What to Know Now

Flying from Oslo to Heathrow last month I made a wager with the business traveler next to me on our BA A319: for how long would we circle over London before landing? He said five minutes, I said fifteen, and after two laps over the grey foggy city we finally landed just past schedule in T5.

Heathrow doesn’t have enough landing capacity. Everybody knows it, everyone wants to fix it (well, except the neighbors), and yet we still can’t do anything to make changes. Worse, one of the main players in securing a new runway just resigned from his position as the airport’s chief executive.

It gets far murkier than a simple runway and a few extra landing slots. There’s politics, money and no shortage of controversy. But if Heathrow wants to keep winning awards, people have to be able to land there.

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Top Story

Delta is pushing hard to be America’s next premium carrier. We’ve already seen them eviscerate reposition their mileage program to cater better to higher-spending travelers. Their inflight magazine has been rebranded to cater to a more “digitally affluent” community. And today, they launched in-flight amenity kits for long haul economy passengers.

It’s a great addition for passengers, no doubt, but all of the upgrades beg the question of what sort of demographic Delta is targeting. Is it the cost-conscious budget traveler or the deeper-pocketed, premium fare? And if it is the latter, where will the budget travelers go?

Social Quote of the Day

On one hand, devalued miles. On the other hand…ice cream. Maybe this can work out, after all.

@JoeCortez, Travel writer at @aboutdotcom

A Southwest Airlines jet waits on the tarmac at Denver International Airport in Denver


Airlines Push Subscription Programs as the Next Phase in Loyalty: With airlines such as Delta and United devaluing their miles, making travelers pay more to redeem them, airline subscription programs that offer additional checked bags or preferred seats for up-front, annual fees will become more effective in terms of winning loyal users.  Thus argues IdeaWorks Co. in a new mini-report, ”Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Ancillary Revenue and Airlines. Read more at Skift

Southwest Airlines, Once a Brassy Upstart, Is Showing Its Age: At Midway Airport here on Jan. 2, Southwest Airlines Co. canceled a third of its flights, lost 7,500 bags and, at one point, had 66 aircraft on the ground—about twice as many as the carrier has gates. Passengers were stuck on the tarmac late into the night.  A severe snowstorm was the main culprit, but Southwest managers also blamed ramp workers, suggesting that nearly a third of them called in sick to protest slow contract talks. Read more at WSJ, or don’t because it’s behind a paywall

Supreme Court Rules Against Frequent Flier Kicked Out of Loyalty Program: The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Minnesota rabbi who complained about an airline’s frequent flier program is out of luck.  The justices unanimously sided with Northwest Airlines and dismissed a lawsuit from Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg that alleged he was stripped of his top-level frequent flier status because he complained too much. Read more at Skift

An Emirates airlines Airbus A380 comes in for landing over the roof of the Beijing Capital International Airport's train station


Beijing Airport Making Moves on Atlanta’s Busiest Airport Title: Hartsfield-Jackson International is still the world’s busiest airport, but other airports are closing the gap, the latest annual figures show. Read more at Skift

Heathrow Boss Quits, Just When It Most Needs a Third Runway Champion: Heathrow has started the search for a new chief executive after announcing that Colin Matthews is to stand down after six years running Britain’s largest airport. Read more at Skift

Singapore’s Changi Airport Revamps its Own Traveler Loyalty Program: Fresh on the tails of winning the 2014 SkyTrax World’s Best Airport award last week, at Passenger Terminal Expo in Barcelona, Singapore Changi Airport has decided they can do better. Read more at Skift
Airlines collected record baggage fees in 2012


3 New Ways Airports Are Using Technology to Better Track Luggage: Airports are investing in technological innovations and systems improvements to ensure that fewer bags are mishandled or lost. Read more at Skift

In-Flight Calls Aren’t Nearly as Annoying as Passengers Fear: What would the friendly skies look like if you could use your cell phone on flights in U.S. airspace? Read more at Skift

5 New Travel Startups That Provide Shortcuts to Better Booking: Travel booking is a hassle for everyone from individual backpackers to multimillion dollar companies. These tools want to cut down on the costs and time needed to plan and then get from point A to point B. Read more at Skift

Lyft Raises $250 Million to Expand Car-Sharing Service in U.S. and Abroad: Lyft today announced its fourth institutional funding round. Vroom, vroom. Read more at Skift
hotel minibar


Minibar Vodka Is Cheaper Than Water and Peanuts In Most Hotel:  $18.23. That’s how much a can of nuts costs, on average, in Toronto hotel minibars. That was the highest pricetag (in US dollars) for nuts in TripAdvisor’s Tripindex survey of room service prices across the world—though the hotels in New York, Oslo, and some other cities weren’t that far behind. Read more at Skift

Marriott Completes Protea Acquisition Doubling Its Presence in Middle East, Africa: Marriott has completed its acquisition of South Africa’s Protea Hospitality Group, securing a total of 10,148 rooms in seven African countries. Read more at Skift

Non-refundable room rules leave some hot about hotels: If you think the airline industry doesn’t do anything right, think again.  A few weeks ago, Brian Crummy had to pay for the same night twice at two different hotels.  The reason: His plans changed, and the rate he’d booked was completely non-refundable and non-changeable, even when he waved his diamond elite card at the receptionist. Read more at USA Today

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Can be sent to [email protected] and @grantkmartin. We publish the Business Newsletter twice a week on Monday and Thursday.


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Photo credit: Passengers queue at check-in desks at Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport in London. Luke MacGregor / Reuters

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