By Joe Brancatelli

· More Charges for Comfy Coach Across the Pacific
· Hotel Crisis? What Crisis? More Hotels Opening
· Delta Rescinds Some of Its New Baggage Charge
· Southwest Goes to the Dogs--and Cats. Literally.
· SkyTeam Opens a Lounge at Heathrow's T4
· Pittsburgh Finally Gets a Nonstop Flight to Europe
· A Bar for Sammy Hagar at Las Vegas/McCarran

Across the Pacific: Less First Class, More Charges for Comfy Coach
Transpacific premium-class traffic is plummeting, falling even faster than transatlantic travel up front. According to IATA, the airline trade group, premium-class travel fell by almost 30 percent in March compared to March, 2008. Qantas, the Australian carrier, has been among the hardest hit. Besides the 30 percent traffic decline, Qantas says that those flyers still buying premium-class flights are paying just half of last year's going rates. As a result, Qantas has simply stopped selling first-class tickets on at least three routes, including its San Francisco-Sydney service. That means some lucky flyers will get business-class service, but be upgraded to the seats in the larger, plusher first-class seats. However, coach passengers who want to score a roomier exit-row seat will have to pay for the privilege. Qantas now charges a premium of $60 to $100 for an exit-row seat assignment. That essentially matches the exit-row premium imposed last fall by Singapore Airlines on many of its transpacific flights.

Hotel Crisis? What Crisis? More Hotels Continue to Open
The hotel industry has been at least as hard hit as the airlines and average occupancy rates have been as low as 50 percent nationwide during some recent weeks. But the major lodging chains continue to open new properties and reflag existing ones as if there's no tomorrow. (Who knows? Maybe there won't be…) Leading the parade this week is Courtyard by Marriott, which opened new branches in the District of Columbia; Honolulu's Waikiki neighborhood; and Pune, India. The Washington property is in the NoMa district on 2nd Street N.W. near the New York Avenue Metro Station. The Honolulu branch is a conversion of the failed 307-room Wyland Waikiki hotel that opened two years ago. … An in the midst of the hotel craziness is a bit of hotel insanity. Into one of the hardest-hit markets, South Florida, Starwood has injected still another property, the 517-room W Fort Lauderdale. … A 104-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened in Dothan, Alabama. … InterContinental has opened a 216-room resort on Fiji's Natadola Beach.

Delta Rescinds Some of Its New Baggage Charge
Delta Air Lines last month announced it would charge coach passengers $50 to check a second bag on international flights. But now the airline has retracted some of the new fee, which is due to go into effect on July 1. Now only second bags on U.S.-Europe routes will be subject to the fee. No other carrier has matched Delta's fee. … SkyTeam has opened the first part of its co-branded lounge at Terminal 4 of London/Heathrow airport. The lounge, opposite Gate 10, is open to first class, business class and SkyTeam Elite flyers. … The former Novotel Hotel three miles from Toronto/Pearson airport has been converted to a 120-room Hotel Indigo. … This is just what McCarran Airport in Las Vegas needed: an airport bar named after Sammy Hagar, the rock guitarist and singer. It's the second location for Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill; the first opened last year at Kahului Airport on Maui. … Pittsburgh finally has an international flight again. Delta Air Lines launched nonstops to Paris/DeGaulle this week, the first overseas flights since US Airways pulled its international service in 2004 as part of the closure of its once-large Pittsburgh hub.

Southwest Airlines Goes to the Dogs--and Cats. Literally.
Southwest Airlines has ended its no-pets policy and now permits small cats and dogs in the cabin for a $75 one-way charge. The pets-welcome policy is effective on June 17. Separately, Southwest raised its third-bag fee to $50; Southwest still permits travelers to check two bags free of charge. … Bankrupt Frontier Airlines, which has been profitable for the past six months, is expanding again. It will resume regional-jet flights to Tulsa from its Denver hub on August 2. … JetBlue Airways will launch flights between its hub at New York's Kennedy Airport hub and Kingston, Jamaica, on October 30.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
It's getting ugly in the competition for control of the airline business in the New York metropolitan area. Delta Air Lines recently hired Chuck Imhof, who had been the New York-based managing director of passenger sales for American Airlines. American promptly hit Imhof with a lawsuit claiming that he breached contract and swiped company-confidential strategies and memos. You can read about American's lawsuit here. … United Airlines, which faces contract negotiations with all of its labor unions, has gone public with its "labor platform." You can read United's pitch here. No word on how much United paid the consultant who invented the term "labor negotiations platform." … Turkey is expanding its no-smoking ban to all enclosed commercial establishments on July 19. Since few Turks have actually observed the first tranche of a smoking ban in effect since last year, it will be interesting to watch how the tobacco-addicted country will react to the stricter rules. … The big airline alliances continue to expand. Star Alliance is adding Aegean Airlines of Greece and Oneworld will add S7 Airlines, a fast-growing Russian carrier.
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.