choice, you get to pick later, and it has a more extensive list of transfer partners than anyone else. And there are always bonus offers running, whether it’s 30% bonus for converting points to United or (it seems like each summer) double miles for transfers to British Airways. The…

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I need to start paying more attention to discount hotel chains

The darndest things turn up at the Best Western. A rare silver dollar dating from 1866, perhaps the world’s most notable missing coin, may have been turned over to experts last week in the bar of a Best Western hotel in Maine. The coin, valued at more than $1 million, was surrendered in Augusta by a librarian who said he received it from an eccentric friend several years ago in a box of coins of considerably less value. Only two 1866 silver dollars without the inscription “In God We Trust” are known to exist. The other is in a private collection, and the missing one was largely written off as lost after gunmen snatched it in 1967 from millionaire Willis H. du Pont, to whom it will revert.

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Register And United Will Keep Its Word

United made an offer for substantial bonus miles for flights taken during the first quarter of 2004 — as much as quintuple miles for top elites. Then they changed the wording of the offer, to make the bonus top out at quadruple miles. But many flyers saw the original offer, which was advertised on the United website and in USA Today. After much prodding, United has agreed to honor the original terms of the bonus — but only for those flyers who know about the bait and switch. So you need to register to get them to stand by the terms of their original offer. And do it quickly — it isn’t clear how long the registration link will be valid. Gene Fowler, who has done yoeman’s work in getting United to honor their offer,…

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Gearing up for Sydney Service

Hawaiian Airlines is now selling tickets for its new Sydney flights which commence in May. Prices start at$755 plus tax roundtrip from Honolulu to Sydney and flights are offered four days a week.I discussed prospects for this service when it was announced in January.

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