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THE BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 11-25, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· United and Continental Do Independent Upgrades
· JW Marriott Branches Open in Miami and Chicago
· Not a Good Week for the A380 or the Dreamliner
· Free Holiday WiFi on Delta, AirTran, Virgin America
· Boingo Picks Up 36,000 Hotspots in South Korea
· Star Alliance Adds Three Latin America Carriers
· Air Canada, WestJet Impose Domestic Bag Fees


Independently, United-Continental Upgrades Business Classes
It shouldn't surprise you that the newly merged United-Continental hasn't yet made a decision about whether it will be a two-class (coach and business) international airline like Continental or a four-class (coach, Economy Plus, business and first) carrier like United. We don't even know if the combined airline will standardize because the chief executive, Jeff Smisek, apparently thinks that might be a waste of money. But one thing United-Continental does say is that the previous announced upgrading of each airlines' business class continues as planned. Continental is replacing its cradle-style business-class seats with lie-flat beds on 63 Boeing 757 and Boeing 777 aircraft. Since the project began late last year, Continental has swiftly converted 44 aircraft. As usual, however, United has lagged. When it announced plans to upgrade to flat-bed seats, United claimed all 91 international aircraft would be done by the end of 2009. But by its own admission, just 51 aircraft have been completed. All United B-767s and B-747s have been finished, but just six of 46 B-777s have been upgraded. A United-Continental spokesman does say the seventh converted B-777 will go into service later this month.

JW Marriott Branches Open in Miami and Chicago
Marriott's bombastic JW Marriott brand has two new outposts of note. The 610-room JW Marriott Chicago is carved out of the Continental & Commercial Bank Building designed by David Burnham. The hotel is on the first 12 floors of the classic building on West Adams in the Loop financial district. Meanwhile, the 41-story JW Marriott Marquis Miami features 313 rooms and 56 suites and is located downtown at 345 Avenue of the Americas. The 626-room Lake Buena Vista Resort on the grounds of Walt Disney World in Orlando has become part of Wyndham. Old-time Toyko hands who remember the original Tokyo Hilton in Akasaka will be interested in this: The 29-story Capitol Hotel Tokyu has opened in its place. The original Hilton building, which became the first Capitol Tokyu, was closed in 2006 and later demolished. The new property has 251 guestrooms, 13 suites and three floors of "Club" rooms. The 157-room Setai Fifth Avenue has opened between 36th and 37th Streets on Fifth Avenue. It is the third major hotel in the area this year. The Andaz Fifth Avenue opened several blocks away and the InterContinental Times Square opened at West 44th Street and Eighth Avenue.

Maybe We Should Just Go Back to Flying Boeing 727s
This has been a very bad week for the newest plane from Airbus (the super-jumbo A380) and the so-new-it's-not-even-in-service-yet aircraft from Boeing (the 787 Dreamliner). Despite assurances that its Airbus A380s would be back in the air last weekend, Qantas' six super-jumbos remain grounded after last week's uncontained engine failure on a flight from Singapore to Sydney. Singapore Airlines has pulled three of its 11 A380s out of service, too. Both the Qantas and Singapore planes use Rolls Royce engines of the type that failed last week. Lufthansa, which operates three A380s, is swapping out its Rolls Royce power plants. Meanwhile, Dreamliner test flights have been suspended after an apparent electrical fire on a test run this week forced a Boeing 787 to make an emergency landing. The Dreamliner was already three years behind schedule before the incident.

The Best Price Ever for In-Flight WiFi: Free
Do you use Google's Chrome browser? Probably not, which is why Google has cut a deal with Aircell's Gogo Inflight to sponsor in-flight WiFi on three carriers. Between November 20 and January 2, Google Chrome will pick up the WiFi tab on all flights operated by AirTran Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America. That means flyers will be able to surf for free. For complete details, surf here. Speaking of Aircell, it has cut a deal with a Canadian service that will allow the Gogo Inflight system to operate across Canada. Air Canada has begun a slow rollout of Gogo-equipped planes. Boingo, which offers a network of more than 200,000 WiFi hotspots worldwide, has added 36,000 locations in South Korea thanks to a deal with KT, Korea's largest telephone operator.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Star Alliance travelers take note: Three Latin American carriers have joined the consortium. Avianca and TACA, which are merging, and Copa Airlines, already a close ally of Continental Airlines, are now in Star. Air Canada and WestJet, Canada's dominant airlines, have slapped a second-bag fee on domestic customers. The fee of C$20 on second checked bags takes effect on January 19. The new charge also applies to flights to the Caribbean and Mexico. Details on Air Canada's new policy, and the exclusion for full-fare and elite flyers, are here. WestJet's policies are here. Priority Pass, the global network of airport clubs, has four new outposts: in Bangalore's International Terminal; the Ambassador Transit Lounge in Terminal 2 at Changi Airport in Singapore; and in the terminals in Cluj, Romania. Continental Airlines travelers take note: Ticketing and check-in facilities at Chicago/O'Hare move to Terminal 1 on Tuesday (November 16). ... Coffee taste different on your latest American Airlines flight? American switched to the Java City brand on November 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.