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A BRIEFING FOR FEB. 25 - MARCH 11, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· Oh, Great! A Kennedy Runway Shuts Next Week.
· What the World Needs Now: More New Hotels
· Alaska Goes to Gogo for In-Flight WiFi Service
· Do You Want to Fly to Tokyo's Haneda Airport?
· Marriott Rewards Changes Prices of 650 Hotels
· OpenSkies Will Fly From Dulles to Paris/Orly
· Smaller Fleets Mean Rising Car-Rental Rates


Oh, Great! A Kennedy Runway Shuts Next Week.
New York's Kennedy Airport is already a nightmare, ranking 22nd out the 31 largest U.S. airports in on-time performance. So what happens on Monday, March 1? Kennedy's most important runway, known as 13R-31L, closes for what airport operators say will be a four-month construction job. The nation's second-longest commercial strip, Runway 13R-31L handles half of JFK's 525 daily flights. Although the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs Kennedy, says that it has planned for every contingency, the agency doesn't have a reputation for efficiency and admits that it's never tried anything this complicated or time-consuming. The two largest carriers at JFK, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines, are cutting their schedules by as much as 25 percent during the runway closure. Overall, however, the airport won't see a reduction in flights; the best the Port Authority could beat out of the carriers was a promise not to let scheduled service rise as high as JFK's usual midsummer load of 650 daily flights. And since nothing ever runs on-time, on-budget or as expected in New York, you just know this can't have a happy ending. Of course, how much worse can it get? You had to ask, didn't you?

What the World Needs Now: More Hotels
After a month or so when the hotel pipeline slowed down to a trickle, the market is awash in new properties again. So get out your scorecard and remember: More inventory means lower prices. From Hyatt: A 250-room Hyatt Regency in Clearwater, Florida, and a 151-room Hyatt Place in Sacramento, California. From Hilton: a 113-unit Homewood Suites in Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, and a 215-room Hilton in Liverpool, England. From Starwood: the 305-room W Hollywood and the rebranding of the Chambers hotel in Minneapolis as Le Meridien Chambers. From Marriott: a Residence Inn in Fort Lauderdale, which is actually a redo of the existing Ocean Sands Resort; an 878-room JW Marriott in the L.A. Live complex at Olympic and Figueroa in Los Angeles; and a 168-room Fairfield Inn that is part of the new Marriott Place development in downtown Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Crowne Plaza has put its flag on a 366-room hotel in Copenhagen and Ramada has rebranded a 198-room hotel in Honolulu's Waikiki district. And as if there aren't enough luxury hotels in Chicago, a 188-room property called The Elysian has opened at 11 East Walton.

Alaska Goes to Gogo for In-Flight WiFi, Southwest Stays With Row 44
Alaska Airlines, which had been testing an as-yet unlaunched in-flight WiFi service called Row 44, has switched gears. It will now test the Gogo service from Aircell, which has wired about 700 planes for Delta, American, United, AirTran and Virgin America. Aircell and Alaska can't install the service without government approval, so the first tranche of Gogo-equipped planes isn't likely until at least the spring. However, Row 44, which uses a satellite-based system instead of Gogo's ground-based product, may not be dead. Southwest Airlines says it expects to begin installing Row 44's flavor of in-flight WiFi beginning in the second quarter of the year. Southwest promises to install WiFi on its entire fleet, but there is one problem: No one knows if Row 44 can raise the funds it needs to do the installation.

Do You Want to Fly to Tokyo's Haneda Airport?
Tokyo's close-in domestic airport, Haneda, has been off-limits to almost all international flights since Narita Airport opened in 1978. But a new aviation agreement between the United States and Japan will reopen Haneda to some U.S. service and five carriers want a piece of the action. Flights wouldn't start until Haneda's fourth runway opens in October, but the Transportation Department will make its decision soon. There'll be room for four daily flights. Who wants what? American Airlines wants to fly from New York/Kennedy and Los Angeles. Continental Airlines wants to fly from Newark and Guam. Delta Air Lines wants to fly from Detroit, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Seattle. United Airlines wants to fly from San Francisco and Hawaiian Airlines wants to offer Honolulu-Haneda service. Air Jamaica is shrinking again. Starting in March, it will drop flights to New York from Grenada; and to Jamaica from Orlando and Chicago. OpenSkies, the British Airways boutique carrier that offers all-business-class service between Newark and Paris/Orly, will add a second route on May 3.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Marriott Rewards, Marriott's frequent stay program, will shift 650 hotels around its award chart beginning next week. The chain says 350 hotels will decrease by one point category and 300 hotels will move up one level. Almost all of the changes are in Categories 1-5, the lower tiers of the programs. At the top end, hotels in London, Paris, Boston, New York and Rome are moving down. Six Hawaii properties also drop a category. Continental Airlines flyers take note: Flights are moving to the North Terminal at Detroit/Metro and to Concourse B in Denver. Priority Pass, the global airport lounge network, has two notable additions: The Red Carpet clubs at Washington/Dulles near Gate D8 and at Gate 16 of Terminal 1 at Chicago/O'Hare. The Oneworld Alliance says that Kingfisher Airlines of India will join the group next year. Want to know why your car-rental rates are increasing? Simple. Fewer cars in the fleets of the major rental firms. Avis Budget, for example, says its fleet was 19 percent smaller last year compared to 2008 and Dollar Thrifty cut the number of vehicles by 11 percent. ... The Inspector General's office of the Department of Transportation issued a scathing report on how the Federal Aviation Administration oversaw safety and maintenance practices at American Airlines. You may want to read this one for yourself. The PDF is here.

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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.