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THE BRIEFING FOR MARCH 17 TO 31, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli

· A Hot New Hub to Europe: Miami. Really. Miami.
· Hilton's Home2Suites Opens Its First Properties
· Another Burst of New Flights to Mexican Cities
· A Gothic Palace, a Rat Pack Den and Two Resorts
· Continental Launches a Newark-Stuttgart Route
· United Offers Paperless Boarding on More Flights
· Don't You Be Praying on My Aircraft…Again


A Hot New Hub to Europe: Miami. Really. Miami.
You don't think about Miami as a hub for European flights. Latin American service? Sure. But Europe? Until recently, pickings were slim. But whether it is Europeans visiting Florida, the large population in Metro Miami or an overreach by airlines desperate for growth, the new Europe routes are coming fast and furious. On Monday (March 21), KLM will resume flights to Amsterdam after a six-year gap. Later in the year, a Dutch charter carrier, Arkefly, will also begin Miami-Amsterdam flights. On March 26, Delta Air Lines launches Miami-London flights. That's a route Delta grabbed after Oneworld partners British Airways and American Airlines dropped the run as part of its deal to get antitrust immunity. Another Oneworld Alliance carrier, Iberia, adds Miami-Barcelona nonstops on March 29. And in June, TAP Air Portugal will launch a nonstop between its Lisbon hub and Miami.

Hilton's Latest Brand, Home2Suites, Opens Its First Properties
If the name Home2Suites sounds weird, you are probably not Hilton's target market. On the other hand, I have no idea who may be Hilton's target market for this new extended-stay brand. The first Home2Suites hotels have opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Layton, Utah, and they seem to be an attempt to mash-up Hilton's own Homewood Suites and Starwood's Aloft and Element brands. (I'm not sure what those Starwood chains are, either.) If Fayetteville and Layton are models, and Hilton says that they are, Home2Suites properties will have a lobby area called the Oasis. The Oasis area will serve as the breakfast room and a social meet-up space. Guest accommodations have a fully equipped kitchenette (Beware anything called an "ette.") and "flexible working space connecting separate living and bedroom zones." (Beware of "suite" lodgings that have "zones" and not "rooms.") If you want to figure out Home2Suites yourself, surf here.

Another Burst of Flights to Secondary Mexican Cities
If your business takes you to Mexico, there are a lot more flight options in your future. American Airlines, through its American Eagle subsidiary, is adding two new daily routes on June 9. It will fly 50-seat jets between its Dallas-Fort Worth hub and Mazatlan and 44-seat RJs between DFW and Morelia. Also new: four weekly flights between Fresno, California, and Guadalajara from Volaris, a low-fare Mexican airline. Flights start on April 14 and it is the first of 23 new transborder routes Volaris plans to launch. Volaris, of course, is partnering with Southwest Airlines and there will probably be code-share and other cooperation on Volaris' new routes. … Continental Airlines says it will begin daily flights from Newark to Stuttgart, Germany, on June 9. As with most of Continental's flights to Germany, the Stuttgart service will use narrow-body Boeing 757s configured with 16 business-class and 159 coach seats. … Westin has opened a 234-room hotel at the top of the Nanjing International Center. Nanjing is the capital of China's Jiangsu province.

A Gothic Palace, a Rat Pack Den and Two Resorts
It's been a curious couple of days in the hotel world. It started with the news that the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, a Rat Pack hangout featured in the original Oceans Eleven movie, is closing. The faux-Moroccan Sahara was once the anchor of the northern end of the Vegas Strip, but that part of town is now in shambles. Besides the Sahara, which closes in May, there's the mothballed Echelon Resort; the unfinished Fontainebleau; and four empty lots that were once going to the sites of new world-class resorts. But there's good news from London, where the High Gothic hotel that sits above St. Pancras Station has reopened after a 76-year hiatus. Thanks to $200 million of restoration work, the St. Pancras Renaissance has 245 rooms, typical Marriott amenities and the iconic touches that once made London "station hotels" famous. (St. Pancras is the London terminus of the Eurostar train to Brussels and Paris.) Finally, bad news from the Big Island of Hawaii. A tsunami caused by last Friday's Sendai earthquake did serious damage to the Four Seasons Hualalai and the Kona Village Resort. The Four Seasons will be out of action until at least April 30. But the 125-bungalow Kona Village may never reopen. About 20 of the resort's accommodations suffered major structural damage and as many as 30 more suffered significant water damage. The hotel's restaurants, ponds and landscaping were also hit. "Structural and infrastructure damage is so significant that it's unsafe for people to be here," said Patrick Fitzgerald, Kona Village's general manager. Both resorts are owned by Michael Dell, the computer mogul.

Don't You Be Praying on My Aircraft, Boy…Again
Fourteen months ago, a US Airways Express crew diverted a flight because they didn't believe a teenaged boy's leather tefillin was an ornament used in a Jewish prayer ritual. It happened again last Sunday (March 13) on Alaska Airlines Flight 241 from Mexico City to Los Angeles. When three passengers wearing tefillin began to pray, the flight crew started a security lockdown. The flight was met at LAX by fire crews, foam trucks, FBI and TSA agents and local police. "The three passengers were praying aloud in Hebrew and were wearing what appeared to be leather straps on their foreheads and arms. This appeared to be a security threat," one clueless Alaska Airlines spokesperson told Reuters. The FBI questioned the passengers, then released them without charge because a) it's not passengers' fault that flight crews are clueless; b) wearing "leather straps" is not prohibited on planes; and c) it's still not illegal to pray on an aircraft.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines says passengers on many international flights can receive paperless boarding passes when they check in with their mobile devices at United.com beginning 24 hours before departure. … The seventh domestic fare increase of the year--$10 roundtrip across the board--failed and American Airlines rolled back the increase when other carriers didn't match. … Seventy-seven percent of airline travel is now booked online, according to a new report from Frost & Sullivan, the research firm. The study also says that 53 percent of travelers in the over-55 age group use proprietary airline Web sites, but just 37 percent of younger flyers do. Only 24 percent of over-55 travelers use third-party travel Web sites to book.

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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.