IS HEATHROW’S TERMINAL 5 WORTH THE HYPE?
Over the weekend, I was at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, which is an iconic event for foodies.
Prior to that, I was over in London to check out the new Terminal 5 that will be opening up next month.
As you may know, I’m no big fan of Heathrow.
In fact, last year I was boycotting Heathrow because of the ridiculous one-bag carry-on rule that the BAA had imposed. They’ve lifted that now, and even better, they’re about to open Terminal 5.
It really looks great, I have to tell you. I was not expected to be impressed and I was. They’re going to be able to handle 12,000 bags an hour, 80,000 passengers a day, out of just one terminal. It’s spacious; they’ve got great restaurants there.
Literally, it’s a place to hang, which bothers me. When they build a terminal as a place to hang, what does that tell you? You’ll be spending a lot of time waiting for a plane.
So I’m not that excited on one level because even though this is a brand-new terminal, it’s been years in the making, and it looks gorgeous, they haven’t added to the number of runways at Heathrow.
So when they’re talking about Open Skies in Europe, it would be nice to talk about open runways. Till they get that part handled, the delays will be there, but now, you’ll be able to spend money (and relax) while you wait.
DELTA-NORTHWEST MERGER STILL LOOMS
The Delta-Northwest merger that was supposed to be announced this week has been held up as the Northwest pilots are trying to cut a better deal for themselves at the last minute. Which they probably will do.
That announcement is going to happen probably in the next few days. I don’t think it’s going to be derailed internally. It still has a lot of federal regulatory hurdles to get through, but on an internal level, both boards have met, both boards have voted on it.
Now, it’s just a question of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on a lot of different initiatives, especially concerning the pilots of Northwest.
WHAT TO DO WITH THOSE FREQUENT-FLIER MILES
We talked about this on the Today show last week, and I’ll talk about it again. If you’ve got frequent-flier miles, I don’t care what the airlines tell you, use them. Miles are being devalued by the minute.
Let me give you an example of how bad it’s going to be: Northwest sent out an email to its members saying that as an “added enhancement” to our program, we’re going to offer you a deal.
The deal is that normally a fare from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Paris is $917. But, if you give us $513 and 50,000 miles, we’ll give you the ticket. A flight from Detroit to Seattle is $755 regularly, or $241 and 25,000 miles.
So, I went on Kayak.com and I found the Northwest flights on those exact dates available for a straight purchase, not for $917, but $663. And it only gets worse.
Under their mileage-cash offer, the airline wanted $709 plus 60,000 miles. The ticket itself was $47 more than a straight purchase on Kayak, but the airline still wanted you to part with 60,000 miles.
This is absurd. Talk about worthless miles; the airlines just want cash. As far as I’m concerned, this is a very bad deal.
U.S. Air sent out another email to its members saying that as a “value-added enhancement,” you no longer get a 500-mile minimum of mileage, no matter how long the flight is—you get just whatever the mileage is for that flight. What’s the most expensive flight per mile?
The Washington-to-New York shuttle. You know what the round-trip is on that? $670.
And you’re only going to get 240 miles? For $679, you can fly to Paris. Why would you get on the Washington-to-New York shuttle?
Let’s hear it for Amtrak. Forget about your mileage; even Amtrak has a mileage program that’s better than this right now.
As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t redeem your miles now, don’t come crying to me later. Because guess what, you can’t even redeem most of them right now. They keep redemption levels to less than 11 percent.
It’s a better return on investment than loan sharking. The airlines make a gazillion dollars selling miles to thousands of partners, but they also control redemption.
Guess what? They know when they’re selling them that they have no intention of redeeming them.
They carry those miles as a contingent liability on their books, but that’s an artificial liability, because they’ll know they’ll never have to redeem them .The actual value of frequent-flier program are worth more than the actual airlines themselves.
CASTRO RESIGNS AND CRUISE LINES CHEER
Last, but certainly not least, Fidel Castro is resigning. That means no one is marching on the streets yet, but I’ll tell you who is getting ready to march: the cruise lines.
They have privately and secretly chartered seven viable harbors in Cuba. The minute that door opens up, it won’t be the hoteliers in there, it won’t be the airlines in there that fast, it will be the cruise lines.
They have their own infrastructure and they don’t need hotels. All those other Caribbean countries will be scared out of their minds because the market physically, literally about to shift, with everyone wanting to be first on their block to sail into Cuba.
Mark my words when I tell you that will be happening sooner than later. Raul Castro is, unofficially, a bigger capitalist than his brother. So get ready for that because money talks, and when it comes to tourism, it’s Cuba’s biggest product.
Read more from Peter’s blog, the Travel Detective Files.
Learn how you can get a taste of Cuba in Miami with this online interview with Jorge Castillo of “Three Guys from Miami”.