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A BRIEFING FOR SEPT. 18 TO OCT. 2, 2008
By Joe Brancatelli

· The European Route Map Will Change Again
· Yeah, Yeah, the New Hotels Keep Opening…
· US Airways Gets Even Smaller in Pittsburgh
· WestJet, Air Canada Spar Over Surcharges
· Frontier and United Increase Baggage Fees
· Ho, Hum. Alitalia Is at Death's Door. Again.
· A Flyer Beats Delta in Small-Claims Court


Anyone Remember the Name of Those World War I Alliances?
The airline map of Europe is changing again. Lufthansa is buying Brussels Airlines, the de facto flag carrier of Belgium. Formerly Delta Air Transport, SN Brussels was formed in 2002 from the rubble of Sabena and then it merged with Virgin Express in 2006 to become Brussels Airlines. It has a decent network in Europe and good connections to Africa from Brussels. The purchase, to be completed by 2011, will cost Lufthansa about 250 million euros. Lufthansa purchased Swiss International, the successor to Swissair, in 2005. Lufthansa is planning to buy complete control of bmi and is talking to SAS about a takeover of the Scandinavian carrier, too. And the European consolidation is hardly finished. Austrian Airlines is looking for a buyer and Lufthansa, the Air France-KLM consortium and Russia's S7 Airlines are all in the running. Air France-KLM almost purchased Alitalia earlier this year and now that the Italian carrier is near collapse again, Lufthansa, Air France and British Airways are all sniffing around. If you want to draw some non-lethal comparisons to several earlier European land wars and political alliances, be my guest.

Yeah, Yeah, the New Hotels Keep Opening…
The hotel pipeline keeps gushing new lodgings great and small. On Bali, St. Regis has opened a resort with 79 suites and 42 private villas. The low-rise beachfront property is near the Bali Golf & Country Club. … A 143-room aloft hotel has opened in Franklin, Tennessee. That's a southern suburb of Nashville. And the first Hotel Indigo has opened in Miami. The 122-room property in Kendall is 10 miles from Miami Airport and is a conversion of a Ramada hotel.

US Airways Gets Even Smaller in Pittsburgh and AirTran Moves In
US Airways continues to chop away in Pittsburgh, which was once its most important hub. Effective January 5, it will drop all nonstop flights to Florida. That's a total of 24 flights a week to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. The Florida move will make it easier for AirTran Airways, which will launch flights from Pittsburgh to Florida next month. By Thanksgiving, AirTran will fly daily to Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Fort Myers. US Airways is "literally handing the competition business," says Bradley Penrod, executive director of Pittsburgh's airport authority. It wouldn't be the first time, of course. … Indianapolis has pushed the opening of its new airport terminal back to November 11. It was originally due to open October 28. … The new North Terminal at Detroit/Metro opened without incident yesterday (September 17). All carriers except airlines aligned with Northwest Airlines and SkyTeam have moved to the North Terminal. … Several more British Airways routes from North America moved to Terminal 5 at London/Heathrow Airport yesterday. Check to make sure if your BA flights use T5 or are still located at Terminal 4.

Air Canada Drops Second-Bag Fee, WestJet Drops Fuel Surcharges
An interesting battle over fees and surcharges broke out in Canada today (September 18). Early this morning, Air Canada dropped its second-bag fee of $25. The charge will end on September 23. Air Canada also announced that it would "incorporate" its $20-60 fuel surcharges into its base fares for domestic and transborder U.S. flights. Several hours later, WestJet one-upped Air Canada's legerdemain by dropping its fuel surcharges altogether. (WestJet has never had a second-bag fee.) … But what happens in Canada apparently stays in Canada because bag fees continue to rise in the United States. Effective November 1, Frontier Airlines will charge $15 for the first checked bag. Elite frequent flyer program members are exempt, however. Meanwhile, United Airlines, which started the whole baggage-fee game back in February, has upped its charges again. Beginning November 10, United will charge $50 to check a second bag.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Alitalia is on the brink of closure. Again. The private consortium that was going to buy the profitable parts of the bankrupt airline and merge them with Air One has withdrawn because all 11 Alitalia unions would not agree to the consortium's concession and layoff demands. … Clear, the security-line bypass program, says it will open a facility at Terminal A at Boston/Logan Airport. … A clarification on Qantas flights at Los Angeles Airport. My report last week was incomplete. On October 1, Qantas flights to Sydney, Melbourne and New York will move to the Bradley International Terminal. Qantas flights to Brisbane and Auckland will use Terminal 4. … A New York flyer has won a small-claims court judgment against Delta Air Lines. Delta cancelled a nonstop flight from Las Vegas to New York and refused to put him on another carrier's nonstop. Instead, it rebooked him on a Delta red-eye flight via Boston. The passenger refused, booked another airline's nonstop and successfully sued Delta to recover the $838 fare. Delta claimed it cancelled the flyer's original flight for weather-related reasons.
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.