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A BRIEFING FOR JULY 2 TO JULY 16, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli

· Justice Department Hates Continental-Star Deal
· Get Your Hotel Scorecard Out, Domestic Division
· Surprise! Frontier and Midwest Will Code-Share
· BA Proceeds With London/City-Kennedy Flights
· Virgin America Drops Its Chicago/O'Hare Route
· Delta's One-Mile International Upgrade 'Deal'
· United Airlines Melts Down in Chicago. Again.


The Justice Department Hates Continental's Plans to Join Star
It looks like the Obama Administration is beginning to look at airline alliances (both existing and proposed) and doesn't like what it sees. On Monday (June 29), the Justice Department roundly condemned Continental Airlines' plan to join the Star Alliance. It not only dismissed Star's claim that it needs Continental to compete with the Delta-Air France SkyTeam Alliance, Justice also said that admitting Continental to Star would increase fares, reduce competition and offer "no benefits for U.S. consumers." Continental exits SkyTeam in late October and was hoping to join the Star Alliance immediately. Just weeks after President Obama took office, the Transportation Department (DOT) approved Continental's request, but Justice's opposition to everything from the potential Star dominance of transatlantic routes to its control of China routes throws that timetable in doubt. And at virtually the same moment that the Justice Department was savaging a Continental-Star tie-up, the Obama Administration DOT was imposing a new condition on the antitrust immunity of SkyTeam, approved last year by the Bush Administration DOT. "We think the public interest requires new reporting requirements to ensure that public benefits are being realized," the DOT said. It isn't known if the new data-reporting rules will actually impact SkyTeam's plans, but at least it lets the carriers know that someone is watching. Meanwhile, neither the DOT nor Justice has yet weighed in on British Airways' and American Airlines' request to broaden their Oneworld Alliance cooperation. Watch this space, folks, I think things just got very interesting.

Get Your Hotel Scorecard Out, Domestic Division
How many new hotels have opened or been reflagged in the last week? So many that we can only detail the domestic ones. We'll have to get to the new international properties next week. Ready? Here we go. Marriott opened a 299-room hotel in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It's adjacent to the new convention center in the heart of Amish Country. A 244-room Four Points by Sheraton has opened in Manhattan's Times Square district. In Florida, there's a new 82-room Fairfield Inn and a 98-room Courtyard by Marriott in St. Augustine. And the 408-room W South Beach has opened at 22nd Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Meanwhile, the Regent Bal Harbour is no more. The hotel's bankrupt owner has dumped the Regent brand and has gone independent. A 127-room Hotel Indigo has replaced the historic former Bel Air West Motel in the Central West End of St. Louis. A 132-room Red Lion hotel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has switched to the Radisson brand.

Surprise! Frontier and Midwest Will Code-Share
Try to act surprised by this: Republic Airways, the company that snapped up both Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines last week, says that the two carriers will begin code-sharing later this summer. The airlines' small frequent flyer programs--Frontier EarlyReturns and Midwest Miles--will also be linked. Speaking of Denver-based Frontier, the airline will drop flights to El Paso, Texas, and Grand Junction, Colorado, on September 14. AirTran Airways is bulking up in Florida for the fall and winter. It will resume daily flights from Tampa to Flint, Michigan, on October 6 and then restore daily Flint-Fort Myers service on November 4. There will also be four weekly Flint-Fort Lauderdale flights beginning November 4. Also returning to the schedule is Florida service from Akron/Canton. Starting November 4, there will be four daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and daily flights to Fort Myers.

More--and Less--London on the BA, Virgin Schedules
British Airways will proceed with its previously announced all-business-class flights between London's City Airport (LCY) near Canary Wharf and New York/Kennedy Airport. The service starts on September 29 and will offer 32 seats on specially configured Airbus A319s that will also feature in-flight text-messaging service. The problem? The runway at London/City is too short for an Airbus fully loaded with fuel, so the westbound flight will make an intermediate stop in Shannon, Ireland. At least if the current plan passes Transportation Security Administration (TSA) muster, travelers and luggage will disembark at Shannon and clear U.S. customs and immigration formalities while the plane is being refueled. The TSA has yet to sign off on the plan, however. To offset the new capacity--there will be two daily LCY flights by fall--BA is dropping its Kennedy-London/Gatwick flight and will likely trim at least one Kennedy-London/Heathrow frequency. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic is once again bailing on its flights to London from Chicago/O'Hare. The route "suspension" (Virgin's word) is part of a 7 percent capacity reduction worldwide. Britain's newest high-speed rail service is now being tested. The so-called Javelin train runs at 140-miles-an-hour between London's St. Pancras station and Ashford near Kent. The high-speed Channel Tunnel Eurostar train from Paris arrives at St. Pancras, too.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
It was just another early-summer meltdown from United Airlines today (July 2) thanks to the failure of check-in computers at its Chicago/O'Hare hub. As of 7 p.m. Eastern time, only 34 percent of its departures were on-time and about half of the flights tracked by FlightStats.com were delayed more than 45 minutes. About 60 percent of United's scheduled arrivals at O'Hare were on-time. A lot of Delta Air Lines travelers have received a one-mile upgrade offer for international flights. The promotion is valid for travel until September 15 if you book before July 13. The catch: only Y, B or M fares, essentially full-fare coach, can be upgraded. And Delta's international summer business-class fares are essentially the same price as the full-fare coach prices, albeit with more restrictions. Speaking of Delta and its Northwest Airlines subsidiary, the two carriers have now combined operations in Terminals 5 and 6 at Los Angeles. Only the daily KLM nonstop to Amsterdam will continue to use Northwest's old facilities in Terminal 2. And still more Delta-related news. A U.S. federal appeals court this week upheld a preliminary injunction that prohibits Delta from firing Mesa, one of its commuter carriers at New York/Kennedy Airport.
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.

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This column is Copyright 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.