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A BRIEFING FOR OCT. 29 TO NOV. 11, 2009
By Joe Brancatelli

· Still a Few Glitches in the Continental-Star System
· Say Goodbye to Kennedy Airport's 'Death Hotel'
· More Hotels? Sure, Continue Gilding the Dead Lilly
· FAA Revokes the License of Two Northwest Pilots
· Airlines Shift Terminals in Hong Kong and Helsinki
· Boingo Now Works With Some Blackberry Devices
· US Airways Says Let's Get Small. Again.


Still a Few Glitches in the Continental-Star System
Continental Airlines defected to the Star Alliance this week after ditching the SkyTeam group last weekend and you would have thought the move was the first step toward permanent peace in the Middle East. There was an insane amount of hoopla in New York and more airline chief executives in one place than any city should be forced to endure. Most of gritty day-to-day details of the switch went off well enough, but there are still a few substantial glitches in the system. Chief among them: Continental, United Airlines and US Airways don't seem to be on the same page with upgrades. There have been lots of confirmed tales of elite-level travelers not getting the upgrades for which they qualify. Another problem: Not all Star Alliance carriers have tweaked their systems to allow travelers to use their Continental OnePass number. Still another: Continental travelers hoping to cash miles for United Airlines tickets have been distressed to learn that, at least in the early going, there are no premium-class United seats in the award inventory. That's especially distressing for travelers hoping to score Australia seats on United since Continental said this week that it would sever its frequent flyer partnership with Qantas on December 17. Some other news travelers found distressing: Flights on most of Star's Asia partners will earn only base miles, not any OnePass bonus miles. There was also some good news: Continental Presidents Club members can access United Red Carpet and US Airways Club lounges without a same-day ticketing requirement.

US Airways Says Let's Get Small. Again.
US Airways has been shrinking for so long and heading down blind alleys for so long that it's always hard to keep track of the zigs, zags, retrenchments and humiliating defeats. But for the six of you who might still be flying this most business-traveler-unfriendly of carriers, here are the details of this week's announced downsizing. The airline will drop two more domestic destinations (Colorado Springs and Wichita); shrink its one-time hub in Las Vegas to just 36 daily flights; gut Boston service (all flights to Philadelphia and New York/LaGuardia will now operate with E-190 regional jets and most Caribbean destinations will be dropped); and end flights from Philadelphia to five European destinations (Birmingham; London/Gatwick; Milan; Stockholm; and Shannon). Also gone are US Airways' Pacific fantasies. The airline has given up its never-used rights to fly to Beijing and delayed (probably forever) plans to fly to Tokyo/Narita. Also gone: at least a thousand more employees. According to the airline, 99 percent of its remaining service will involve four airports (the hubs in Philadelphia, Charlotte and Phoenix and a "focus" operation at Washington/National) or its shriveled East Coast Shuttle operation. It may also be worth noting that this iteration of US Airways is almost totally a hybrid of former carriers. The Charlotte hub comes from its merger with Piedmont in the late 1980s. The Phoenix hub came with the America West merger. The shuttle operation was originally built by Eastern Airlines. And most of US Airways' other Washington/National operations came in the slot-and-gate swap with Continental Airlines earlier this year.

Say Goodbye to the 'Death Hotel' at Kennedy Airport
Sometimes good things do happen: The hideous Ramada Plaza hotel at New York's Kennedy Airport is closing for good on December 1. The Ramada Plaza is not only a holdover of the days when airport lodgings were ugly, dirty and slovenly run, it is also the notorious "death hotel" where airlines directed friends, family and media in the immediate aftermath of a plane crash. The Port Authority, which operates Kennedy and owns the 478-room hotel, has marked the site for redevelopment. ... Hong Kong travelers take note: Check-in counters for 15 airlines using Terminal 1 were relocated over the weekend. Oneworld flyers using Helsinki take note: Finnair and several other Oneworld carriers (British Airways, Iberia and Malev) move to Terminal 5 on November 24.

More Hotels? Sure, Why Not Continue Gilding the Dead Lilly?
With occupancy plummeting and room rates falling precipitously, no recovery in sight and a record number of properties in or nearing default, logic would lead you to believe that the hotel industry would stop opening locations. But that's not how it works since projects put into the pipeline years ago keep gushing out. So get out your scorecard and make note of this week's newbies. A 68-room Holiday Inn Express opened in downtown Baltimore inside a 1920s era bank. Peninsula Hotels returns to Shanghai after a 60-year absence with the opening of a newly built, 235-room property in the city's Bund district. Peninsula's parent company, Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, operated four of Shanghai's best-known properties before the communist takeover of China. Marriott opened a 323-room hotel in the New World entertainment complex across from Terminal 3 of Manila's international airport.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the licenses of the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport while commanding Flight 188 earlier this month. Disputing claims that they were literally asleep at the switch, the pilots insisted they were using their laptops during the period of time they were out of contact with air-traffic controllers. Gee, guys, I believe ya. But I didn't find Windows 7 that hard to install. The Bay Bridge in San Francisco was still closed as of this afternoon (October 29). Check with 511.org for updates. Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend, bringing the United States back in step with the rest of the world. Adjust your flight schedules accordingly. Boingo, the global network of WiFi hotspots, now offers mobile service for WiFi-equipped BlackBerry devices. Check here for details and to download the software. A $10 roundtrip fare hike by legacy carriers last week was rolled back on routes where they compete with low-fare airlines. The low-fare carriers had refused to match.

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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.