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THE BRIEFING FOR JULY 31-AUG. 14, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli

· Big Business-Travel Spenders Are From China
· United Bails on Topeka, Kansas Capital Grounded
· American Juggles Brazil Routes, Cuts Charlotte
· Delta Air Lines Dumping Two Intra-Asia Routes
· Hilton and Delta Make High-Tech Announcements
· Perks Change at Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
· Two More Local Restaurants for Phoenix Airport


The Big Business-Travel Spenders Are Now From China
Want to understand how fast Chinese business travelers are beginning to dominate the world travel stage? New numbers released this week by the Global Business Travel Association and Visa reveal that business travel spending in China is growing by 15 percent a year, nearly four times the 4.5 percent growth registered in the United States. Moreover, total Chinese spending on business travel is now almost as high as in the United States. Chinese travelers spent $225 billion last year compared to $274 billion by U.S. business travelers. The next biggest spenders are in Japan ($61 billion in 2013) and Germany ($54 billion). All this context may explain why there continues to be runaway spending on lodging construction in China by major U.S. chains. Just this week, in fact, Hilton added a 254-room DoubleTree on the island of Hainan and a 431-room Hilton resort in Qingdao, Shandong province. Meanwhile, Starwood opened a 263-room Westin resort hotel in Zhoushan in Zhejiang province and Marriott opened the 416-room JW Marriott in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province.

United Bails on Topeka, Leaving the Kansas Capital Grounded
United Airlines is pulling its 50-seat regional-jet flights between Topeka and its Chicago/O'Hare hub. When the flights end on September 2 after less than eight months, it'll leave the Kansas capital without commercial service. Topeka had received nearly $2 million in state and federal grants to pay United a "revenue guarantee" to operate the Chicago flights, but the money train ran out by the end of May. The flights were averaging a 49 percent load factor, partially due to the bad winter and spring weather and United Express' atrocious operational record. Fares were also substantially higher than similar flights out of Kansas City, about 60 miles away. ... A 14,500-square-foot Star Alliance club opened in Terminal 3 of São Paulo/Guarulhos airport. It's open to first- and business-class travelers on Star carriers as well as Star Gold cardholders. ... The WiFi is now free 24/7 at Munich airport. Until now, travelers were restricted to 30 minutes of free access. ... Marriott has opened a 111-room Courtyard hotel on the grounds of Winnipeg International airport. ... The two Plaza Premium lounges in Kuala Lumpur International now accept the Priority Pass card for entry. ... Branches of two more Phoenix restaurants, Lola's Chicken and Joe's Real BBQ, have opened in Terminal 4 at Phoenix/SkyHarbor.

American Juggles Brazil Routes, Cuts Charlotte, Adds Viracopas
The US Airways hub in Charlotte is out as a base for nonstop service to Brazil. American Airlines said this week that US Airways' Charlotte-São Paulo/Guarulhos flights will end on October 1. The flights began in June, 2013. American already announced that US Airways' Charlotte-Rio de Janeiro route would also end this year. The deletion of Charlotte routes is part of a wider-ranging reshuffle of American's service to Brazil. American said this week its flights to São Paulo from its New York/Kennedy and Miami hubs this winter will be split between Guarulhos and Viracopas airports. The addition of flights to Viracopas, located in the high-tech and university city of Campinas, is scheduled for December 1. Viacopas is 90 kilometers from downtown São Paulo, Guarulhos is about 30 kilometers away. American's Dallas/Fort Worth-São Paulo/Guarulhos service remains unchanged. ... United Airlines is dumping flights to Guadalajara from its San Francisco hub. The route ends on September 21. ... Speaking of dead routes, Delta Air Lines says it is ending two intra-Asia routes on October 26. Gone will be the Tokyo/Narita-Hong Kong and Nagoya-Manila flights. The changes are part of Delta's attempt to refocus Asia flights at its nascent transpacific hub in Seattle/Tacoma. ... Hyatt Hotels has opened its second Hyatt Place property in Mexico. The Hyatt Place in La Paz has 151 rooms.

Hilton, Delta Make High-Tech Claims. You Decide If They Matter.
Hilton Hotels claims that it will permit digital check-in to its properties by the end of the year. It further says you will be able to choose your room number and room layout remotely before arriving at the hotel. Sounds good, eh? Probably not. The system seems to virtually rule out elite-status upgrades and may be designed to upsell you pricier rooms. There is a more meaty promise in the Hilton announcement, however. Sometime in 2016, the chain claims, it will permit your smartphone to be used as your room key. You can read Hilton's verbiage here. ... Delta Air Lines says it'll start streaming free programming to its in-flight entertainment systems and our Web-enabled devices starting tomorrow (August 1). Delta claims the entertainment will be available on flights longer than 90 minutes on more than 1,000 full-size jets and two-class regional planes. The service is powered by Gogo, Delta's in-flight WiFi provider. The streaming service will be free for business- and first-class flyers. Coach travelers will get some material free and be required to pay for other options. You can read Delta's verbiage here.

Business-Travel News Your Need to Know
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders should note changes in benefits. The good: the car-rental coverage goes to primary from secondary, a nifty perk since the Sapphire card awards double points on all travel spending and the points can be ported on a 1:1 basis to several airline (United, Southwest) and hotel (Marriott, Hyatt, InterContinental) frequency programs. Also good: the trip cancellations/trip interruption coverage has doubled to $10,000. Bad news: the annual 7 percent "bonus points dividend" ends after the 2015 bonus is paid in early 2016. Complete details are here. ... Lithuania remains on track to switch to the euro as its currency on January 1. The other Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, are already part of the euro zone. ... Here's another reason to avoid low-fare lines like Norwegian for transatlantic flights. At least three of the airline's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights from London/Gatwick to the United States were delayed by about 40 hours in the last week.

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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.

This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.