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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 9 - JUNE 23, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli

· United Won't Harmonize Its International Fleets
· Got a Visa Signature Card? You Get Hilton Status
· Delta Continues Slashing Flights at Memphis Hub
· United Returns to Its Zone Boarding Procedure
· Boston/Logan Finally Gets a Nonstop Flight to Asia
· Yotel Opens in Times Square, Brooklyn Gets Aloft
· Qantas' Dallas/Fort Worth Service Hits a Snag


United Chooses International Chaos Rather Than a Rational Fleet
So what will the combined United Airlines be as an international carrier? Will it adopt Continental's two-class operation or United's three-class system? The answer: Neither. The combined carrier's chief executive, Jeff Smisek, says that the new United will do nothing at all. It'll continue running Continental's two-class jets and United's three-class jets because that's supposedly the cheaper and most expedient solution. As for the negative effect on the carriers' confused business travelers and the inexplicable marketing approach? Those are potential costs no one at United seems interested in talking about. Worse, United Continental this week started international fleet swaps, with some Continental jets replacing United aircraft on United routes and vice versa. And since they haven't publicized the switches, you get to guess whether you're flying what you originally booked. The big losers? United first-class and Economy Plus flyers who'll arrive at the gate to find a two-class Continental plane. (Continental is adopting Economy Plus, but that won't begin until next year.) Other losers: Fans of Continental's superior BusinessFirst cabin who may find themselves on jets with United's inferior business class. The first swaps involve Continental's Newark-Zurich flights, which now get United equipment, and some of United's Washington/Dulles-Paris/CDG flights, which will get Continental aircraft. More swaps are due this summer.

Hilton HHonors Gold Status (or 5,000 Bonus Points) for Some Visa Cardholders Here's a nice freebie: If you have a Visa Signature card, Hilton HHonors will give you Gold elite status or 5,000 bonus points. If you're not already Gold elite in Hilton's frequency program, surf here and Hilton will give you Gold status valid until August 31. If you stay with Hilton three times by August 31, your Gold Status will be extended through March, 2013. Already HHonors Gold or Diamond? Visa Signature holders will get 5,000 bonus points. Chase and Marriott have rolled out the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card. The annual fee is high ($395) and there's not much benefit unless you are a dedicated Ritz-Carlton customer. You'll get three Club-level upgrades a year; a $100 hotel credit on two-night stays; and five points per dollar spent at Ritz properties. You'll also get a watered-down version of the Priority Pass airport lounge access program. For more information, surf here. Hawaiian Miles, the frequency program of Hawaiian Airlines, eliminates minimum flight miles for general members on September 1. Unless you're an elite, you'll only receive actual miles for Hawaiian flights. Some intra-island routes are as short at 90 miles.

Delta Continues Slashing Its Memphis Hub
Before its merger with Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines was systematically downsizing its Cincinnati hub. Now that there's nothing left to cut, Delta is turning its attention to Memphis, the smallest Northwest hub. Four more destinations--Columbus, Mississippi; Quad Cities; Lexington, Kentucky and Lafayette, Louisiana--are getting the chop. That'll be 19 cities gone, including flights to San Diego and San Francisco, since last July. There were 238 flights at Memphis when the two carriers merged in October, 2008. The hub will be down to 174 daily flights by the fall. United Airlines has done an about-face on its boarding procedure. Without advance announcement last month, United flights switched to Continental Airlines' board-by-row system. But after a passenger revolt, United yesterday (June 8) returned to its zone-boarding system. Moreover, the airline now says Continental will switch to zone boarding next year. Ash from a volcanic eruption in Chile led to several days of disruption this week at the airports in Buenos Aires. It was no Iceland, of course, but it was annoying for the thousands whose flights were cancelled.

Brooklyn Gets an Aloft, Times Square Gets a Yotel
It was only a dozen years ago that I wrote a column about my hometown of Brooklyn getting its first hotel in decades. Now New York's most populous borough is lousy with chain hotels and hipster boutiques. The latest: a 176-room Aloft Hotel in what we used to call "downtown" on Duffield Street, adjacent to a 321-room Sheraton that opened last year. Meanwhile, back in "the city"--that's what folks in Brooklyn used to call Manhattan--a 669-room Yotel has opened near Times Square. Until now, Yotel limited itself to airport hotels. Rooms at the Yotel are less than 200 square feet in size. Hilton has opened two more properties in Africa: a 169-room property in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, and a 150-room branch in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Holiday Inn Express has two new branches. It has converted the former Baymont Inn on Whitebridge Road in Nashville and the former Comfort Inn near Interstate 5 in San Diego.

Boston/Logan Finally Gets a Nonstop Flight to Asia
This should get chins wagging in all of the right places in Boston. Japan Airlines will launch nonstop flights from Tokyo/Narita to Boston/Logan next April. It'll be JAL's first new U.S. gateway in 13 years and the first nonstop ever from Boston to a city in Asia. There'll be four weekly flights at launch and the route will go daily in June. However, JAL plans to use a new Boeing 787 on the route and Boeing hasn't exactly been on-target with its delivery dates. The plane is at least two years behind schedule and no aircraft are yet in service. Qantas has run into rough skies on its newest U.S. route, Dallas/Fort Worth-Brisbane-Sydney. Launched last month, at least two of the first flights have encountered serious glitches. The route clocks in at more than 8,500 miles and that's at the outer edge of the range of the Boeing 747-400ER, the aircraft Qantas uses. As a result, one flight departed without passenger baggage as a way to ensure that the fully loaded aircraft would make it to Australia. Another flight was diverted to Houston because it didn't have enough reserve fuel to wait out a thunderstorm at DFW. The pilot's strike is off at Aer Lingus.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United, Continental and Delta are raising baggage fees on transatlantic flights. The second bag will now cost $70 on United or Continental and $75 on Delta. That's up from $50. Delta is also slapping a $30 fee on a second checked bag to Mexico and Central America. Second bags on those flights had been free. Air Canada has junked the Jazz name. All of its regional flights are now called Air Canada Express. Three carriers--Continental, US Airways and TACA--have been fined by the Transportation Department for misleading fare advertising. All three of the fines, from $45,000 to $120,000, involve the airlines' failure to disclose add-on fees and fuel surcharges. Separately, the DOT fined Frontier Airlines $40,000 because it didn't display on-time information for its flights.

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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.