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THE BRIEFING FOR MARCH 3 TO 14, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli

· A Bad Week for American, Southwest, Delta
· JetBlue and WestJet Find New Frenemies
· The Globalization of American Lodging Chains
· Frontier Tries Five New Routes From Its Hubs
· American Shrinks Its Airport Club Network
· Continental, Egyptair Dump Cairo Service
· Delhi Finally Gets a High-Speed Airport Link


American, Southwest, Delta Flummoxed by Frequent Flyer Flubs
Not a very good week for airline frequent flyer programs.
    Southwest Airlines launched its revised Rapid Rewards program on Tuesday (March 1) and it promptly crashed the airline's Web site. For the better part of two days, Southwest flyers weren't able to log into the site or conduct business. Naturally, when travelers called the airline, the phones were immediately overloaded. The site seems to be working today, however.
    American Airlines sent out 350,000 promotional E-mails to AAdvantage members on Tuesday and each one said "Hello, Billy Oswald." Each one also carried Mr. Oswald's AAdvantage number. American hastily sent out an E-mail on Wednesday and claimed the Oswald snafu was "an isolated incident" and no one except Oswald had their account information breached. American says the real Billy Oswald got some compensation (and a new AAdvantage account number) for the incident.
    Delta Air Lines this week finally published its complete SkyMiles award chart. Until now, members had to guess at the cost of some major awards. It won't surprise you, of course, but the once-hidden chart reveals a substantial increase in the number of miles required to claim several key awards compared to the last time that Delta publicly disclosed award levels. In other words, what Delta didn't want to tell you was that it continues to devalue SkyMiles.
    And lest you think failures are unique to airlines, consider this thread at FlyerTalk.com. It details how a supposedly targeted promotion from a hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, led to many Hilton HHonors members trying to get 10,000 bonus points.

JetBlue and WestJet Find New Frenemies
It's amazing how fast the airline world has changed. After decades of pooh-poohing one-class discounters like JetBlue Airways and WestJet of Canada, old-line carriers now pursue alliances with them with great gusto. American Airlines, for example, this week announced that it is vastly expanding its alliance with WestJet. The two carriers will code-share on each other's flights. American AAdvantage members will earn miles for flying on WestJet flights that carry the AA code and, of course, WestJet flyers will receive Frequent Guest credit when they fly on American routes that carry the WestJet code. The deal requires regulatory approval, so watch for an implementation date. Meanwhile, JetBlue will code-share with South African Airways on routes where it can feed traffic to SAA's flights from Washington/Dulles and New York/Kennedy. JetBlue has similar deals with Aer Lingus, Lufthansa and American Airlines. … Floundering Frontier Airlines, the mash-up created when Republic Airways bought Frontier and Midwest airlines out of bankruptcy, continues to juggle its route network in search of profit. It'll launch flights from its Denver hub to Knoxville, Tennessee; Provo, Utah; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It'll also add flights from its Kansas City hub to Minneapolis and San Antonio. Most of the routes begin in early June and will be operated with larger Embraer regional jets or, in the case of the Knoxville run, an Airbus A319.

The Globalization of American Lodging Chains Continues
It's all happened so quickly in recent years that we've barely noticed: Hotel chains that were once content to line America's highways, byways and office parks with properties have gone global. The days of looking for a "safe" option among unfamiliar foreign brands are long gone. Just this week you can add the following properties to your favorite chain's international scorecard. … Hilton has opened its first property in Chennai, India. The 204-room hotel is in the Guindy neighborhood. Hilton has also opened a second hotel in the Seychelles, a 111-villa property on Silhouette Island. … A 158-unit W Hotel has opened in Bali. The property is in Seminyak. … Rezidor, which operates most of the international Radisson hotels, is also building a brand around the Missoni name. The second property licensed under the name of the Italian design house has opened in Kuwait. The 169-room hotel is part of Symphony Center.

American Shrinks Its Airport Club Network
You're forgiven if you think American Airlines is shrinking before your eyes. Two moves with its Admirals Club network are a very conspicuous example. On April 1, American moves its Frankfurt flights into Terminal 2, where it will join Oneworld Alliance partners British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia and others. That'll mean the end of the Admirals Club in Terminal 1, where American's flights currently operate. But rather than open its own club in Terminal 2, American passengers will have to use the Sakura Lounge, which is operated by Japan Airlines, another Oneworld partner. Even in Miami, one of its primary hubs, American is skimping. The airline has closed the Admirals Club on Concourse E and replaced it with a so-called Premium Lounge, jointly operated with BA and Iberia. AA uses six gates in Concourse E. (The airline operates two Admirals Clubs on Concourse D.) … The high-speed rail link between Delhi Airport and Delhi's city center has finally opened. (It was supposed to be ready for last fall's Commonwealth Games.) But the good news: the run takes just 20 minutes on fast, clean, air-conditioned trains, a distinct advantage over a traffic-clogged car transfer. More information on the Airport Express and its connection to Delhi's transit network is here.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Egypt, which is disproportionately dependent on tourism dollars, has been hemorrhaging visitors since the uprising against the now-deposed Hosni Mubarak. That means an expected expansion of flight service into Egypt this year has now been put on hold. Continental Airlines says it has "indefinitely postponed" the previously announced May launch of flights between Newark and Cairo. And Egyptair says it will not begin flights to Washington/Dulles and Toronto, two routes it expected to launch this summer. … The national carrier of Lebanon, Middle East Airlines, will join the SkyTeam alliance next year. Meanwhile, Air India will finally join the Star Alliance this summer. … Nomads, the upscale travel club that owned its own Boeing 727, is out of business and has filed for Chapter 7 liquidation. The club once boasted 10,000 members and offered as many as 40 trips a year. … In case you missed the news, two American airmen were murdered and two wounded yesterday (March 2) in front of Terminal 2 at Frankfurt Airport. The gunman is believed to be a Muslim of Kosovar-Albanian origin.

'I Can't Explain Myself, I'm Afraid, Because I'm Not Myself, You See'
Chris Elliott penned a blog post last month claiming that a restaurant near Seattle-Tacoma Airport refuses to serve TSA agents. Elliott quoted a woman who said she worked at the café. When some of you contacted me about the story, I suggested that it didn't sound logical because any good reporter would have published the name and location of the place. Well, guess what? It turns out that the café doesn't exist. By his own admission, Elliott never knew where the restaurant was located, never had a name or a phone number for the business and never bothered to check out the woman's claims. No other news outlet can find a café near Sea-Tac that refuses to serve TSA agents, either. But rather than admit he screwed up, Elliott follows Alice through the looking glass and down a rat hole. "I don't think the fact that no one can find the café means it doesn't exist," he says. So next time you're passing through Sea-Tac, grab yourself a cup of tea at the mythical café that bars TSA agents. Just beware of Red Queens and don't wake the dormouse.

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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 © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.