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As a person who traveled extensively on United last year and who also carefully monitors industry media, I see two sides to the airline every day. In the media, it seems like United can’t get a break. Frequent flyers criticize them for copying everything Delta does. Analysts boldly call them “laggards” in an industry that’s moving around them. Passengers give them grief about the default television station. Really.

In the air, things aren’t quite so dramatic. Sure, upgrades are hard to get, but the product is improving and everyone seems to hum along convivially. Like most airlines, there are good days and there are bad days — and there are certainly good humans and bad humans along the way.

Metaphorically speaking, my trip to Los Angeles and back yesterday may sum up the airline well. We got in early, but had to sit on the tarmac waiting for a stand to free up. On the way back: twenty minutes delayed thanks to a late-arriving aircraft. United is fine. Good even. The question is whether they can thrive when everyone else becomes great.

I’d be interested in your experiences as well. Send a note to gm[at]skift[dot]com if you’ve noticed a big change in United over the last few years.

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Social Quote of the Day

Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t fly @united for the food. Although I’m really not sure why I fly @united tbh.

@zachhonig | Zach Honig, Mullen Account Director




United Set to Replace Old Long-Haul Planes With New Boeing 777s: United Airlines is preparing to place an order for 10 of Boeing Co.’s largest twin-engine jetliners to replace older aircraft plying its longest routes, said people familiar with its plans. Read more at Skift

Delta’s Fuel Costs Keep Dropping, But Its Airfares Are Staying the Same: Delta Air Lines benefitted from plunging fuel prices during the fourth quarter but officials are steadfastly declining to entertain the prospect of delivering lower airfares and instead plan on using the windfall to pay down debt and to return cash to shareholders. Read more at Skift

Can a Focus on ‘Sexy’ Save Alitalia From Itself? While admitting he’s been asked not to refer to Alitalia this way, James Hogan, President and CEO of Etihad Aviation Group and Vice Chairman of Alitalia, called the airline the “sexiest brand in aviation” when unveiling a new strategic plan for the Italian carrier. Read more at Skift

AMERICAN EXPRESS Celebrates the Opening of The Centurion Lounge at New York LaGuardia Airport


American Express Is Changing the Lounge Game With Centurion Lounges: The lounges, which have been steadily growing over the last few years, are “exclusive” clubs for American Express cardholders. Inside, there’s free Wi-Fi, a concierge service and most importantly, in my opinion, hearty and decent food. Past the hard product though, what these lounges really represent is the future of the industry. Read more at Skift

LaGuardia Airport Rail Link Proposed by New York Governor: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans Tuesday to fulfill a long-held dream for New York City travelers: a rail link to LaGuardia Airport, one of the busiest airports in the nation. Read more at Skift

The Foreign Faces Behind Qatar’s Hospitality Workforce: Qatar’s tourism industry is experiencing quick growth with visitor arrivals nearly doubling from 1.4 million visitors in 2008 to 2.6 million visitors in 2013. The growth is being driven by Qatar Airways’ expanding network, the constant appearance of new attractions, and the country’s first real marketing push. Read more at Skift 



Uber Does Well With Business Travelers but Taxis Still Winning: When business travelers devise how they’ll get to meetings while on the road, they’re increasingly pulling up their Uber apps for transportation rather than waiting in line at a car rental counter. Read more at Skift

Marriott Tests Guest Streaming of Hulu, Netflix and Pandora on Hotel TVs: Hotels may be the next stop on Netflix Inc.’s quest to build the world’s first global online television network. Read more at Skift

Top 10 Hotel Brands on Social Media for December 2014: The holiday season found hotel brands teasing potential guests with treats like gourmet sweets and specialty libations, as well as contests to exotic (and warm) destinations. Read more at Skift

Uber Adds Another $1.6 Billion to Help Fuel Expansion: Uber Technologies Inc. raised $1.6 billion in convertible debt from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s wealth management clients, according to people with knowledge of the matter, as the mobile car-booking company builds its finances to expand internationally. Read more at Skift

Jason Pomeranc_SIXTY Collective_JPG


Interview: Rosewood CEO Sonia Cheng on Beating Luxury Expectations: Hong Kong’s luxury hotel collection Rosewood Hotel Group is embarking on an ambitious expansion strategy through 2015 with plans to nearly double its inventory of 54 hotels across 17 countries. There are nearly 40 new hotels currently under development. Read more at Skift

Viceroy Hotels’ Founder to Launch New Proper Hotels Brand: With the rise of so-called urban “innovation districts” rearranging so many downtown cores so quickly, there’s been a lack of hotel product to keep pace that aligns with the startup and creative professional crowds swarming to them. Read more at Skift

Interview: SIXTY Hotels CEO Jason Pomeranc on the New Boutique Stay: Jason Pomeranc was bred to be a hotelier. He attended university in New York City before joining his father’s real estate firm, which later opened the 60 Thompson hotel in 2001. Pomeranc led what was then one of first trail-blazing boutique hotel groups for the next decade before merging the 12-property brand with the Joie de Vivre chain to create Commune Hotels & Resorts. Read more at Skift

Your Turn

Cheers to Dylan Lowe who just started The Ripple Movement, a new travel reporting concept here.

Tips and Comments

Can be sent to and @grantkmartin. We publish the Business Newsletter twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday, but sometimes on Friday.

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Photo Credit: United's Economy Plus seat. United Airlines