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A BRIEFING FOR APRIL 1 - APRIL 15, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· Strange Big Apple Bedfellows: American, JetBlue
· Two Hotels in One in Downtown Los Angeles
· Delta Launches an O'Hare-LaGuardia 'Shuttle'
· Obama's Second Choice for TSA Boss Bails
· US Airways and Southwest Roll Out In-Flight WiFi
· British Airways Waits on News of the Next Strike
· Two Classic Nashville Buildings Become One Hotel


Strange Bedfellows in New York: American and JetBlue
American Airlines and the carrier that it once tried to kill in the crib, JetBlue Airways, struck a startling cooperation deal this week and it's a sure sign that the battle for control of New York may be a fight to the death. As part of a wide-ranging arrangement to keep its flagging New York operations competitive, American is turning to JetBlue for passengers. American and JetBlue will interline on non-overlapping routes, especially AA's overseas service into and out of New York/Kennedy and Boston/Logan. To seal the deal, American and JetBlue are swapping take-off and landing slots. Pending government approval, JetBlue will give American a dozen slot pairs at JFK and American will turn over to JetBlue nine slot pairs at Washington/National and Westchester, New York. (JetBlue will use the DCA slots to launch flights in November.) The cooperation between American and JetBlue is interesting in light of AA's first response to JetBlue's arrival in 2000. It tried to run the newcomer out of business, a notable flop that I wrote about here. And American has lost ground lately to JetBlue in Boston, a development we discussed here. The other AA moves? It'll add 13 routes from JFK and LaGuardia and is talking to its OneWorld partner British Airways about bringing BA's flights into an expanded American Airlines terminal. And what's all this New York activity about? Some of it is simply because the Big Apple is the nation's largest and most lucrative market. But some of it is also a reaction to the proposed deal between Delta Air Lines and US Airways. They're trying to swap slots in Washington and New York, too, so Delta can grow its LaGuardia presence to twin with its JFK hub.

Big-Deal New Hotels Open in Big-Deal Places
Just 45 days after a JW Marriott opened in the LA Live complex near the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, a 123-room Ritz-Carlton has opened, too. Not only are both properties part of Marriott, both hotels are in the same building, a 54-story tower. A 414-room Loews Hotel has opened in Atlanta. It's part of the 12th and Midtown mixed-use development and the first newly built Loews property in five years. Two historic structures in Nashville--the American Trust and Nashville Trust buildings--have been renovated into a 97-room Hotel Indigo, which is part of InterContinental Hotels. The property opened in December as an independent property while the developers got it into shape. Starwood has opened a 250-room Sheraton resort on the shore of Qiandao Lake, about 100 miles from Hangzhou. The man-made Qiandao is alternately known as the "Lake of a Thousand Islands" or the "Atlantis of the East" because it covers the remains of an 1,800-year-old city.

Oh, Boy, Just What We Need: More Chicago-New York Flights
American and United airlines, which maintain hubs at Chicago/O'Hare, have long dominated traffic on the route to New York/LaGuardia airport. At least three other airlines--JetBlue, Continental and Southwest--also compete on the route to and from other airports in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas. Now comes a new competitor: Delta Air Lines. Or, more accurately, Delta is now focusing specifically on the ORD-LGA route. Beginning June 10, it'll offer 11 daily roundtrips between O'Hare and LaGuardia. The service will be provided by Delta Connection using regional jets configured with 12 first-class and 64 coach seats. Delta, of course, is trying hard to bulk up in the battle of New York (see above). The new ORD-LGA flights replace the airline's current flights from LaGuardia to Chicago/Midway. Delta is also dubbing the new run a "shuttle" because it will use the Delta Shuttle facilities at LGA's Marine Air Terminal. Delta is also adding flights again in Los Angeles, a pseudo-hub where Delta can never quite seem to find a defined niche. This time, the new service will include daily flights to San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio. There will also be six-day-a-week flights to both Hartford and Raleigh-Durham. Flights begin June 10.

And the New TSA Administrator Is Oh, Never Mind.
Maybe the third time will be the charm because the Obama Administration has struck out again on its choice for the top post at the trouble-plagued Transportation Security Administration. The White House's second choice for TSA Administrator, Robert Harding, withdrew his name from consideration last Friday (March 26). A retired general, Harding had issues with payments made under a government contract won by his security firm. He had returned the money and been cleared by a government watchdog agency, but he was attracting criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Then it was revealed that Harding cited sleep apnea as a qualification for a government contract set aside for veterans with service disabilities. Obama's first choice for TSA Administrator, Errol Southers, withdraw after stonewalling from Senate Republicans and questions surrounding an incident when he acquired security information for personal reasons. While the search for a new administrator resumes, the TSA remains in the hands of a temp, Gale Rossides, a Bush Administration holdover. An American Eagle flight from Chicago/O'Hare to Washington/National was diverted to Washington/Dulles on Monday (March 29) after a security scare. The flight's crew became suspicious of a passenger. No details were released, but the passenger was not on any watch list and there were no hazardous materials found on board.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
US Airways has begun rolling out some Airbus A321s equipped with the Gogo in-flight WiFi service. Prices range from $4.95 to $12.95. Speaking of in-flight WiFi, Southwest Airlines has begun installing the service on its flights. Southwest's WiFi is a satellite-based system from a company called Row 44. Delta Air Lines and Midwest Airlines are dissolving their frequent flyer program partnership on June 6. Delta inherited the deal when it merged with Northwest Airlines last year. Three carriers that franchise Richard Branson's "Virgin" name--Virgin America, Virgin Blue and V Australia--now offer reciprocal earning in each other's frequency programs. The second of the scheduled strikes by flight attendants against British Airways ended on Tuesday (March 30). But there's no agreement between the flight attendants and management on the airline's unilaterally imposed changes in work rules, salaries and staffing. Under British labor laws, the union has until April 8 to announce further strike dates and must give seven days notice of any labor action. The union has previously said it would resume the strikes after Easter.

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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.