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A BRIEFING FOR JANUARY 15 TO 29, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli

· Today's Hero: Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger
· More Hotels Gush From the Development Pipeline
· Greenpeace Buys Land to Halt Heathrow Runway
· Lufthansa Opens Tri-Level $10 Million JFK Lounge
· Delta Cancels Some Planned International Routes
· Southwest Keeps Growing in California Corridor
· Flying in Africa, Always Difficult, Gets Harder


Today's Hero: Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger
A Google search of Chesley Sullenberger, the 29-year US Airways veteran who safely ditched his Airbus A320 in the Hudson River today (January 15), reveals that he is also the founder of Safety Reliability Methods Inc. The company offers "strategic and tactical guidance to enhance your safety, performance and reliability"--and who wouldn't hire Sullenberger now? After his aircraft's two engines went dead, the apparent victim of a double bird strike, Sullenberger managed to glide the 123-foot-long, 93,500-pound A320 through New York City's busy lower airspace to a "perfect" landing on the near-freezing river near midtown Manhattan. ("I saw it gently descending like it was landing at an airport," travel publicist Geoffrey Weill, who lives on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, told me this evening via E-mail.) The aircraft remained intact and buoyant as Sullenberger, the first officer and three flight attendants evacuated 150 passengers in about 90 seconds. They were rescued within minutes by a makeshift flotilla of tour boats, passenger ferries and emergency-response ships. (New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said that Sullenberger made two walk-throughs of the aircraft to verify that everyone had left the plane.) As you've probably already heard, US Airways Flight 1549 left LaGuardia Airport at 3:03 p.m. headed for Charlotte, but was in trouble within a few minutes of takeoff. It'll take months for complete details of the incident to emerge, but today I suggest you raise a glass to a skilled cabin crew who saved 150 of our fellow flyers. There but for the grace of God we all go.

More Hotels Gush Out of the Development Pipeline
With four in ten rooms in the nation now empty on an average night, there isn't much need for new hotels. But since it takes a few years for properties to go from conception to reality, a huge number of hotels continue to gush from the development pipeline. Here is what's new this week alone: A 136-room Holiday Inn has opened in Long Island City in the New York City borough of Queens. In Manhattan, the 124-room Wyndham Garden Inn opened in the increasingly crowded Chelsea neighborhood. Starwood has opened an Aloft property in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the 250-room Westin in Richmond, Virginia. After 13 years of planning, false starts and controversy, the 614-room Omni Fort Worth has opened across the street from the city's convention center. Out on the West Coast, Hyatt has opened the Andaz West Hollywood on the site of the old Hyatt on Sunset.

Greenpeace Buys Real Estate to Block New Heathrow Runway
A controversial third runway for London's Heathrow Airport took a strange twist this week when Greenpeace and other environmental activists bought a large plot of land where the planned runway would be built. Greenpeace said it and luminaries such as actress Emma Thompson purchased land in the village of Sipson, which would be obliterated to make room for the runway. The British government, which is generally supportive of a Heathrow expansion, could invoke the English equivalent of "eminent domain" to seize the land, but its purchase by committed anti-runway activists will surely slow down the process. Lufthansa has opened an elaborate, three-tiered lounge inside Terminal 1 at New York's Kennedy Airport. The 16,000-square-foot, $10 million facility features a lounge for First Class/HON Circle members on the third level, a Senator Lounge on the second level and a lounge for business-class flyers on the main level. Speaking of airport clubs, Priority Pass members now have access to new lounges in Terminal 2 of Sao Paulo/Guarulhos; Terminal 3 of Beijing/Capital; and Terminal 1 of Toronto/Pearson.

Southwest Adds Another Route in the California Corridor
If you had any doubt that Southwest Airlines is the emotional and physical successor to AirCal and PSA, the former masters of the California Corridor, consider this: Southwest is adding still another intra-California service. On May 9, it will launch five daily flights between San Francisco and John Wayne/Orange County. That'll make 362 daily flights within California for the nation's largest low-fare carrier. JetBlue Airways continues to quietly turn Orlando into a small hub. Its latest move: daily service between Orlando and San Jose, Costa Rica, beginning on March 26. The airline previously announced that it would begin flights from Orlando to Bogota, Colombia, (on January 29) and Nassau, Bahamas (on February 1). AirTran Airways says that it will launch daily flights between Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Lauderdale on March 5. WestJet, the big Canadian discounter, is adding a slew of new seasonal destinations this spring. The new service includes daily Edmonton-Yellowknife flights; three weekly flights from Calgary to both San Francisco and San Diego; flights between Toronto and both Fort McMurray and Sydney, Nova Scotia; and service from Vancouver to Saskatoon, Regina, Fort McMurray and London, Ontario. It will also resume its seasonal flights between Calgary and Newark and Toronto and St. John. All of the service starts in May.

Flying in Africa, Always Difficult, Gets Harder
Virgin Nigeria, one of the airlines in Richard Branson's stable, seems to be going the way of many Branson ventures. Just three years after launching with typical Bransonian bombast, Virgin Nigeria has been forced to shut down its only long-haul routes. Service from Lagos to London/Gatwick and Johannesburg ends later this month, but the airline insists its intra-Nigeria flights will continue. Meanwhile, the always difficult Africa flying environment worsens with news of the closure of Zambian Airways. Delta Air Lines is backing off some international route launches it had announced just a few weeks ago. The airline says its planned Raleigh/Durham-Paris/CDG route won't begin after all, nor will a New York/Kennedy-Gothenburg, Sweden, service. Both routes were due to begin in June. Continental Airlines says that it will switch seasonal summer flights between its Cleveland hub and London to Heathrow Airport. The airline had been using London's Gatwick Airport. The carrier also says that it is ending its seasonal Cleveland-Paris route.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
FlightStats.com says New York's three major airports were the worst in the nation for on-time performance in 2008. LaGuardia operated at just 61.8 percent, Newark at 61.9 and Kennedy at 64 percent. The next worst won't surprise you, either. Chicago/O'Hare managed just 67.1 percent on-time operations and San Francisco operated at 69 percent. Speaking of New York, the East Coast Air Shuttles continue their descent into minor-league status. Several weeks ago, Delta Air Lines said some of its LaGuardia-Washington/National flights were converting to regional jets. In March, US Airways will begin mixing in regional jets on weekend flights on both the Boston-La Guardia and National-LaGuardia runs. United Airlines says it will offer GoGo in-flight Internet on its p.s. routes (Kennedy-Los Angeles and Kennedy-San Francisco). The service will begin later this year and cost $12.95 a flight. Despite all the hype around in-flight Internet, fewer than two dozen American, Delta and Virgin America jets are currently wired.
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 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.