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A BRIEFING FOR MAY 15 TO MAY 29, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli

· Small-Town Airports Hit as Air Midwest Folds
· Your Opinions About the Road on the Record
· BA Moves New York Flights to T5 Next Month
· Rome Opens a Terminal Just for U.S. Flights
· Parity for The Big Six and Alternate Airlines
· Fast(er) Customs Clearance for U.S Citizens
· United Dumps Mileage Plus' 500-Mile Minimum


Small-Town Airports Take a Hit as Air Midwest Folds
Air Midwest, one of the commuter carriers controlled by Mesa Air, is throwing in the towel. That means 16 small airports will be losing flights and service operated by three Big Six commuters--US Airways, Delta and United--will be disrupted. Effective May 23, Air Midwest is dumping its flights to Lewisburg, West Virginia; DuBois and Franklin, Pennsylvania; and Athens, Georgia. Eight days later, it will end flights to Ely, Nevada; Merced and Visalia, California; Prescott and Kingman, Arizona; and Farmington, New Mexico. A month later, Air Midwest gives up the ghost completely and abandons six Midwest airports: Columbia, Kirkland and Joplin, Missouri; Grand Island and McCook, Nebraska; and Little Rock, Arkansas. check your scheduled carrier carefully if you use any of these airports.

Get Your Opinions About Life on the Road on the Record
An old friend of mine, a former airline executive who is now doing more productive things for a high-tech company, is quietly collecting data on business-travel lifestyles. You know: Who we are, how we travel and what we carry. The 14-question survey is anonymous and will take less than five minutes to fill out. I'd appreciate it if you surf on over to the survey site and provide some data. He promises he'll give JoeSentMe members a sneak peak of the results. Who knows, we may actually learn something about each other.

BA Will Move New York Flights to Heathrow T5 Next Month
After a hellish debut about six weeks ago, British Airways' Terminal Five at London's Heathrow Airport has settled down. Of course, it's not perfect. Many elevators still don't work and staffers are still scurrying to catch up with the horrific baggage snafus of the first few days. Nevertheless, BA has now decided to move another tranche of flights into T5 beginning on June 5. Included are the airline's flights to and from New York and Phoenix, which will move from T4 along with flights from Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria; Bangalore, India; Beijing; Cairo; and Cape Town, South Africa. Flights to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Vancouver are already using Terminal 5. The timeline for the switch of other U.S. and Canadian flights as well as the rest of BA service into T5 will stretch into next year. A new terminal has opened at Rome's Fiumicino Airport. The facility, also coincidentally designated Terminal 5, is for supposedly high-risk flights that require extra security. That means flights operated by U.S. carriers--American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways--and El Al of Israel. Flights arriving from the U.S. and Israel use Rome's existing international terminal, but the departures are now from T5. The facility is off the Fiumicino rail grid and amenities aren't extensive, either. If you're planning a flight from Rome, make sure you've checked the Fiumicino Web site for more specific details.

The Big Six and the Alternate Carriers Reach Market Parity
The stock market is rarely an accurate indicator of the state of the airlines in general or any particular carrier. But it's hard to ignore this development: The Big Six and the three largest alternate airlines now have almost identical market capitalization. When the market closed today (May 15), the Big Six had a cumulative market cap of $11.16 billion. American ($2.36 billion), Delta ($2.31 billion) and Northwest ($2.22 billion) led the pack followed by Continental ($1.84 billion), United ($1.74 billion) and US Airways ($690 million). Meanwhile, the three largest alternate airlines had a combined market capitalization of $11.26 billion. Southwest ($9.85 billion) accounted for the vast majority of that, followed by JetBlue Airways ($1.09 billion) and AirTran Airways ($320 million).

Fast Customs Clearance for U.S Citizens--Maybe
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has finally begun testing Global Entry, a program designed to offer returning U.S. citizens speedy, automated clearance through Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) formalities. Now up and running at New York/Kennedy, Washington/Dulles, and Houston/Bush, Global Entry is meant for what DHS calls "pre-approved, low-risk travelers." They will be permitted to use special automated kiosks to bypass ICE inspection. Travelers must pay a $100 fee and submit to a background check and pre-interview before acceptance. And in typical governmental fashion, even pre-screened and accepted Global Entry members may nevertheless be subject to secondary checks after using the bypass kiosks. For more information, consult the Global Entry Web pages. Atlanta has chosen Clear to test a registered traveler (RT) program at Hartsfield Airport. But when or if there will ever be a test remains to be seen. Atlanta is building four new general-use security checkpoints this summer and there is no timeline for starting the Clear program.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines is ending the 500-mile minimum mileage accrual for the Mileage Plus program. Effective July 1, all flights will earn actual miles flown. US Airways has also dumped the minimum-mile feature. Speaking of United, it has been without a code-share partner in Hawaii since Aloha Airlines stopping flying last month. But it says it will begin code-sharing with Hawaiian Airlines sometime during the summer. Northwest Airlines will resume flights between its Tokyo hub and Taipei, Taiwan, on September 1. It was a weird week for in-flight service issues. A Southwest Airlines passenger refused to stop using his cellphone on a flight from Austin and was ticketed for disorderly conduct when he arrived at Dallas/Love Field. Meanwhile, a JetBlue Airways customer filed suit in a New York court claiming that the pilot on a flight from San Diego to New York made him sit in the lavatory for most of the trip. He is seeking $2 million in damages. JetBlue has refused to comment on the suit. If you're keeping track, add Far Eastern Air Transport to the list of dead airlines. The Taiwanese carrier folded last week. The Big Six carriers last week pushed through another $20 increase in the domestic fuel surcharge.
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.