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A BRIEFING FOR FEB. 26 - MARCH 12, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli

· The Trendy Destination This Year? Tel Aviv
· US Airways Continues the Big Shrink at Las Vegas
· The Wages of Hubris at the W Hotel in Scottsdale
· Aeromexico Adds More Cities North of the Border
· Key West Airport Gets a New Passenger Terminal
· Ring-a-Ding-Ding! Sinatra's Cal Neva Goes Under
· Alaska Airlines Is Testing In-Flight WiFi, Too


The Trendy Destination This Year? Tel Aviv. Really…
With the global airline system on the verge of a panic thanks falling revenue, falling passenger counts and disappearing business travel--it's hard to call any destination trendy. But if any place deserves the moniker, it's Tel Aviv, which appears to be 2009's hot city to serve. Consider the fact that US Airways will launch flights in July from its Philadelphia hub. Lufthansa, which already flies to Tel Aviv twice a day from its Frankfurt hub, adds four weekly flights from Munich on April 26. (Given the quality of Munich Airport and the fast connections there, flights from the United States to Tel Aviv via Munich are pretty attractive.) Austrian Airlines increases the capacity of its Vienna-Tel Aviv service by 30 percent in May; it'll get the bump by using larger Boeing 767s in place of the Airbus A321s currently on the route. And bmi, which flies London/Heathrow-Tel Aviv, is expanding, too. On March 30, it will launch a second daily flight on the route. Then, on May 3, it will switch the flights to larger Airbus A330s from A321s, which increases seat capacity by another 40 percent.

US Airways Continues the Big Shrink at Las Vegas
US Airways used to boast about its "night hub" at Las Vegas. But that was before Las Vegas hit the skids and US Airways itself decided it didn't like its night-flight service after all. After a big pull down of flights last year, the airline is planning to trim more in the coming weeks. Besides the end of flights to four cities, including New York-Vegas service, it will trim capacity on 17 other routes to/from Vegas. After this round of cuts, US Airways will fly from Las Vegas to 24 cities with 63 flights. That's about half the number of cities and flights it offered at Las Vegas last summer. … The former Holiday Inn located a mile from New Orleans Airport has undergone a $28 million renovation and reopened as a Crowne Plaza hotel. … A new terminal building has opened at Key West Airport, the primary gateway for flights to the Florida Keys. The 30,000-square-foot building includes 150 public parking spaces, escalators, elevators and other amenities. The airport's existing terminal, built in 1957, will now be renovated.

The Wages of Hubris at the W Hotel in Scottsdale
When things weren't rotten, the folks at W Hotels and a development firm called TriYar Hospitality announced a grandiose scheme to build a W hotel in Scottsdale, complete with 225 guestrooms, a spa, and a couple of dozen W Residences, Starwood's fancy name for condos. The whole shebang was supposed to open in 2007. It actually opened a year late, just after last Labor Day. It came complete with a glass-sheathed exterior that looks (and feels) bizarre in the heat and glare of Scottsdale. None of the condos--the number of units was halved along the way--appear to have been sold. Within a few weeks of the opening, several dozen unpaid subcontractors had filed mechanics liens against the hotel. In November, the general contractor filed a $20 million claim against TriYar. Late last month, the property's primary lender filed a notice of foreclosure on the property and a sale is scheduled for April 15. While all of this was going on, the hotel took a publicity hit when rap producer "Suge" Knight got into a fistfight there and was hospitalized. If you're interested in visiting this train wreck of a six-month-old hotel, rates are as low as $250 a night. That's about two-thirds off the posted rack rate.

Aeromexico Adds More Cities North of the Border
Aeromexico is making a new move on cities north of the border. Next week it launches daily flights between Mexico City and Toronto. On April 9, the carrier will add twice-weekly flights between Mexico City and Montreal. As many as five U.S. cities will be added to the Aeromexico route map later this year, too. … Meanwhile, Mexicana is adding flights between New York/Kennedy and Guadalajara on March 1. … Air Europa will launch daily Airbus 330 flights between New York/Kennedy and Madrid on June 1. … Delta Air Lines continues its relentless international increase in New York City. Effective May 22, it will add daily New York/LGA-Bermuda service. A month later, it will add flights between Kennedy and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines will accept credit cards for onboard purchases beginning March 23. … Ryanair, the big budget carrier in Europe, now permits in-flight use of mobile phones on about 20 aircraft. It hopes to extend the service to its entire fleet of 170 planes by the end of next year. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines has launched a limited test of in-flight Internet. Like Southwest Airlines, Alaska uses Row 44, a satellite-based system. The three other U.S. carriers testing or deploying inflight WiFi--American, Delta and Virgin America--are using an air-to-ground system from a company called Aircell. … Fans of the Rat Pack era take note: The Cal Neva Resort has gone into receivership after defaulting on a $25 million loan. The property in Lake Tahoe was once owned by Frank Sinatra and was a Rat Pack hangout.
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.