THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2020 --
Want some good news? Unlike House Impeachment managers and the President's legal team, I don't get 24 hours to make a case. I get around 1,000 words.
So let me hit some really important business travel topics really fast. I mean really fast. I could have written a full column on each of these four topics. But I figured you'd appreciate the brevity given what's happening in the outside world.
YOU'RE NOT NUTS. PREMIUM DISCOUNTS ARE DISAPPEARING.
Tried to book an international premium class ticket lately? What was your reaction? A spit take? A Jackie Gleason "Homina, homina, homina?" Or is your jaw still dragging along the floor?
I do not have many answers as to why fares are spiking--all I get from airline guys is, "Hey, our business is good!"--but I did want you to know that you're not crazy. Premium international fares are running up substantially and quickly. You can see it even in the bargains I post on our deals page. The moment they expire, fares skyrocket. Two examples: Last week's "deal of the week" noted that Air New Zealand was selling LAX-London business class for $3,295 roundtrip. Know what it is today? $3,847. A $550 bump in a matter of days. On a route Air New Zealand is abandoning in a matter of months! Or consider Qatar Airways, which weeks ago was promoting "flat rate" business class fares starting at $2,450 roundtrip. They're still promoting "flat rate" fares--but now the starting price is $3,210
The solution? Work harder, research more, focus more clearly on what you want. Defer some flights if prices aren't right. Consider changing your route or your carrier. And certainly consider alternatives. Norwegian Air's Premium cabin isn't an honest-to-goodness business class, but its value proposition continues to improve as mainstream prices inflate. La Compagnie can get you from Newark to Paris. There are some bargains to Asia, especially in premium economy and on some "secret routes" run by airlines using their fifth- and sixth-freedom flight rights. Look for them. Don't give up. Don't panic. But don't buckle under, either.
WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO FLY TO TEL AVIV
There is exactly one nonstop flight between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv and, clearly, that El Al flight is not enough capacity. Want to know how I know? Easy. I look at the numbers.
Guess what United Airlines' busiest international connecting market is? LAX-Tel Aviv. Nearly 36,000 roundtrip passengers made their way on United between the two cities. (United flies to Tel Aviv from its Newark and San Francisco hubs.) But, wait, there's more as they say on U.S. TV. Fifteen thousand travelers made an LAX-Tel Aviv connection using Istanbul, the hub of Turkish Airlines, United's Star Alliance partner. But, wait, there's still more as I hope they say on Israeli television. Guess which route is Turkish Airlines' busiest
worldwide international connection? If you guessed New York/JFK-Tel Aviv, you're catching on. More than 34,000 flyers in the 12 months ended September, 2019, made the JFK-IST-TLV connection. Also in Turkish's Top 20 global connection markets is Miami-Tel Aviv with more than 14,000 annual flyers. And consider this: Turkish's second-busiest international connection market after JFK-Tel Aviv is Amsterdam-Tel Aviv. In other words, folks, we need many more nonstops to Tel Aviv.
THIS IS WHY BRITISH AIRWAYS ISN'T BETTER ...
The hard, fast decline of British Airways, which continues to fly a 20-year-old business class on virtually all its planes, is literally and journalistically old news
. Yet BA generates around $477 million a year just from its old and busted business class between New York/JFK and London/Heathrow. That's thanks to more than 71,500 passengers paying an average of $3,332 each way, according to the OAG Schedule Analyzer.
BA raking in an astonishing 96 or so cents per mile from its JFK-LHR route isn't even its best performer, however. Its average business class fare between Boston/Logan and Heathrow is $3,849 each way, an eye-popping $1.18 per mile. It also generates $1.04 a mile in business class from its Washington/Dulles-Heathrow customers. But remember: Kennedy-Heathrow is the real "star" of the decrepit system. BA overcharges as many business class passengers on JFK-Heathrow as its next four best London routes combined (Singapore, Boston, Bermuda and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).
CAN CITIES SAVE TAXIS AND HAVE UBER, TOO?
Sometimes we can see the world changing around us with what seems like slow-motion clarity. Consider, for example, how ride-hail apps such as Uber and Lyft are devastating old-line industries.
They have nuked the car rental industry and pummeled taxi industries from coast-to-coast. Here's the problem, though: Do we really
want unregulated, provably uncaring and disgustingly manipulative firms controlling our ground transportation options? Cab service is lousy in a lot of towns, it's true, but at least they are regulated and made to (at least ostensibly) work for the common good as well as profit. Uber doesn't believe in the common good. Only its own profit to the exclusion of customers, its drivers and the communities it serves. Ironically, of course, Uber is also losing billions of dollars with no hope of profit anytime soon. It only hopes to keep squeezing competitors with other people's money and expects us to pay down the road for the monopoly position it creates.
It's ridiculous to think we can go backward to a world without Uber and Lyft. Besides, we wouldn't want to do it. Yet it would be a mistake to abandon our streets and our cities to firms that seem to specialize in working outside of even the minimal regulatory lines we draw for them.
And if you want to see the battle playing out in the real world in real time, follow the cliff-edge drama in Phoenix
. Uber and Lyft are threatening to abandon Sky Harbor if city fathers don't repeal new fees they were hoping to charge the firms for airport maintenance and upkeep.
Now, as they say on the cable-news networks, I yield back.