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THE BRIEFING FOR DECEMBER 16-31, 2010
By Joe Brancatelli

· Southwest Fills Out Its 2011 Newark Schedule
· Airport Transit Guide Kills Print, Gets an App
· Cathay Pacific Adds Flights to Chicago/O'Hare
· Lufthansa Will Put the A380 on JFK-Frankfurt Run
· New Hotels in Pittsburgh, Austin ... and Texarkana
· How 'Bout That? Airlines Push Through Fare Hike
· The Long and Winding Road That Leads to El Bulli


Southwest Fills Out Newark Schedule With 10 More Flights
Southwest Airlines, which launches flights from Newark Airport next year, has filled out its schedule with ten more flights. There'll be three nonstops daily to Denver; two daily flights to Houston's Hobby Airport; two nonstops to Phoenix; and three daily nonstops to Baltimore/Washington. Those flights all launch on June 5. Southwest begins its Newark incursion on March 27 with six nonstops to Chicago/Midway and two daily nonstops to St. Louis. If there is any surprise here, it's that Southwest's introductory fares aren't going to blow you away. The BWI flights will cost at least $49 one-way. Denver's introductory fare is $109 and the Houston and Phoenix flights are pegged at $129 during the introductory period. Southwest got the necessary slots and gates at Newark as part of Continental and United's concessions to get their merger approved earlier this year.

When The Airport Bible Goes App, You Know Print Is Dead
For as long as I've been on the road, Ron Salk's Airport Transit Guide has been the bible for business travelers. The annually updated, pocket-sized guide had exhaustive data on transportation options between airports and city centers. It was, quite literally, an irreplaceable asset. Well, now it has been replaced. For 2011, Salk has abandoned the print edition and turned the entire Airport Transit Guide database into an iPhone app. The app costs $9.95 and is compatible with the iPad and iPod, too. (More information is here.) Salt promises Airport Transit Guide apps for BlackBerry and Android devices early next year. He'd better hurry. My 2009 edition is dog-eared and falling apart and if I have to consult my airport bible on a phone, I'd like it to be on my BlackBerry.

With Visions of Sugar Plums Dancing in Their Heads…
Hotel companies have this fantastic vision of 2011, filled with sugar plums and rapid nightly rate increases. I can't speak for the sugar plums--Does anyone even make sugar plums anymore?--but the rate increases seem iffy. Which might make the spate of new hotel openings this week seem like a bad idea. Still, they open 'em, we cover 'em. To wit: Hyatt has opened a 178-room Hyatt Place in Pittsburgh. It's across the Allegheny River from the downtown Golden Triangle and between Heinz Field (home of the Steelers) and PNC Park (home of the Pirates). … Starwood has opened the 251-room W Austin in the Second Street downtown district. The hotel is connected to The Moody Theater, a new entertainment venue and the new home of the Austin City Limits television show. … Carlson has opened an 81-room Country Inns & Suites in the city of Texarkana, Texas. … There's also two notable conversions this week: Wyndham has slapped its name on Chicago's Hotel Blake, the 162-room property in the converted Morton Salt building. And Starwood has put the Sheraton name on the former Wyndham property located across NW 42nd Avenue from Miami International Airport. The 405-room hotel has recently undergone a $6 million upgrade.

Cathay Pacific Adds Nonstop Flights to Chicago Next Year
Cathay Pacific doesn't add new flights lightly. It's been a dozen years since it opened a new gateway in the United States. But on September 1, Cathay will launch daily nonstop flights between Chicago/O'Hare and Hong Kong. Why Chicago? Well, besides the fact that it's the logical place to add flights (Cathay already serves San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York), O'Hare has an American Airlines hub and American and Cathay are partners in the Oneworld Alliance. … Lufthansa has tapped New York's Kennedy Airport as its first U.S. route with Airbus A380 service. Starting February 18, Lufthansa Flight 400 from Frankfurt on Mondays and Fridays will use the super-jumbo. Flight 401 from JFK to Frankfurt will have A380 service, too. The two flights will have daily A380 service by mid-April. The German carrier ran a FRA-JFK proving flight of the leviathan in 2007 (my coverage of that event is here) and has configured its A380s with 526 seats. There are eight first-class seatbeds, 98 business-class seats and (gulp!) 420 seats in the back of the gigantic bus.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Continental Airlines invented a new service this week: FareLock. Travelers can "lock in" a fare for 72 hours or seven days with no commitment to buy a ticket. The airline claims the service is priced "beginning at $5 for a 72-hour hold or $9 for a seven-day hold." In reality, however, prices seemed as high as $25 a person on some routes that I checked. … Priority Pass, the global airport-lounge access program, has added new clubs in Miami (Concourse 3 South); in the new Terminal 2 in Dublin; in Kiev; and in the domestic and international wings of Terminal 3 in New Delhi. … Domestic airlines raised fares $3-$6 each way this week, one of the only successful structural fare increases of the year.

The Long and Winding Road That Leads To El Bulli
Business travel makes us all omnivores … and noticeably (if endearingly) crazy. Just ask Robert and Sharon Sussman of Chinese Laundry Legwear. The frequent-flying couple finally completed an eight-year quest by dining at El Bulli, the much-admired gastronomic palace about two hours from Barcelona. As you surely know, El Bulli is the hardest table to book in the world. After eight years of trying, the Sussmans finally lucked out on a recent business trip to Barcelona when a last-minute cancellation got them in the door. "I couldn't breathe I was so excited," Robert Sussman told me. He also said the thing they don't tell you about El Bulli is that getting there requires you to navigate a long, winding and treacherous road that clings to a steep hillside. The 3.5-hour meal was "exquisitely cool," he said. So memorable, in fact, that Sussman created a Web-based slideshow of the 39-course experience for other business travelers. At 250 euros a head plus wine, El Bulli isn't cheap, but Sussman returned with tales of caviar, truffles, great preparations, amazing presentations and a kitchen tour where he counted a staff of 75 chefs and assistants. "They told me when I arrived that I got the cancellation because, 'We like it when you are persistent.' " If nothing else, business travelers know about persistence, too.

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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.