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THE BRIEFING FOR EARLY SEPTEMBER, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· TSA's Potemkin Village of 'Passenger Advocates'
· A Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur, a Ritz-Carlton in Vienna
· Frankfurt Is First Target of the Lufthansa Strike
· United's Excuse for Tuesday Mess? Nothing Works
· A PreCheck Lane Opens in Terminal 4A at Phoenix
· Hertz Buys Dollar Thrifty (Finally) for $2.5 Billion
· Five Airlines Move to Terminal 3 at Las Vegas


The TSA Builds a Potemkin Village of 'Passenger Advocates'
The TSA has formed a passenger-advocacy committee to advise the agency about the concerns of flyers. But you'll be shocked--shocked!--to learn that there isn't a genuine passenger advocate on the committee and not one who would qualify as a business traveler. How has the TSA stacked the desk? Let's look at the "advocates," shall we? Karin Glasgow actually works at the TSA. Her Linkedin profile says that she is the "commercial aviation stakeholder chief." (Don't ask me. I have no idea what it means.) What did Glasgow do before her TSA gig? She was a lobbyist for United Airlines. Another member, Geoff Freeman, works at the U.S. Travel Association, which exists to advance the financial interests of the travel industry. Glenn Johnson is from the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, a group that seems to exist primarily to organize an annual ceremony memorializing the 1988 tragedy. The next TSA-approved passenger "advocate"? Douglas Kidd, identified as executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers. Ever heard of it? Neither have I. Its Web site lists no human beings to contact, not even Kidd. Finally, there's Charlie Leocha, a leisure-travel writer who claims to be director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. What is the CTA? Mostly a Web site that aggregates articles by Charlie and several of his travel-writer associates. The CTA does solicit donations, but the link to the organization's newsletter, which promises "regular reports" on CTA activities, is dead.

A Hyatt for Kuala Lumpur and a Ritz-Carlton for Vienna
Hyatt has opened a 370-room Grand Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur. It is located next to the KL Convention Center and connected by covered skywalk to the Pavilion Shopping Centre. ... Marriott has opened a 202-room Ritz-Carlton in Vienna. The property is fashioned from four historic 19th-century palaces on Schubertring Boulevard. ... Meanwhile, Marriott has also opened its sixth Renaissance hotel in Shanghai. This 383-room property is located in the Xuhai commercial district. ... Marriott has also been busy on the limited-service front. Its new additions are a 103-room Fairfield Inn in Watertown, New York; an 80-room TownePlace Suites in Eagle Pass, Texas; and a 134-room Courtyard in University Park, Florida. That property, about six miles from Sarasota-Bradenton Airport, is a former Comfort Suites.

Frankfurt Is the First Target of the Lufthansa Strike
Lufthansa flight attendants say their first strike will be Friday (August 31) and centered on Frankfurt, the German carrier's primary hub. Lufthansa says the strike is scheduled for 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time, but no cancellations have been posted as of 9 p.m. Thursday (3 a.m. Friday Frankfurt time). Track developments here. Chances are that Lufthansa will be able to keep its transatlantic flights operating. Word to the wise connecting flyer: If you've got a Lufthansa (or United or US Airways code share) flight to Frankfurt with an onward connection, only check your bags as far as FRA. If your FRA connection cancels, at least you'll be in possession of your luggage when you have to find an alternate flight, take the train or camp out at an airport hotel. ... The TSA has opened a PreCheck lane at the Terminal 4A security checkpoint of Phoenix/Sky Harbor. ... Five domestic airlines--Alaska, JetBlue, Virgin America, Frontier and Sun Country--have moved into Terminal 3 at Las Vegas. United and Hawaiian have moved check-in and baggage claim operations to Terminal 3, too. However, both of those carriers still use gates in Concourse D, which means long walks and a trip on Las Vegas' underground tram.

United's Excuse for Tuesday's Meltdown? Nothing Works
When United.com and United's passenger-operations computers went down on Tuesday (August 28), hundreds of flights were delayed and thousands of passengers were forced to queue up in long lines to get handwritten boarding passes. The hours-long meltdown drove United's on-time operation on Tuesday into the 60 percent range. The airline's official excuse was, essentially, that nothing there works. According to United, "a piece of equipment" in a data center failed, shutting down the Web site and communications with airports. The airline insists that it had "fully redundant systems" to handle the breakdown, but the back-up equipment didn't work, either.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Hertz says that it will buy Dollar Thrifty for $2.5 billion. That puts 95 percent of the car-rental industry in the hands of three players: Hertz, Avis Budget and Enterprise, which also owns National and Alamo. If all of this sounds familiar, surf to my Hertz-buys-Dollar-Thrifty column from 2010. Everything's the same except the purchase price doubled and the cars are two years older. ... Speaking of Avis, it has eliminated blackouts on its two-day weekend awards. ... Bankrupt American Airlines says that it made a profit of $135 million in July on revenue of $2.3 billion. ... Aerolineas Argentinas has joined the SkyTeam Alliance. ... Delta Air Lines is turning its Memphis-Amsterdam route into seasonal service. The last flight is September 2 (Sunday) and the route won't return until May 1.

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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.