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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 28 - JULY 12, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· Easier Airport Security, Sorry About the Murders
· American AAdvantage, WestJet Rewards Tie Up
· Michael Symon Opens His First Airport Restaurant
· Four Points by Sheraton Converts Two City Hotels
· Marriotts Open in Baku, Guangzhou and Maui
· Tampa Airport Remakes Its Dining Choices
· Anheuser-Busch Trademarking Airport Codes


Airport Security Gets Easier, But Sorry About Those Murders...
In a dreary juxtaposition of what we want from airport security and what the situation may actually be, there was a slew of happy news at U.S. airports while three cops were shot dead at Benito Juarez International in Mexico City. Here at home, TSA extended PreCheck to Chicago/O'Hare, where selected travelers of United, Delta and US Airways will be able to join American flyers using special checkpoints and can leave on shoes, belts and jackets and keep laptops in a carry-on bag. In fact, United travelers using Terminal 1 who qualify for PreCheck (see here) can already use the service. The TSA also said this week that travelers over the age of 75 will get simplified screening at all U.S. airports by the end of summer. And Clear, the private registered traveler program, reopened at a fourth airport. Clear members using Terminal E at Dallas/Fort Worth now join flyers in Denver, San Francisco and Orlando. But in a grim reminder that airports remain dangerous places, gunmen killed three federal officers at Benito Juarez this week when a drug bust went bad. The shootout at Terminal 2 on Monday (June 25) sent startled travelers ducking for cover at an airport restaurant. The Mexican government has spent 18 months investigating claims that security officials look the other way as drug cartels move huge amounts of narcotics through Latin America's busiest airport.

American AAdvantage Hooks Up With WestJet Rewards
American Airlines has been short of partners north of the border ever since Canadian Airlines was merged into Air Canada. Now AA's AAdvantage plan has hooked up with WestJet, Canada's number-two carrier and its leading discount airline. AAdvantage members flying WestJet can now earn AAdvantage miles and WestJet flyers using American can earn WestJet Rewards dollars. ... Marriott Rewards has made a small, but possibly important, change in upgrade benefits for elite members. After specifically barring upgrades to suites just last month, Marriott's terms now say elite upgrades "may include...suites." Marriott has been mum about the about-face. ... Bad news for elite members of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Effective July 10, travelers who upgrade to first using miles or the airline's cash buy-up plan will not get free checked bags. They'll be held to the coach terms: a $20 fee for the first or second piece of checked luggage. ... Delta SkyMiles members take note: Delta is making two key Atlanta routes to Europe a seasonal affair. On October 26, Atlanta-Milan and Atlanta-Barcelona flights will be suspended for the winter. That means there will be that many fewer seats available to claim for off-peak Europe travel. ... Hilton HHonors members take note: the Pezula Resort & Spa in the South African tourism destination of Knysna will be rebranded as a Conrad hotel in November. The 78-room property also has a well-regarded golf course with views of the Indian Ocean.

Michael Symon Opens His First Airport Restaurant...in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh International has been forlorn ever since US Airways bailed on its hub in recent years. But here's a bit of happy news for PIT flyers: star chef Michael Symon has opened his first airport restaurant in the Airmall's center core. Bar Symon will offer many of the dishes that Symon pioneered at his Cleveland restaurants, including the Lola Burger (it comes with a fried egg and pickled red onions), Lola Fries (with sea salt and rosemary) and his inventive takes on macaroni and cheese. ... Speaking of airport food, Tampa has just finished a radical overhaul of dining options. The city's acclaimed Cigar City Brewery now has an outlet on Concourse C and it's brewing a beer (Tony Jannus IPA) available only at the airport. Also new: an outlet of Tampa's Columbia Restaurant (on Concourse E) and a Green Iguana Bar (Concourse A). The Green Iguana's in-town location was recently named the home of Tampa's best burger. And First Flight, a wine bar operated by one of Tampa's best-known restaurants, Mise en Place, has opened in the Main Terminal. It offers 35 wines and a menu of appetizers. The spruce up comes ahead of the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August. ... Since we're all-airport-food-all-the-time this week, a vodka bar called ICE has opened on the L Concourse of Terminal 3 at Chicago/O'Hare. It offers 26 vodkas made from various grains and "various textures of ice...including shaved, cubed and blocked." Really, they're promoting ice...

Four Points by Sheraton Converts Two Major Urban Locations
Four Points by Sheraton has expanded with conversions in major urban locations. The extremely well-regarded Inn on Bourbon in New Orleans' French Quarter is now flying the Four Points flag. The property, opened on the site of the original French Opera house, has 186 rooms. Meanwhile, the former Holiday Inn between Interstate 5 and Cedar Street in San Diego is now a Four Points, too. It has 220 rooms. ... Not far from San Diego, the oceanfront Hilton Carlsbad has opened. The 215-room hotel is directly across from Ponto Beach in north San Diego County. ... Marriott has opened three new properties this week in exotic places. A 243-room JW Marriott Absheron is now operating in Baku, the Caspian Sea city that's the capital of Azerbaijan. In China, it opened the 319-room Guangzhou Marriott in the center of the Tianhe Business District. And the 128-room Courtyard by Marriott opened on the grounds of Kahului Airport on Maui. ... The former Coco Key Hotel in Danvers, Massachusetts, has reflagged as a DoubleTree by Hilton. The 365-room hotel is 19 miles north of Boston.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A few weeks after Saudi Arabian Airlines joined the SkyTeam Alliance, another Middle Eastern carrier has thrown in, too. Middle East Airlines, the Lebanese carrier, becomes the 17th member. ... The LAN group of carriers has completed a merger with TAM Airlines of Brazil. The new combine has chosen to call the parent firm the Latam Airlines Group. Latam replaces Delta Air Lines as the world's second-largest carrier after dysfunctional United Airlines. TAM has been part of the Star Alliance, but it's leaving since LAN is part of the Oneworld Alliance. ... Bankrupt American Airlines is talking with its unions again and the pilots group has agreed to vote on the carrier's most recent "last, best" offer. That means a ruling by bankruptcy court judge Sean Lane on American's request to abrogate its old unions contracts will probably be delayed until August.

Coming Soon to a Bar Near You: CVG Chili-Flavored Porter
Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser, has applied for trademark protection for 42 airport codes. The assumption is that AB plans to market beers that include codes such as ATL, BOS, CVG, LAX, PHL and MSP in the name. Anheuser-Busch, which owns a slew of craft breweries around the country, already markets a beer called 312 Urban Wheat Ale from its Goose Island Chicago brand--and 312 is Chicago's telephone area code. To go with its attempt to trademark the airport codes, AB has also applied for trademark protection for more than a dozen other area codes.

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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.