W Costa Rica - Reserva Conchal

Published by Mike Morgan on 06/10/2021

I know my last post questioned a lot about Marriott.  But, today, we're talking about what might be the greatest experience I've ever had with within the Marriott Brand. Last week, I flew United down to Costa Rica, and ended up at the W Costa Rica - Reserva Conchal (and check out their Instagram.).

Whatever / Whenever

If you know the W Brand, they're all about Whatever / Whenever.  That's sounds good, but does it really mean anything?  Gina, and the rest of the staff at the W Costa Rica, proved to me that it did mean something.  My goal was just to relax, swim, and eat some good food.  Gina, the W Insider who stalked me a little bit on Instagram, told her team about my upcoming stay (maybe @zsundquist had something to do with it as well). 

Gina met my wife and me at the main entrance. The staff was expecting us.  They offered us a special welcome drink, and handed us our keys, without much delay. 
A wonderful drink, made with local flavors.




The Room

They made sure we were in an amazing room, and we were.  Room 1410 in Tower 1 is a Fantastic Ocean View Suite.  And it was amazing.  Take a look:
The Living Room


The Living Room came with a Foosball table that also doubled as a table, a half-moon couch, a TV, a wild and colorful wall, and access to the balcony.

The Bed Room



The Bed Room featured a King bed in the middle of the room with a very cool headboard (featuring lots of power for your charging needs).  The bed also had a wonderful view of the balcony (with access to it), and ultimately a great view of the Ocean.

The Bathroom


The Bathroom was amazing.  It feature a dual-shower with direct access to the Plunge pool on the balcony.  Wait, did I say Plunge pool?

The Balcony with a Plunge Pool


Yes.  Yes, I did say Plunge Pool.  And the view, did not disappoint...
Sunset


Sunrise from the Plunge Pool


The Most Amazing Gift Ever

There have only been two times that I've really received a welcome gift from a hotel.  Both of those times were on this trip.  But what the W Costa Rica came up with was something far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  Remember how I mentioned that Gina Insta-stalked me?  So did Riccardo, the Food & Beverage Manager.  Riccardo saw my love of airplanes, and decided to put a Costa Rican spin on it.  I was told that he was inspired by the small bi-planes that fly around in his country, and wanted to create a treat that I will never forget:
The most thoughtful gift that anyone outside of my family has ever given me -- and it was delicious.





Learning to make Ceviche

The W Costa Rica had several really special ideas for Laura and me. One of them was that one of their chefs, Susan, would teach us how to make vegetarian ceviche.  Susan took her time to really explain the flavors of what she was creating for us, and I know I could never make it as well as she did.
Our Special Ceviche



Pura Vida

There were several other amazing moments including our stay at the Away Spa (which was wonderful), and when Juan Jose cooked us a special seven-course meal at Latitude 10 North.  But our stay meant a lot more to me than just those moments.  When we were leaving we got to speak with Hernán, the General Manager of the W Costa Rica.  He is an immigrant to Costa Rica, but talked about how, as time has passed, he can truly say Pura Vida from his heart. 
New York Steak & Truffle at Latitude 10 North


There is no doubt in my mind that the staff at the W Costa Rica is there to share Pura Vida with any guest who comes along.  I know that my experience there will be different than yours, but I know that your experience there will be amazing.  Please, go visit Gina and the rest of the team at the W Costa Rica.  And don't forget, Love the Journey.
Thank you for a wonderful stay!


My First Stay At A Sonesta Select

Published by Mike Morgan on 05/22/2021

Making the choice to stay at a Sonesta hotel was hard.  I never really planned on leaving Marriott Bonvoy (and hated it the few times I had to stay somewhere else), so willingly staying at another hotel chain was pretty outside of my comfort zone.  Keep in mind, I've stayed 2,134 nights in Marriott hotels (since I joined in 2003), an average of 118 nights per year.  And now I've logged three nights with Sonesta Travel Pass. Although this blog is about the hotel itself, it is hard for me not to think about the implications of my actions.  I don't currently have any more nights booked with Sonesta, whereas I do have more nights booked with Marriott, but I might start staying at both.

Sonesta Select Indianapolis Carmel

The Sonesta Select from the Northwest Entrance


The Sonesta Select Indianapolis Carmel is a former Courtyard by Marriott that I have stayed at a few times.  Being there wasn't that strange.  When I first walked in, I was greeted by a very friendly staff.  They were all former Marriott employees (the Courtyard was managed by Marriott), and mostly had good things to say about the transition from Marriott to Sonesta.

I did have one hitch when I was checking in: I booked my stay through Sonesta's website (which can be a bit challenging), but when I arrived, my Travel Pass number was not attached to the reservation.  I have to admit, I've really gotten used to Marriott's contactless checkin, where I just checkin on my app and go directly to my room.  To have to stop at a front desk was bad enough, but for my Travel Pass number to not be attached to my reservation shows some of the growing pains that Sonesta is going through.

I was given a first floor room, which I don't care for (in my Marriott profile, I have high floor set as my preference), but there were only a few people in the hotel, so it wasn't a huge bother.  When I got to the room, I was welcomed by a COVID "we've-cleaned-your-room-and-have-not-gone-back-in" sticker, which looked like it had been removed once or twice:
The slightly abused "Stay Safe" sticker.


Once I was inside the room, I almost forgot where I was.  The room still has the classic (or renovated, I guess) Courtyard look:
The room still has the Courtyard personality.



I can't say I'm overly surprised, because it had been such a short time that there really wasn't anything unique to the Sonesta brand at the hotel yet (the exterior sign was just tacked over the old Courtyard sign).

The Sonesta Experience

What really stood out to me about the stay was the attitude of the employees.  Every time I was seen by an employee, I was greeted in a delightful manor.  They always wanted to get me something (anything, really).  Part of that might be due to the fact that they were just happy someone was there (cue the lights and Lumiere... "Life is so unnerving to a servant who's not serving! He's not whole without a soul to wait upon.").  It was nice to be enjoyed as a guest.

Here's what I'm curious about: What will the identity of Sonesta Select become? There are a number of former Courtyards that are now Selects, but they still look and feel like Courtyards.  Where will Sonesta take the brand?  What will it become.

Hospitality

As I work through my personal feelings and beliefs around my own loyalty, I wonder a lot about where Hospitality begins and ends.  I've been a Marriott loyalist for years.  I've spent a good deal of my life at their hotels, as well as a good deal of my money.  On Instagram, Marriott follows 34 accounts (their brands), which isn't even something creative like when KFC followed 6 guys named Herb and the Spice Girls.  On the flip side, Sonesta has been following me, liking my posts, and generally engaging with me.  For those of you who know me, you know that with each United employee I meet, I become that much more loyal.  If Hospitality only exists inside of the walls of your hotel during a paid stay, then is it really hospitality?

I'm sure I'll stay at a few more Sonestas, and I know I'm staying at a few more Marriotts (be on the look out for a few new reviews coming soon), but, where will I end up in the long run?

That's all for now.  Just remember, wherever life takes you, love the journey.


The Kauaiott - a type of heart break I've never known

Published by Mike Morgan on 03/13/2021

Ask my wife how many times she has seen me really relax, and she will probably tell you that she's only seen that a handful of time.  I am a busy person, and my mind is always racing. Because of that, when I find a way to really "turn off", it's a precious thing. And the truth is, there has only ever been one consistent place where I have been able to find that kind of peace: The Kaua'i Marriott Resort. (lovingly referred to in my family as "The Kauauiott", sister to the "Mauiott").
The view from my favorite tower.

My First Visit

My parents took a trip to Kaua'i for their anniversary back in 1997, and knew that they wanted to bring us back. My dad worked furiously to build up enough points for a 10-day trip in 1999.  I remember when we first arrived being surprised by the long escalator down to the lobby. And then seeing that pool. I knew it was the kind of place I wanted to come back to many times. 

I have stayed at the Kauaiott eleven times. I've been with my parents, by myself, and even with my own family. One thing is consistent -- I relax when I'm there.

Heart Break.

Over the last eight years, my wife has either been pregnant or we've been raising a new born, so family trips to Hawaii were harder to come by.  In 2019, I began focusing on saving up points and miles for a trip to Kauai with my family and my parents in the summer of 2020. You can go ahead and assume that those plans fell apart.

Over the course of the last week, it has become public that the owner of the property is moving away from Marriott to become a part of the Sonesta Hotels family becoming the Royal Sonesta Kaua'i Resort Lihue.  When I found out, I was flying from Houston to Chicago, and I felt this sinking feeling that I've never felt before. I almost felt betrayed. 

You see, when I first arrived at the Kaua'i Marriott Resort, I knew I had to do whatever it would take to keep coming back.  It was while I was at that hotel several years later that I figured out what it would take for me to become Titanium For Live (Platinum for Life back then). And I did just that. I avoid any hotel that's not a Marriott property just so I can keep going back to the one place where I can really unplug -- The Kauaiott.

It's been a few days since I've found out, and I can honestly say that I'm grieving. I know that's a strange thing for a hotel changing the name on the outside, but it was just last week that I talked my wife about planning a trip there this summer.  What I would have used miles and points for, now just takes money or starting over with a new hotel chain.

Letting Go.

I doubt I'll ever let go of the Kauaiott.  And, if I ever go to the Royal Sonesta Kaua'i Resort Lihue, I'm guessing, I'll still refer to it as a Marriott property.  I won't lie, I called Anthony Capuano's (new Marriott CEO) office about ten minutes after I landed in Chicago.  I talked to his assistant and shared with her my grief.  Did it matter? No.  Did it make a difference? Not at all. Do I now have a crazy goal of buying that property and turning it back into a Marriott?  Of course.

If Sonesta Hotels wants to bring me and my family out to review it as the new property, I would go. But, Lihue, I'm not sure when I'll be back to you, because my heart is truly broken.


The JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa Review

Published by Mike Morgan on 01/18/2021

Image Copyright Marriott International





As a business traveler, going to Orlando, Florida, can seem like a chore.  It's always busy, and so much is aimed at kids, it often feels like a nightmare. But, the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa is working hard to remove the nightmare and make the dreaded annual meeting a wonderful experience.

A New Property
The JW Marriott Bonnet Creek Resort was set to open early in Spring 2020.  I spoke with Kate, the director of Human Resources, and she shared with me the excitement of meeting the cast of 350+ teammates in late February, only to be forced to send them home two weeks into their training. 

The hotel finally opened its doors in July of 2020.  The property sits on the Bonnet Creek resort, which borders the Disney World parks.  The building stands 16 floors tall with 516 rooms and 50,699 square feet of meeting space. There are two pools (one is designated for Adults only) and a single hot tub.  The resort features seven food and beverage venues, and a spa.

My Experience
I arrived for a one-night stay at the hotel after completing my mobile check in and receiving my mobile key on the Bonvoy app. Currently, the hotel is only offering valet parking.  The entrance to the hotel is beautiful:
The Main Lobby of the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek


The Main lobby includes several sitting areas and Sear + Sea, the lobby bar (which also has a full restaurant):
Sear + Sea, The Lobby Bar

I ate dinner here and had a wonderful flat-iron steak-frites:
Steak-Frites

My Room
I slept in room 1216, which was a pool-facing suite.  The room was very comfortable.  It stayed dark at night and had dual climate control. The closet was large enough to sleep in.  Here are some pictures:
The living space

The Bed Room

The bathroom, featuring a tub and a walk-in shower.



The Event Space
The event space at the hotel was beautiful.  Although I didn't spend any time in the meeting rooms, the hallways had a lot to enjoy:
The Grand Staircase with an exit to the Pool


A view from the Grand Staircase

Of course, I can't leave out the pool:
The family pool.





Final Thoughts
The views at the hotel were stunning, but the people made this place magical.  Kate just walked up to me while I was looking around and we visited for 15 or 20 minutes as we talked about the struggles of travel and running a business during COVID.  My waiter at Sear + Sea, Thomas, was thankful for the work that he was getting to do, and made sure to enjoy every minute.  I can't wait until we can all travel again and return to the joy of adventure - both for the sake of the travel industry employees, and ours.

The JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa will be in my travel future. I would even love to host an event there at some point. If you find yourself on the south side of Orlando needing a bed and a place to relax, I would encourage you to stay there as well.

You can follow the hotel on Instagram @jwbonnetcreek


2021 Goals

Published by Mike Morgan on 01/02/2021

For the past several years I've made a list of goals for each year.  These are always things like "fly in a private jet", "take my wife on a vacation to Hawaii", or "sell to 10 new clients."  Each of these goals are very, very specific.  Last year was no different. Although I knew my previous method wasn't working, I only changed my process by saying, "I'll just have less this year."  

In the middle of July, I ripped the goals off of my wall and threw them away.  My method wasn't working.

I wasn't sure I was going to set goals for 2021.  The current outlook makes it look like 2021 won't be that much better than 2020, so what's the point of putting big goals out there.  Until I thought of a more simple solution. What if my goals weren't task-based?  What if my goals where more about changing who I am than dictating what I do. 

With that, I came up with four very simple questions:
  • What is one thing I want to DO in 2021?
  • What is one thing I want to LEARN in 2021?
  • What is one thing I want to ACCOMPLISH in 2021?
  • What is one way I want to HELP someone else in 2021?

These four things really summarize the whole picture of my 2021 goals.  They are big picture goals and are not really deadline-driven.

I took these four questions and looked at the goals I failed at in 2020.  I thought, how can I make these 2020 goals fit within this bigger-picture thought process.  What I came up with was an introspective set of goals:
  • Love Myself More
  • Enjoy my Family More 
  • Be a Better Boss
  • Experience More
  • Go There More
  • Challenge Yourself
  • Build Your Own Soundtrack
  • Worry Less About Money
  • Waste Less Time
  • Change The World
  • Give More

Each of those headings has general goals under them like "Develop a routine" and "create a habit of healthy eating" are under "Love Myself More."

I hope that you can take some time today and work on some goals for yourself this year.  It's going to be another hard year, so give yourself some grace.

Remember, wherever life takes you, Love The Journey.


How Taco Bueno is Becoming More Bueno.

Published by Mike Morgan on 01/14/2011

Right.  This is supposed to be an aviation blog.  Sorry, but I'm always thinking about Marketing and Branding.  Many of my readers know of my love for Boeing and United (and my brand love for Southwest), but only some of you know of my love for Taco Bueno.  In fact, I would often be referred to as a Bueno Head.

Taco Bueno is a company that was born out of a desire to make great Tex-Mex food. It has gone through a series of changes over the past ten years.

This is the CKE version of Taco Bueno


The second change came after Taco Bueno became an independent company once again.  Bueno realized that to grow quickly they had to open up to franchising.  So they did.  Bueno spread the midwest quickly.  They also unleashed a new look for their store.

The new Bueno was a little classier and came with some new food options.  Bueno was determined to grow their business and create a restaurant that could compete with Taco Bell (and, Lord willing, destroy the bell). 

Palladium Equity Partners's first take on the new Taco Bueno


A few weeks ago I was sent an email from the Bueno Offices in Texas telling me about a redone store here in the Oklahoma City area.  At first look, I was underwhelmed.  I wrote a long email to the marketing department sharing with them about my thoughts and concerns about where Bueno was headed.  But to be fair, I had not yet been to the new Bueno. 

Welcome to the new Bueno.
Welcome to the New Taco Bueno Mexican Grille

When I first arrived at the new Bueno I was very impressed with the  building itself.  The new structure looks classy and well designed.  But the inside is what really impressed me.

At the old Taco Bueno you would order and then wait for your name or number to be called.  You would bus your own table.  It was very normal for a fast food joint.  But the new Bueno was so much better.

The menu is much cleaner looking, and includes a digital display for new and limited time only options.  Instead of telling you your order number, they give you a table number so that your food can be delivered to you.    The salsa bar looks much nicer.  And the staff will even pick up your dirty dishes for you.  Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that.  You get real plates, not just something that you throw away.  So Bueno is also becoming greener. 

There are a few other things that you should know about the new Bueno.  It includes free wifi.  It has TVs around to enjoy the game or watch the news.  The interior is laid out to allow for more privacy from other patrons. 

The new Bueno is the kind of place that I would spend hours just hanging out at (and scarfing down as many tacos as I can). 

But I did have one complaint.  For those familiar with the Bueno menu, I ordered a Beef Nacho Salad.  The salad came in a basket (with many holes) which would have allowed my queso, chili sauce, and original red salsa to spill all over the table.  So, maybe Bueno should rethink that.

Overall, Bueno is becoming a hip, clean, and welcoming place to spend a real family dinner without feeling like you're being rushed through a fast food joint.  Great Job Bueno!

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?


What Happened To The Love Of Flight? (A Marketing Question)

Published by Mike Morgan on 01/02/2011

Several weeks ago I read a tweet that said something like, "Southwest and Jet Blue are brands, all the others are just airline names."  I don't know who to credit for this, but it sparked my thought process.

When did airlines stop branding themselves, and start marketing themselves?  I realize that to some this question doesn't make any sense, so let's break it down.

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com

What is a Brand?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love branding.  I love the concept that a company can take on an entire persona, if they choose.  Looking back to the tweet that started all of this, Southwest is a strong brand.  They are identifiable by their Canyon Blue planes, their bag cops, but mostly, their "luv".  Shoot, for years I thought that LUV was the FAA code for DAL.  They branded it so well, that the consumer believes it.

But, really, what is a brand?  I'm mostly preaching to the choir here, so I'll skip the "it's not just a logo" crap.  I am a firm believer that the brand of a company is its personality.  One thing I love about Southwest is the safety announcements.  I'm sure at corporate there is a script that the FAA foolishly believes Southwest follows.  But every time I fly Southwest I get a different take on safety.

This is a direct reflection of the personality of Southwest.  Even though they are following guidelines, they have fun.  They've got the "LUV" spirit.  Look to their website, their commercials, their people, their policies... everything points back to a fun, exciting, energetic personality.

Now, let's look at my favorite airline.  United.  I live for United.  But based on what we've already said about Southwest, does United have a "LUV" equal?  No.  In fact, look to what people are talking about when it comes to United: the merger, the union fights, and the outsourcing.  I've even seen a pin that crew are wearing that says "United Against Outsourcing."

Let's go back a bit to February 12th, 2004.  This was a good time for United as they unleashed Ted, a part of United.  The United brand was still strong, and they wanted to feed off of it.  So they created Ted, a low cost carrier that would ultimately fail.

United began spreading themselves too thin.  They became a corporation, and lost their uniqueness.  American did it, Delta did it, and many others have too.  Think back, what was the last branding campaign you can really think of outside of Southwest?

The last one that comes to my mind was in 2008 when Delta tried to create a buzz with their hot new red-headed safety spokesperson.  There was a little bit of viral marketing, and some news stories, but overall the brand wasn't changed much.

So what did happen to the love of flight?
I would have loved to been alive during the 1950's.  Flying then was a treat.  Now...

Are we trying to blow up the notion that flying is some kind of orgasmic experience rather than a glorified bus service? Yes, we are. An airplane is nothing more than a bus with wings on.
- Michael O'Leary, Ryanair

Now most people seem to think of flying as a glorified bus service.  As fees pile up, and security becomes harder to pass, people will continue to lose a passion for flight.

Think back before 9/11; bags were free, snacks were free, everything (it seemed) was a service of the airline.  Now as a patron, I am carrying the weight of the airline on my shoulders.  Jeff Smisek, who made $4,320,867.00 (according to Forbes), feels that the company needs to make even more cuts.  Outsourcing, more fees, who knows what else.  But he sure doesn't really feel the burden of air travel. 

Being a true avgeek, I know and understand that flying is expensive.  I also understand that fuel prices have gone up, and will continue to go up.  But the problem is the way that the airlines are handeling it.  I realize that I have left branding behind, but I'm just following the same path as the airlines. 

As long as airlines focus on these silly little fees, they won't ever be able to remember who they are.  Unless...

"But now," says the Once-ler,"Now that you're here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

- From The Lorax, By Dr. Seuss

Yes, I did just quote Dr. Seuss.  This is my call to the Airlines.  It is time to remember that only the airlines can save the airline industry.  A big portion of that should be devoted to remembering who you are.  It is time to bring your brands back to life... or the Michael O'Leary's of the world will turn classic air travel into nothing more than a trip on MegaBus.

So, airlines need to shape up, or true brands like Southwest, or those yet to come, will destroy them. 

But let's see, I'm just a guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?


A Few Christmas Thoughts.

Published by Mike Morgan on 12/25/2010

On Friday my grandfather Odell ended up in the hospital after a loss of blood pressure and a heart failure.  My world has been turned upside down for the last several days.  Since then they have found that all of his main arteries are clogged.  They have also found a spot on his lung.  Please remember who is important to you this Christmas and let them know that you love them, because you just never know...


Hope flies for 65 days

Published by Mike Morgan on 12/17/2010

One of the greatest things that I get to do every year is volunteer at a camp for abused children in the foster care system. It's called Royal Family Kids Camp. The idea is that these kids get five days of freedom. They get to do the things they want to do, and have no fear of being hurt or molested. But during that week kids will open up to counselors and share about the things that have happened to them. But what happens when you never get to share those stories?

Matt Pipkin is your average, everyday, fun-loving pilot.  But he hid a secret for 20 years.  Matt was sexually abused at the age of five by a family friend.  Matt never told anyone because of shame that really wasn't due him.

Many of the abused people I have talked to in my life often felt that it was their own fault, and therefor never felt that they could burden someone else with their shame.  The truth is, abuse happens because the abuser has issues, not because the abused is "asking for it".  Matt realized that he wasn't to blame, and last year began to seek counseling.

Over the past year Matt has pushed through his fear and guilt and has found freedom.  Now he wants to share it with the world.  Matt intends on flying a plane with his father for 65 straight days.  Read about it here.  His goal is to raise awareness about sexual abuse.

But here's the kicker, my wife said, "Great.  But what does raising awareness do?"  She, like many others I have found, think that raising awareness doesn't fix problems.  But the truth of the matter is this: The more people hear about it, and the more stories they hear where other people realized the abuse wasn't their fault, the more people feel they can open up about it.

Awareness is about people realizing that other people are going through the same things.  This 65 day flight needs to be at the center of the press.  And it needs your help.  I challenge you to blog about it, write about it, tweet about it, talk about it, and help.  Give money, give a plane, give fuel, give sponsorship, or just give your love. 

Helping this cause will help millions of people.  People who need to understand that love is a real thing.

But, hey, I'm just a guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?


The Global Airline

Published by Mike Morgan on 12/12/2010

While TWA was facing their third bankruptcy, I was taking my first flight to Hawaii. I remember eagerly awaiting flight 1 from St. Louis to Honolulu while sitting at Lambert field. At that time TWA had their exciting final livery, and the St. Louis airport was a bustling hub, and not the desserted place that is is today. American Airlines had their sites set on buying TWA and working towards becoming the first global airline.

Definition: Global Airline. I have thought long and hard about what it means to be a truly global airline, and I think we're just now beginning to see what it will look like. For the sake of today's blog I will define a global airline as one where you can travel from a small town in one country to another small town in a different country on a different continent on the same airline.

American has not yet made it the global airline that As I defined it, but I think it set the stage for U.S. Based airlines to see the opportunity.

But the thought of being the global leader wasn't kept to U.S. based airlines.  In 2004 Air France and KLM teamed up to create better purchasing power.  However, I don't believe these two airlines have the mindset to do what is needed to create this global airline.

Flash forward a few years later. Once again I'm in Hawaii. I pick up the USA Today to read the headline that Delta is purchasing Northwest Airlines.  At first I think nothing of it, other than the two worst airlines in America are teaming up to create one.  But then I realize that Delta is working towards greatness.  By completing the merger, Delta becomes the largest airline in the world.  And you can't forget that they're teamed up with the other forerunner in becoming a global airline.  Delta - Air France - KLM.

Now, let's all remember that I'm a huge United Airlines fan.  It's 2010 and UAL combines with COA to create the new largest airline in the world.  And then, British Airways and Iberia merger (even though their talks started in 2008), with a great agreement with American Airlines (oh, and Anti-Trust protection).

So, the stage is set.  I've painted a picture, but what is the point of this blog?  I want to discuss the reality that the airline industry is changing, and needs to change.  First of all, the age of the Low Cost Carrier is nearing an end.  Michael O'Leary and his antics will soon be a faded memory.

At the beginning of the recession, people began clamoring for lower prices as airlines began piling on the fees.  All of which created what looked like a fare war.  But was it really?  No, it was an appearance thing.  Which airline could look the cheapest, but then get most of their money back through fees?  So, from here on out, let's call them fee wars.

Sidebar: I would like to take a moment and say great work to Southwest for keeping it business as usual through the fee wars.  And, I must say, I love the Bag Cop commercials.

So how do we get from fee wars to a global airline?  There's not enough profit right now.  It's easy, and I'll play it out for four airlines.  United, Delta, American, and Southwest.

The Global Airline: United.  Once United and Continental complete their merger their route network will be powerful.  With United's strong presence in Asia, and Continentals strong presence in South America, it won't be much of a stretch to purchase Copa Airlines and seek out an Asian airline.  United will also be able to team up with Lufthansa for its European network and South African Airways for its African network. 


The end result is a Global Airline under the name United.  Allowing you to fly on one airline from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA to Tamale, Ghana, West Africa.


The Global Airline: Delta.  Delta is the closest to it's final global status.  A simple merger with Air France KLM Group, and they're most of the way there.  The main problem that Delta will have is the lack of strong players in Sky Team.  The Star Alliance provides United with major airlines throughout the world, but Sky Team rests a lot on the shoulders of Delta/Air France/KLM. 


I believe that for Delta to reach its goal of becoming a global airline, they will have to search outside of their alliance to find suitable airlines to join their team. 


The Global Airline: American.  Thanks to British Airways and Iberia, American has been the forward motion needed to create a truly global airline.  However, once the three merge, a new name will be needed.  One of the aspects of a global airline is that it must appear to be country neutral. 


American has an easy entry into the global airline game.  Just look at what One World has to offer: Qantas, JAL, Cathay Pacific, Royal Jordanian, Mexicana (if they can ever get their act together), and LAN.  Plus, American has strong ties to both Alaska/Horizon and Hawaiian Airlines (which is working hard to grow its own network).  A merger of this sort would be hard to beat.

The Global Airline: Southwest.  I hope that you kept reading just to read this.  A friend of mine once told me that somewhere in the Southwest headquarters is a model of a Boeing 787 in Southwest Colors.  There is a plaque that suggests that maybe some day Southwest will have a 787.  I found this out around the same time that Southwest announced the purchase of Airtran.

Of course, I must say that Southwest is now tainted as it as ValuJet blood in their mix now.

None-the-less Southwest is now reaching far beyond their normal borders.  And may soon find business class seats in the middle of their free-for-all seat-finding brawls.   It's hard a leap to assume that Southwest may change a larger part of their structure to become more like a legacy airline.

The change at Southwest could be the most important change for the aviation industry right now.


That's a bold notion, but hear me out.  Southwest reaches out to the small business traveler, and those who don't want to spend a lot of money going on vacation.  Major businesses, especially those who work internationally, want to provide simple travel for their employees that also offers great rewards.  If Southwest expands beyond America, adds to its fleet (wait, that's happening), makes improvements for business travelers, and keeps their "no-fee" way of life, other airlines will be forced to change.

As Southwest grows their network, a true fare war will start, because other airlines will not be able to win over customers while they are still playing the fee war.  Airlines will be looking to add new routes, forgetting about traditional hub and spoke, and adding more and more point to point routes. 

Airplanes like the 787 will allow for more international point to point, and smaller jets with improved fuel efficiency will allow bigger airlines to compete against LCCs in regional markets. 

The last and most important part of this change will be brand identity.  I read a tweet somewhere that said "Southwest and Jet Blue are brands, all others are just airline names."  And I think they're right.  Southwest has a Brand that can destroy.  Other airlines will have to starting building a true brand.  And therefore stop relying on alliances.  The end result is merger after merger after merger. 

I predict it will take about 20 years to see this change happen, but I also believe there may be startups that show up before 2030 with this vision in mind.  And I believe those startups will change the game even faster.

But, let's see, I'm just a guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?