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THE BRIEFING FOR MAR. 29-APR. 12, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· JAL Brings Less-Than-Dreamy B787 to Boston
· A New Velcro Hotel: The Westin Lake Las Vegas
· A Hyatt Park Hotel Opens in Hyderabad, India
· Chase Rolls Credit Card With United Club Access
· SAS Will Fly Between Copenhagen and Tel Aviv
· Southwest Leads a New $3-$5 Fare Increase
· Is American Dumping Eagle Flights in San Juan?


JAL Brings a Less-Than-Dreamy Dreamliner to the Logan-Narita Route
With no time to spare, Japan Airlines finally took delivery of two Boeing 787 Dreamliners on Monday (March 26) and will use the new aircraft for a pair of aviation firsts: the inauguration of commercial B787 service to the United States and the April 22 launch of a Boston/Logan to Tokyo/Narita route. JAL will also use Dreamliners for the launch of a San Diego-Narita run in December. But for all of the hot air surrounding the groundbreaking nature of the Dreamliner, JAL's proprietary configuration is shockingly sparse. There's no first class, not surprising considering the fading popularity of first even on transpacific routes. But JAL's business class on the Dreamliner won't even have lie-flat beds, a stunning downgrade for a totally new aircraft on a new route. JAL's 42 business-class seats are configured 2x2x2 and each is just 21.3 inches between the armrests with 171 degrees of recline. Another bizarre omission: JAL's Dreamliners won't have a premium economy class. A much classier iteration of the Dreamliner is scheduled to reach the United States later this year when All Nippon Airways launches B787 flights from Narita to Seattle and San Jose. ANA's Dreamliners will have lie-flat beds and spacious personal pods in business class. United Airlines also plans to have lie-flat beds in business class and an Economy Plus section in its Boeing 787s.

A New Velcro Hotel: The Westin Lake Las Vegas
You know about Velcro hotels, right? Properties that change affiliations so frequently that industry wags suggest that the brand signs and logos are affixed with hook-and-loop tape. Well, we have a new contender for Velcro hotel status. The 493-room resort in Henderson, Nevada, that opened in 1999 as a Hyatt Regency and then became a Loews Hotel is now called the Westin Lake Las Vegas. ... A 185-room Park Hyatt has opened in Hyderabad, India. The property also has 24 suites and 42 luxury apartment residences. ... A 252-room Holiday Inn Express has opened adjacent to Sloterdijk Station in Amsterdam. Speaking of Holiday Inn Express, it's the new name on the 91-room property on East Plaza Boulevard near San Diego Airport. The hotel formerly traded as a Comfort Inn. ... Speaking of conversions, Hilton is doing an inter-family swap in Midland, Texas. The Hilton Hotel there is becoming a DoubleTree property.

Chase Rolls Out a Credit Card Bundled With United Club Access
It's been overshadowed by the continued mess at United Airlines, but Chase has rolled out its latest United credit card. The Chase MileagePlus Club card is bundled with full membership privileges in the United Club network of airport lounges. Other perks: 1.5 miles per dollar of spend and 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines tickets; two free checked bags on United flights; Premier Access boarding privileges; and fee-waived, last-minute award ticketing. Cardholders also receive Platinum Elite status in the Hyatt Gold Passport plan. International transactions won't incur foreign-exchange fees, either. The United Club Card carries a $395 annual fee, but there's a $95 statement credit after your first use. The new card does not replace Chase's now-discontinued Continental Presidential Plus card. If you've got that card, Chase says you can continue to use it. ... Delta SkyMiles flyers take note: a "computer glitch" is blocking your ability to claim business-class awards on Air France and KLM flights. Delta says that it has no timetable to fix the "glitch." Isn't it fascinating how airlines like Delta and United never seem to have a timetable for fixing the glitches that restrict your ability to claim awards or get the upgrades you earned? Just sayin' ...

Is American Dumping More Service at San Juan?
As a cost-cutting measure, pre-bankruptcy American Airlines downgraded its San Juan hub. It cut most mainline flights and severely slashed the number of American Eagle commuter flights. Now El Vocero, a Puerto Rican paper, says bankrupt American plans to end all Eagle flights at San Juan within the next year. American's only response to El Vocero is that it hasn't yet announced any schedule changes. In other words, goodbye San Juan. ... Speaking of gonzo flights, Frontier Airlines drops Milwaukee-Newark service on April 1. ... Israel travelers take note: SAS will fly nonstop between Copenhagen and Tel Aviv beginning on June 4. The route will operate with narrowbody Airbus A319 or A321 jets. ... Priority Pass, the global network of airport lounges, has added new clubs in Baltimore-Washington and Raleigh-Durham. It also added lounges in Edmonton, Alberta; Liberia, Costa Rica; Cairns, Queensland; and at four airports in Saudi Arabia.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Led by Southwest Airlines, legacy carriers and JetBlue Airways raised fares from $3-$5 each way this week. It's the third across-the-board fare hike this year. ... American Airlines asked its bankruptcy judge this week to void the labor contracts with its unions. Although these types of motions have been routinely granted in previous airline bankruptcies, American's case is somewhat different. American employees agreed to major concessions several years ago when previous American management claimed it was prepared to declare bankruptcy. And American didn't even present its labor unions with its concession demands until last month. ... A general strike in Spain today (March 29) led Iberia to cancel more than 200 flights, about 60 percent of its schedule. ... The peculiar case of the JetBlue pilot who flipped out during a New York to Las Vegas flight this week has taken another strange turn. He has been charged by prosecutors with interfering with a flight crew, a federal crime that carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison. If you haven't followed the odd tale, Reuters had a good overview today.

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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 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.