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A BRIEFING FOR MARCH 25 - APRIL 8, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· Delta-US Air Try Again on LGA-DCA Slot Swap
· Parc 55 in San Francisco Changes Brands Again
· Big Airlines Fly Small Planes to Smaller Airports
· Southwest Airlines Leaves Amex Membership
· The Euro Is Falling Fast Against the U.S. Dollar
· FAA Slaps Delta With a $1.5 Million Safety Fine
· Government Officials Behaving Badly at Airports


Delta and US Airways Threaten the DOT With Nothing
You have to wonder what airlines are thinking when they get into a corporate snit because they can't have what they want. I'm referring, of course, to the increasingly insane airport-gate-and-slot-swap that Delta and US Airways have planned since last August. A month ago, the Transportation Department nixed the original deal--Delta was going to get 140 US Airways pairs of slots at New York/LaGuardia Airport in exchange for 42 pairs of slots it was giving US Airways at Washington/National Airport--and demanded the two carriers sell a total of 34 slot pairs to other carriers. The DOT wants the slots at the crowded airports to go to competitors who have been denied entry to New York and Washington. This week, Delta and US Airways announced an odd deal where four handpicked airlines (AirTran, Spirit, WestJet and JetBlue) would get a total of 20 slot pairs. Delta and US Airways said that if the DOT didn't approve this deal, the carriers would abandon the slot swap altogether. Which scares anyone because? Then the airlines said they might sue the DOT if the deal isn't approved. Of course, a lawsuit would take years and Delta and US Airways wouldn't get what they want while the case wound its way through the courts. My, we are growing a strange breed of threats in the airline world these days, aren't we?

That Was Then, This is Now. The Parc 55 Changes Brands Again.
Marriott made a big deal about San Francisco's Parc 55 back in 1998 when it reflagged the 1,000-room property as a Renaissance hotel. At the time, it was Marriott's 1,500th hotel, one of those milestones that is meaningless to business travelers but fraught with importance for lodging bigwigs. But that was then and this is now and the Parc 55, once again an independent property, has found itself a new brand affiliation. It becomes a Wyndham in late April. Speaking of those round-number milestones, the 500th Hilton Garden Inn has opened in Concord, North Carolina. The 118-room property is adjacent to the Concord Mills Outlet Mall and about a mile from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. This must be the week for milestones of dubious distinction: The 150th Hyatt Place has opened in North Charleston, South Carolina. The 127-room property is near Charleston's convention center. In Georgia, a 162-unit Embassy Suites has opened near Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. Meanwhile, a 118-room Holiday Inn has opened two miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

A Lot of Small Planes Flying to Smaller Airports
If you harbored hope that your favorite legacy carrier would grow again with real, full-size jets, forget it. All of the growth in the upcoming months will be via their commuter carriers using the tinny, tiny regional jets we love to hate. American Eagle, the commuter division of American Airlines, adds flights between its Dallas/Fort Worth hub and Cheyenne, Wyoming, on July 15 using 44-seat ERJ-140s. There will also be DFW-Augusta, Georgia, flights beginning June 10 using 50-seat ERJ-145s. Also new: Dallas/Forth Worth-Fayetteville, North Carolina, flights. They launch June 10 with 44-seat RJs. It'll also use the 44-seat ERJ-140 for new flights between its Chicago/O'Hare hub and Blountville, Tennessee, on July 2. ... United Express, United's commuter carrier, adds flights between its Denver hub and Minot, North Dakota, on June 9. The route will be served with 50-seat regional jets. ... At US Airways, its US Airways Express commuter carrier will launch new flights between Charlotte and Ottawa on May 31 using 50-seat regional jets. The next day, 50-seat RJs will begin flying between Philadelphia and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Airlines is pulling out of the American Express Membership Rewards program. The last day to transfer Amex points to Southwest Rapid Rewards is June 30. The Federal Aviation Administration wants to fine Delta Air Lines $1.54 million for safety lapses on Boeing 757s operated by Northwest Airlines between 2005 and 2008. (As you'll undoubtedly recall, Delta and Northwest "merged" last year.) The fine was levied because Northwest operated 90,000 flights that were not in compliance with FAA safety directives. A note to SAS passengers: Effective April 1, the Scandinavian carrier reduces the free allowance in coach to one checked bag. The second checked bag will cost $50. The value of the euro slid to a 10-month low against the U.S. dollar this week. It's now selling at around $1.32. The state of finances in Greece is blamed for the plunge.

Maybe He Should Have Tried Bringing on a Molson, Eh?
Canada's Veterans Affairs minister had to apologize last week because he got into a screaming match with Ottawa Airport security staffers. Jean-Pierre Blackburn wanted to bring a large bottle of tequila aboard a flight. It was the second time in two weeks that a minister in the country's Conservative government was forced to apologize for rude or nasty behavior at an airport. Late in February, a junior minister named Helena Guergis berated airport staff in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island because she was required to go through security. According to media reports, she called Charlottetown "a hellhole" and demanded staff let her proceed without security screening because she was "working my ass off for you people."

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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.