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THE BRIEFING FOR AUGUST 11 TO 25, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli

· The Busiest Airline Web Site? Southwest.com
· Hyatt Hotels Opens Still Another India Property
· SkyMiles Bans Flight Changes Within Three Days
· Of Course Airport Luggage Scales Aren't Accurate
· United Juggles Fleet on Some Transpacific Routes
· Hertz Replaces The #1 Frequent Renter Plan
· American Throws Some Rewards to Elite Flyers


What's the Busiest Airline Web Site? You Guessed It: Southwest.com With the first 2012 presidential straw poll due this weekend in Iowa, we might as well get to ranking airline Web sites, too. According to Experian Hitwise, a Web-reporting agency, Southwest.com gets 22.3 percent of all hits at U.S. airline sites. That's not really surprising since Southwest Airlines carries more domestic passengers than any other airlines. Delta.com comes next, with almost 13.6 percent of the traffic. Again, no surprise since Delta is the nation's largest carrier since its merger with Northwest Airlines. Number three is AA.com, with just under 10 percent of the hits. A surprising fourth is JetBlue.com, which has almost 8.5 percent of the traffic, more than double its share of U.S. passengers. The laggard? United Airlines' much-disliked site, with just 5.7 percent of traffic. They don't call it United.bomb for nothing. Even though United is much larger than its new subsidiary, Continental Airlines, Continental.com gathered 6.6 percent of the traffic. Among third-party travel agencies, Expedia received 13.3 percent of traffic headed to booking sites. Priceline (10.5 percent) was second, followed by Orbitz (about 6.9 percent) and, surprisingly, travel.yahoo.com with 6.1 percent. Hotwire and Travelocity also clocked in with 6 percent of traffic headed to travel agencies.

Hyatt Opens Another India Property, Two More on the Way
Hyatt Hotels opened another property in India this week, the 327-room Hyatt Regency in Chennai. It's located on the Mount Road (Anna Salai). Last week Hyatt opened its second property in Goa and the chain has two more on the way in India. A Park Hyatt in Chennai is due early next year and a Park Hyatt in Hyderabad is scheduled to open before the end of this year. Hampton Inn opened a 122-room hotel on Fore Street in Portland, Maine. The former Marriott hotel in the heart of South Bend, Indiana, has converted to a DoubleTree by Hilton. Adjacent to the Century Center, the property is one of the few decent hotels in downtown South Bend. Best Western has opened a 258-room property in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong Island.

SkyMiles Bans Flight Changes Within Three Days of Departure
Delta Air Lines can't seem to decide whether it wants to make its SkyMiles frequent flyer program more valuable or more annoying. This week, it tipped to the annoying side of the equation. Effective August 15, you won't be able to make changes to your award seats within 72 hours of departure. The new rule applies to all SkyMiles elite members, too. No exceptions. American Airlines is throwing some awards to some elite members. Depending on your status level and the number of elite-qualifying miles you earn this year, you'll receive extras including as many as 35,000 bonus miles, upgrades and Admirals Club passes. For complete details, click here. Hertz is scrapping its Hertz #1 Awards program and has launched a new loyalty plan called Gold Plus Rewards. Joining gets you a free weekend day's rental. The details are here.

Of Course Airport Luggage Scales Aren't Accurate
I don't know why this will surprise anyone, but airport luggage scales aren't accurate. It's been proven again, this time by ABC News affiliates working with the ABC Network's Good Morning America. Four of the five scales tested at Mesa Gateway Airport near Phoenix didn't pass an inspection. Of 144 scales tested at Los Angeles, six were inaccurate and all of them, conveniently enough, claimed passenger bags were heavier than they really were. At New York/LaGuardia and New York/Kennedy, nearly 10 percent of the scales were inaccurate. Speaking of New York, Eva Air, the Taiwanese carrier, is moving. Effective October 31, its flights will depart from Terminal 1 at JFK. Eva will drop Newark flights at that time. Priority Pass, the global airport lounge program, has added clubs in San Salvador, El Salvador, and at London/Heathrow. The latest Heathrow club is the No. 1 Traveller Lounge in Terminal 3. The Radisson Suites hotel at I-35 and Mockingbird Lane near Dallas/Love Field has switched brands. The 296-room hotel is now a Park Inn.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines continues to juggle aircraft from the old Continental and United fleets. The latest changes: Two-class Continental Boeing 737s will replace United widebody four-class jets on the Hong Kong-Singapore and Hong Kong-Ho Chi Minh City routes. On the flip side, two Continental routes (Tokyo/Narita-Guam and Honolulu-Guam) get United Boeing 777s. The changes take place late in October. Last month's fatal high-speed train crash in China has led the Chinese government to slow the system down. Trains, which once moved at 215 miles per hour, will slow down to 185 miles per hour beginning on September 1. The crash near Wenzhou killed 40 travelers and injured nearly 200 more. The Department of Transportation has fined American Eagle, the commuter carrier of American Airlines, a total of $155,000. The DOT says Eagle violated weight-and-balance rules and flew an aircraft with a faulty engine repair.

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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.