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A BRIEFING FOR APRIL 16-APRIL 30, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli

· Southwest Rolls Out Its Plans for Boston/Logan
· Hyatt Enhances the Benefits for Top-Level Elites
· InterContinental Comps Internet for Some Guests
· AirTran Is Building Up Flight Network in Orlando
· American and Southwest Kick Off 1Q Reporting
· United Gets Bad PR Even for a 'Me, Too' Policy
· Hotel Guest Swipes Two TVs and a Coffeemaker


Hey, Isn't This the Same Lede Story As Last Week?
You're forgiven if you think this is the same story as last week: Southwest Airlines has announced its new routes and service from Boston's Logan Airport and the destinations it has chosen are Chicago/Midway (five daily flights) and Baltimore/Washington (five daily flights). Service begins on August 16 and advance-purchase fares range from $49-$89 each way. Southwest announced the same rollout last week for its new service from New York's LaGuardia Airport, which begins on June 28. Why are Midway and BWI getting so much attention? Well, for starters (and most importantly), both cities have enough point-to-point traffic to make it worth Southwest's time. And both cities have a substantial number of onward connections, meaning that flights to Midway allow travelers to tap into Southwest's Western network and the flights to BWI open up Southwest's Southern and Southeastern network.

Hyatt Pumps Up the Benefits for Gold Passport Elites
As the competition for those of us still traveling turns brutal, the major hotel chains are ratcheting up the benefits for elite members of their frequent-guest programs. At Hyatt Gold Passport, for example, Platinum Level members now receive free Internet access. Hyatt's best customers, Diamond members, get free Internet, too. The Diamonds now also receive upgrades to the best available rooms when they check in, including access to those on the Regency Club or Grand Club level; four suite upgrades a year; and free continental breakfast and evening cocktails in the club lounges. If club-lounge access is not available, Diamond members will receive full breakfast and 2,500 bonus points. Finally, Hyatt has also eliminated blackout dates on award redemption for all Gold Passport members. If a standard room is available, it can now be claimed for an award night. Surf here for complete details of the new policies and perks. Meanwhile, InterContinental has responded to the Hyatt move by offering free Internet to its Ambassador members. Participating hotels and terms of the offer are here. The merger of Northwest Airlines into Delta Air Lines and the end of the WorldPerks frequent flyer program is also changing credit card partnership arrangements. Delta will stick with American Express, which means the end of the WorldPerks Visa card from US Bank. The bank has begun converting Northwest flyers to a new card and Delta is urging Northwest flyers to apply for a Delta-denominated Amex card.

AirTran Is Building in Orlando and Taking on Allegiant
AirTran Airways is launching a slew of new routes into Orlando and many of the new flights target Allegiant Airlines, the specialty carrier that has made its reputation serving tertiary nonstop markets. The new Orlando offerings from AirTran are three weekly flights from Charleston, West Virginia (beginning June 25); four weekly flights from Allentown/Lehigh Valley (June 25); three weekly flights from Asheville, North Carolina (June 11); four weekly flights from Knoxville (June 12); and three weekly flights from Atlantic City (June 12). AirTran is also adding daily flights from its Atlanta hub to Portland, Maine, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Both routes are seasonal and will operate between June 11 and September 8.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American and Southwest airlines kicked off the first-quarter earnings season this week and the numbers, as expected, were horrific. Although it beat analysts' expectations (which isn't all that hard since the analysts never know what they're talking about), American still lost $375 million. Southwest lost $91 million, more than $70 million of which was losses on fuel hedges. That's ironic since most of Southwest's advantage over the Big Six in recent years had been its aggressive fuel-hedging programs. Just what we needed: another luxury hotel. This one is the 151-room St. Regis Atlanta in Buckhead. Speaking of the awful economy, consider this: A guest at the Fairmont Dallas made off with a pair of 36-inch flat-screen televisions--and a coffeemaker. No word on whether she swiped the bathroom amenities, too. But we know she left without checking out or paying the bill. A federal district judged has tossed the false-imprisonment lawsuit filed by one of the travelers held for more than nine hours on an American Airlines plane diverted to Austin in December, 2006. Not even Brighton, the famed if faded British seaside resort, can resist the lure of the chain hotels. Two of the city's best known properties now sport brand flags. The Royal York is a Radisson and the Lansdowne Place is now a Park Inn.

Even When It Is Doing 'Me, Too,' United Gets Bad Publicity
United Airlines this week announced--and by announced I mean slipped into its contract of carriage without advance public notice--that it would charge "passengers of size" for two seats if they did not fit comfortably into a coach chair. That promptly lead the mainstream media to run "fat tax" stories--and most outlets conveniently failed to mention that United was simply adopting a "me, too" policy that has been in place for years at most major carriers. But it also must be said that United brings some of the bad publicity on itself. It chose to launch its obese-passenger initiative the very same week it began installing a new "slimline" seat that will allow it to jam four more chairs into the coach cabins of its Boeing 757s. The irony of adding seats into the already cramped coach cabins at the very moment it began charging passengers for being too large apparently escaped the mental midgets at United.
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.