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THE BRIEFING FOR SEPT. 27-OCT. 11, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· No, It's Not Getting Better at American Airlines
· United Airlines Fiddles With Cleveland Schedule
· Virgin America Adds Service at Palm Springs
· Two Classic Manhattan Hotels Get New Names
· WestJet Cuts Code-Share With British Airways
· Marriott and Hilton Add 'Aspirational' Resorts
· TSA Adds PreCheck Checkpoint at Dulles Airport


No, It's Not Getting Any Better at American Airlines
It's been another dreadful week at American Airlines and it managed a 60 percent on-time rating only once in the last seven days. Cancellations had abated a bit, but shot up again today (September 27). As of 10 p.m. Eastern time, American was running just 57 percent on-time and had cancelled 99 of the 1,711 flights scheduled. That's a brutal 5.8 percent rate, or about six times above what's considered acceptable. But, wait, it gets worse. Although American and its pilots, who seem to be slowing down the system with maintenance "write-ups" and higher-than-normal sick calls, were scheduled to start talking again, airline management may have scuppered any progress with a pre-emptive threat to take the pilots union to court. The union has vehemently denied it has anything to do with the slowdown and you have to think that if American had any proof to the contrary, it would have tried for an injunction weeks ago. One small bit of good news: American has been contacting many delayed flyers and depositing 5,000 American AAdvantage "make good" miles in their frequent flyer accounts. If you've been seriously delayed, you might want to check with American and ask for some mileage compensation.

United Fiddles in Cleveland, Virgin Bulks Up in Palm Springs
United Airlines continues to fiddle with the schedule at its Cleveland hub, which once upon a time was a hub for the old United, but most recently has been a hub for Continental. The airline is dropping its commuter flights to Green Bay, Wisconsin, on December 18. It will add regional flights to Nashville on December 19. It will also revive Cleveland-Oklahoma City service on February 14. ... Virgin America is looking for someplace to fly and it thinks it has a window in Palm Springs, the airport that serves California desert communities. Starting in mid-October, it'll fly seasonal nonstops to San Francisco and it will launch a Saturday-only nonstop to New York/Kennedy on December 22. ... Frontier Airlines continues to trim its route map. It'll dump flights from its Denver hub to both Louisville and Philadelphia in January. ... The Orange Line of the Miami Metrorail has added a stop at Miami International. Rail riders can directly connect to people-movers that service the airport's terminals. Now all you have to figure out is where the hell the Orange Line takes you or how you can negotiate business anywhere in Miami or Dade County without a car.

Two Big Flips at Classic (If Not Great) Midtown Manhattan Hotels
Radisson is out at the Hotel Lexington, a 712-room hotel that once housed the Hawaiian Room nightclub and a Playboy Club. Opened in 1929 before the stock market crash, the property will try its hand as an independent again. A few blocks away, the former New York Helmsley is due to reopen on Monday (October 1) as the Westin Grand Central. The 774-room property has undergone a $75 million renovation and was due to reopen back in July. ... Speaking of Starwood, its Sheraton division has opened a 180-room property in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, near the big shopping mall. ... What's new from Marriott? A 109-room SpringHill Suites in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and an 89-room Fairfield Inn in Hutchinson, Kansas. ... Hyatt opened a 148-room Hyatt House extended-stay property in Falls Church, Virginia. ... Hilton has opened an 89-room Home2 Suites in Charlotte and a 147-room DoubleTree in the Romanian city of Oradea.

WestJet Cuts Code-Share Deal With British Airways
Good news for Canadian flyers looking for more access to British Airways flights. WestJet and BA have cut a code-share deal. The BA code now goes on select WestJet flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Victoria and Edmonton. ... LOT Polish is dumping Newark flights and, effective October 29, the airline will operate all of its routes from Terminal 1 at New York/JFK. Separately, the Polish airline announced that its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be placed on its Chicago-Warsaw route beginning on January 16. The Toronto-Warsaw run gets a Dreamliner beginning February 1 and JFK-Warsaw gets a Boeing 787 on February 3. ... More chaos for travelers hoping to fly to, from and within Nigeria. Air Nigeria has shut down, blaming "staff disloyalty and environmental challenges." Meanwhile, Nigerian government officials have barred new loans to the country's remaining carriers, which are already heavily in debt. That led to a multi-day shutdown last week of Arik Air, the country's largest airline. The only other major airline in Nigeria is Aero Contractors. ... American Airlines says that it will launch a nonstop route between Miami and Roatan, Honduras, on November 17.

Marriott and Hilton Add 'Aspirational' Resorts for Rewards
A lot of business travelers horde frequent stay points for "aspirational" resorts in far-away, exotic and (of course) expensive destinations. If you are one of those, please note these two additions. If you collect Marriott Rewards, you can now spend them at the JW Marriott in Cusco, Peru. The 153-room hotel in Cusco is located at 11,200 feet above sea level. Cusco, of course, is the gateway to Machu Picchu. And Hilton HHonors players will soon be able to claim awards at the former Allamanda Beach Resort in Mahe, Seychelles. The small (30-room) property will be closed for renovation until December and reopen as a DoubleTree by Hilton. ... Hyatt Gold Passport players take note: The Hyatt Card from Chase has added new benefits. Effective Monday, October 1, you will earn two points for every dollar spent at restaurants and car rentals as well as airline tickets purchased directly from the carrier. Another improvement: Spending on the card will help you reach Diamond status. ... Platinum members of the Loews Hotels YouFirst program now receive complimentary enrollment in Global Entry, the customs-bypass program that also gets you into the TSA's PreCheck plan.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
National and Alamo opened car-rental locations at five airports in Brazil, including Sao Paulo/Guarulhos and Rio/Jobim. ... The TSA has opened its first checkpoint location specifically for PreCheck-eligible travelers. It is in the center of the departures level of the main terminal at Washington/Dulles Airport. ... In case you are keeping track, Virgin America lost $4 million in the second quarter and $52.5 million in the first half of the year. The carrier has never made money. ... The price of oil closed at $92 a barrel today (September 27). I tell you that so you understand what a government report explained this week: Fuel accounted for about 10 percent of the airline industry's costs in the year 2000 and about 35 percent last year.

Meanwhile, Back in The Twilight Zone ...
Flight attendants at US Airways have voted down a contract for the second time this year. The airline's pilots haven't had an agreement since the 2006 merger with America West, either. In fact, the management of US Airways has more deals with the employees of American Airlines, the carrier with which it is desperately trying to merge, than with its own workers. Just sayin' ...

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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.