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THE BRIEFING FOR APRIL 12 TO 26, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· Are You Ready for Some Airport Disruptions?
· Interesting New Places to Burn Hotel Points
· Hilton Devalues the HHonors Program Again
· How Customers Are Penalizing United Airlines
· Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Will Get Free WiFi
· BMI, Now Owned by BA, Will Leave Star Alliance
· Iberia Scrubs 150 Flights on Monday, More Friday


Are You Ready for Some Airport Disruptions and Upheavals?
Think it can't get worse than United's computer mess and American's post-storm woes? Well, get ready for it to get worse...or at least more disruptive thanks to a series of global airport infrastructure projects. Delta Air Lines this week broke ground on a major project at New York's LaGuardia Airport. The goal is to remake its existing terminal (designated D) and merge it via covered walkway to the adjacent US Airways facility (designated C), which Delta got when it traded Washington/National slots to US Air. It'll take until the end of the year (at least) for the connector to be finished. Until then, you will have to bus it between terminals. Meanwhile, in Paris, Air France and French airport authorities are trying to clean up and rationalize the mess that is Charles DeGaulle Airport. Another tranche of construction will supposedly improve one of Europe's worst hub airports. It somehow makes sense to the Gallic mind, if not ours. But, wait, there's more. The new international terminal at Atlanta/Hartsfield will open next month. Then we'll have the long-delayed debut of Berlin Brandenberg Airport in June, meaning the near-simultaneous end of both Tegel and Schoenenfeld airports. A few weeks later, the first phase of the 14-gate Terminal 3 at Las Vegas McCarren is scheduled to open its doors. Should be an interesting few months, don't you think?

Some Interesting New Places to Burn Your Hotel Points
If worrying about airline meltdowns and airport construction messes gets you down, how about having a little fun and dreaming about some new places to burn your hotel frequent guest points? Marriott's Renaissance brand has put its flag on the 180-room Il Ciocco Resort in Tuscany's Apennine Mountains about 30 minutes from Lucca. Starwood says it is renovating the old Silvertree Hotel near Snowmass in Aspen and will reopen it just before Christmas as a 254-room Westin. And Hyatt says it will take over the Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The property is closing on June 30 for a renovation and will reopen early next year as a Park Hyatt. If that's too long to wait, the harborfront Park Hyatt Sydney has reopened after a renovation ... Hilton HHonors has juggled its award chart and the result is still another devaluation. The new chart is effective April 30 and raises the award price of 330 hotels (about 10 percent of the chain's total) and lowers the price of 117 properties.

How Customers Are Penalizing United Airlines for Its Data Meltdown
Skeptical observers think that United Airlines can get away with its botched data transition because there are so few other carriers left in the market. But it is clear that the opposite is true and customers are penalizing United as its problems show no sign of abating and its bosses refuse to talk publicly. As airlines reported their March statistics in recent days, it became obvious that United now lags the entire industry in revenue growth. In March, Delta said, PRASM (passenger revenue per available seat mile) jumped an impressive 13 percent over March, 2011. US Airways and JetBlue each reported an 8 percent year-over-year growth in PRASM. Southwest and AirTran had a 5 percent bump in their combined PRASM. United says its March growth was just 4-5 percent. United's poor showing in what was otherwise a terrific month for the airline industry is probably due to some "last-minute, high-value customers booking away," one analyst told me. "And there's no reason to think United can do much better in the months ahead. [Elite business travelers] are the most angry with the computer problems, so they'll look elsewhere in April and May, too. And leisure flyers will book away as they lock in their summer travel."

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Will Get Free WiFi
Sprawling Dallas/Fort Worth Airport will get free WiFi beginning September 1. The terminals, parking garages and even the ramp areas will be wired for gratis Internet coverage. ... A 248-room Courtyard by Marriott has opened at Mexico City Airport. It is directly connected to Terminal 1. ... Swiss International opened a new arrivals lounge at its Zurich hub. The club, in the public area of Arrivals 2, is outfitted with 20 showers stalls, three bedrooms, 10 workstations, WiFi, a dining area and a lounge. It is available from about 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day and is open to Swiss first- and business-class flyers as well as elite members of the appropriate Star Alliance frequency programs. ... Priority Pass, the global airport-club program, has added lounges in Helsinki (Terminal 2); Puerto Vallarta (Terminal 1); Moscow/Sheremetyevo (Terminal C); and in Lyon (Terminal 1).

Another Raft of Hotel Openings Around the World
Got your scorecard out? It's been a busy week. ... From InterContinental comes two conversions. The 94-room Hotel Indigo Del Mar in San Diego is a rebranding of the former Best Western Stratford Inn. The 242-room Crowne Plaza in Danbury, Connecticut, is a former Sheraton and a former independent called the Danbury Plaza. And an 84-room Staybridge Suites is a newly built property in North Brunswick, New Jersey. ... Hilton has opened a 184-room DoubleTree in Gurgaon, Delhi, India. ... Fairmont has opened a 258-room hotel in the Podil District of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. ... Swissotel has put its flag on a 180-room property in Phuket, Thailand, that most recently was a Courtyard by Marriott.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
BMI, which was sold to British Airways by Lufthansa, is logically leaving the Lufthansa-led Star Alliance. It exits on April 20. That will reduce Star Alliance options via London/Heathrow, where BMI has been the second-largest carrier. ... Iberia cancelled 150 or so flights on Monday (April 9) due to the latest one-day pilot strike. The next strike is scheduled for tomorrow (April 13). Iberia pilots say they will strike each Monday and Friday until mid-July to protest the airline's decision to start a non-union, low-fare subsidiary. ... Delta Air Lines has introduced a new fare class called Basic Economy on four routes from its Detroit/Metro hub to Florida. The nonrefundable fares are sold in E class and no changes are permitted. Travelers also cannot choose seat assignments at any time. Delta assigns the seats at check-in. The fares seem to be aimed at Spirit Airlines, which flies on the same routes.

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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.