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THE BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 8-22, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli

· The High Cost of Closing Hubs in Stormy Weather
· A New Carrier Between the U.S. and Scandinavia
· Delta Updates Premium Cabins on Transcon Runs
· Got Spare Rooms? DoubleTree May Reflag Them
· Delays Hit the New United and American Aircraft
· British Hamptons Defect to Holiday Inn Express
· Vino Volo Opens a Wine Bar Off Airport Grounds


The High Cost of Closing Hubs in Stormy Weather
We talked last week about the airlines arbitraging travel waivers to generate a few extra bucks. So, in fairness and post-election bipartisan harmony, here is what the airlines say is the other side of the story. United Airlines announced yesterday (November 7) that its hub closures and cancellations for Sandy depressed revenue by about $90 million in October and may result in a $35 million profit hit. Delta Air Lines says that its October revenues were $45 million lower thanks to Sandy-related costs and the storm would take a $20 million bite out of profits. While this week's Nor'easter disruption--FlightStats.com says 1,593 flights dumped on Wednesday and 773 scrubbed today (November 8)--won't be as costly, it won't be a happy line on November results. Separately, over at American Airlines, the early-October pilot-related problems and the Sandy disruptions led to a huge hit on per-passenger revenue (PRASM). It rose only four-tenths of a point for the month, far off the 3.5 percent increase from October, 2011, that American had expected.

Surprise! A New Carrier Between the United States and Scandinavia
Just when you thought you'd never see a new airline, say hei to Norwegian Air Shuttle. The 20-year-old low-fare carrier, known around Scandinavia as Norwegian, has made a surprise announcement: It will launch flights to New York/Kennedy next year from both Oslo and Stockholm. The airline has Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order and says Oslo flights launch on May 30 and Stockholm service begins the next day. The airline enticed Swedish and Norwegian travelers today (November 8) with introductory fares on the U.S. routes for as little as the equivalent of about $150. So many passengers rushed to buy that the carrier's Web site crashed. ... American Airlines says that its newly configured Boeing 777-300ERs will be delayed. The first was due to debut on the Dallas/Fort Worth-Sao Paulo route on December 13. The new premier date is January 31. ... Speaking of delays, United Airlines has received its second Dreamliner, but others have been delayed and that has scrambled the carrier's deployment schedule. If you booked a flight specifically to fly the Boeing 787, reconfirm with United. ... Thai Airways has received the first of its Airbus A380s and the planes are configured with 507 seats: 12 in first, 60 in business and 435 in coach. ... Austrian Airlines has begun reconfiguring its fleet of Boeing 777s and 767s with lie-flat beds in business class.

Delta Updates Premium Cabins on Transcon (and Sea-Tac) Flights
Delta Air Lines will upgrade its Transcontinental Triangle flights between New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It will also upgrade JFK-Seattle flights, which link to Delta's recently announced Asia service from Sea-Tac. Delta says the BusinessElite cabins on its transcon Boeing 757s and 767s will be outfitted with flat beds that measure 20 or 21 inches wide and 79 inches long. There will be 26 seats configured 1-2-1 on the Boeing 767s and 16 seats configured 2-2 on the Boeing 757s. The Economy Comfort section (29 seats on 767s and 44 seats on 757s) will offer 35 inches of seat pitch. The retrofits will be ready in March. By May, Delta says that the transcon flights will move out of the airline's outdated, overcrowded Terminal 2/3 complex at JFK and into new digs in Terminal 4. The Terminal 4 operation will have its own Sky Club.

Got Any Spare Bedrooms? DoubleTree May Want to Reflag Them
DoubleTree by Hilton is what the hotel industry calls a "conversion brand." In other words, it gathers up all sorts of hotels and reflags them DoubleTree without worrying too much about brand standards for design, architecture or room size. Which, of course, makes booking a DoubleTree a total crapshoot. But Hilton must be doing something right because a week doesn't go by without a few DoubleTree reflaggings of note. This week, it is the 303-room DoubleTree at Houston/Hobby Airport, formerly the Hilton; and the 220-room DoubleTree in Deerfield Beach, Florida, which also used to trade as a Hilton. ... But the conversion gods giveth and they taketh away. Hilton has lost three Hampton Inn hotels in Britain. Properties in Braintree, Shrewsbury and Birmingham have converted en masse and now fly the Holiday Inn Express flag.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines is making only slow progress recovering from the pilots actions that led to many delays and cancellations in recent months. The carrier operated at 68.2 percent on-time in October, nearly 20 points below Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines. But AA's October performance was an improvement on September's atrocious 59 percent on-time rating. ... Speaking of Delta, it will no longer check bags if you're on a self-connect itinerary using another airline and separate tickets. That means you'll have to check and retrieve your bags for each segment of the itinerary. The new policy goes into effect on January 15. US Airways adopted a similarly annoying rule earlier this year. ... Priceline says that it will buy Kayak, the price-comparison Web site. The deal is for $1.8 billion in cash and stock. Priceline says it will operate Kayak separately. ... Vino Volo, the airport-based chain of wine bars, is due to open its first off-airport location tomorrow (November 9). A 2,500-foot branch will open in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. Because, you know, we need an airport experience when we're not actually at an airport.

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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.