HT: Lucky

Word is on the street that we are going to see details of a new combined AAdvantage program very soon. Lucky references both a FlyerTalk thread and Travelingbetter.com, which is a very trusted source of AAdvantage information. According to the scoop, the program would be effective March 1, 2015.

MJ’s Take

I’ve blogged a bit about the things I hope the new American does and does not change. While I think that over the longer term, it is more likely than not that AAdvantage morphs into more of a revenue-based program, I have also speculated that it need not copy the changes that Delta has made, and that United has essentially mirrored. If the rumors are true that we are going to see details of a new combined program sooner rather than later, it is almost a certainty that the new AAdvantage is going to look a lot more like the old AAdvantage than anything else. The fact that the combined airline is adopting the IT systems of the larger airline in this merger makes me even more certain of that.

I’m no expert, but I don’t think that with everything else going on, there is any other option than adopting the majority of the existing AAdvantage program if the new American really is going to introduce a new combined program on March 1, 2015. If AAdvantage had its own different program ready to go then I’d feel differently, but I don’t think that’s the case. No matter what happens – hold on tight, things could get interesting very soon.

-MJ, October 22, 2014

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Commentary: Last week I wrote a short piece on lower oil prices becoming a management challenge for airline C suites, and their employees. My focus was really on labor – management relations, cost control, and how the discipline of higher energy prices is at risk for being lost. Since that time, a handful of articles have touched on similar topics with a focus on system capacity as well as airline pricing habits. During a recent airline conference call on earnings, a pesky Wall Street analyst challenged management on capacity discipline. Said analyst then got his hind quarters politely handed to him, depending on your perspective.

The gist of the analyst’s question was whether or not management was paying enough attention to capacity discipline when making new route decisions. The airline’s managers seemed to be pretty sure that they are, and I don’t have any reason to doubt it. The hidden danger here is that when you become so wonderful and so profitable you can be lulled into a false sense of security….or would that be, superiority?

A lot of interesting little things have happened in the airline industry over the last few weeks that bear watching, none more so than right here in my now hometown. Granted, each of these developments has some merit in the marketplace, and it will be interesting to see how things unfold. Cheaper oil, assuming it sticks for any substantial period of time, may become a catalyst for other changes in the airline industry, only time will tell. One thing is certain, the airline industry attracts its fair share of characters and egos, even if they are better at counting money than they used to be. My advice to airline managers and their co-workers – keep your eye on the ball, and be leery of your own BS.

-MJ, October 22, 2014

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I’ve written rather extensively about Quantum of the Seas. Royal Caribbean’s newest vessel promises to be a game-changer within the industry. The company refers to her as the industry’s first Smart Ship. I tend to agree that they are finally taking technology to the next level for vacations at sea. I’ve heard many veteran cruisers complain that they cruise to “get away from it all” and I can’t disagree. While writing a blog doesn’t lend itself to being totally disconnected, in reality, I can take care of blog business for a set period of time each day and then disconnect. Further, no one is holding a gun to any cruiser’s head and making them use the internet options available at sea. So frankly, the idea of being unable to disconnect on a “connected” ship doesn’t float with me. Sure you can.

However, there is one thing I’m really going to miss – the personal connection with the dining room staff. No question, a big part of cruising is the dining. While I can’t call most of the main dining room dishes 5-star when thousands must be served, I’ve almost always been able to call the service 5-star. A big reason for that is the connection you make with your dining room server team. After a few days they know your wants and desires and you get to know them. It’s not unusual for new cruisers to tell me the stories of their first experiences at sea and the only names they remember will be those of their dining room staff or the people they meet at their dining room table.

With the advent of Dynamic Dining, that connection will be gone. You’ll pick one of many restaurants each night, and perhaps never have the same server twice. I suspect that most of the cruise market is indifferent to this, and in fact, I’m looking forward to giving Dynamic Dining a try. There’s certainly a lot to love about Quantum of the Seas, and I can’t wait to board. But I expect I’ll miss the personal connections made at the dining room table….not just with the service staff, but my fellow cruisers too.

-MJ, October 22, 2014

As you may know, I presented at this year’s Chicago Seminars. While I normally fly Delta, a couple of circumstances came together a few weeks ago that led me to book American Airlines for my roundtrip flight from Atlanta to ORD. Both flights were on large RJs, both flights were in first class, but both flights could not have been more different. My trip began with a visit to the American Admirals Club in Atlanta on Friday. The lounge staff is pleasant, seating and power outlets were mostly plentiful, and they offer a decent menu of sandwiches and salads for a reasonable charge. I arrived early so I could get a bit of work done, finding the bar the least crowded, I took a seat there. The bar in the club is equipped with power outlets. Charge up!

ATL-ORD, CRJ-700 operated by Envoy Air dba American Eagle

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t catch the fact that I’d booked the one Envoy operated flight to Chicago on my day of travel. I really wanted to fly the EMB-175 that predominates on the route for American, but I digress. One could do worse than a first class seat to Chicago on Friday, even if I did have to valet my carry on thanks to the CRJ-700’s small bins. The tone of the flight was set when a passenger in coach offered his first class seat to another passenger so he could sit with his spouse. The flight attendant happened to pick up on the conversation and would have nothing of it. When the lucky passenger tried to take her now upgraded seat, the F/A responded with something to the effect of “that’s nice for you, but I cannot let you do that.” She did offer that the two passengers could go work it out with the agent. At least she managed to offer pre-departure waters.

We departed on time, and the flight was smooth….and incredibly fast. One feature of the Eagle inflight service I had not anticipated in light of American’s recent meal changes did delight me.

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They weren’t warm, but I still love them! :) We landed early, waited for a gate, waited for a jet bridge operator, and then waited for our valet bags. In the end, I walked off the jet bridge only 10 minutes after our scheduled arrival, so all was well, but it served as a reminder of why I seek to avoid RJs where possible.

ORD-ATL, EMB-175 operated by Republic Airlines dba American Eagle

After spending a bit of time in the Chicago Admirals Club, I made my way to our gate on the L Concourse. No G madhouse. Within a minute or two, an announcement was made that the flight was oversold and they were seeking volunteers in exchange for a $500 travel voucher. Yes, please! In the end, they did not need a volunteer so we boarded a tiny bit later than scheduled, but still with plenty of time to depart on time. I walked onto a very new EMB-175, was greeted warmly by a polite flight attendant, and took seat 4A, the last seat on the left in first class. Pre-departure waters were offered in the midst of a rushed boarding, and we were buttoned up and ready to push on time. I was pleased with the legroom and comfort of the seat. I was further impressed that there were no pen marks….must’ve been a really new airplane.

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Soon enough, we were on our way to Atlanta. Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendant was in the aisle checking on passengers and taking beverage orders. No mixed nuts on this flight. :(

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Admittedly, the second flight seems to be most in line with American’s posted snack offering for the flights I took.

Conclusion

This wasn’t my first flight on either aircraft type, but it was my first for the EMB-175 under the American Eagle brand. The flight experience was much better than the CRJ-700, which wasn’t unexpected. Being in first class, it’s hard to compare, but I didn’t see anything that changed my opinion that the EMB-17X-19X aircraft are as comfortable as any airliner in the marketplace for domestic flights.

Something caught my eye this morning – a week aboard the beautiful Celebrity Reflection for as little as $399 per person. The cruise departs Miami on November 29, 2014, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but hear me out. Some air travel deals are still out there for the big day itself, the Friday after Thanksgiving, or even Saturday morning. (Note – I always recommend arriving a day early if you can.)

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If inside cabins aren’t your thing, Veranda’s are as low as $599 and Celebrity’s MJ recommended Aqua Class is starting at $899 per person. Trust me, if I weren’t setting sail on Quantum of the Seas 2 days after this cruise begins, I’d have to think about this one. Click here for more cruise details.

A BusinessWeek article caught my eye this morning as the topic was about Delta’s “Bare-Bones” E Fares. There has been quite a bit of chatter about E-Fares across the internet over the last few weeks as Delta is removing the ability for elite Medallion members to upgrade if they are traveling on one of these fares on February 1, 2015. According to the article,

“After a hiatus of several months, Delta is resurrecting its lowest economy class ticket as it seeks to keep bargain carrier Spirit Airlines Inc. from luring away leisure travelers. The bare-bones “e-class” ticket will not allow passengers to get seat upgrades or make same-day flight changes and they will board last.”

I had missed the fact that E fares had disappeared for a period of time….probably because I don’t routinely travel in markets where Delta offers them. While I suppose one could see the removal of upgrade availability as a real benefit reduction, I have to wonder how many Medallion flyers were actually buying E fares. I haven’t….and now I know I won’t be.

I don’t want to discuss Delta’s pricing habits, but the marketing aspects of this are interesting to me. With Spirit, I can (at least) buy up to a Big Front Seat™. I suppose Delta could argue that if a Medallion wants an upgrade, they can buy any other fare other than E class and rock on. They’d be correct. I’ll wait and see, but I’m betting the dollar-difference in fares between E fares and others isn’t nearly enough to justify losing just about every Medallion benefit there is for that specific flight. The market for most E fare sales is likely to be a passenger who could care less about Medallion benefits or miles in general. E fares and the changes in Medallion benefits for those who buy them aren’t going to cause this Medallion to think twice. What about you?

-MJ, October 20, 2014

Hat Tip – FlyerTalk

Some threads on a message board are more likely to catch my eye than others. Here’s one of the more interesting I’ve seen in a while courtesy of the Delta Air Lines forum – “Rumor: DL removing complimentary upgrades”. You can imagine the discussion that has ensued. The gist of which seems to revolve around this.

  • The original poster is a troll
  • The rumor is not true
  • Someone is confused because Delta is removing comp upgrades for Medallions who buy E class fares
  • A trial balloon is being floated by Delta
  • There is less competition so Delta is coming to get us

MJ’s Take

Any of the reasons I listed could be true. This could be someone having fun on the internet….or more. In truth, I don’t know….but…. I think it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Delta could eliminate “complimentary” upgrades for elite Medallion members. Back in “the day” the airlines credited you with upgrade “certificates” for every 10,000 or so miles flown with each one being good for 500 miles worth of premium cabin travel. This is a system that American Airlines still offers its elite AAdvantage members with top tier Executive Platinum members receiving complimentary upgrades that have to be requested. It’s also the best way to manage elite upgrades in my ever so humble opinion.

I didn’t major in economics but I did pretty well in the courses I took. It’s been a minute since college so I’ll ask forgiveness if I don’t get the terminology just right. Here’s the deal. When you offer a limited amount of product for “free” you create a lot of demand with a limited supply. I know I’ve blogged about it before, but I much prefer the AA way of doing things when it comes to upgrades for elites. With a system that requires “payment” for a service, you’ll find that lower level elites have a better opportunity to upgrade because all elites focus on requesting upgrades they really want. The 50 person and longer upgrade lists at Delta have gotten a little ridiculous. It’s almost a joke among elites at the gate.

My conclusion – this might absolutely be a false rumor, but it’s also entirely possible that Delta is finally wising up to the folly (yes, I said folly) of “complimentary” upgrades for all elites, and looking at a return to the way things used to be. I really doubt that they are considering removing upgrade opportunities all together. If they are, I’d have to write a very interesting blog post.

-MJ, October 20, 2014

I was honored to present at the 2014 Chicago Seminars on my favorite topic, cruising. I’m trying a slightly different method of sharing my presentation on the blog this year, and appreciate any feedback on how well it works. I converted the presentation into a movie. If you see a slide of particular interest to you, just click pause. I’ll include a link for a .pdf file as well. For those that were there, you’ll see the fun pictures of me with great looking hair are missing. :)

Of course, I know the context of the session is missing so please email or comment if you have any specific questions. I’m also including link to a .pdf file containing the presentation. The .pdf file includes links to content referenced during the presentation.

Click here for the presentation – 2014 Chicago Seminars

Reference Materials

 

Hello from the 2014 Chicago Seminars! I arrived yesterday, and it’s been great seeing old friends and making new ones. I’m presenting this afternoon on my favorite topic, cruise vacations! I hope to see you there. Now, let’s take a look at our week in review.

And this week at MJ on Travel –

  • A Look at the Bankcard Rewards Programs and Cruising

This, and no doubt more, this week at MJ on Travel.

-MJ, October 18, 2014

My friend, The Weekly Flyer, posted about the latest twist in the Ebola scare this morning. Apparently, a Dallas healthcare worker who handled a lab specimen from the US’ first Ebola victim departed Galveston, Texas aboard the Carnival Magic on October 12. Here is a quote from Carnival about the matter.

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Weekly Flyer says he would pack his bags and leave. He’d be in for a long swim.

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That’s the current position of Carnival Magic according to marinetraffic.com. According to KHOU, the government of Belize refused a request by the US government to allow the individual to disembark and be flown home. Depending on who you consult, the ship is in anchorage off shore, and no guests are being allowed to disembark. I wouldn’t leave the ship to fly home, and being a poor swimmer isn’t the only reason. First, the “patient” hasn’t exhibited any symptoms, and is quarantined in her room. And if the news reports and Cruise Critic are to be believed, the person in question is actually a supervisor at the lab and didn’t actually “touch” any lab specimens. That won’t stop the media and anyone else from talking about this.

Certainly, I’m not a physician or epidemiologist. I’m a blogger that likes to cruise. I claim no expertise in this except the knowledge that ships are really good at quarantining people when they need to, but I doubt they’re equipped to deal with Ebola. Of course, I don’t think they need to in this case, but let’s get hysterical anyway. Not! Now…all this isn’t to say that the handling of the entire Ebola experience in this country hasn’t been botched from the get-go, but that’s for someone else to pontificate about.

-MJ, October 17, 2014

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