New York Top Hotels Convert to Condo’s at Rapid Rate

It is not only the Plaza that has converted some of its rooms in New York City recently as this International Herald Tribune article states, but many of the top properties in the city are converting to condo’s. And the list of potential buyers continues to grow. The cachet of living in one of the top hotels is too much to resist for some of the elite. To be able to say, I am staying at my Plaza apartment is the newest game to play.

In the past three years hundreds of hotel rooms in New York have been converted into condominium apartments, including space at some of the city’s most historic and elegant hotels. The list includes The Plaza, the St. Regis, The Stanhope and the St. Moritz. About 1,200 rooms were converted in 2004 and in 2005, up from about 200 in 2001 and in 2002.

The conversions have been spurred, in part, by intense market demand for luxury real estate, as well as for homes that come with a broad range of hotel-like services, such as housekeeping, room service and someone to park the car. The demand for such hybrid residences has far surpassed the expectations of market analysts and even those of the most optimistic developers.

“We are not just selling real estate. We are selling a way of life, and the response has been overwhelming,” said Ian Schrager, the hotelier and developer who converted part of the Gramercy Park Hotel to condominiums last year. “It’s the ultimate luxury: an effortless, carefree way of living in a modern, complex, hectic city.” via International Herald Tribune

Crossposted at The Real Estate Bloggers.

Midwest to Start Allowing Pets to Fly and Earn Frequent Flyer Miles

DogtravelerNPR’s Marketplace radio show has a nice feature on Midwest Airlines new policy on allowing pets to ride in the main cabin with their owners. This is an interesting idea for the flying public as it can provide an irritant that could make a crying baby seem tame, but also provide a new source of revenue for the struggling airlines and capture a part of the public that would have driven to their destination so their pets could accompany them.

Midwest Airlines is about to start allowing passengers to bring small pets with them into the cabin. The animals can even earn mileage rewards. As WUWM contributor Ann-Elise Henzl reports, the move is a shrewd one for the bottom line. 

Click here to listen to the Marketplace show.

Japan Airlines CEO Asked To Resign

JapanairlinesThe CEO of Japan Airlines,  Toshiyuki Shinmachi, and two of his top executives have been asked by 4 of the companies directors to resign due to “Poor Performance”. The shakeup was unexpected because he had been hired within the past year. However, the airline continued to have safety and revenue issues that Shinmachi was brought in to rectify, and this led to his dismissal.

“This means the current management is not functioning at all, and the airline’s situation is worse than I expected,” said Yoku Ihara, research head at Retela Crea Securities in Tokyo.

“The airline needs to take drastic measures by reshuffling management, including those who asked for the resignation.”

 Shinmachi, promoted to the top job at Japan’s largest carrier less than a year ago, has been under pressure to improve the airline’s safety record, cut costs and raise earnings. Fuel prices have surged and passengers have switched to All Nippon Airways after reports of at least 18 safety lapses last year, helping to triple Japan Airlines’ third-quarter loss to ¥11.1 billion, or $93.6 million.

Japan Airlines said last week that it was likely to report a loss of ¥47 billion in the year ending March 31.  via International Herald Tribune

Hotel Rates to Rise Significantly in 2006

It looks like the combination of increased travel and very few hotel rooms being built are going to contribute to a significant increase in the cost of hotel rooms in the United States in 2006. It is amazing how cyclical the price of hotel rooms and airline tickets are. They are the true examples of the laws of supply and demand.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm, predicts that the average daily hotel rate nationwide will rise by 5.8 percent this year, after an increase of 5.3 percent last year, and that in many major business travel cities, the increases will be even higher. In New York, according to a new report from the firm, the average price for a hotel room is projected to go up by 14 percent; in Miami, the figure is 9.1 percent, and in Chicago, 7.6 percent.
“The only things that will slow down the rate increase would be a severe economic slowdown and a lot of new hotel supply,” said Michael Rietbrock, who follows the hotel industry for Citigroup Investment Research. “There is not a lot of new supply coming.”  via New York Times.

Warwick Rail Line Will Connect With Boston Logan International Airport

It looks like the options for the flying public will be increasing in the Boston and Providence area as a new rail line will be introduced connecting the regional airports.

Plans are under way to expand commuter rail service to T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., by 2008, linking the airport with Boston via Providence.
In addition to many of the same carriers that fly in and out of Boston’s Logan International Airport, T.F. Green serves as a terminal for Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) of Dallas.
A second station is planned for North Kingstown, R.I., the Associated Press reported Monday, near the University of Rhode Island’s campus in Kingston. via

Northwest Pilots Initiate Strike Vote

Northwest03Northwest Airlines Pilot’s Union (ALPA) has called for a strike vote. They will be voting to go out on strike as they do not like the concessions the bankruptcy judge is looking at. As I have said previously about the Delta pilots, this is absolute madness. There are too many pilots chasing too few jobs to go out on strike. If they do so, Northwest will no longer exist, they will no longer have the seniority and potential income they had before the strike.

But they are buying into the mob mentality, and that always leads to insane decisions. I have a few friends who are pilots for Northwest, and I hope and pray they show some common sense and do not jeopardize the future of their career and families, and all of the families of the other Northwest employees.

The voting period will last 15 days, with ballots being counted Feb. 28.
If the pilots authorize a strike, the Air Line Pilots Association leadership will have the authority to call a strike if Northwest’s management team imposes terms and conditions of employment on the pilot group.
“Northwest pilots want to reach a consensual agreement with management and ALPA is continuing to work towards that goal, but management’s arrogant and excessive demands are unacceptable and are putting Northwest’s future in serious jeopardy,” said Mark McClain, chairman of the pilots union. “Northwest pilots understand the serious nature of a strike, but we will defend ourselves with all available ‘self-help’ options up to and including the complete withdrawal of pilot services from Northwest Airlines.”  via Memphis Business Journal.

Detroit Laser Incident Causes Trouble for Pilots

The pointing of a laser at an airplane is a felony, and in Detroit there were more than a dozen incidents that have occurred in the last couple of days. If the laser hits a pilots eyes, it could harm their vision and cause either temporary or permanent blindness. If this happened when walking down the street, it would be dangerous enough, but when done to the a pilot flying a plane in for landing with hundreds of passengers, the damage could be disastrous.

The incident occurred in the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights areas, where 16 pilots reported seeing the laser pointer lights near the tower at Metro Airport, Local 4 reported.
Apparently the lights were being flashed at planes on their final approach into the Detroit area. The first instance reported was near the Home Depot in Dearborn Heights, then a short time after the light originated from a neighborhood near Telegraph Road and Lehigh Road, according to police.
Police say shining a laser pointer at a plane is a felony and could lead to a dangerous situation.
“Just be a small laser, when it goes up into the cockpit, then it really can blind the pilot,” said Capt. Lee Gavin, Dearborn Heights Police Department. via Yahoo! News.

Cirque Niagara – Another Upgrade For Niagara Falls

We went to Niagara Falls a couple of weeks ago, and even in the dead of winter the region you can see the vast improvements that have been invested in the city and landmark. What was once a dingy and rundown area, is now a vibrant and interesting tourist destination. Now a 10 million dollar investment is being made to bring a new entertainment show to the region. Cirque Niagara is coming to entertain visitors.

A group of Ontario investors, including private-sector interests from Hamilton and Toronto, will open Cirque Niagara during Victoria Day weekend, on May 20. The big-top show, patterned after Cirque du Soleil and Cavalia productions, incorporates acrobatics, equestrian events and Las Vegas-style showmanship into a two-hour show.
Cirque Niagara is slated for Rapidsview Park near Marineland amusement park and is the latest venture aimed at capitalizing on the growing Niagara Falls tourism market.
The twice-a-day shows will run from May 20 to Oct. 8, wrapping up over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. The investors expect the shows to attract nearly 420,000 people this season.  via Business First of Buffalo.

New Hampshire Women Loses Racial Descrimination Lawsuit Against Southwest

Southwest2A lawsuit filed by a woman who was so overweight that Southwest required her to buy 2 seats. She did not file over the policy, but that she was discriminated against due to her being African American. A jury decided that her racial status had no bearing on Southwest’s decision and she lost her lawsuit yesterday.

The Exeter woman who lost a racial discrimination lawsuit against Southwest Airlines says she will not appeal because she does not want to be humiliated in public again.
Nadine Thompson, a cosmetics executive, said she has no desire to again be characterized “as a fat, black, foul-mouthed ghetto momma.
“It was the most humiliating thing I’ve ever gone through in my life,” she told the Portsmouth Herald.
Thompson accused Dallas-based Southwest of discriminating against her by singling her out on the flight and requesting that she buy a second seat. The airline said its employees made mistakes in the way they attempted to follow a policy of having large passengers buy a second seat, but denied any racial discrimination.
A U.S. District Court jury rejected Thompson’s discrimination complaint on Friday. via

US Airways Tests Discounted Tickets From Piedmont Triangle Airport

In an attempt to get passengers flying out of one of the smaller regional airports in North Carolina and not driving to Raleigh Durham International Airport, US Airways has cut the airfare by 25 to 40 percent on all flights going out of Piedmont Triad International Airport. This will be interesting to see if it is a trend by US Airways and other airlines to boost regional airport traffic by lowering fares at the smaller airports and bring people back, as opposed to having them drive to the larger airports that offer direct flights.

US Airways announced Monday that it was cutting fares on flights to 33 cities from Piedmont Triad International Airport. The airline has 23 daily flights from PTI, making it the airport’s largest carrier.

Prices on advanced purchases have been cut an average of 25 percent while walk-up fares, the most common for business travelers, have been cut an average of 40 percent.
The new fare structure took effect immediately, Feb. 13. Among the cities with discounted fares are Chicago, Boston, Dallas and Phoenix. Most of the flights will go through the US Airways hubs in Charlotte or Philadelphia.

US Airways to offer discounted fares from PTI – 2006-02-13.