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BRIEFING FOR SEPT. 23 - OCTOBER 7, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· More Strikes and Travel Taxes Coming to Europe
· Omni Juggles and Rebrands Its U.S. Hotel Lineup
· Worst On-Time Airlines Now? Delta and Comair
· New York's Algonquin Joins a Marriott Non-Brand
· Admirals Club Members Get Free Booze in Clubs
· Wyndham Will Franchise Planet Hollywood Name
· I Spy With My Little Eye a Meaning for Bmi's 'I'


More Strikes, More Travel Taxes Coming to Europe
Doing business in Europe? Get ready for more strikes and more taxes on travel services. The second major general strike in France in two months today (September 23) crippled most intrastate rail service, about half of inter-European flights headed to or from French destinations and a few international flights. French citizens are protesting the government's decision to raise the retirement age to 62 and the full payout of pensions until age 67. Next week, Spanish trade unions plan a general strike on Wednesday (September 29). Their big grievance? Cutbacks in wages and benefits. Meanwhile, get ready to pay more to fly from Germany and the United Kingdom. Effective November 1, the already sky-high taxes on flying from Britain increase even more. The new rates will range from $18.50 (short-haul coach flights) to $262 (long-haul premium flights). And Germany imposes an air-travel tax effective January 1. The rate is $10 for short-haul flights, $32 for medium-length flights and $51 for the longest flights departing from Germany.

Omni Rebrands San Antonio Hotel, Closes in Detroit, Opens in Florida
Omni Hotels, the privately owned chain based in Texas, is making some interesting moves. It has rebranded the much-admired Watermark Hotel in San Antonio as the Mokara. Mokara is the name Omni is adopting for some of its upscale resorts. At the other end of the scale, Omni will close the 108-room Omni Detroit at River Place on October 12. And one other note: Omni has purchased the sprawling Amelia Island Plantation near Jacksonville, Florida, out of bankruptcy. The 294-room property has already been rebranded as an Omni. New York's iconic, if not necessarily wonderful, Algonquin Hotel has joined the Autograph Collection. That's the new non-brand brand that Marriott has invented to bring independent properties into the Marriott reservation system and the Marriott Rewards program. A 115-room Homewood Suites by Hilton has opened in Round Rock, Texas, a fast-growing suburb of Austin. Watch for more hotels named Planet Hollywood and more restaurants in the chain located inside hotel buildings. Wyndham has purchased the right to franchise the name.

Who's Worst for On-Time Performance Now? Delta
Delta Air Lines has made much of its supposedly seamless merger with Northwest Airlines. At least on the surface, Delta has avoided any major snafus or high-profile failures that would attract national media attention. But if you're a frequent Delta traveler, you know what's happened lately: Delta and its commuter carriers flying as the Delta Connection have fallen to the bottom of the on-time charts. Airport by airport, in fact, Delta tends to be at the bottom of the pile. In figures reported to the Transportation Department, Delta ranked last among the major carriers in the second quarter with an on-time performance of about 70 percent. Its wholly owned subsidiary Comair was even worse, ranking last among all airlines with an on-time rating of just 65 percent. Delta and Comair were also near the bottom in July, according to the DOT. In August, according to FlightStats.com, Delta ranked 34th overall for on-time service. By the way, American Airlines flyers don't have much to be happy about, either. American's wholly owned American Eagle subsidiary was at or around the Delta/Comair levels for on-time service during the second quarter. And American's problems with Eagle have continued for several years without improvement. Continental Airlines travelers take note: The airline moved to Terminal B at Orlando Airport this week.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines Admirals Club members get a new perk. Beginning October 1, beer, wine and spirits in the lounges will be free. American Express Platinum cardholders take note: Effective December 1, Amex will cover up to $200 annually in airline ancillary fees, including baggage charges, in-flight meal purchases, change fees or the cost of a day pass at an airline club. Gold and Platinum elite members of Marriott Rewards take note: Effective January 7, you'll get free Internet access at all properties worldwide. Until now, the benefit was limited to Marriott properties in the Americas. JetBlue Airways has apparently abandoned its plan to create an E-mail only service on flights. It has reached a deal with a third-party supplier to bring broadband service to its entire fleet. But don't hold your crucial reports waiting for the chance to work in-flight. JetBlue says the service won't be available until mid-2012.

I Spy With My Little Eye a Weird Airline and a Meaning for the 'I'
When British Midland rebranded itself as Bmi in early 2001, I wrote about the airline's nihilistic insistence that the added "I" didn't stand for "international." It represented "nothing in particular," claimed John Morgan, who was then Bmi's director of marketing. A decade later, and now owned by Lufthansa, the airline is slowly changing its name again. New collateral material, logos and publicity information have recently referred to the carrier as wait for it British Midland International.

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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.