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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 14 - JUNE 28, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli
· ATL's International Terminal Not Feeling the Love
· Everywhere You Look, More Hotels Worldwide
· Avis Adds Options for Preferred Service Renters
· TSA Approves Private Screeners for Sanford
· The Star Alliance Opens Joint Terminal in Vienna
· American and Unions Head for a Court Decision
· United, Mr. Peabody and the Wayback Machine
Atlanta's New International Terminal Not Feeling the Flyer Love
It's been open about almost a month, but the ridiculously named Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the subject of no small amount of ridicule from frequent flyers. "It is cavernous, cold and empty," one JoeSentMe member said. "And don't even get me started on the airport approach from I-75." Among the other major problems cited by early ATL visitors: long, long walks between Concourses E and F, where international flights arrive and depart; no long-term parking near the terminal; and a long, crowded bus ride to and from Atlanta's consolidated car-rental facility. The 12-gate terminal's massive amount of public space has been generally well-received, but most flyers say about the same thing: At $1.5 billion, it doesn't seem worth the money and it certainly isn't a game-changer.
Everywhere You Look, a Mess of New Hotels Worldwide
You know that metaphoric "hotel scorecard" I tell you to pull out whenever there's a new burst of hotel openings? Well, get out two this week. It's been that busy. I'll go as fast as I can and break it down by chain.
Starwood opened a 131-room Aloft near the Vaughan Mills mall on the outskirts of Toronto; a 90-room Four Points in the Colonia Roma suburb of Mexico City; and a 254-room Le Meridien in Oran, Algeria. It converted a formerly independent property in Mirasierra near Madrid into a 180-room Sheraton and reopened the 151-room Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville, Spain, as part of its Luxury Collection.
Marriott opened a 102-room SpringHill Suites between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and a 221-room JW Marriott in the Santa Fe district of Mexico City. But it has lost control of the 10-year-old Renaissance Hotel adjacent to the Hollywood & Highland Center on Hollywood Boulevard. Effective Saturday (June 16), the 632-room property will operate as the Loews Hollywood.
Hilton opened a 227-room DoubleTree in Naha, capital of the Japanese island of Okinawa.
Carlson opened a 214-room Radisson Blu in Nagpur, India.
Avis Has Three Rental Options for Preferred Service Customers
Avis Car Rental Preferred Service customers now have three options when they reach the airport. You can go with the vehicle that's been pre-reserved, exchange it for another car in the so-called Select&Go area or upgrade to a specialty vehicle in the Select&Go area. Those cars have their upgrade prices posted on the windshield. The Preferred Service and Select&Go are available at 50 airports in the United States and Canada. Avis explains it all here, but it seems like a slightly complicated mashup of the Emerald Aisle program from National and the Prestige Collection from Hertz. ... After a federal law slapped it upside its bureaucratic head for its recalcitrance, the Transportation Security Administration has resumed a program that allows airports to privatize security screening. Orlando/Sanford was approved for private screeners (who will still be overseen by TSA officials) this week. Sacramento and two other airports have also applied. ... The Star Alliance has opened a combined terminal at Vienna. The 1.6-million-square-foot facility houses Lufthansa, its subsidiaries (Austrian and Swiss) and the other Star carriers that operate into and out of Vienna.
The Upstart Cast Me Out, But You Should Go There Anyway
The Seat 2B column that I have written for Portfolio since 2007 has officially moved to BizJournals.com, the national Web site for the dozens of regional business papers published by American City Business Journals. You can find Seat 2B here and view all of the BizJournals' business-travel coverage here. I was the last remaining original hire from Portfolio's first iteration as a glossy magazine and the only columnist carried over to its second life as a Web-only product. But while I have finally been cast out, Portfolio is on its next journey, too. It became Upstart Business Journal this week and now focuses on start-ups and entrepreneurs. Surf here to see the interesting work they're doing. I'd try to explain all of these machinations, but, honestly, no one's explained them all to me yet.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Delta and United raised the price of a second checked bag on transatlantic flights to $100. ... Speaking of United, it will drop Cleveland-Cincinnati flights on July 30. ... The price of oil briefly fell below $82 a barrel this week before closing around $84 on Thursday evening (June 14). That's the lowest close since early last October. That should mean that airlines will eke out some profit in the second quarter and defer any attempts to raise fares. In fact, Southwest Airlines and its AirTran Airways subsidiary broke their post-Labor Day sales in coach this week and the legacy carriers matched. ... Bankrupt American Airlines and its unions have mostly failed to hammer out concessionary contracts, so watch for the bankruptcy-court judge to rule next Friday (June 22) on American's request to abrogate the existing agreements.
Jeepers, Mr. Peabody! Or, United's Improbable Time-Traveling B-757s!
United Airlines continues to run so poorly--last in on-time and lost-baggage and first in denied boardings--that it's hard to be surprised by anything that goes on at The Airline That Couldn't Merge Straight. But this one is sure to raise an eyebrow of even the most skeptical frequent flyer. On June 2, United E-mailed a JoeSentMe.com member one of those dreaded we've-juggled-our-schedule-so-we're-messing-up-yours rerouting notes. The JoeSentMe member was informed that his new flights would depart on April 13 with a return on April 20. As you can see for yourself, United didn't explain how the traveler could go back in time more than six weeks and catch a ride on Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine, but it did "apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."
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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.