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THE BRIEFING FOR OCT. 25 - NOV. 1, 2007
By Joe Brancatelli

· Need a New Passport? Your Window Is Now.
· Every 55 Years, a New Logo for Holiday Inn
· Comings and Goings at the Nation's Airports
· Frontier Expanding in Denver and Elsewhere
· JetBlue Dumps Two Cities From Its Route Map
· Air France Drops Flights During a Weekend Strike
· That Was the Week That Was in Travel News


Need a Passport Renewed? Your Window of Opportunity Is Now.
The nightmare that has been passport renewal during the last year has suddenly abated. The State Department may not have caught up with this year's backlog, but new applications are being processed with blinding speed. At least three JoeSentMe members have told me that standard renewal applications filed during October have been returned within 14 days. So a word to the wise: If you need a passport issued or renewed in the next year, act now. This wrinkle in the bureaucracy is likely to be plugged by the middle of December, when the holidays gum up the works. Come the new year, a new rush of passport applications from first-time travelers planning for summer vacations will likely overload the State Department again.

Every 55 Years, a New Logo for Holiday Inn
It's been around 55 years, outlasted numerous ownership changes, survived endless repositionings of the brand and endured through numerous upheavals in the worldwide lodging landscape. But now Holiday Inn has finally decided to revise its logo. The iconic shield, the star with colorful rays, the swooping arrow with the blinking lights and the distinctive Holiday Inn script are being phased out. In will be a stylized H on a lime-green field with the words Holiday Inn below it. Like the chain or loathe it, the passing of the existing logo, which has only been tweaked gently since Holiday Inn was founded in 1952, will be akin to the loss of Burma Shave signs along the road. The new logo will replace the old worldwide during the next three years. … Hilton has taken over at the Prague Renaissance hotel and the property will officially debut as the Hilton Prague Old Town on November 1. Speaking of Hilton, the chain is losing its seven hotels in India. The properties, part of the Trident chain owned by the luxury Oberoi group, leave the Hilton system--and the Hilton HHonors program--on March 30.

Comings and Goings at the Nation's Airports
United Airlines continues to bulk up at Los Angeles and it is adding two new cities using Canadair 700 regional jets configured with what United claims is first class, Economy Plus and coach seating. Beginning February 13, there will be daily flights to Austin and Des Moines. … Detroit/Metro travelers lose nonstop service to London's Heathrow Airport when British Airways drops its flights on March 30. … Travelers who would like to use Lawton/Ft. Sill Airport in Oklahoma will soon have a second option: Delta Air Lines launches regional-jet flights to its Atlanta hub on March 3. At the moment, Lawton's only other commercial service is flights to Dallas/Fort Worth on American Eagle. … JetBlue Airways is dropping flights to Columbus, Ohio and Nashville. Both cities fall off the JetBlue route map on January 6.

Frontier Keeps Expanding Against United and Southwest
Denver-based Frontier Airlines faces tough competition from United Airlines' entrenched hub and from Southwest Airlines, which returned to the Mile High City this year. But to its credit, Frontier keeps plugging along and it's got another round of expansion on tap. On November 15, it begins daily Airbus A319 flights to West Palm Beach and, fifteen days later, Frontier adds four weekly A319 flights to San Jose, Costa Rica. Frontier is expanding elsewhere. November 15 brings a daily flight between Memphis and Fort Lauderdale. A month later, its commuter-jet carrier begins flying to Puerto Vallarta from Sacramento and San Jose, California. Airbus A319 service from San Diego and Mazatlan begins the same day. So do three weekly A319 flights between Milwaukee and Cancun.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Air France employees began a strike today (October 25) that is due to last through Monday, October 29. About 30 percent of Air France flights, most of them domestic and intra-European, have been cancelled. … District of Columbia taxi cabs will junk the confusing "zone fare" system in favor of a traditional system of metered fares based on time and distance. … Speaking of Washington, a new bus service to New York City has launched. DC2NY operates several times daily with two Washington stops (Dupont Circle and 14th Street NW) and one New York stop (Penn Station). The price is $25 one-way. There is free on-board wireless Internet, but no power outlets. … Alaska Airlines increased fares by as much as $10 each way this week.

That Was the Week That Was
Every week on the road is a laughfest of bureaucratic incompetence and airline stupidity, but the last seven days may have set a record for stories that make our stomachs turn. Last Thursday (October 18), for example, USA Today reported that security screeners at two of the nation's busiest airports failed to find fake bombs in more than 60 percent of tests last year. On Monday (October 22), the Associated Press reported that NASA is withholding the results of a survey of pilots that indicate safety problems are more widespread than we know. NASA's rationale? The report is so damning that it would undermine our confidence in the airlines. And all during the week, John Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune has been reporting about a Delta Connection flight from Midway Airport that spewed checked luggage and passengers’ personal effects from a partly open cargo hold.
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.