Smaller Cities Continue to Lose Air Service
by Fred Gebhart /

Can’t Get There From Here? You Might Have to Drive
At least 27 city airports have lost service from Delta, United, and other mainline carriers over the last two years, and more cuts are planned, according to Forecast International. To save fuel and cut costs, carriers are parking or scrapping hundreds of jets and turboprop aircraft with fewer than 50 seats. A Bombardier 50-seat CRJ-200 burns 19 gallons of fuel to fly each passenger 50 miles. That compares to just 7.5 gallons for a 160-seat MD-90 to fly that same passenger 500 miles. Even less fuel is used by larger, more fuel-efficient models. Business travelers headed for smaller  cities with shorter runways and outdated electronics may have no choice but to drive several hours from the nearest larger airport.

Holiday Slump Could Be Good for Last-Minute Biz Travel
Bad news in consumer travel may help business travelers. Maritz Research is projecting a significant decline in leisure holiday travel this year. According to Maritz, just 21% of Americans plan to travel this holiday season, compared to 28% in 2010. With fewer leisure trips planned, business travelers could find increased seat availability and lower prices as carriers try to maintain load factors and profits. (Editor’s note: Maritz’ forecast of decreased holiday travel is in conflict with at least one other projections. See: “Good News! Per-Trip Spending Is Up Nearly $500”)

Air Travel: So Many Gripes, So Little Time
What are the five most annoying things about air travel these days? A new U.S. Travel Association survey found that four of the top five complaints relate to security measures put in place by the Transportation Security Administration. The top gripes:
•    travelers bringing too many carryon bags through security (72%)
•    uncomfortable airplane seats (70%)
•    lines at TSA checkpoints (68%)
•    having to remove shoes, belts, and coats at TSA checkpoints (62%)
•    unfriendly TSA employees (42%)
While 66% of air travelers said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the TSA’s performance, for frequent travelers, the approval rating dropped to 55%. The online survey was released in time to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which created the TSA.

Hey, We Can Dream, Can’t We?
“Every business traveler would like to stay at the Four Seasons and eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, every day, every trip. Too bad that would blow the budget.” – Goran Gligorovic, executive VP, Omega World Travel, Fairfax, Va.

Hotel Occupancies, Rates Are Up in the Americas
Hotels in the Americas are getting more crowded and more expensive, according to Smith Travel Research. STR Global said average occupancy climbed nearly 3% in October to 63%, with a 4% increase in average daily rate to $106.69 and a 7% bump to revenue per available room. Miami had the biggest jump in occupancy, up 9% to 75%. Buenos Aires had the largest occupancy decline, down 10% to 67.. Sao Paulo had the biggest increase in ADR, up 21% to $147.38, while Miami had the biggest increase in revPAR, up 22% to $105.71.

New Delta App Tracks Bags in Real Time
Delta Air Lines launched a new salvo in the battle for connected travelers, a mobile app to track checked bags in real time. The Delta Baggage Tracking app was released last week for iPhone and Android; Windows and BlackBerry versions will be available sometime in December. The app lets customers scan their bags with their phones and track their location. Customers can also use the app to check in, pay luggage charges , access electronic boarding passes, make seating changes, check upgrade and standby lists, and get flight/gate information alerts.

Seven U.S. Carriers Report Q3 Profits
All seven major carriers reported operating profits for the third quarter. All but two of the carriers also reported real profits after expenses. One exception, not surprisingly, was American Airlines, which just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; also, Southwest, due to bad fuel hedging bets. Total airline profits for the quarter ending Sept. 30 hit $1.09 billion, according to Air Transport World. That’s down 45% from the $1.98 billion earned for the third quarter 2010, but not bad given year-on-year increases in fuel and other costs. Capacity was almost flat, while load factors hit 85%. The average yield increased nearly 8% to 14.58 cents, even as the cost per available seat mile jumped 13% to 13.03 cents, due largely to fuel cost increases.

Bad Weather Creates Hefty Cost Increases
The Global Business Travel Association recently confirmed what travelers and travel managers know instinctively: Bad weather drives travel costs higher. Based on a hypothetical Category 3 hurricane on the East Coast, GBTA estimates that 11 eastern states would lose an average of 55,400 business trips a day, at an average cost of $58 million a day. Delaware would be least affected, losing 9,400 trips and $11 million a day. New York is the big loser, down 133,000 business trips and $157 million for every day of a severe storm.