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THE BRIEFING FOR JULY 12 - JULY 26, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· Believe It or Not, United Airlines Is Getting Worse
· Memphis Blues Again: Delta Keeps Downsizing
· New Hotels From A (Albuquerque) to Z (Zirakpur)
· Qantas Award Tickets Now Bookable on AA.com
· Virgin America Records Another Huge 1Q Loss
· Houston/Intercontinental Adds Valet Parking
· When You Don't Get Enough Sleep on the Road


Where Does United Go From Worst. Airline. Ever.? It Gets Worse!
United Airlines announced an order for 150 Boeing jets today (July 12), but new planes that will take as long as a decade to deliver can't mask the ugly operating reality. The Worst. Airline. Ever. is actually getting worse. It is now at the bottom of the airline industry in every measurable operational category. In June, FlightStats.com says that United flights ran just 69.8 percent on-time, lowest among all major carriers and a startling 18 points behind industry leader Alaska Airlines. And, as usual, United isn't working to fix the problem, it's trying to fix appearances. An internal United memo from July 6 admits June was "a challenging month"--that's industry jargon for disastrous--and outlines a series of measures that will pad schedules, not truly improve on-time proficiency. Meanwhile, the full statistical picture of United Airlines for May, released this week by the Department of Transportation, was devastating. United ranked dead last among all carriers--including commuter airlines--in on-time performance. United had the highest percentage of cancelled flights in May among major carriers. It had more flights stuck on the tarmac for two hours or more than any airline and accounted for 27 percent of all of the industry's long holds. United had the highest rate of mishandled bags of any major airline. And it generated more complaints filed with the DOT than any carrier. In fact, United and United Express accounted for nearly a third of all complaints filed against the airlines in May.

Stuck in Delta's Downsizing With the Memphis Blues Again
With the notable exception of New York/LaGuardia, where Delta is building its schedule after that slot-and-facilities swap with US Airways, the nation's second-largest airline is trimming flights around its system. But no place is getting hit harder than Memphis, the midsize hub that came with the 2008 Northwest Airlines merger. Like Cincinnati, pre-merger Delta's mid-continent, midsize hub, Memphis is being hammered by cuts. Delta is slashing another 25 flights from the Memphis schedule this fall by cutting frequencies on 20 routes and all service to Fort Smith, Arkansas. That means Delta will be down to 125 flights a day, a reduction of about 50 percent from Memphis' daily schedule in 2008. Things are so bad that Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton journeyed to Delta headquarters in Atlanta earlier this month in an attempt to stop the brutal cutbacks. ... Houston/Intercontinental now offers valet parking service at all three of its parking garages. The price is $25 a day. ... OpenSkies Airways flyers take note: The boutique carrier that flies between Newark and Paris/Orly is switching terminals on the Paris end of the route. Effective July 17, OpenSkies will move to Orly's Ouest Terminal, the same one that houses flights from its corporate parents, British Airways and Iberia. ... American Airlines has opened a so-called Flagship Check-in facility at its Miami hub. Located in Concourse D of the North Terminal, the operation is available to Concierge Key members, travelers who purchase American's Five Star Service and first-class flyers on international itineraries. AA opened its first Flagship Check-In counters in Los Angeles late last year. More information is here.

New Hotel Openings From A (Albuquerque) to Z (Zirakpur)
The always-expanding lodging industry has the globe covered this week, with openings literally from A to Z. Marriott, for example, has opened a 91-room TownePlace Suites property in Albuquerque. It's located about nine miles from the airport and a few minutes from downtown. ... Hyatt has opened a 150-room Hyatt Place hotel in what it claims is Carlsbad, California, but is really the town of Vista. Without a sense of irony, Hyatt has actually dubbed the extended-stay property the Hyatt Place San Diego/Vista-Carlsbad. Try entering that in your GPS. ... Say goodbye to one of the icons of Los Angeles' Japantown neighborhood. The 434-room Kyoto Grand Hotel has been reflagged as a DoubleTree by Hilton. The property, with a Japanese-style rooftop garden, is now undergoing a renovation. ... Starwood has opened a 175-room Aloft in Zirakpur, a satellite town of Chandigarh, capital of the Indian state of Punjab.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American AAdvantage players take note: Qantas Airways awards are now bookable online at AA.com. Award inventory for the Australian carrier, which flies from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth, began appearing online last week. ... The U.S. dollar is now at its highest level against the euro in two years. During trading today (July 12), the euro dropped to $1.216, the lowest level since June 20, 2010. ... Virgin America continues to gush cash. It reported a $76 million loss in the first quarter, much worse than the $45 million it lost in the first quarter of 2011. The airline has lost more than $500 million since its first flight in August, 2007. Including start-up expenses--Richard Branson first babbled about a U.S. based carrier in 1999--the total loss is probably closer to $750 million. ... Hertz says it'll offer Porsche Panamera sedans as part of its Prestige Collection. The daily rate will start at $250 a weekend day and Porsches will be available at select California, Florida and Nevada locations. ... American Express says that it will offer credit cards with chip-and-pin technology later this year. No further details were available, but Amex has been testing the technology, which dominates the Europe card market, for more than a year.

See What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep on the Road?
Remember the JetBlue pilot who flipped out and had to be restrained by passengers and other members of the flight crew in March? A Texas judge found Clayton Osbon not guilty by reason of insanity after a bench trial that ended earlier this month. Osbon has been in mental-health facilities since the flight and was charged with interfering with a flight crew. Which, of course, was an insane charge given that Osbon, as captain, was chief of the flight crew when he started spouting off about religion and terrorists. Osbon's psychiatric profile, released this week, said he suffered "a brief psychotic disorder" during the New York-Las Vegas flight due to a lack of sleep. He was delusional for a week after the flight, according to a forensic neuropsychologist who testified during the trial.

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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.