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A BRIEFING FOR APRIL 10-APRIL 24, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli

· More Fees and Fare Hikes From the Airlines
· Air Canada Expands Transborder Service Again
· Alaska Airlines Adds Flights From Seattle to Maui
· Frontier Airlines Files for Ch. 11, But Keeps Flying
· Several Airports Stranded by Skybus' Demise
· A New Amex Card Will Offer Elite Delta Miles
· British Airways Delays Move of U.S. Flights to T5


More Fees and Fare Hikes, But Maybe Fewer Restrictions
Add Continental Airlines to the list of Big Six carriers that will charge $25 to check a second bag on domestic flights. Elite members of Continental's frequent flyer program, full-fare flyers and first-class travelers are exempt. Meanwhile, United made another change in its domestic checked-bag rules. When United's $25 fee for a second bag launches on May 5, travelers flying on full-fare tickets will be required to pay the fee. United, which first announced the $25 fee in February, had originally exempted full-fare flyers. (You can examine United's new new rules here). Meanwhile, AirTran Airways says it will begin charging for a second bag on May 15. Its second-bag charge will be $10; elite members of its frequent flyer program and business-class flyers are exempt. Fares are going up, too. United loaded a new fare increase--$4 to $30 roundtrip wherever United doesn't compete with low-fare carriers--late on Wednesday, April 9. All of the other Big Six matched within 36 hours. But there is some good news to report on the fee-and-fare front: Northwest has partially rescinded the more restrictive minimum-stay rules on many coach fares that it had announced last week. US Airways didn't match the restrictions, so Northwest has removed them wherever it competes with US Airways.

Alaska Adds More Hawaii, AirTran Builds in D.C. Area
Alaska Airlines is adding more service to Hawaii from its hub in Seattle. Beginning July 17, the carrier will add service to Kahului, Maui. The daily service, which complements Alaska's existing flights to Honolulu and Kauai, will operate with Boeing 737s. AirTran Airways is growing again in the Baltimore-Washington market. Effective May 3, it will launch daily flights between Washington/National and Milwaukee. Three days later, it begins flights from Baltimore/Washington to Seattle. Then on June 11, it adds daily service from BWI to both Los Angeles and Portland, Maine. David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue Airways, is severing his final ties with the carrier. He was replaced as chief executive last year and now says that he will leave as chairman of the board on May 15. Neeleman has already announced that he plans to launch a JetBlue-type carrier in Brazil.

Air Canada Expands Transborder Service Again
The once-somnambulant U.S.-Canadian transborder market continues to expand rapidly, led primarily by Air Canada. On May 1, it will launch flights on the Ottawa-Washington/National, Toronto-Austin and Toronto-Richmond, Virginia, routes. On May 15, it adds flights between Calgary and Chicago/O'Hare. All four routes will be operated with regional jets. Korean Air will launch nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 2. The three weekly flights will operate with three-class Boeing 777-200s. On June 9, Hainan Airlines will begin service from Beijing to Seattle-Tacoma. The Chinese carrier will use Airbus A330-200s on the route. Emirates Airlines will launch nonstop flights from its Dubai hub to San Francisco on October 26. The carrier will use three-class Boeing 777-200s on the route. The fast-growing airline previously announced Los Angeles-Dubai nonstops would begin on September 1. V Australia, an offshoot of Richard Branson's Virgin Blue, will launch flights between Los Angeles and Sydney. Service begins December 15 and the carrier will ply the long transpacific route with Boeing 777-300ER aircraft outfitted with business, premium economy and coach cabins.

British Airways Won't Switch U.S. Service to T5 Next Month After All
You have to wonder if Terminal 5 at London/Heathrow is cursed. After days of chaos following its late March opening, the terminal's lone tenant, British Airways, then had to deal with the lunatic supermodel Naomi Campbell (She was removed from a flight and arrested.); the weather (Three inches of snow fell last weekend.); and still another computer glitch (in the baggage system). The good news: British Airways has actually managed to fly a full schedule from Terminal 5 for several days this week. The bad news: Thousands of checked bags have still not been reunited with their owners. The big news: BA announced it wouldn't move its long-haul flying into T5 on April 30 as planned. That service, which includes virtually all flights to and from the United States, will remain in Terminal 4 for at least an additional month. The new target date is June 5, but no details yet on whether long-haul flights will move en masse or in more manageable chunks. The long-haul flights represent 50 percent of BA's traffic, which will effectively double the airline's load at the troubled new terminal.

Frontier Goes Chapter 11, But Keeps Flying
Frontier Airlines has flown into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but the silver lining is that it continues to fly all of its routes. The airline said it has a cash flow problem caused by its credit card processor's demand for a larger "hold back." The companies who process credit card transactions for the airlines "hold back" funds in case a carrier stops flying. Credit card companies must credit their customers for services not delivered under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act and that includes plane tickets that go unused when an airline tanks. Frontier has posted information on its plans here. ... Few business travelers blinked when 10-month-old Skybus collapsed earlier this month, but its disappearance will have an impact on smaller airports. While the airline's headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, still has robust service, travelers who favor airports in places such as Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Gary, Indiana; and Punta Gorda and St. Augustine, Florida now have little or no alternative service. Oasis Hong Kong stopped flying this week. The 18-month-old carrier flew low-fare, two-class service from Hong Kong to Vancouver and London. A last-minute bailout floundered when the potential buyer learned that the airline's founder had pledged his 60 percent share of Oasis Hong Kong as collateral for a personal loan.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Watch for Delta Air Lines and American Express to launch a new credit card tied to the SkyMiles program. The so-called Delta Reserve card will cost $450 and include Delta Crown Room access and the ability to earn miles toward SkyMiles Elite status. The twist: Those so-called "elite qualifying miles" (EQM) can be gifted to others. Travelers will receive one EQM for every dollar spent once certain spending thresholds are reached. The card will debut by the end of the month. United Airlines and Aer Lingus will enter a code-share pact on November 1. Westin has opened a 315-room property across from the convention center in Orlando. Sheraton has opened a 200-room waterfront hotel in Erie, Pennsylvania. ... A federal jury has awarded $325,000 to nine American Airlines skycaps at Boston/Logan who claimed that they lost tips in 2005 when the airline instituted a $2 fee for curbside check-in. How this decision will affect the airlines' policy of charging for curbside check-in remains to be seen.
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.