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A BRIEFING FOR APRIL 29 - MAY 13, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· Carry-On Liquids Rule Extended Three More Years
· JetBlue Makes Its Move Into Washington/National
· Hyatt Devaluates the Gold Passport Award Chart
· Southwest Bulks Up Again in Minneapolis, Boston
· Europe's Debt Crisis Drives Down the Euro's Value
· United Rejiggers Coach Layout on Its Boeing 777s
· Frontier Adding WiFi Service on Some of Its RJs


The Carry-On Liquids Rule Gets Three More Years of Life
If you were hoping against hope that the annoying restrictions on carry-on liquids--the so-called 3-1-1 rule first enacted in the summer of 2006--would be lifted soon, forget it. The European Union this week essentially extended the rules for another three years and that is a sure sign that the Transportation Security Administration has no intention of lifting our strictures. After all, the rules first were imposed as a reaction to an alleged mid-air bomb plot involving flights between Britain and the United States. All in all, the EC's decision added to the generally rotten week that was for airline security. Yesterday (April 28), a Continental Airlines flight from Washington to Houston was diverted to Greensboro, North Carolina, when threatening messages were found in a lavatory. On Tuesday, Delta Air Lines Flight 273 from Paris to Atlanta was diverted to Bangor, Maine. According to an FBI affidavit filed in a federal court in Maine, that diversion was caused by a 27-year-old former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer who claimed he had dynamite in boots stored in his carry-on and explosives in his laptop. Earlier on Tuesday, parts of Newark Airport's Terminal A were evacuated because ground personnel found what they claimed was a suspicious carry-on bag left in a boarding area. None of the incidents actually involved dangerous material.

JetBlue Makes Its Move Into Washington/National Airport
Working with slots from American Airlines received in an alliance move, JetBlue Airways has set up its schedule for its entry into Washington's National Airport. Effective November 1, there will be seven daily nonstops to Boston/Logan; a daily flight to Fort Lauderdale; and one to Orlando. JetBlue will use Terminal A at National, which the carrier called "nostalgic," airline-speak for old and in need of an upgrade of passenger amenities. Especially notable is the $39 one-way introductory price on the Washington-Logan run. That's a direct challenge to US Airways' "shuttle" operation using Airbus A319s between the two airports; there's also 50-seat regional-jet flights from Delta Air Lines and 37-seat RJ flights from American Airlines. JetBlue will use 100-seat E190s against the three legacy carriers. As we discussed last year, JetBlue has become the dominant carrier at Logan. American Airlines' American Eagle subsidiary says it will launch two daily nonstops from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub to Columbus, Georgia, on July 15.

Hyatt Devaluates the Gold Passport Award Chart
Hyatt is devaluing the award chart of its much-admired Gold Passport program. This shouldn't come as a surprise after a major devaluation in the Hilton HHonors program in January and a less-severe increase in prices in the Starwood Preferred Guest program several months ago. Besides, you didn't think all of these bonus-points offers and stay-twice-get-a-free-night deals would come without inflation, did you? In the case of Hyatt, the devaluation is effective on June 4. Gold Passport will now have a sixth tier, cleverly called "Category 6." It'll cost 22,000 points for a free night in a standard room and about two dozen hotels in major cities--including New York, Paris, Moscow and Tokyo--are being shifted into the new award band. Meanwhile, 65 hotels will move down one or more categories and 89 other properties (including 20 moving into the new Category 6) are shifting up one or more notches. The upward changes are spread out between Hyatt properties in major business cities and those in desirable resort destinations. You can check the changes here and pay careful attention. There are some surprising (not to mention expensive and inconsistent) jumps for some popular hotels in prime destinations.

Southwest Bulks Up Again in Minneapolis and Boston
Southwest Airlines is leaving no doubt that it can compete against any airline in any city and is moving to add more service in two places where it once feared to go. Effective August 15, it'll add twice-daily nonstops to Phoenix from Minneapolis, an airport it didn't even add to its route map until last year. Another big city it entered last year, Boston, will get twice-daily flights to Phoenix on September 7. The Phoenix flights have the extra advantage of putting additional pressure on Southwest's favorite whipping boy, US Airways, which is based in the City of the Sun. It ain't all rosy for Southwest, though. It got slapped with a $200,000 fine from the Transportation Department this week for failing to follow the rules on denied-boarding procedures and for compensation to passengers who were involuntarily bumped.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The debt crisis in Greece and fears that it will spread to Portugal and other European Community nations is playing havoc with the value of the euro. It hit a 12-month low of $1.32 this week and seemed to temporarily stabilize there pending further moves in the debt situation. United Airlines flyers take note: The first of the carrier's retrofitted Boeing 777s are now in service. Besides having the airline's "new" business-class cabin--which was officially introduced some time between Columbus' first and second voyages to the New World--the new B777s have a new coach layout: 3x3x3 instead of the old 2x5x2 configuration. There will be more seats in Economy Plus, but fewer in the first and business classes. Frontier Airlines says it will install Aircell's Gogo in-flight WiFi on its 32 Embraer jets, but will not install the service on its fleet of Airbus jets. Those planes are equipped with live, at-seat TV service. Meanwhile, US Airways says all of its 51 Airbus A321s will be fitted with Gogo by June 1.

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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.