Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Road to Providence

Just ending a lengthy travel day: Denver to Charlotte to Providence. I don't mind. It's exciting and nothing beats people watching at airports. After nearly forgetting my itinerary, wedding rings and watch (have to keep on a schedule)I headed to the airport. Checking in was a breeze. The breakfast stop at TCBY was not. It's never a good morning when you dump your coffee on the floor before you've even had a chance to give it a stir.

Luckily, the flights went smoothly. And by smoothly, I mean enough overhead room for my roller bag and upgrades to economy-plus. Score! Even more heartening was the older gentleman who voluntarily held and calmed an infant while his mother got situated a few rows in front of me. Thank you, kind Samaritan.

Connecting through Charlotte was a pleasant experience. The Providence gate was right next door, I had time for a bite to eat and once again had room for my roller bag overhead. Double score!

The gentleman behind me told his life story to a perfect stranger twice during the hour and a half flight to Providence. Again, I don't mind. I could check in and out of the story as I pleased, and when I'd had enough I could focus on the sound the woman next to me emitted from somewhere near her esophagus as she caught a few winks.

Traveling can be quite strenuous. But what an adventure.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Whole Different Animal

Not many would have predicted it, but Frontier Airlines will retain its brand under Republic Airways. And if the cost of doing business in Denver wasn't so prohibitive, Republic might have been planning a headquarters relocation by now. Denver still wins--saving its hometown airline and vital competitor in keeping the cost of an airline ticket low out of Denver International Airport.

With Southwest's final bid at $170 million over Republic's bid of $108 million, the winner seemed obvious. But after seniority negotiations between Frontier and Southwest pilot unions broke down and Republic forgave Frontier's $150 million debt the scales tipped in Republic's favor. Menke's message to employees was consistent from the beginning, and in the prescient words from an insider: "...having the highest bid doesn't guarantee that a bidder will win."

For a glimpse into sacrifices Frontier employees and leadership made starting in April 2008 when the company filed for bankruptcy, read "Flying critters off threatened list."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Frontier's Future

It's hard to accept the fact that Denver could lose its hometown air carrier. Now that Southwest airlines has entered the fray with a higher bid than Republic, it's looking more and more like this will be the case. Tom Clark, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce's executive vice president, lays out the strengths Republic and Southwest bring to the Denver market in his "Cone of Silence" blog. The upside for consumers is, experts are predicting airfares out of Denver International Airport will stay low--DIA currently has the lowest prices in the nation.

And in the midst of all this jockeying among Denver's largest airline competitors, travelers are complaining less than they did a year ago, according to a DOT report released yesterday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Frontier to Remain Frontier

Last week, Frontier announced that Republic Airways has agreed to pay almost $109 million for the equity in Frontier Holdings, which includes Frontier Airlines and Lynx Aviation. Today, Frontier spokesman Steve Snyder said that the Denver-based air carrier will continue operating as Frontier Airlines. Word from inside Frontier is, "I'm thinking it's a good thing. They don't fly [Airbus] 318s, 319s or 320s, so I don't think they'll fire all of us and sell the planes for parts. Also, their employees aren't trained on these aircraft so I think the in-flight crews are safe. Time will tell..."

Time will tell indeed. Whether Republic Airways keeps the Frontier headquarters in Denver or moves it to Indianapolis is the big question. Frontier's future may be up in the air, but at least it's still flying.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Clear Pass Privileges No More

Clear Pass holders will no longer enjoy bypassing the snaking security lines at airports. A brief announcement is all that is left on the Clear Pass Web site.

For an annual fee of $199, a background check and fingerprint scan, travelers were issued a pass card that allowed them access to the Clear lanes at 21 participating airports in the United States. All Clear lanes have been closed and word is still out on whether members' annual fees will be refunded.

If you blinked, you probably missed the announcement, but here's the Denver Post's article:

Denver's Hometown Airline

As an airline that is actually turning a profit, Frontier is in a class of its own and is in a good position to emerge form bankruptcy. Yesterday, Frontier announced that Republic Airways Holdings has offered to purchase Frontier Holdings, which includes Frontier Airlines and Lynx Aviation, for slightly less than $109 million. Stay tuned for word from inside Frontier Airlines as the story develops. As it stands, the proposal hearing is scheduled for July 13. If the deal goes through, should Frontier still be called Denver's low-cost carrier? (Republic Airways is based in Indianapolis, Ind.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lost Passengers, Death and Fees on Fees. Oh my!

It hasn't been a pretty week for the airline industry. First as the height of UM (unaccompanied minor) season kicks off, Continental sends two girls to the wrong destinations,

Unfortunately for Continental, when it rains it pours. During a trans-Atlantic flight on Thursday, Captain Craig Lenell passed away mid-flight, much to the surprise of passengers on board who only learned of the death upon arrival in Newark, NJ,

And finally, United announced they are adding fees to their bag-check fees, On top of the $15 fee to check a bag, if you pay at the airport, you'll be charged an additional $5. So, what is that, a bag check fee-fee? Nice job with the Saturday morning announcement too...hardly anyone will notice, I'm sure.

Monday, June 8, 2009

IATA: Airline Revenues Will Tank

Even with crude oil at $56 a barrel, the forecast for the airline industry is grim. According to the International Air Transportation Association, airlines around the globe stand to lose $9 billion collectively this year. That's nearly double the estimate just three months ago.

In lighter news, more air carriers are opening the cabin to four-legged patrons. Southwest Airlines recently announced that they will allow pets on board for a $75 fee if the owner is also on board. No unaccompanied pet program is in place currently.

And when the airline industry is hemorrhaging money it's hard to believe a pet-only airline would actually take off. The brave souls behind Pet Airways, the only pet-only air carrier, are giving it a go.

At any rate, is a good place to start if you need to make arrangements to fly with your pet.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Make the Leap Frontier

With a name like Frontier Airlines, you'd expect the company to be on the leading edge of the industry. Quite a firestorm has kicked off due to their absence from social media networks. After one bad experience, entrepreneur and social media guru Andrew Hyde took things into his own hands. He created a Twitter account (@frontierair) and started monitoring and responding to Frontier customers' comments. He was clear from the beginning that @frontierair was a fan account, not managed by anyone at Frontier. Things came to a head and Andrew offered to turn the account over to Frontier's communications department so they could take up the torch and communicate directly with their customers. Shockingly, Frontier refused. Here's the beginning of the story:, the middle:, nearing the end:, and what story would be complete without the final word: And the buzz is spreading:

Although it took 10,000 page views of Andrew's post before Frontier was moved to respond, it behooves them to reconsider their "no interacting with customers outside of the already existing @frontiersale and @frontierstorm" policy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Beantown Weekend

There's nothing like escaping the doldrums of suburbia for a long weekend in a new city. A three-day weekend, a best friend's relocation to Boston--a city I had yet to explore--and 50,000 airline miles about to expire lead to the obvious conclusion: it was jet-setting time.

My crash pad for the weekend was a quaint third-floor condo in a converted house in Cambridge. And crash I did, arriving in Boston at 1 a.m. We were up and at 'em by 8 and headed to Sarah's Market and Cafe for breakfast. You can't be shy here. The tables are almost always full so play the game, pick a table and stand behind your desired seat until the other patron either a.) finishes their meal, or b.) scoops their unfinished meal up and stalks off in huff because someone's been looming over them for a touch too long.

A quick tour of my friend's generous employer followed. The grounds are gorgeous; people are jogging and walking their dogs over rolling emerald hills and tree-lined paths. Not many people would recognize McLean's for the psychiatric hospital that it is. Really, the movie Girl, Interrupted took place here.

Next was Chinatown and dim sum at the China Pearl. The doughy BBQ balls were tasty and I nibbled on a chicken foot. It's true, here I am:

Full of dim sum, we headed to the Freedom Trail. Sadly, we did not toast the venerable Samuel Adams in his resting place with his namesake's beverage from the tavern overlooking his headstone, but we dutifully followed the painted red stripe through the streets of Boston.

A quick jaunt past Paul Revere's house and we were in the North End, Boston's version of Little Italy. The fried, cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers on the rooftop of Fiore are a must have.

Mini-trips to Plymouth and Salem filled day number two. Plymouth rock was actually bigger than I expected. I think after witnessing the Liberty Bell in all its diminutive glory I was able to talk myself down from my great expectations of what became the cornerstone of many families' roots in the U.S. I still don't understand why they had to go and stamp 1620 into THE 1880. Was there a sudden tide of concern that washed over Plymouthites? Were they afraid that people would forget the year the pilgrims landed in Plymouth even though that horrible tragedy had been averted year after year for 160 years? We may never know.

We toured the Mayflower II. It's hard to believe the original carried one hundred passengers and their animals and belongings, a crew and provisions for all the passengers and crew. Not exactly standing room only, but can you imagine not being able to bathe or sleep laying down for 66 days? And, we had a little body art done not 20 yards away from the Mother Puritan statue.

Salem is a worthy day trip from Boston. Be sure to stay for an evening ghost tour though. I can recommend the Spellbound Salem Ghost and Vampirism Tour. Spellbound owner Bonnie is quite passionate and outspoken about the hysteria and history of Salem, and Tom was a brilliant tour guide.

We also found an amazing used book store there. I couldn't tell you the name, but it was the kind of place you walk into wondering if any of the floor joists or walls are plumb. The book shelves are all cattywampus and where no shelves exist, books are piled vertically and held together by bungee cords. Transactions take place through a six-inch gap between two seven-foot tall stacks of books.

We ended our whirlwind Beantown weekend with a Duck boat tour. This was a great way to see the highlights of the city by land and by sea. Here's a gem of a photo from the tour: the Old Hancock Building reflected in the glass windows of the New Hancock Building.

We toasted each other, long weekends, cheesy tourist attractions and future fun-filled trips with rose champagne over deathly rich chocolate torte and tiramisu at Finale in Harvard Square to cap off our adventure. Fitting name, don't you think?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bad News Passengers

Yes, airline passengers really are misbehaved sometimes. And for flight attendants there's no escape until the jet bridge is attached and someone opens the door from the outside. No wonder a bag of chocolates from the occasional passenger can mean so much -- take note, frequent flyers.

The Six Worst Airplane Passengers of 2009 (so far)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Priceline tweets away

Brilliant campaign from starring William Shatner. It's amazing how offering something for nothing (or a simple Twitter follow) incentivizes people. Check it out:

Now the trick is to capture the actual ROI for Twitter outreach. Suggestions? Leave a comment.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ice cream hot spots

Interconnectivity is the wonder of social media, is it not? Which brings me to my point. I just became a fan of Ralph's Italian Ices on Facebook. Therein lies the inspiration for this original content post. For all two of you reading this here they are in extremely important order -- the best ice cream joints in the world are:

Giolitti, Rome, Italy
Ralph's Italian Ices, Staten Island, NY
Leopold's, Savannah, GA

And winners for best local ice cream hot spot goes to Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Boulder and the Walrus in Fort Collins, Colo.

Staycation, business trip or romantic honeymoon, these fine establishments belong on every must do list.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Vacation libations

This travel list piqued my interest. And I've yet to touch down in any of the destinations -- perplexing, I know. If you've raised a toast in any of the listed establishments, or others that deserve a place on the hallowed Reuters Iconic Drinkeries list, leave a comment.

In other important news, Guinness is 250 years old. Celebrate!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Worldly loos

The toilets at Buckingham Palace's Royal Mews drip with elegance from the colorful tile mosaics to the linen hand towels. You'd never expect a horse stable to provide such finery. Then you have the self-contained and cleaning airstream-type facilities that dot the rues of Paris. Not the best if you're claustrophobic. Hidden secrets of foreign cultures are there for the discovering. For all aspiring anthropologists, here's an entertaining slide show:>1=41000

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Corporate Travel

Here's an interesting article about corporate travel managers. Aside from occasional blunders (auto execs breezing into D.C. in corporate jets), they're the grease that keeps companies moving. Any CTM worth their salt considers comfortable accommodations as well as the company's bottom line. And although I couldn't do it, I'm sure many CTM's do their jobs without dwelling on the ultimate injustice: spending their careers making travel arrangements, rather than traveling.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

DOT: Fewer airline complaints

Breathe a sigh of relief. Whether you're racking up the miles as a seasoned business traveler or towing the kids and all the gear to Arizona for a week at Grandma's, things are looking up for you. Either we've become complacent with the level of service offered by commercial airlines and have given up on complaining, or we are actually finding less to complain about. Whatever the reason, there has been a drop in customer service complaints made to major airlines.

That is, unless this guy is your pilot.

Monday, April 6, 2009

When Tables Turn

Going through airport security is a major stressor. Ever thought how the screeners feel -- staring at a 13-inch television screen for hours at a time, reminding travelers to remove their shoes and pocket change? Denver's International Airport's screeners are micro-managed and harassed by their supervisors to the point that their job performance suffers. Something to think about the next time you're stepping through that metal detector.