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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 21 - JULY 5, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli
· Surprise! Few Gripes About Checkpoint Groping
· Just Before Olympics Open, London Hotels Open
· Lost in Translation: New Satellite Opens at CDG
· Boeing 787 Dreamliner Isn't Good for Dreaming
· Sports Bars Open at Cleveland, Pittsburgh Airports
· TSA Opens PreCheck at Boston/Logan Terminal A
· Marriott Brands Go Silky Smooth With Paul Mitchell
Gripes About Checkpoint Groping? Much Ado About Almost Nothing
The pompous and arrogant TSA is easy to criticize. But here's an interesting tidbit about the TSA's supposedly outrageous and heinous "groping" if you trip the alarm on a full-body scanner or refuse to pass through them. Despite what you've heard from various publicity-chasing blogs or local TV stations, almost no one actually seems to be complaining about TSA groping. According to figures published in June's Air Travel Consumer Report, just 40 complaints about "screening procedures" were filed. More than four times as many travelers (174) complained about "processing time." Almost ten times as many flyers (365) complained about "personal property" while nearly 800 travelers filed claims for goods damaged at checkpoints or packed in checked bags. About 300 travelers bitched about "courtesy" at the checkpoint. The complaints are "contacts with TSA either by E-mail or telephone" during the month of April. The DOT says that 40 complaints represent 0.00007 percent of the "flying public." As far as I can tell, it also means that everyone who complained about groping also got their 15 minutes on a television report, a blog or a newspaper column.
A Month Before the Olympics Open, a Clutch of London Hotels Open
The opening ceremonies of the London Summer Olympics are just 36 days away and that means a scramble to open enough hotel rooms to house visitors. (How they'll fill those rooms after the games is something Beijing is still trying to figure out four years after its Olympic moment.) InterContinental has opened two properties in the heart of Westfield Stratford City, Europe's largest shopping center. The properties, a 162-room Staybridge Suites and a 188-room Holiday Inn, are located in a single building next to the London 2012 Olympic Park. And Hilton has opened its second hotel at the stadium and arena complex in Wembley, where many Olympic events will be contested. This one, the 361-room Hilton London Wembley, opened last week and should not be confused with the Hilton Wembley Plaza. Back in Knightsbridge, Marriott has opened the 85-room Bulgari Hotel, the third luxury property named after the Italian jeweler. The hotel faces Hyde Park, has a private theater, private shopping services, a spa, a pool, a bar and a restaurant. In other words, everything you need to avoid the Olympics altogether while you're in London. Rates are a cool 570 pounds a night this weekend. They're 670 pounds a night next week.
Lost in Translation: A New Satellite Opens at Paris/CDG (I Think)
Maybe it's my bad French--I was taught by a Xaverian Brother with a thick Brooklyn accent--or maybe it's just the French being their infuriating selves. But Air France and SkyTeam claim that they'll open Satellite S4 in Terminal 2E at Paris/CDG next Thursday (June 28) and I can't figure out what it's all about. Here is some of the blather: "The launch of this boarding satellite will shorten connection circuits, making them more practical. In less than three minutes, passengers will be able to reach satellite 4 from terminal 2E by an automatic train which operates between the various parts of terminal E: gates K, located at terminal E's boarding pier, gates L, accessible from satellite 3 and gates M, the new boarding gates located at satellite S4." They also go into great detail about the style and design of a new lounge, the satellite's water walls and wooden patios and the imminent arrival of a museum. But usable information? Not so much, in either French or English. Maybe you'll do better. Details, such as they are, are in this PDF. It all goes a long way to explain why travelers, even Parisian travelers, hate CDG. ... Airmall, which operates the shopping and dining concessions in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, has opened locally themed sports bars in both airports. In Cleveland, the Winners Sports Bar and Grill in on Concourse C. (Indians, Browns and Cavs fans may wonder how the "winners" moniker applies.) In Pittsburgh, the Burgh Sportz Bar is on Concourse D. ... Denver, which doesn't have an airport hotel, does at least have a newly renovated one nearby. The Best Western Plus, a former Ramada Inn, has opened after a $3.5 million upgrade. The hotel is just off Pena Boulevard, six miles from the terminals. ... In the Bay Area, a former Wyndham located a mile from San Jose International has been reflagged as the Holiday Inn San Jose.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Apparently Isn't That Good for Dreaming
All Nippon Airways, the launch carrier for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, wants Boeing to fix the plane's dimmable cabin windows. Apparently, the windows don't dim enough to darken the cabins so that travelers can sleep. "For our passengers to have a good sleep, it is important to offer appropriate darkness during flights, especially for long haul," ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura told Reuters this week. Windows on the Dreamliner are 20 percent larger than on other aircraft, making the lack of opacity and darkness even more of an issue. ANA has ordered 55 Dreamliners, already operates seven and is scheduled to put them into service on routes from the West Coast. Japan Airlines, which flies its Dreamliners from Boston, has not asked for a fix. The first U.S. carrier scheduled to get Boeing 787s, United Airlines, is embroiled in its own Dreamliner battle. It has told Boeing to remove the folding metal gates that block the cockpit when the door is open. That has infuriated the carrier's pilots, especially since gates are installed on United's fleet of Boeing 777s. ... The Star Alliance has just added three Latin American carriers to its roster of approximately 22,000 airlines. Avianca, TACA and Copa joined this week. The alliance says it adds 50 airports to its network.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Boston/Logan flyers take note: The TSA PreCheck program is operating at Terminal A for eligible United and Delta flyers and members of Global Entry. TSA has also posted a chart of where PreCheck is open and which flyers qualify. It's here. ... The price of oil dropped below $80 a barrel on New York markets today (June 21) for the first time since last October. In fact, it was selling for $78 a barrel this evening. ... Four Marriott brands are switching to bathroom amenities from Paul Mitchell's personal-care empire. The new products will be in bathrooms of Courtyard, Residence Inn, SpringHill and Towne Place. No word if Marriott will be going silky smooth with Mitchell's biggest fan, Scrappy Coco, otherwise known as The Zohan. ... Air Canada and its 8,600 mechanics and baggage handlers have reached a five-year contract deal. Air Canada and many of its unions have fought over contracts for several years and the disputes have led to several strikes and schedule disruptions. ... The bankruptcy judge overseeing American Airlines has delayed his ruling on the carrier's motion to abrogate its union contracts. Federal judge Sean Lane was scheduled to rule tomorrow (June 22), but the pilots union and the airline seem close to putting a final negotiated offer to a vote of the rank-and-file. Lane now says he'll decide next Friday (June 29).
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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.