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THE BRIEFING FOR NOV. 17-NOV. 30, 2011
By Joe Brancatelli

· Southwest Plans Overhaul of AirTran Routes
· More Marriotts, More Hiltons, More Hotels
· BA's New Award Chart Giveth and Taketh
· A Bit More Transcon Comfort on Delta's Flights
· American Will Code-Share With Air Pacific of Fiji
· Three More 'Local Joints' Debut at the Airport
· TSA Waste and the High Cost of Demagoguery


Southwest Plans a Major Overhaul of AirTran's Route System
Southwest Airlines has been slowly reworking its AirTran Airways subsidiary, but this week it announced some big changes in the Atlanta-based carrier's route network. Flights to five airports will disappear, including all service to Knoxville; Miami; Washington/Dulles; Charleston, West Virginia; and Bloomington, Illinois. Beginning in June, AirTran will add three transcontinental routes from Baltimore/Washington (Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco); three new routes from Denver (Akron-Canton, Dayton and New York/LaGuardia); and flights between BWI and New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale and San Juan. Not necessarily separately, Southwest itself will add three new routes from its Houston/Hobby complex (Raleigh-Durham, Kansas City and Seattle) and a route between its Chicago/Midway hub and Oklahoma City.

More Marriotts, More Hiltons, More Hotels Everywhere
Hotel chains are expanding at a breathtaking pace and you have to wonder where all the customers are going to come from in this down economy. Even in China, the world's sole fast-growing economy, the market is overloaded with rooms. But still they build. Keep the oversupply in mind when you're shopping for rates. ... Hilton has opened a 245-room hotel in Bogota, Colombia, and two properties in China: a 355-room Hilton in Nanjing and a 284-room DoubleTree by Hilton adjacent to the Starlight 68 Mall in Chongqing. ... Marriott has opened Fairfield Inn hotels in Aurora, Colorado (131 rooms); Mahwah, New Jersey (86 rooms); and Irving, Texas (120 rooms). That last one is a mile from DFW Airport and was formerly a Drury Inn. Marriott also opened its first Residence Inn in Britain. The 107-room hotel is in Edinburgh, Scotland. ... The Dallas Convention Center finally has its hotel. After protracted fights and two years of construction, the 1,000-room Omni Dallas has opened its doors. ... Starwood has opened a 254-room Le Meridien hotel in Coimbatore, India.

British Airways' New Award Chart Giveth a Little, Taketh Away a Lot
British Airways unveiled its new Executive Club award chart this week and started with a slap upside its members' collective head: The chart is effective immediately, with no advance warning. So let's hope you weren't squirreling away BA miles--er, sorry, Avios points--for any particular award. As for the BA chart itself, it's completely mileage-based. That's good news for East Coast travelers looking for free trips to London--a business-class seat from New York to Heathrow, for example, is now 80,000 points, down from 100,000 points--and bad news for just about everyone else. Free stopovers are gone. Connecting and long-haul flights will cost more points than ever. The "partner" award chart has been eliminated. (Regardless of carrier, all flights are priced the same and strictly on mileage.) The airline claims that 97 percent of its routes have the same pricing or will cost less. But your mileage will almost certainly vary since that claim seems to be based largely on intra-Europe flights and BA-only metal. For complete details, surf to the new Avios.com. That's assuming you can get on the site. It's been down more than it's been available this week... Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards program has launched a shopping site. You can see it and assess your options here.

A Bit More Transcontinental Comfort on Delta's Flights
Delta Air Lines says that its premium economy service, Economy Comfort, will be installed by December 1 on transcontinental flights between New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Economy Comfort seats, which offer about four more inches of legroom, are free upgrades for diamond, platinum and gold SkyMiles members. It's also free for full-fare coach flyers. Everyone else pays a surcharge to upgrade their coach tickets. ... Two Sacramento dining staples, the Esquire Grill and Burgers & Brew, have opened branches in the new Terminal B at Sacramento International. ... Speaking of local eateries, a Linda Bean's Lobster Cafe has opened at the newly expanded terminal at the Portland International Jetport.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Delta Air Lines tried to raise fares $4-$10 roundtrip this week, but it failed when other carriers refused to match. That's the third consecutive fare bump that didn't get traction. ... SkyTeam says that Xiamen Airlines, a carrier based in Southeast China, will join the group late next year. ... American Airlines and Air Pacific have cut a code-share deal. Assuming government approval, American will slap its AA code on Air Pacific flights to Nadi, Fiji, from Los Angeles and Honolulu. ... Etihad Airways, the carrier based in Abu Dhabi, has cut a deal with Panasonic to install live TV and WiFi on its flights. The Panasonic system is already used by Lufthansa and United announced earlier this month that it will also use it, too.

Waste and the High Cost of Demagoguery
It's the tenth anniversary of the law that created the Transportation Security Administration. Say what you will about the TSA, but the demagoguery that comes from the mouth of John Mica, the Florida House member who is the Republican point man on aviation, almost makes you sympathize with the bureaucrats. Mica railed this week about the "$57 billion" the TSA has wasted. Of course, that's the TSA's total budget for the last ten years. It's no small sum, but consider this: The most recent study says that we've spent nearly $4 trillion on the war in Iraq. The TSA was forced on us because we were attacked with our own aircraft. Iraq was a war of choice--and a misguided one since there were no weapons of mass destruction there. And let's not forget that our friend Mica is the moving force behind the $1.2 billion train to nowhere in his home district.

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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.