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A BRIEFING FOR JAN. 28 TO FEB. 11, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· Can't Raise the Fares? Hike the Sleazy Surcharges
· All Nippon Will Step Into the JAL Bankruptcy Gap
· When You're in a Deep Hotel Hole, Stop Digging
· Air Canada Will Fly to Seven More U.S. Airports
· Noted: a Carousel Switch at San Jose Airport
· Continental Restores Two Routes From Cleveland
· A Security Screener Plants 'Evidence' on a Flyer


Can't Raise the Fares? Hike the Sleazy Surcharges
As I mentioned in last week's Tactical Traveler, the legacy carriers attempted to ram through a fare increase of $6-$16 roundtrip. The fake hike failed when all of the Big Five lemmings didn't leap off the cliff in precision. But almost immediately after American Airlines admitted failure on Monday and the increase was rescinded, American tried again. But rather than post a new fare increase, American resorted to the sleazy game of putting a surcharge on tickets purchased for travel on supposedly busy days. As you recall, this new gambit first appeared for last year's Christmas/New Year period and has a triple advantage from the airlines' point of view: Surcharges are easier to file with regulators and the industry's internal tariff operations. Surcharges trick passengers into thinking fares aren't rising because the extra cost is buried in the taxes and fees charges. And surcharges are not eligible for corporate discounts, thus effectively raising pre-negotiated corporate fares. According to the fare-tracking wizards at FareCompare.com, American's new $10 each way busy-day surcharge covers nine days in June, all but 10 days of July and 11 days in August. Several other (but not all) legacy carriers have matched the surcharge.

ANA Will Step Into the JAL Bankruptcy Gap
The slow-motion descent of Japan Airlines into bankruptcy and Japan's cultural equivalent of Dante's nine circles of hell is proving to be quite an opportunity for All Nippon Airways. JAL will drop at least 14 international and 17 domestic routes and ANA announced this week that it'll be adding a slew of new service. None of the routes affect U.S. markets directly, but ANA's new flights will operate from both Tokyo/Narita and Tokyo/Haneda as well as some regional Japanese airports. If nothing else, ANA's bulked-up network will offer better connecting service for Star Alliance flyers. Lufthansa says that it will resume Toronto-Dusseldorf flights. The five-a-week service returns on May 13. Delta Air Lines will drop flights between Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) on March 26. Northwest Airlines launched the route last June.

When You're in a Hotel Hole, Stop Digging
Throughout 2009, the hotel industry has been awash in waves of property openings just as occupancy rates and nightly room rates were collapsing. That was an accident of timing since the hotel pipeline tends to be planned 2-3 years in advance and can't be plugged when business turns south. But 2010 will be much different. A lot of projects have been halted in the planning stage and there are some empty holes out there that were going to be hotel foundations. And the flow of properties has definitely slowed down. Here's what's new this week: a 192-room Embassy Suites in the Kennesaw Town Center in Atlanta; a 134-room Staybridge Suites in the Seattle suburb of Mukilteo; and a 94-room Holiday Inn Express in Saint-Hyacinthe, which is 30 minutes from Montreal. Meanwhile, watch for hotels to switch flags as the property owners search for the best affiliation deal from the major chains. Notable this week: the Sheraton Orlando Downtown has become the Sonesta Hotel Orlando. And also watch for outright closings, something that awaits the Dayton Airport Hotel at the end of the month. On the flip side, a 129-room Homewood Suites in La Quinta, California, has reopened after closing in August due to financial problems.

Air Canada Will Fly to Seven More U.S. Airports
Air Canada said this week that it'll add service to seven more U.S. cities from its Toronto/Pearson hub. First up is John Wayne/Orange County, where daily Airbus A319 flights begin on April 6. Then come flights to Memphis; Cincinnati; Portland, Maine; and Syracuse. Those routes will operate twice a day beginning May 17 with 19-seat turboprops (Portland and Syracuse) or 50-seat regional jets. Daily San Diego A319 flights begin on June 17. That's the same day daily flights to Portland, Oregon, launch with E90 regional jets. On May 2, Continental Airlines resumes daily flights from its Cleveland hub to Norfolk, Virginia, and Green Bay, Wisconsin. The daily nonstops will operate with 50-seat jets. San Jose travelers take note: If you're arriving at Terminal C, your bags are headed to Terminal B. Effective February 2, flights coming into Terminal C will unload bags at the carousels in Terminal B, which is near Terminal C's ticket counters. It's all got to do with the slow closure of Terminal C, which is due to shut down this summer. The change affects travelers on Alaska, Delta, Horizon, US Airways and Frontier airlines.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
It's hard to make sense of this one: A security screener at Philadelphia International pulled a "prank" on a 22-year-old college student by planting a bag filled with white powder in her carry-on luggage. The incident happened on January 5 and the Transportation Security Administration says the screener was "disciplined" and is no longer working for the TSA. IATA, the global airline trade group, says that demand for flights fell faster in 2009 than any time since World War II. Global passenger traffic declined by 3.5 percent and freight traffic declined by 10.1 percent. What a surprise: All of the nation's airline lobbying groups (Air Transportation Assn., Regional Airline Assn. and the Air Carrier Assn. of America) want the Transportation Department to delay its order requiring carriers to post flight-specific on-time data on their Web sites. The DOT wants the data available by late April. The airlines want a delay until at least July.

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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 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.