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A BRIEFING FOR LATE FEBRUARY, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· Southwest Takes on USAirways in Philadelphia
· Lufthansa's Strike Is Also a Star Alliance Strike
· Best Western Offers Status Match to Hotel Elites
· Alaska Air Rolls Out New Elite Level for 75K Flyers
· Delta, US Air May Scrub the LGA-DCA Gate Swap
· American Adds Fees for Blankets, Standby Travel
· Boston Reverses Stand, Offers Free Airport WiFi


Southwest Gets New Philadelphia Terminal, Challenges US Airways
Southwest Airlines got its new terminal at Philadelphia International Airport this week and the 800-pound gorilla of low-fare airlines promptly renewed its challenge to US Airways, Philadelphia's legacy incumbent. Starting June 27, Southwest will fly five times a day between Philadelphia and Boston, one of US Airways' most profitable monopoly routes. According to government figures, US Airways' average fare on PHL-BOS has been $345, by far the highest in the country for routes between 251 and 300 miles. Southwest's introductory fare: $59 one-way. Southwest already services Boston's alternate airports with 13 daily flights to Manchester and Providence from Philadelphia. But the flights to Logan are the most direct assault on US Airways' primacy since Southwest launched flights at Philadelphia in 2004. Southwest's new Philadelphia home, Terminal E, underwent a $45 million expansion. Southwest now has seven new gates and a 500-seat holding area to go with its five existing Terminal E gates. That should allow the carrier to consolidate all of its Philadelphia service in Terminal E by the end of March. Some of its flights are now located at Terminal D.

Lufthansa's Strike Is Also a Star Alliance Strike
Lufthansa's powerful and quite unhappy pilot's union has called a strike for February 22 to February 25. And given the nature of the airline world--where airline alliances breed massive code-sharing--Lufthansa's strike is likely to affect flyers using the German carrier's Star Alliance partners, too. If you're flying internationally on United, Continental, US Airways or Air Canada during the strike period, check your itinerary to see that it is not a code-share using Lufthansa aircraft. If it is, check with the airline that issued your ticket and scramble for alternate arrangements. (United is by far Lufthansa's largest code-share partner in North America.) If your flight is booked directly with Lufthansa, call 1-800-645-3880 for more details. Ironically, the pilot's union is not haggling with Lufthansa over salaries. It's worried that Lufthansa will continue outsourcing pilot jobs to its growing list of non-German subsidiaries like Swiss International, Brussels Airlines, BMI and Lufthansa Italia.

Best Western Offers Status Match to Elites at Any Other Chain
Best Western has always trailed other major hotel chains when it came to soliciting the business of frequent travelers exactly because it wasn't a chain. It's a reservations and marketing service for a worldwide group of independent properties and that means the Best Western brand isn't particularly easy to quantify and its standards are rather broad. To compensate for the handicap, Best Western is deploying the nuclear option of loyalty programs: the "status match." Effective today (February 18), Best Western Rewards will match the elite status you have in any other hotel chain's loyalty program. According to the rules of the Status Match, No Catch promotion, travelers who show proof of their status in another program will receive similar status in Best Western Rewards. BW Rewards gives Gold status after 10 stays per calendar year; Platinum after 15 stays; and Diamond status after 30 stays. Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan has a new top tier: MVP Gold 75K Elite. It's for travelers who fly 75,000 miles annually on Alaska and/or Horizon Air or travel 90,000 miles or 90 segments on Alaska, Horizon or its marketing partners. MVP Gold 75K Elite members receive top priority on upgrade waitlists on qualifying fares; upgrades five days in advance on other fares; a special reservation phone number; discounts on the airline's airport club network; free use of a DigEPlayer when flying coach; and 50,000 bonus miles.

Delta and US Airways May Scrub Their LaGuardia-National Trade
Remember last year's big deal between Delta and US Airways to swap take-off and landing slots, terminals and gate facilities at New York's LaGuardia and Washington's National Airport? (We covered it all here.) In essence, Delta would get control of most of US Airways assets at LaGuardia and Delta would give US Airways most of its facilities at National. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the deal last week, but with a caveat: Delta would have to sell to other carriers 14 of the 42 pairs of slots it was going to trade to US Airways and US Airways would have to sell to other carriers 20 of the 140 slot pairs at LaGuardia that it was trading to Delta. Shocked--shocked!--that the government might actually intervene to inject additional competition into the New York and Washington markets, Delta and US Airways say they won't do the deal under those terms. They apparently feel that they have the absolute right to do whatever they want with assets that belong to taxpayers in the first place. Candlewood Suites has opened an 88-room hotel at 11110 N.W. Ambassador Drive (Interstate 29) in Kansas City. That's at the edge of Kansas City airport.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines loses money, then adds annoying fees. Then it loses some more money and adds still more new fees. See how it works? Anyway, the newest fees from American: $8 for a blanket pack, which on May 1 will replace free blankets in coach on most flights; and, effective next week, $50 to confirm standby for all travelers except AAdvantage Elite, premium-class or full-fare-coach flyers. You can read about the new standby rules and charges here. Virgin America has raised its checked-bag charge to $25 for each bag. Boston/Logan now offers free WiFi in its terminals, which is hilarious since the airport fought Continental Airlines all the way up to the Federal Communications Commission when Continental made its WiFi free in the Presidents Club at Logan. Continental won the right to give away WiFi after the 2006 fight. A $10 roundtrip fare increase that legacy carriers tried to impose earlier this month floundered on President's Day weekend. So much for fancy soft drinks: Alaska Airlines has stopped serving Jones sodas and cut a deal to serve Coca-Cola products in flight on all Alaska and Horizon flights. After all the sturm und drang about Japan Air Lines possibly jumping to Skyteam, the bankrupt Japanese carrier has decided to stay with the Oneworld Alliance. What's Japanese for sturm und drang, anyway?

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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.