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THE BRIEFING FOR JANUARY 3-17, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli

· Britain Dumps Its Hated One-Bag Carry-on Rule
· Hyatt Is Out at Two Grand Cayman Properties
· Virgin Atlantic Cancels Flights Before a Strike
· The Big Six Add Another Domestic Fuel Surcharge
· More (Confusing) News on the New Battery Rule
· United Takes Over Some Old US Airways Routes
· What to Expect on the Road in January


Good News and Bad News for British Travelers
It's getting harder and harder to keep up with the happenings at British airports and airlines, especially when they develop in the dead weeks at the end of the year. But there is mostly good news to report. The hated one-bag carry-on rule imposed in August, 2006, is about to be lifted. Effective Monday, January 7, London/Heathrow and most other major British airports can return to permitting the worldwide standard of two carry-on bags. Notable exceptions: London/Gatwick and London/Luton, which have not yet met the British government's security requirements. And more good news: BAA, which manages Heathrow, Gatwick, London/Stansted and several other British airports, has dodged a strike bullet. Unions had been planning four days of strikes this month. But Virgin Atlantic and its flyers aren't so lucky. Virgin has begun canceling transatlantic flights due to planned strike actions on January 9, 10, 16 and 17. And don't look for this one to be settled soon. Instead of negotiating contract terms with his employees, Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson told them to find other jobs if they don't like working for his pay scale.

Comings and Goings Around the World
It continues to be peculiar times in the hotel business. So get out your scorecard. Hyatt has lost its properties on Grand Cayman island. Both the 230-room Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman and the 53-unit Hyatt Regency Beach Suites have dumped the Hyatt name and affiliation. The 230-room property has been closed since 2004 due to hurricane damage. Ritz-Carlton has opened a 118-room property in White Plains, New York. The hotel, part of a 44-story development, also houses a branch of Bistro Laurent Tourondel (BLT). Down the Hudson River in Manhattan, the reopening of The Plaza Hotel on Central Park has been delayed. It won't open before March 1; it was due to put out the welcome mat on January 1. Hilton has changed the flag on its property at 8600 Wickham Road near Detroit/Metro Airport. It had been called a Hilton Suites. Now it has been rebranded as an Embassy Suites. The mid-level Hyatt Place chain is installing what it calls a Plug Panel in its rooms. The device allows guests to connect laptops, music players, DVD players and video game systems to the room's 42-inch flat-screen television display.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Big Six have added another $10 roundtrip surcharge on most domestic routes. The new fare bump took effect just before Christmas. The Kayak and SideStep Web sites have merged, but they will retain their independent online identities. Those wacky battery rules imposed by the Transportation Department (DOT) on New Year's Day continue to confound almost everyone, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The DOT site and the TSA site have dense and differing explanations of what's allowed and what's verboten. Venezuela has knocked three zeros off the denominations of its currency, the bolivar, and renamed it the "strong" bolivar. ... Germany, France and Portugal all began public smoking bans on New Year's Day.

What to Look for on the Road This Month
JetBlue Airways will continue to connect the Great White (American) North with warmer climes in January. Effective January 8, there will be daily flights to Fort Myers, FL, from White Plains and Buffalo, NY. Two days later, it adds flights to Orlando from Burlington, VT. And from its New York/Kennedy hub, it will add daily flights to St. Maarten (beginning January 17) and to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (January 10). Speaking of warmth, Aloha Airlines bulks up to Hawaii on January 7. There will be thrice-weekly flights from both John Wayne/Orange County and San Diego to both Kauai and Kona. United Airlines is taking over many of US Airways' old flights from Washington to the mid-Atlantic. Effective January 7, there will be regional-jet flights from its Dulles hub to Bradford, PA; Jamestown, NY; and Parkersburg, WV. Two weeks later, flights begin to Clarksburg and Morgantown, WV.
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.

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This column is Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.