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A BRIEFING FOR MAY 8 TO MAY 21, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli

· The Cost of Internet on the Road Comes Down
· U.S. and Canadian Carriers Slash Mexico Flights
· Alaska Air Adds More West Coast-Hawaii Service
· Delta, Amex Lose Northwest Credit-Card Battle
· Southwest's Bad Coffee May Finally Improve
· Make Them Stop Opening Hotels. Please.
· Avis Europe Adds a Huge No-Show Fee


The Cost of Internet on the Road Is Coming Down
Without much fanfare, Boingo, the global network of 100,000 WiFi hotspots, has slashed its monthly price by more than 50 percent. The basic domestic plan has been cut to $9.95 a month, down from $21.95. The domestic Boingo service covers hotspots operated by AT&T, T-Mobile and others inside thousands of hotels, Starbucks, McDonalds and bookstores nationwide. Boingo's move comes as residential-oriented broadband firms have begun bundling remote WiFi access with their own monthly fees. Cablevision, for example, offers its users in the New York metropolitan area some WiFi access on the road. Verizon, which sells DSL and fiber-optic Internet to residential customers, is readying an announcement that would give them some free WiFi hotspot access, too. And T-Mobile has joined other big cellphone companies in selling 3G modem sticks that allow laptops to surf the Internet using mobile-phone networks.

Make Them Stop. Please. Make Them Stop.
The number of new hotels opening would be overwhelming even if the economy were still roaring along. Now it just seems, well, chaotic. But here we go. Hilton has opened a new 175-suite Embassy Suites in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and a 135-room Hilton Garden Inn in Suffolk, Virginia. Marriott has opened a 118-room Fairfield Inn in Schertz, in suburban San Antonio. Starwood has opened side-by-side properties in Arundel Mills, Maryland. One is a 147-room Element and the other is a 142-room Aloft hotel. Extra credit if you can define the brand standards or purpose of either of the chains. A former Radisson in Lenexa, Kansas, has been converted to the 270-room Crowne Plaza Overland Park. Internationally, citizenM, a prefab, high-tech hotel concept, has opened its second property. The 215-room hotel in Amsterdam's financial district complements the original citizenM, located within walking distance of the passenger terminals at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. And Kempinski has opened a 98-room lakefront resort in the High Tatras Mountains of Slovakia.

U.S. and Canadian Carriers Slash Mexico Service
The panic surrounding the H1N1 or swine-flu pandemic eased this week, but U.S. and Canadian carriers bowed to the inevitable: Travelers have stopped flying to Mexico and flights were largely empty. Continental Airlines, for example, slashed its Mexico capacity by 40 percent for the rest of the month. US Airways cut almost as much and extended the reductions through June. The cuts at United Airlines ran to about two-thirds of its May flights and about half of its June runs. And Air Canada temporarily suspended service to its Mexican resort destinations. Other carriers, including JetBlue, American and Delta, made big cuts, too. Southwest Airlines and several others have intensified the post-flight cleaning regimens for aircraft still traveling to and from Mexico and Lufthansa went so far as to put doctors on its Mexico-bound flights.

Mexico's Loss Is Hawaii's Gain As Alaska Air Shifts Flights
Like other carriers, Alaska Airlines has sharply reduced its Mexico flight frequencies. But it is shifting the resulting excess service around its network. The surprising winner: Hawaii, where traffic has been falling for more than a year. Alaska, however, says its Hawaii business is strong and that justifies the new routes. Effective November 9, it will add flights between Oakland and Maui. The next day it adds flights between Oakland and Kona on the Big Island. Alaska is also moving up the launch of its previously announced Portland, Oregon-Maui flights by a month to July 2. It will also add new destinations from its Seattle hub. On September 23, it'll begin flights to Houston/Intercontinental; a month later, it'll add Seattle-Atlanta service. Delta's big international hub at New York/Kennedy will get still another route next month. Four weekly flights to Valencia, Spain, begin on June 5. Those new United Airlines flights to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles and San Francisco announced last week will replace US Airways service. The carriers, partners in the Star Alliance, are coordinating the hand-off. US Airways, which once operated hundreds of flights a day in Pittsburgh, drops the West Coast destinations on August 18. United begins the routes on September 2.

Delta and Amex Lose the Battle of Northwest Credit Customers
It looks as if Delta Air Lines and American Express have blinked in their big battle with U.S. Bank, which had been issuing WorldPerks Visa cards tied to the soon-to-die Northwest WorldPerks program. Delta and Amex, which issues the cards tied to the surviving SkyMiles program, sued to stop U.S. Bank from replacing WorldPerks Visa cards with a new product called FlexPerks. But the case has now been settled and all WorldPerks Visa customers will get the new card, which won't offer miles in the Delta program. Northwest flyers will have to apply for a new card from Amex if they want to earn SkyMiles from charges.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Airlines flyers take note: The carrier's legendarily bad in-flight coffee may be a thing of the past. The airline now serves Lift, a dark-roasted, 100 percent Arabica blend of South and Central American beans. And here's the big news: Southwest has finally abandoned the powdered creamer and now serves a liquid creamer. Avis renters in Europe take note: Avis Europe has begun charging a 40 euro or 40 British pound penalty for no-shows who don't cancel their bookings. Air Fiji has closed. Following the lead of Delta and Northwest, Continental Airlines has restored the 500-mile bonus for booking at its proprietary Web site. The bonus is scheduled to last through May 31.
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.