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After posting some news regarding Continental’s LiveTV and WiFi announcement I decided to do a little reading.

Come to find out, the WiFi implementation being pursued by Continental is the same technology in place on a test aircraft for JetBlue.

This technology comes with a caveat, it only works on certain Blackberry devices and only provides Yahoo! centric content. Yahoo! Mail is available (if you have it) but it is an extremely slimmed down version, offering little advantage for business travelers without WiFi enabled Blackberries.

I have to give this a thumbs down. Continental should pursue something similar to what American Airlines is in the process of testing, restricted, but not pigeonholed, internet access.

Continental Airlines has announced that they will be rolling out LiveTV and a WiFi capability to their 737-700s, 737-800s, 737-900s, 737-900ERs, and 757-300s.

LiveTV will feature 36 channels supplied by DirecTV on every seatback monitor. The access will be free for all first class passengers while the coach charge will be $6. In addition, there will be free WiFi throughout the aircraft, available free of charge that allows smartphones, laptops, and Blackberries to instant message, check e-mail, and browse.

The announcement comes as little surprise as there have been hints of such a move for a while. LiveTV does not interest me that much as I usually read or work while in the air, but for those who need to know what CNN is doing at all hours, this is perfect. I’m sure the television will be a big hit with the infrequent traveler but may strike a nerve with those are on the road a lot and see the airplane as somewhat of a relaxation area between clients.

The WiFi is more of a mixed bag. I love the idea of being able to send and receive e-mail while flying but at the same time, it comes back to being separated from the hustle and bustle for a while. After being in meetings all week with clients, business travelers just want to get home, not e-mailing back and forth with the just visited client.

This will be something to keep watching as Continental is not the only airline to offer WiFi, Southwest and American Airlines have announced their testing of the technology as well.

News spread fast of Delta’s desire to merge with United Airlines or Northwest Airlines. It has been known for some time that a merger in the airline industry would happen, the only question was, who would it be. Now that it looks imminent that Delta will actually go through with a merger, let’s examine the affects it will have on the industry and the traveller.

The affect on the industry

The immediate result will be a slightly chaotic scramble for all of the airlines to resecure their market and assess the damage done by a merger. From alliance ties to hub locations, all of the airlines will have to figure out the balance that will work post-merger, even if they are not directly involved.

Hubs are one of the bigger points of contention. With consolidation comes operations movement and my prediction is the move away from using Salt Lake City as a hub if Delta chooses United Airlines or Cincinnati if Northwest is their choice. Salt Lake City has been a great hub for Delta but has not completely filled their needs for a west coast drop off point. With United’s firm grasp on both the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets, Delta’s hold becomes much tighter. Their ability to offer multiple transcontinental flights to multiple markets would be near unstoppable, competing heavily just with American and Continental.

If Northwest is the airline chosen, then I could see Salt Lake City being used more heavily and the Cincinnati airport slowly decommissioned as a hub. CVG is a nice airport and handles multiple types of traffic but I am not sure the market it serves is large enough to justify its continued use. Delta would be much better off with a more centrally located airport to serve the middle U.S. while at the same time being able to get more people across the Atlantic. My only reservation with Memphis is its heavy use by FedEx for operations. This could potentially lead to traffic issues, resulting in delays and poor performance.

The other big piece of the merger pie is the aircraft situation. Northwest’s fleet of DC-9s is growing old. Though they are paid off, their condition continues to deteriorate, leading to an uncomfortable experience and sometimes delayed flight. Delta would sell these planes off if they absorbed Northwest. If United ends up being the focus of Delta’s acquisition desires, I could see portions of the United fleet being sold off as well as some of Delta’s MD-88s. In either case, I think Delta will aim to find the perfect balance for new international traffic and connecting flights around the country.

One more aspect to consider is the airline industry as a whole. If a merger is allowed to proceed, there is potential for a third airline to go out of business. That’s right, US Airways may bite the dust if the industry is condensed and a positive experience reached. This would effectively rid the industry of what many consider a “bottom feeder”.

The affect on travellers

There is a lot of speculation that a Delta merger could be detrimental to customers for a number of reasons. The main reason to worry is the fact that there will be less seats available and therefore higher fares. As one airline merges with another they will certainly reduce the size of their fleets (see above), effectively choking the market. Customers will be forced to pay the fares because they will be some of the only options are certain routes. While this will probably be handled by the SEC there is always the possibility that ticket prices will significantly increase.

The other point of contention is frequent flyer programs. As the programs become one, the value of the mileage becomes less because, again, the number of reward seats available on flights will be drastically reduced. The reduction in the number of seats will be caused by an increase in program subscribers and artificially by the airline, who will want to make sure that they are not “giving away” too much, even though tickets purchased with miles are seen as revenue.

Conclusion

So where does that leave us? In my opinion, a merger may be the boost the airline industry needs. Quality and standards are fairly low, both at United and Northwest and by merging with a carrier that is slowly working to get it right, they may produce a better product. It is hard to ignore that the need for more capacity in certain markets is growing quickly while in others it is being forced to diminish. By allowing Delta to merge with one of these carriers we can hope to see both of these criteria occur. Delta can effectively serve the west coast as well as foreign markets it has yet to touch while possibly reducing waste.

Of course there are negatives to this, namely, the reduction in capacity. This may lead to sharp increase in fare prices, pushing more customers to the low cost carriers Southwest and JetBlue.

The industry needs an overhaul, let’s just hope this one is for the better.

Stuff; I keep it. For no reason at all, I have a habit of hanging on to things that are no longer needed, take up space, and look cluttered. How long have I been doing this? For as long as I can remember. The kicker is that it has trickled into my computer habits and now I find myself not deleting PDFs and having data spread out all over my harddrive.

This is bad practice, I know. I can admit it is a form of being a packrat, though I am not sure my room or computer desktop look like those pictures. My reasons for keeping things is purely the possibility needing something later in time, even though, in the back of my mind I doubt the need will materialize. I keep information brochures on things that will probably never be used, text documents containing flight information from three years ago and coupons for pizza that expired years ago.

So, after years of this type of behavior, I am working on just getting rid of stuff. During a recent flight I went through my computer harddrive and just started deleting things that were spread out everywhere. If I did not know what the file was by looking at the name and its location, it went in the trash. In my room, I’ve emptied a basket of papers that I no longer need and filed the ones I do. There is progress but it is sometimes difficult for me to part with something I think I may need or use in the future. I’ll keep trying.

British Airways announced a new subsidiary airline called OpenSkies that will operate flights between New York and Continental Europe utilizing 3-class Boeing 757s. The aircraft will be configured with Business, Premium Economy, and Economy seats.

This is somewhat of a surprise since BA’s competition across the Atlantic is fierce, especially with Business Class only carriers. Their idea is novel though, as the plane configuration, with a premium economy section, will attract more customers wanting a comfortable ride to Europe.

OpenSkies has not announced which New York area airport it will fly out of, but my guess would be that they actually split traffic between JFK and EWR to keep some landing slots open for the widebody fleet.

Eventually we will have to see one of these airlines going across the Atlantic in 757s cut service due to lack of demand. The air will be clogged with flights from multiple U.S. and international carriers going between mainland Europe and cities around the United States and there won’t be anyone on some of them. The one upside is the fact that ticket prices should drop significantly when the Open Skies agreement is finally observed.

A belated “Happy New Year!” to anyone who still visits.

Yes, I am alive and well and back in Houston after a long break for Christmas and the ringing-in of 2008.

My recent trip to Chicago and small town Indiana was capped on both ends with upgrades to first class on Continental Airlines, and I would like to point out a few things.

For one, Continental’s upgrade methods are probably some of the easiest in the industry to acquire, especially after you understand the way it works. As an elite OnePass member, you receive complimentary upgrades whenever there is space available on the aircraft. First to be upgraded are Platinums, then Golds, and finally Silvers. There is also a fourth group of fliers who can be upgraded, the Y class ticket-holders. Y class tickets are full fare economy tickets. After all of the OnePass members have been upgraded, Y class ticket holders are upgraded in order of check-in time (as long as there is space available).

For my trip, the system worked flawlessly. I was set to leave on December, 26th and upon checking-in noticed that my seat was changed to 1B. A pleasant surprise. On the return, I was put in 2A and was going to give the upgrade to my girlfriend Jess but after talking to the gate agent, was actually able to get her in the front cabin with me. I have pondered how the gate agent was able to give me the seat and after watching the gate area I think I figured it out.

For one, this was a packed flight. Since it was the 31st of December, there were not a lot of business travelers (elites) and I’m assuming there were not any Y class ticket holders. I simply walked up to the gate and asked if there was any room in the front cabin. The agent looked at me and surprisingly said “yes”. A few minutes later and Jess had a seat next to me, making the trip home even more enjoyable.

The time in Indiana was well spent with family and it was a real treat to be able to spend more quality time with my grandmother who has not been well over the last year. I will post pictures from the trip as soon as I get them organized and uploaded.

This blog will be seeing some changes and a potential move over the next few weeks so stay tuned.