Category Archives: Featured Columns - Page 3

Top 5 Airports that Aren’t the Bargain They Once Were

Lots of news stories still tout the idea that alternate airports (especially those served by Southwest) are always cheaper than their big airport counterparts.  This isn’t true on 2 levels:  Southwest flies to lots of primary airports nowadays, and those secondary airports (for various reasons) aren’t necessarily the great deal they once were.

Today I bring the Top 5 Airports that Aren’t the Bargain They Once Were:

1) Chicago Midway.  Midway used to be a lowfare paradise, with Southwest and ATA fighting it out, bringing low fares to a great swath of business and leisure cities.  Plus, Midway was a much more pleasant experience than the behemoth at O’Hare.  Midwest is still relatively inexpensive, but the airport has grown considerably, taking away the small-town feel.  Plus, as Chicagoans are learning, Milwaukee is Chicago’s new lowfare airport, with AirTran, Midwest and, soon, Southwest dropping fares to levels about 30% below national average.

2) Providence.  For years, Providence was touting as the much lower fare alternative to high-priced and traffic-addled Boston Logan.  Not anymore.  JetBlue has a huge presence at Boston, while Southwest and Virgin America have helped bring fares down.  Plus, it’s just a quick hop into the city.  Why drag your butt all the way to Providence when Boston offers similar fares without the 75 minute drive?

3) Fort Lauderdale.  Sure, there are still low fares to FLL from just about everywhere.  And I’m not going to pretend that Miami is any sort of prize.  But more and more, Miami offers similar fares to those found at FLL.  And if you’ve ever been to FLL during the holiday season, the experience is uniquely miserable.

4) Oakland.  Once a much better alternative to the high fares and lack of public transportation at SFO, Oakland has seen a 30% decline in passengers, as Southwest has pulled back flights, ATA has disappeared, and Aloha has gone out of business.  Meanwhile at SFO, there’s train connections into the city, Southwest is growing, and Virgin America offers low fares along the Pacific coast and back east.

5) Baltimore.  I can’t argue with JetBlue’s $9 fares from Boston to BWI.  But Southwest now flies to Dulles, Spirit is at Reagan, AirTran is at Dulles and Reagan, while JetBlue & Virgin America fly to Dulles.  For many, that 45-60 minute drive out to Baltimore is no longer worth it when low fares are available in their backyard.

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Top 5 Airline Liveries from Airlines that No Longer Exist

Let’s face it – the reason a lot of us have gotten into this whole airline thing is because when we were 8, we thought the colors on the planes were cool.  With that, I wanted to share my Top 5 Airline Liveries from Airlines That No Longer Exist.  As always, feel free to add your own…

1) Transtar – The deep, deep blue livery isn’t something you see every day.  In fact, you never see it.  I can’t imagine how hot it got in that plane when it was sitting in Houston for a few hours.  But it was unique and made quite a statement with its simplicity (even if that statement was:  “Damn, look at that blue plane.”)

2) New York Air – Maybe I just like solid, primary colors, but the candy apple red (punctuated with the Big Apple on the tail) was as recognizable as the bagels they handed out as meals on the airline.

3) Aloha Airlines – Nothing said, “Come have a threesome in Hawaii” more than the swinging font and flower-laden tail of the 1970s Aloha colors.  That font was likely outdated the moment they painted it on that plane.

4) Air Afrique – Perhaps it’s just because green is an under-used color on airplanes, but I’ve always liked Air Afrique’s paint job.  Or maybe there’s a reason it’s under-used.  Especially this two-tone green number.  Plus, since no Air Afrique flight ever left on time, you got to check it out for a while.

5) Princeville Airways – I saw this on my first trip to Hawaii a hundred thousand years ago, and it always stuck with me.  The tree on the tail (which is the logo of the Princeville development on Kauai) is pretty unique, as you don’t see too many trees on planes (except on Middle East Airlines – but they’re still flying.)

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Sorry Forrester & NY Times, The Worst Part of the Trip Is Not Booking It

The NY Times (and several other publications) have picked up on a recent Forrester report that suggests people are becoming increasingly frustrated with booking travel online.  This assertion comes from a survey data point that says (according to Travel Weekly) “33% of U.S. travelers who book online feel travel sites do a good job presenting travel choices; that is down from 39% in 2008.”

First of all, that 6% drop is likely within the margin of error of the survey, so it’s possible there’s actually no drop whatsoever.  Secondly, if travel companies were OK with only 39% customer satisfaction last year, I would not think that the sky is falling when it (supposedly) hits 33%.

The report (see more detail here) also finds that 26% of consumers say they would “use a good offline travel agency if I could find one” – up from 23% last year.  This margin is statistically insignificant.  Plus, what does that mean?  Is anyone actually searching for an offline travel agent?

Another question asked if people “enjoy using the Internet to plan and buy travel.”  The number has decreased a bit year over year.  But really – why do people have to enjoy booking travel?  Vacuum cleaner companies aren’t shutting down because people don’t enjoy vacuuming.  Booking travel is a task, and as the novelty has worn off, people “enjoy” it less.  But it doesn’t mean they’re not going to do it.

There is a completely asinine suggestion in the Times piece that, according to the Forrester analyst, “the fact that there are more people now who would consider using a good offline travel agent is telling me people are saying, ‘Enough already.’” Except that people are not flocking to offline travel agents.  People have flocked away from travel agents since online booking started.  And they are not flocking back.  And anyone who has had a thought to go book an airline ticket with a travel agent will not be happy to know that 89% of them (according to a recent ASTA survey) charge a service fee.  This is while exactly none of the major online travel agencies charge a fee.

So is the article saying that people are unhappy with the free service that online agencies provide?  One that allows them to compare a multitude of options at once?  And that people are so unhappy they’d be willing to pay $50 on top of a $200 flight to have a travel agent do the legwork for them?  I don’t think so.

I would agree with Forrester’s point that retail, banking and other websites have gotten easier to use while travel websites have been pretty stagnant for the past 5 or 6 years.  Perhaps on some level people are frustrated with that.  But:

a) It’s still about 100,000 times better to book a trip yourself online than it was to try to book a trip 15 years ago; and

b) who cares?

Really, what difference does this make if people are supposedly frustrated?  And why did the Times write an article about it?  The article tries to tie together this report citing customer frustration with a different survey that found “that more than a quarter of travelers had avoided at least one trip in the previous year because of the air travel system.”

Wait – that has absolutely nothing to do with people booking online.  Is this article supposed to be about a general level of traveler frustration?  Well that’s damn groundbreaking – people aren’t happy with the air travel system.  Shocker!

The point is this:  be careful what you read about travel in mainstream press.  Despite what either the Forrester report suggests (or perhaps the NY Times inferred), travelers are not abandoning online travel for any other means of booking travel.  And we already saw that Priceline grew market share by eliminating service fees – consumers are not going to head over to offline travel agents to pay an additional fee.  Yes, offline leisure agents serve a great purpose booking specialty trips that require an expert.  The Internet isn’t particularly good at that.  But that is a minute percentage of total travel booked online.

Everyone needs to take a deep breath and remember that in terms of booking travel, we’ve got it very, very, very good right now.

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What’s the Airlines’ Story?

Marketing guru type Al Ries has a great article in last week’s Ad Age about the uphill battle GM is facing.  One of his points is that GM no longer has a unified story to tell.  In his words:

“Without a story, no advertising, no matter how brilliant, is going to work.  BMW’s story is “driving.” Toyota’s story is “reliability.” Mercedes’ story is “prestige.”  Marketing comes first, advertising comes second.”

Ries is spot on – automobiles could be (and have become in many cases) heavily commoditized pieces of machinery.  Some brands have figured out how to break that mold with a well crafted story..  Others (GM, for example) either have no story or a pathetic story (“now available at the rental counter”).  You can put together all the flashy advertising and marketing messages you want, but without that underlying story, it’s meaningless.

Which made me think of how this also applies to airlines.  For years and years, major US carriers have marketed themselves in a really pathetic manner (much like GM), spouting off meaningless slogans (We Know Why You Fly) and delivering a product that offers nothing to back up the story that marketing is supposedly trying to tell.  You can spout on and on about service or whatever, but when you’re on a 5-hour flight in a middle seat with no food, that hardly suggests that the story matches the experience.

This is not always the case, of course.  JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America have all done a great job matching their story (something to the effect of “cheap chic,” “honesty,” and “mass exclusivity,” respectively).  Each has matched the experience on the plane with the messaging in their marketing.  This is why people don’t assume Southwest is lying to them when there’s a delay, but people assume nearly every airline is full of crap.

The airlines will figure out the right size to shrink to, and once again in the next year fares will be at a sustainable level.  I think we’re approaching the time where airline marketers need to step back and start to think about their story – what does the airline say they offer it, and how can that actually be offered.  With continuing improvements in on-board experience (Wi-Fi, Live TV), alliance partners for global reward redemption, and the idea of a “hometown airline” there are lots of ways airlines can differentiate themselves.  But offering up a message that varies significantly from onboard experience has done nothing but make people wary of airlines.  It’s time to change that.

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Not Even a Slight Glimmer of Hope from Network Airlines

“We’re all suffering from a significant decline in business travel demand,” said Southwest chairman and chief executive Gary Kelly. “We’ve detected a slight improvement in July, but post-summer we are prepared for significant continued weakness on the revenue front.

“It’s clear right now that we’re living on the back of strong leisure demand facilitated by low fares.” [The Continental CEO] added that the drop in business passengers appears to have “stabilized,” but “at a very low level.”

Delta executives said they did not expect any meaningful recovery for the remainder of the year, adding that they did not project a profit for 2009.“We may face some tough choices,” Richard H. Anderson, Delta’s chief executive, said.

Ouch.  Yes yes, you knew it was bad out there.  But when airlines actually start announcing the numbers, it’s ugly.  Historically ugly.  Continental’s Q2 trans-Atlantic revenue was down 28% over last year.  When you adjust for the capacity drops, it’s only a 23% drop.  Overall, their revenues were down 24% over the previous year.

And pretty much every network airline looks like that.

You may be saying to me and/or yourself:

1) But the airlines reduced capacity, so of course revenues will shrink;
and/or
2) But AirTran and Allegiant had real profits.

Yes, the airlines have been dropping capacity like I dropped European History in 9th grade, but that’s not enough.  Oil is getting more expensive.  Business travelers have disappeared or traded down to the low fare buckets in unprecedented numbers.  That last part is important – we’ve never seen this before.  Never.  Although the airline industry is 70+ years old, the deregulated industry in the US is only about 30, and it’s never been this bad.

Network (hub & spoke) airlines are suffering the most, which is how AirTran is able to avoid some of the problems facing the others (Allegiant is a juggernaut that manages their costs better than anyone).  But let’s put AirTran, Allegiant and JetBlue aside for a moment.  They are pretty much a different type of company than the network airlines.  Hub-and-spoke airlines, as I’m pretty sure I’ve said here before, are basically manufacturing companies — they manufacture connections.  They use a just-in-time manufacturing technique to ensure that raw materials (people and planes arriving in Minneapolis from the West) do not sit on the ground too long idle before heading off as finished goods (the connecting flights) to cities in the East.  They need to minimize the cost of getting the raw materials to the Minneapolis factory, and they need to maximize the revenues they generate from selling the manufactured good (the connected flight).

That system actually works pretty well when there is predictability in the market.  Regulation provides predictability, for example.  If you know roughly what you’re going to earn from the connection you’re making next week in Minneapolis, then it’s easier to run a profitable company, since you just need to make sure that your costs are below that set level.

When times are good there’s predictability in the market, since you are fairly sure people will be buying your seats at whatever price you sell them for (remember $2400 transcon coach fares?).  That also makes it easier to plan.

That manufacturing strategy pumps through the whole airline system when you think about it.  Airlines can talk all they want about customer service, but in reality they do 2 things pretty well:  they make connections at a pretty reasonable price, and they have fare sales to generate demand.  In other words, their basic job – getting flights from here to there on-time and safely – is a home run.  And when they cut fares, people do buy more tickets.

But that’s pretty much the only lever they’ve ever had.  Until 2 years ago, airlines were loathe to shrink themselves which, for a business with high fixed costs, means that you’re not willing to take costs out of the system except by asking unions for lower wages.  Which is what had happened up until 2007.  How many airlines in the 1980s and 90s disappeared because of labor-related strife.  Continental?  Eastern?  Continental again?

That fare sales were the only lever is what has driven the business case for nearly every new entrant since deregulation.  Each has thought the same thing:  We will come in without the legacy costs and legacy mentality and simply undercut the competition, driving consumers into our open arms.  And that works…until network airlines have a war of attrition and match prices until competitors are driven out of business.  Or until competitors grow large enough that they find out they are a low fare-driven airline and not an operations-driven airline (People Express figured this out quickly).  If you grow too fast, without understanding how to manufacture the connections (or worse – even run a point-to-point operation), it’s over.

The successful new entrants – JetBlue and Southwest being the two most successful — had completely different approaches.  Southwest started during regulation by flying intra-state, where they did not face fare regulations.  They grew up under unique circumstances.  That they’ve been able to continue to grow to this day is a testament to how well they’ve been run for 35 years.  But they were one of a small handful of airlines to run like a deregulated carrier during a regulated time.  That makes them unique.

JetBlue was the first to use the Target cheap chic model, which meant truly focusing on experience rather than simply low fares.  That they were able to do this and have a well-run operation speaks volumes about their founding management team.  That is, until the February storms a few years back in JFK that nearly destroyed every bit of goodwill they ever had and probably allowed Virgin America to come in and compete with them.  Striking the balance between operations and marketing is unbelievably difficult.

So where does this leave the network airlines?  Incredibly, only American Airlines has not gone through a bankruptcy in the past 30 years.  If every other company in an industry has been driven to bankruptcy (at least once), it suggests that there is a fundamental problem with having that many airlines, and such low barriers to entry.  Yes, business travel will come back at some point.  Oil prices will likely drop at some point.  Carriers will re-gain pricing power on some level.   But that doesn’t mean things will be good.  It will mean that it’s time for a new entrant to come in an knock the incumbents around.

I see only 2 options:

1) Re-regulation.  This will never happen.  It’s bad for consumers, and no administration wants to be seen as Communist.  It is, however, good for airlines.

2) Allow foreign ownership and eliminate the incredibly ridiculous cabotage rules.  This may, and should, happen.  What if I told you in 1977 that your only car options were a Ford Pinto and a Chevy Nova… and that while we knew that Toyotas and Hondas were superior in both quality and price, since they were made in Japan you couldn’t have them.  Because of border security.  You would think I’m insane.  That’s what’s happening now.  Let Singapore and Ryanair and Air Asia come here and show us how it’s done.  Closing off international competition has accomplished exactly nothing.  No wait, it’s accomplished exactly what you’d think:  allowed airlines to offer a middling product at the highest price they can possibly charge.  Nowadays that means they can’t charge much.  But when times get better, look out.

The current state of the industry is untenable.  A turnaround will not lead to anything, other than 12-18 good months, allowing airlines to grow like weeds before things go bad and a couple of them go bankrupt again.  That cycle needs to stop, and it will stop when we let the foreigners in.

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Is United Facing a Return to Bankruptcy?

The Chicago Tribune has joined the chorus of articles examining United Airlines’ financial situation and not liking what it sees.  I’m fairly certain that most of these pieces stem from a June deal United made to pay 17% on $175 million in debt it issued (that’s a high rate of interest, for those of you keeping track at home).  The other major concern is that American Express will begin to require cash payments from the carrier if United’s cash reserves fall below $2.4 billion (Chase has a penalty that kicks in at $2.5 billion beginning in 2010) – the airline actually fell below that level in May.

In addition, United doesn’t own much that it can sell off to generate cash quickly, should demand not recover in the next 6-12 months.  If you can’t sell your assets, how do you quickly generate cash?  By slashing prices.  Which is exactly what we saw last week with Southwest’s $30/60/90 sale, and what we’re seeing going into the fall and winter ($450 round trips to Moscow, anyone?).  As FareCompare’s Rick Seaney recently wrote (Tweeted?) “Reality Check! Nov to May airfare prices in a free fall, airlines have popped their chutes, just don’t know if their is a hole in the canopy.”  I’m not sure anyone knows more about airfare than him – if he’s saying airfares continue to reach new lows, we’re in historic territory.

But how low can you drop fares – at some point you’re not even covering the high fixed costs of running the airline.  And the old days of using business class to make up for low coach fares are over for now.  Sure, airlines have cut back significantly on capacity and that could help if business turns around.  But it may not – at least not for the next 9-12 months.  And if that happens, it’s desperation time, especially for United.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think the only way out is a merger with Continental.  It makes me sick just thinking about that.  But the reality is that most industries have 2 major competitors, with a 3rd much smaller competitor, then extremely high fragmentation from there (Coke/Pepsi/Dr Pepper; McDonald’s/Burger King/Wendy’s).  Sure, there are exceptions.  But we don’t need AA, UA, Continental, Delta, US Airways, and Southwest (and JetBlue and Alaska?) as national carriers.   A UA/CO matchup would help consolidate some of the competition.  It’s not crazy that Delta could suck up US Airways once their NW merger is completed (assuming they’re able to ride out the next year’s downturn), and a JetBlue/Alaska matchup isn’t insane either.  Which, in this pretend scenario, would leave AA, CO, Delta and Southwest as major national carriers, with Alaska Blue as Dr. Pepper in this scenario.  It’s not crazy, and it would help to drive fares up (no one likes that – but no one likes airlines closing down either.  And driving from New York to LA is a loooooong trip).

Like many others, I had pooh-poohed consolidation as a way out of trouble, and on some level I still do.  It’s not a cure-all.  But these are times like we’ve never seen, and airlines need to use this opportunity to right-size the market.  4 major carriers sounds about right to me.  Sorry, United.

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A Quick Trip Report: Flying with 3 Year Olds

From what I can tell from other sites, you airline dorks love your trip reports (I mean that entirely with love) with lots of detail about the flights. So I thought I’d pass along this report from my trip last weekend to St. John’s, Newfoundland, with our 3 year old girls, Sage & Scarlett.

Continental Flight 1700 EWR-YYT

A few snippets of conversation as we’re waiting the 45 minutes to take off:

Sage: Are we flying?

Me: No, we’re sitting on the ground. We haven’t left the gate.

Sage: Can I have a lollypop?

Me: When we get in the air, you can have one.

Sage: Are we in the air?

Me: No, we’re on the ground. You’ll know when we’re flying.

Sage: I want to watch a movie.

Me: You can watch when once we’re in the air.

Sage: Are we in the air now?

Me: Look out the window. Are we in the air?

Sage: No. Who drives the plane?

Me: The pilot.

Sage: He’s not a conductor?

Me: No, close though. A conductor drives a train. A pilot flies a plane in the cockpit.

Scarlett (from across the aisle): What you talking about Sage?

Sage: We talking about the plane.

Me: We’re talking about the pilot in the cockpit.

Scarlett (screaming across the aisle): What a cock is?

Me: No, cockpit. (to Susan: that was embarrassing)

Sage: Are we in Canada?

Me: No, we’re still waiting to take off. There’s a bunch of other planes that want to take off, too.

Sage: We’re not in Canada?

Me: No, not yet.

Sage: We in New York City?

Me: We were in New York City, now we’re in New Jersey.

Sage: Not in Canada?

Me: No.

Pilot: We’re 17th in line for departure. We should be in the air in about 20-25 minutes.

Sage: What him say?

Me: That we’ll be leaving soon.

Sage: I have to go to the bathroom.

Me: You’ve got to be kidding. We asked you to go before.

Sage: I have to go to the bathroom.

Me: We have to wait here, we can’t get up.

Sage: I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.

(Sage goes to the bathroom, thanks to kindly flight attendant who takes pity on me. And her.).

Sage: Here. (hands me crusts from sandwich)

Me: You eat the crusts at home. Why won’t you eat them?

Sage: You take them, daddy.

Me: I don’t want your crusts.

Sage: You have them.

Me: I don’t understand, you eat them at home.

Sage: But I’m on a plane.

Exeunt.

3 hours of that up, 3 hours of that back. Scarlett also chatted for roughly 3 straight hours, but she was across the aisle of the mostly empty 737-700.

There ya go. Oh, how different it is to travel with kids. How can anyone complain about business travel?

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Delta’s Great International Experiment Is Basically Dead

Back in 2007 Delta made a bold decision to expand its international flying signficantly from both Atlanta and JFK.  The theory was that the domestic market was oversaturated, and that there was plenty of opportunity to grow to second (and third-) tier cities and stay out of the way of competition.  757s made it cost effective to fly longer thinner routes and, the idea went, if one city didn’t work, just shut it down and try a different 2nd tier city.  Over time new flights were introduced to Prague, Bucharest, Kiev, Dubai, Kuwait City, Pisa, Valencia, Fortaleza, Recife and more.  Plus, Delta launched extensive new services to Central America and the Caribbean, giving American a bit of competition for customers traveling from the Southeast to these sun destinations.

An even more ambitious plan was rolled out to connect little known destinations in Africa (Luanda, Malabo, Monrovia) by building a mini transit hub in Cape Verde.  If it worked, it would have served as a base to build out once- or twice-weekly flights from Cape Verde to many capitals across Africa.

But that may have been the tipping point.  Delta had been quietly pulling back some of these routes already.  They dropped Kuwait City about a year after launch.  Mumbai service is reduced.  Capetown is reduced, then eliminated.  Cape Verde is dropped, then all of the cities it would have connected.  JFK to Bogota is suspended in the fall.  Kenya is out.  Seoul, Shanghai, Bucharest and Edinburgh are cut in one swoop.  Seasonal suspensions are announced for Moscow, Shannon, Pisa, Malaga, Valencia, Kiev, Buenos Aires, Prague and Guayaquil.  Fortaleza and Recife are suspended and frequencies are cut way back when they return.

Just like that, the grand international plans have been scaled back.  The theory – that you could fly thin international routes year round if there was no competition – didn’t prove out in most cases.  Don’t get me wrong, Delta has a much larger international footprint than they did 5 years ago.  And the addition of Northwest’s extensive Asian market gives them a stronghold they could never built themselves.  This doesn’t mean the airline is withering away – hardly.  And they’ve moved relatively quickly to cut bait where they were losing money – a nice change from years past.

But as an airline dork, it was interesting to watch Delta quickly try to match Pan Am’s global footprint.  No airline since Pan Am has been able to grow as extensively across the globe, but Delta looked like it was heading in that direction.  However, without the protection and regulation that Pan Am enjoyed there was no way to make it work (I know, the economy didn’t help).  And I’m sure that Delta’s pullback also means that we won’t see another airline try for years.

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Northwest Brand to Disappear in 2010: 5 Things We Didn’t Fully Appreciate about Northwest

Delta announced that the Northwest Airlines brand will disappear by the end of 2010.  I’m fully aware that most airline brands become far more beloved once they’ve been gone for a while (Eastern?), but even so I always felt that Northwest was unfairly trashed.  Sure, they stranded those people on the tarmac for what, 7 hours, during a blizzard a few years back.  That wasn’t good.  But I think there are 5 things we didn’t fully appreciate about the airline:

1) Elite members always – always! – got upgraded.  I had silver or gold status with Continental for a few years and I frequently flew Northwest because I knew that I would absolutely always be upgraded.  While I was getting upgrades about 1/5 of the time on Continental, my butt was always in the not-particularly-comfy-but-certainly-better-than-coach first class section of a Northwest 757.  Those were good days.

2) They turned Detroit’s airport from a facility you’d expect in, oh, Tashkent into the best airport in North America.  For those of us who used to fly into, out of, or through Detroit, the transformation was like when I saw Mimi Doyle at my high school reunion.  I don’t remember her at all from high school, but damn did she get hot (that’s for you, Mike J).

3) The DC-9s.  I don’t know why everyone complained all the time about these ancient workhorses (maybe the 30″ pitch in coach?), but, since frequent flyers were always upgraded we were treated to a nearly silent flight up front, since the engines were about 35 rows behind us.

4) Cash and Miles.  They were the only airline in the US (that I’m aware of – feel free to correct…maybe Alaska had this?) that frequently offered a cash and miles deal for flights.  It was a nice way to get rid of orphaned miles you had in your account and get to Europe pretty cheaply.

5) Al Lenza.  This is completely inside baseball, so I know that just about no one will care:  When I worked for Jupiter writing about online distribution, I learned about Al — he headed up distribution for Northwest.  He was a constant thorn in the side of the GDSs (the technology that agencies use to sell airline tickets).  Why does this matter?  GDSs are slow to change, and they used to charge the airlines a fortune for their services.  Al was in many ways responsible for the shift to online sales, which is how you buy your tickets now.  Was he completely responsible?  No.  But his constant harassment and annoyance about distribution fees helped build the market for online distribution and changed how we buy airline tickets.

Anything you’ll miss about Northwest?

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Did Spirit Airlines Screw Me? I’m Not Sure… (Probably not?)

I try not to bore everyone here with personal stories (I’m more than aware that no one cares), but here’s a quick one I’d like your input on:

On a whim, I booked a flight yesterday at 2pm on Spirit Airlines to fly to Nicaragua for 3 days on the beach ($300 all-in with no advanced purchase – gotta love Spirit).  At 5pm I head to the bus stop outside my apartment to catch the bus from LaGuardia when I get a phone call from Spirit telling me that the first leg of my flight (LaGuardia to Ft Lauderdale) is delayed and, hence, I will miss my connection to Managua.  The airline was not going to hold the plane in FLL (which I was fine with).  They offered to refund my money, and, because the next flight isn’t for 3 days, I didn’t rebook.

I went home, confusing my kids whom I had just left 10 minutes earlier telling them I’d be home on Friday.

I felt like I had just bought myself 3 days of my life (10 minutes of which I’m using writing this).

To torture myself, however, I went and looked at Spirit’s website this morning to see how badly I would’ve missed the connection in FLL.  Answer?  I wouldn’t have missed it.  They ended up holding the plane in FLL.

So, the question of the day:  Did Spirit help me out by making sure I didn’t get stranded in Lauderdale?  Or did they screw me because they’re clueless?

What do you think?

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