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THE BRIEFING FOR NOV. 29 - DEC. 12, 2007
By Joe Brancatelli

· It's Winter-Travel Strategy Time Again
· Is That an Armored Vehicle in Your Lobby?
· The Dollar Is Down Just About Everywhere
· The DOT Calls US Airways' Bluff on China
· Lots of Big News at the World's Airports
· No Miles With Continental's New Card
· Delta Won't Talk About On-Time Ratings


It's Winter-Travel Strategy Time Again
Winter-like weather and early snowfalls have already caused delays and cancellations around the nation this month. The adverse conditions are a chilling reminder that business travelers should have already revived their winter-travel regimen. Among the standard procedures: Book early-morning flights because they are the least frequently delayed and give you maximum flexibility to rebook during the day. Have a list of alternate routings to your destinations; it will speed the rebooking process in case of cancellations or delays. Pack your carry-on bag with healthy snacks and bottled water; these will help you resist the temptations of the high-fat fast-food joints at the airport. Carry extra work, additional reading and entertainment material to pass the time during delays. And have back-up reservations at an airport hotel on bad-weather days. Then you won't need to scramble for a room at the last moment if you're stranded at the airport overnight.

Is That a Tank in Your Lobby or Are You Just Planning a Coup?
If you're planning a coup to oust your country's civilian government, you might as well do it with some style. That may explain why some dissident Philippine military officers and politicians commandeered Manila's much-admired Peninsula Hotel today (November 29) and barricaded themselves for seven hours inside the five-star property. Their goal? The ouster of President Gloria Arroyo. The response of Arroyo's government? A spray of machine-gun fire, a volley of tear gas and, finally, an armored vehicle ramming its way through the Peninsula's ornate front lobby. To make the bizarre scene all the more surreal, the rebels had taken over the hotel after marching out of a courtroom where they were standing trial for an attempted coup in 2003. All of this transpired in full view of a global television audience and in the heart of Makati, Manila's business and financial district.

The Dollar Is Down Just About Everywhere
The battered U.S. dollar continues to plummet against all of the world's major currencies. As of this evening (November 29), it stood at $1.48 against the euro, $2.07 against the British pound and $1.11 against the Swiss franc. The dollar was commanding just 110 Japanese yen and 7.4 Chinese yuan. The U.S. dollar also remains slightly below parity with the Canadian dollar. Several major carriers raised domestic fares by $10 each way this week. JetBlue Airways has cut deals with Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline, so the airline's tickets are now available for sale at all three sites. Continental Airlines and Chase Bank have created a new credit card that doesn't offer OnePass miles. Instead, the so-called TravelBank card essentially offers a penny of credit for each dollar spent. The credits can be used to pay for all or part of any ticket on Continental. The card and TravelBank scheme is similar to the Choices program that Chase launched with United Airlines last year.

New Rules, New Fees, New Facilities, New Terminals, More Bluster
There's a rush of big news about airports, so please pay close attention. Starting January 1, there'll be a total smoking ban at Amsterdam/Schipol airport. Louisville has added a valet-parting service on the upper-level roadway at the west end of the terminal. The fee: $20 a day. Detroit/Metro has opened a cell-phone waiting lot on the south side of Eureka Road near the airport entrance ramp. It replaces the temporary waiting facility along Dingell Drive. Stewart International Airport near Newburgh, New York, has a new exit off Interstate 84. It's designated Exit 5 and gives easier access to some off-airport hotels. Meanwhile, a Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel has opened near the airport's terminal building. A new terminal has opened at Mexico City. The $792 million facility will be used by Aeromexico, Continental, LAN, Copa and Aeromar. US Airways has had to eat crow in Philadelphia after threatening not to launch the Beijing route that it won from the Department of Transportation (DOT). Unhappy with gate allocation at its hub, US Airways told Philadelphia city fathers that it might retaliate by not beginning the China route as planned in 2009. That lead Maxjet to ask DOT to revisit its decision. US Airways was then required to promise the agency that it remained committed to the route--and to its Philadelphia hub--"in the strongest terms possible."

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A nationwide transit strike is planned in Italy tomorrow (November 30). Taxis are already on strike in Rome. The Internal Revenue Service has set the vehicle-reimbursement rate at 50.5 cents per mile next year. American Airlines and Jet Airways of India begin code-sharing on January 16. American will put its AA code on Jet flights beyond Delhi; American currently flies from Chicago/O'Hare to the Indian capital. US Airways was denied permission to sell liquor on flights to or from New Mexico by the state's licensing department. The airline is a defendant in a drunk-driving case in the state. Headed to Libya? Think again. The country says that it will turn away Western visitors whose passports do not provide an Arabic translation. Libyan officials say it is because Western countries require Libyan passports to have foreign-language translations.

We Hate to Fly On-Time--And It's a Secret
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Delta Air Lines $115,000 for failing to disclose on-time arrival information when asked by customers and potential flyers. The fine also covers Delta's commuter carriers, Comair, Atlantic Southeast and Skywest. All of this is understandable since Delta and the commuters consistently rank at or near the bottom of the DOT's monthly on-time ratings.
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.