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A BRIEFING FOR FEB. 28-MARCH 13, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli

· A Big Month for New Airport Openings
· It's Wild! It's Wacky! It's Airport Security!
· Delta Shuffles Its International Service--Again
· The Dollar Hits Bottom Against Global Currencies
· Starwood Preferred Guest Raises Award Prices
· BA and Virgin Will Refund Some Fuel Surcharges
· US Airways Will Charge to Check a Second Bag


A Big Month for New Airport Openings
March is turning out to be a really big month for new airport facilities. The new terminal at Beijing's Capital International Airport opens its doors over the weekend. The huge, airy facility with the sloped roof, designed by British architect Norman Foster, will be designated Terminal 3. Six airlines, including British Airways, Qantas and El Al, will use the terminal immediately; others carriers will move in March. Meanwhile, in India, Hyderabad opens the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport on March 14. It features the longest runway in South Asia. And the end of March brings the big bang: the 20-years-in-the-making Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport. T5, which will be dedicated to British Airways, begins operations on March 27. The first tranche of BA flights moves then, followed by most BA transcontinental flights on April 30. As BA moves out of Terminal 4, other carriers will move in, including the SkyTeam carriers. Star Alliance airlines will move into Terminal 1, which is currently home to many of BA's European flights. BA's OneWorld Alliance partners will cluster in Terminal 3, where Virgin Atlantic has its London hub. You'd be well-advised to check--and recheck--with your carriers if you're headed to any of these airports in the next 30 days.

It's Wild! It's Wacky! It's Airport Security!
You think life at the security checkpoints is weird now, wait until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) imposes its new rules about driver's licenses. According to the terms of the DHS Real ID program, at least 17 state driver's licenses will no longer qualify as acceptable identification to board aircraft. Although the rules are scheduled to go into effect in May, the blowback from state governments has been so severe that even the martinets at Homeland Security may have to back off. The American Civil Liberties Union says that more than 900,000 names are on various Transportation Security Administration terrorist watch lists. Gulfport-Biloxi Airport will offer a registered-traveler program. It has hired Vigilant Systems, which operates the program in Jacksonville, Florida. Here's a statistic you haven't heard: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has an internal target of screening 200 passengers per hour at airport checkpoints. The number was revealed after a TSA official at Newark Airport criticized the slow pace of screening there.

Delta Shuffles Its International Service--Again
It's been difficult to keep track of Keystone Kops-like international expansion at Delta Air Lines over the last 30 months, so these changes should come as no surprise. Delta will launch service to Georgetown, Guyana, on July 2. It will also move up the start date of its New York/Kennedy-Lyon, France, flights to June 3. To make room for these changes--and frequency increases on routes to Venice; Cape Town; Paris/Orly; and Malaga, Spain--Delta will delay the launch of New York/Kennedy flights to Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya. Both of those routes will now start in December. The one bag carry-on rule has been lifted at London's Gatwick Airport. But beware: Not all airlines using Gatwick are permitting you to carry on two bags again. Air France has added a 30-day advance purchase business-class fare. Prices are about 50 percent off the full business-class fare.

On All Fronts, Things Are Bad and Getting Worse
US Airways is following United Airlines and imposing a fee if you check a second piece of luggage. The $25 charge applies to all customers except first- and business-class passengers and elite members of the Dividend Miles program. The dollar has tanked against major world currencies. For the first time in history, it has closed above US$1.50 to the euro. On Thursday, it was trading near US$1.52. The greenback was also down to 106 Japanese yen; US$1.98 against the British pound; and 1.06 Swiss francs. The Australian dollar rose to a 24-year high of 94 U.S. cents and the New Zealand dollar reached 82 cents. The U.S. dollar also resumed its decline against the Canadian dollar, falling to 98 cents against the loony. Led by United Airlines, the Big Six carriers pushed through another $10 roundtrip fare increase this week. And lest you think you can escape the bad news by dipping into your frequency programs, forget it. Starwood Preferred Guest is reclassifying about 235 hotels around the world. Only about a dozen will cost fewer points to claim a free night. The more than 200 others will all cost substantially more points for a free night. Complete details on the changes are listed here.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The concept of price-fixing fuel surcharges continues to be controversial in this era of $100 a barrel oil. But here's some good news. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have agreed to refund some surcharges. If you flew either British carrier between August, 2004, and March, 2006, surf to a special Web site for a chance to recoup as much as $40 roundtrip. Northwest Airlines continues to build up service in Hartford, Connecticut. Beginning June 15, it will offer a daily commuter flight to its Memphis hub. Northwest will also launch Airbus A319 flights between Detroit and Salt Lake City beginning on June 5. Austrian Airlines says that it will resume flights from its Vienna hub to Erbil, in Kurdish Iraq. The flights begin again on April 2; Austrian launched the service in December, 2006, but suspended them last August. JetBlue Airways now sells fully refundable fares.

Too Bad We Don't Horsewhip Miscreants Anymore
Remember FlyGlobeSpan, the creepy airline that abandoned hundreds of Ireland-bound flyers at New York/Kennedy Airport for almost a week last summer when one of its planes developed a mechanical fault? At least the atrocious behavior--the airline and its bosses never once agreed to put the travelers on other carriers--has had repercussions. The bad publicity has forced FlyGlobeSpan to drop all of its U.S.-bound service from Scotland, Ireland and Liverpool, England. But Canadian travelers be warned: FlyGlobeSpan will continue to fly to Hamilton and Calgary.
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 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.