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THE BRIEFING FOR SEPTEMBER 6-20, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of Oneworld?
· It's Four Seasons' Pleasure to Overcharge You
· Delta Remaking Its Minneapolis, LaGuardia Hubs
· United Finishes Dead Last for On-Time in August
· Bankrupt American Can Dump Its Pilots Contracts
· Four New Dining Spots for Phoenix/Sky Harbor
· Of Course, Airline Executives Think We're Idiots


Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of Oneworld?
Airlines are notorious for jumping into and out of code-share deals as it suits them, but you have to wonder about the future of the Oneworld Alliance after today's shocking move at Qantas, the Australian anchor of the group that most notably includes American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, LAN and Iberia. Qantas kicked both BA and Cathay Pacific to the metaphoric curb to forge a code-share deal with Emirates of Dubai. Under the terms of that alliance, Qantas will end its 17-year-old code- and revenue-sharing deal with British Airways on the so-called Kangaroo routes between London, Singapore and Australia. In its place, Qantas will route its London flights from Sydney and Melbourne via Emirates' Dubai hub. Everything else Qantas will offer passengers beyond Dubai--to continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa--will be code-shares on Emirates aircraft. Qantas will also dump its code-shares with Cathay Pacific. The Emirates deal begins on April 1, the day after the end of the Qantas-BA code-shares. Qantas insists it won't leave Oneworld, and the Emirates deal doesn't affect the Australian carrier's alliance with American Airlines, but the optics are dreadful. And there can't be much love lost between Oneworld Alliance partners now.

It's Four Seasons' Pleasure to Overcharge You in Two New Locations
Love 'em or hate 'em, Four Seasons hotels are notable for a unifying world theme: They charge exorbitant, far-above-market rates no matter where they are located. The latest examples: the new 171-room Four Seasons Baku in Azerbaijan and the 187-room Four Seasons in Shanghai's Pudong district. The opening rate at the Baku hotel is the equivalent of US$382 a night compared to $250 at the five-star Park Hyatt Baku. In Pudong, Four Seasons is asking $550 a night compared to about $250 at either the Renaissance or the Grand Hyatt branches in Pudong. ... Back at home, the Aloft division of Starwood has added two properties. The 235-room Aloft in Millbrae near San Francisco Airport is a converted Clarion. The 139-room hotel in Nashville was most recently a Hotel Indigo. ... Speaking of conversions, chalk up another for DoubleTree by Hilton. It has slapped its name on a former all-suite Radisson hotel in Huntsville, Alabama. ... Marriott has opened a 127-room Courtyard about five minutes from the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Delta Remaking Its Minneapolis and LaGuardia Hubs
Delta Air Lines has unveiled substantial upgrades in Minneapolis-St. Paul and New York/LaGuardia. At MSP's Concourse G, three new restaurants have opened: MinniBar, a sandwich shop with a menu created by Andrew Zimmern, the guy who eats weird food on the Travel Channel; Mimosa, fronted by Russell Klein of Meritage in St. Paul; and Shoyu, a Japanese dining room from the folks behind Tanpopo in St. Paul. At LaGuardia, where Delta is doing major renovations on its facilities, a new SkyClub has opened in Terminal C. The 7,600-square-foot facility is Delta's third club at LGA. The airline is also updating and renovating the Terminal D South club, which is due to reopen next spring. ... Speaking of lounges, Plaza Premium, an independent operator, has opened a 24/7 club at Gate C11 of the Satellite Building at Kuala Lumpur International. ... A Beaudevin wine bar has opened in the Main Terminal Atrium at Charlotte Airport. ... Never mind: Frontier Airlines says it won't start Las Vegas-Durango, Colorado, flights after all. Bottom line: no customers. ... Phoenix Sky Harbor has a few new dining spots. The La Grande Orange group has opened four locations--a burger joint, a deli, a pizzeria and a gelato stand--in Concourse D.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Gee, what a surprise: According to FlightStats.com, United Airlines finished dead last among major carriers for on-time performance in August. Its rate of 71.8 percent was a dozen points behind Delta Air Lines and US Airways and 17 points behind Alaska Airlines. United has finished last in on-time ratings since March, the month it switched computer systems. ... American Airlines can now abrogate the contracts of the pilots who fly the carrier's jets and the pilots who work at the American Eagle commuter unit. Bankruptcy judge Sean Lane gave American management the go-ahead to impose its own wage scale and work rules on Tuesday (September 4) after American tweaked its previous abrogation motion. The pilots overwhelmingly voted against a concessionary contract proposal earlier this summer. ... The cost of a cab ride in New York jumped by about 17 percent this week. It now costs $2.50 to drop the flag and 50 cents for each additional fifth of a mile. The flat rate for a yellow cab from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan is now $52, up from $45.

Of Course, Airline Executives Think Passengers Are Idiots...
The British press is making much of the latest outburst by Michael O'Leary, the combative chief executive of Ryanair. O'Leary, who uses abrasive rhetoric and personal insults to generate publicity for his low-fare/high-fee airline, was in rare form as he abused a customer hit with hundreds of dollars in fees when she printed boarding cards at the airport. Britain's Mirror newspaper says O'Leary called thousands of customers "idiots" who should "bugger off" if they don't like Ryanair's policies. He also claimed the woman should send money to Ryanair as a "gesture of good will." O'Leary is one of a kind, of course, but at least he's being honest: He really does think his passengers are idiots. So do most other airline bosses. They're just more circumspect then O'Leary in how they express themselves.

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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.