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THE BRIEFING FOR JULY 7 - JULY 21, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli
· Hilton Pulls Name Off Vegas, Atlantic City Casinos
· TSA'S Biggest Critic Is Even Worse Than the TSA · Gigantic Lufthansa Lounge Opens in Frankfurt
· Marriott Opens New Hotels in Ankara and Jaipur
· Hyatt Place Opens Near Hamptons in New York
· Terrorists Apparently Have Star Trek Technology
· A Traffic 'Nightmare' Awaits LAX Next Weekend
Hilton Doesn't Gamble Here Anymore
Note to Hilton HHonors members: Don't be expecting to cash HHonors points for free stays at the Hilton Hotels in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Hilton doesn't gamble there anymore. In related moves this week, Hilton stripped both the Las Vegas Hilton and the Atlantic City Hilton of the brand name. As of January 1, the Hilton name will come off the iconic 3,000-room Las Vegas property, which opened in 1969 and has been a Hilton-owned or franchised resort since 1970. The Hilton name has already come off the Atlantic City property, which is now marketing itself as the ACH. The smallest of Atlantic City's 11 casinos, the property has been a Hilton since 1996, when Hilton purchased the hotel. It opened in 1980 as the Golden Nugget and has also been known as Bally's and The Grand. The properties are currently owned by divisions of Colony Capital, a huge real estate investment firm that purchased the hotels in 2004 from a Hilton subsidiary.
The TSA Stinks. So Does Its Chief Congressional Critic. The Transportation Security Administration doesn't have many friends these days. Patting down 95-year-old women and groping kids won't win you many fans. But if you're looking for absolute villainy with your tax dollars, look no further than the TSA's chief critic, John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mica has been railing at supposed profligacy at the TSA ever since he regained control of the committee in 2009. Yet Mica is the prime mover behind the SunRail project in his home district in Central Florida. The 61-mile railroad will cost taxpayers $1.2 billion to build and will serve just 4,300 passengers a day. Moreover, it will bypass both Orlando Airport and Disney World, the two big people magnets in Mica's district. (Read more about the boondoggle here.) Let's do the math, shall we? The TSA's annual budget is approximately $8.1 billion. Based on the Transportation Department's most recent figures, 730 million travelers flew in the 12 months between March 2010 and March 2011. That works out to about $11 a flyer. SunRail will cost around $1,070 a rider to build. With $1.2 billion, the TSA screens about 109 million flyers a year. The $1.2 billion SunRail investment will serve about 1.1 million riders a year. That means Mica's SunRail will have to operate for about 96 years before it reaches the $11-a-customer level where the TSA now operates.
A Busy Week on the Airport Club Scene Worldwide
As the stormy summer travel season begins, it might be smart to check in on airport clubs to see where we can (and can't) wait out the delays. The big news (literally) comes from Lufthansa, which has opened a 20,000-square-foot First Senator lounge in Frankfurt. A remake and expansion of an existing Lufthansa club in the B Concourse of Terminal 1, the lounge offers 10 shower facilities, two spa-treatment rooms and a bar called City Lights. The facility is open to Lufthansa Senators and some Star Alliance elite customers. Separately, Lufthansa also announced that WiFi is now free in all of its clubs worldwide. Speaking of WiFi, Boingo is now handling the wireless service at Milan/Malpensa and Milan/Linate airports. Speaking of Milan, Priority Pass is now accepted at the Sala Clementi lounge at Malpensa's Terminal 1. Speaking of Priority Pass, the Virgin Blue lounges at six Australia airports are no longer part of the program.
Marriott Opens Big Hotels in Big Places
It's been a busy week for Marriott overseas. The chain opened a 413-room JW Marriott in Ankara, Turkey. It also opened a 365-room Marriott in Jaipur, the so-called Pink City located in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The hotel has seven food and beverage outlets. Finally, Marriott's Ritz-Carlton division has taken over management of the Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, Oman. The 205-room property has 200 acres of landscaped gardens and may be best known for its 38-meter-high domed atrium in the lobby. Hyatt Place has opened a 100-room branch in Riverhead, New York. It's okay if you don't know Riverhead. Try this: It's 24 miles from East Hampton, the center of the Hamptons beach area that makes New Yorkers go gaga in the summer.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
That terrorist alert earlier this week that has brought added security kabuki to international flights headed to the United States was triggered by--Ready for this?--reports of surgically implanted explosives. Apparently, TSA bosses believe terrorists have the technology and the medical knowledge to implant bombs in the human body. I don't know about that, but I recall several episodes of Star Trek had Klingons with surgically implanted bombs. The Internal Revenue Service has raised the deduction for business travelers who use their own cars. The deduction for the second half of the year is 55.5 cents per mile, up from 51 cents. A Memphis police officer and another person were shot dead on Monday (July 4) during a domestic dispute at a DoubleTree hotel in Memphis.
Boy, This Can't Be Good
A three-day closure of parts of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles next weekend is likely to cause chaos around town. And given how one big traffic problem in LA cascades into another, travelers planning to get to or from flights at LAX would be well advised to know the ground alternatives. The apparatchiks at LAX have even posted a Web page of advice. By the way, if you aren't au fait with the Interstate numbers or LA's traffic patterns, the 405 is known as the San Diego Freeway and generally traverses the west side of the sprawling LA area. But since about a half-million cars a day use the part of the freeway that is being closed to demolish a bridge, local traffic experts are using words like "nightmare" to describe the coming disruptions.
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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.