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THE BRIEFING FOR JULY 12-JULY 26, 2007
By Joe Brancatelli

· American and Delta Battle It Out at Kennedy
· Some Changes at the Frequent-Travel Plans
· Southwest Leads the Fare-Increase Parade
· The Dollar Plummets to New Lows in Europe
· Denver Flyers Get New Midwestern Routes
· Virgin America Gets the Okay to Sell Seats
· GM Cuts Back on Sales to Car-Rental Firms


American and Delta Battle It Out at Kennedy Airport
The lucrative New York Metro area has attracted all sorts of international airline competitors. Besides the all-business-class start-ups at New York's Kennedy Airport (EOS, Maxjet and SilverJet to London and L'Avion to Paris), Continental is top dog overseas at Newark. Delta Air Lines has clogged JFK with regional-jet flights to support its unprecedented international build-up since late 2005. And then there is American Airlines, with billions invested in JFK terminal renovations and a long history of New York service. American's latest weapons in the battle for JFK? New daily flights to St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis starting in November. And even more service to London with a daily flight to Stansted that launches October 28. The Stansted flight is the most interesting of this lot since most experts believe that EOS and MaxJet, the existing carriers to London/Stansted, have stolen more passengers from American than from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Not to be outdone, Delta Air Lines has announced even more international service from JFK. It will launch nonstops to Panama City (December 13); Guatemala City (December 14); Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (December 20); and Liberia and San Jose, Costa Rica (February 15).

What in the World Is Going On?
Continental OnePass picks up a new partner: Kingfisher Airlines, a growing Indian carrier. OnePass members will be able to earn and burn miles on Kingfisher beginning on October 1. It's the same day Continental launches its Newark-Mumbai flights. The airline already flies Newark-New Delhi. The existing Alitalia MilleMiglia program ends on December 31 and the miles will not carry over to the new version of the plan. Travelers have until June 30, 2008, to burn off the miles. Travelers who use their frequent-stay points for free Hawaiian hotel stays take note: More brand shifts are on the way. The Makena resort, home of the Maui Prince hotel, has been sold and the 310-room property will change brands soon. And Starwood is apparently looking to slap one of its hotel flags on the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore. That property was once a Hilton before going independent several years ago.

Fares Rise. The Greenback Plummets. Watch Your Wallet!
Southwest Airlines raised fares by as much as $10 each way last week. The Big Six immediately matched the price hikes. The Southwest increases topped out at $10 one-way on flights longer than 1,250 miles. Fares on the shorter-haul routes rose $1, $3 or $5. Southwest's increases come just a week after United Airlines increased fares by $2-$5 one-way on many routes. The rest of the Big Six matched United's move. And that price bump comes just a week after Delta Air Lines successfully initiated a $5 one-way increase on most fares. Think the fare hikes are bad? Let's hope you're not planning a European trip, too. The hard-pressed U.S. dollar this week plummeted to record lows against the 13-country euro and a 26-year low against the British pound. As of late today (July 12), the euro was commanding almost $1.38, which means retail exchange rates for travelers are north of $1.40. The pound soared to $2.03, which means you're probably paying $2.06 or more at retail for a quid.

Suddenly, New Midwest Options for Denver Flyers
Denver-area travelers are suddenly awash is new options for nonstop flights to Midwestern cities. The two carriers that maintain hubs in Denver have both announced new flights in the last 10 days. Frontier Airlines is launching its Lynx commuter service in the fall and the first three cities are Wichita, Kansas; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Sioux Falls, Iowa. All three routes launch in early October and will use Frontier's new 74-seat Q400 turboprops. Meanwhile, United Airlines says that it will begin 50-seat regional-jet flights to Peoria, Illinois, on October 4. Have you noticed that there are fewer General Motors cars on the car-rental lots? GM says that it is planning a "significant decline" in car-rental fleet sales. For the first five months of the year, GM reports that its U.S. fleet sales fell 3.4 percent. It was expecting to ship 20,000 fewer cars to the rental firms in June. Speaking of car rentals, Dollar and Thrifty now offer Garmin GPS systems for rent. The price is $11.99 a day.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The long, strange odyssey of Virgin America is finally getting close to payoff: The carrier has received Department of Transportation approval to start selling tickets in advance of an expected launch sometime in August. American Airlines will shift one of its London flights from Dallas/Fort Worth and its Raleigh/Durham flight to Heathrow Airport beginning on March 29. The flights currently terminate at Gatwick. The Italian government has again postponed the deadline for bidders on Alitalia, the cash-gushing, service-challenged flag carrier. The government is looking to dump its 39.9 percent share of the airline, but it has larded the bidding with so many restrictions and shifting terms that most potential buyers have backed away. EC regulators have given Airbus approval for an in-flight cell-phone system. Airbus says that it will equip its system with an optional "voice off" mode that would only allow text messaging and E-mail.
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 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.