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THE BRIEFING FOR EARLY DECEMBER, 2012
By Joe Brancatelli
· TSA Adds Airports (and Canadians) to PreCheck
· JetBlue: Better Albuquerque Than Pittsburgh
· Southwest Airlines Will Finally Land in Wichita
· Iberia Faces Five Days of Strikes in December
· Marriott Adds Lower-Priced Off-Peak Rewards
· Hilton Opens a Clutch of Hotels Around the World
· Frontier Revives Jet Flights at Trenton Airport
TSA Adds Three More Airports (and Canadians) to PreCheck Program
For all of its other faults, at least the TSA knows a good thing when it's got one. The agency has added its PreCheck security bypass procedure for elite travelers at three more airports: Terminal 2 and Checkpoint F-3 in Terminal 3 at San Francisco; Checkpoint D at Baltimore-Washington; and Checkpoint D in San Juan. And here's good news for Canadian flyers who are traveling in the United States. If you're a member of the NEXUS customs-bypass plan, you now qualify for PreCheck service when you are on a U.S. domestic flight. (Click here for complete details and the 32 airports where it is available.) Meanwhile, really great news: It looks like the TSA has mothballed virtually all of the controversial "backscatter" full-body scanners. More than 90 units have been removed from airport checkpoints and sent to storage. Critics targeted the so-called "nude-o-scopes" because they claim the devices emit too much radiation and produce images that are too graphic. The TSA's other full-body scanners, known as millimeter-wave devices, remain in place.
Better Albuquerque Than Pittsburgh, Says JetBlue Airways
The newest city on the JetBlue Airways route map: Albuquerque. The airline will launch daily service from its New York/Kennedy hub on April 22. Airbus A320 flights from Kennedy will leave in the evening while the ABQ-JFK run is a red-eye. Separately, JetBlue ends its six-year-old Kennedy-Pittsburgh route on February 27. JetBlue's Boston-Pittsburgh flights will continue, however. ... It's taken decades of effort on the part of local officials, but Wichita, Kansas, finally gets Southwest Airlines flights next year. Southwest will take over service currently offered by its AirTran Airways subsidiary starting on June 2. It'll fly from Wichita to Las Vegas, Chicago/Midway and, most notably, Dallas/Love Field. For years, Southwest was unable to fly from Love Field to Wichita because of restrictions imposed by the Wright Amendment. Meanwhile, on the same day, Southwest will add three other routes: San Juan-Baltimore/Washington; Houston/Hobby-New York/LGA; and Midway-Tulsa. On the other hand (or other wing), AirTran will add flights from Tampa to both Hobby and Raleigh/Durham.
Don't Take Any Iberia Freebies as a Holiday Present
Most U.S.-based frequent travelers fly Iberia via its Oneworld Alliance links with American Airlines. As any American AAdvantage traveler will tell you, the easiest way to Europe on an AAdvantage award these days is via Madrid, Iberia's hub. But here's a tip: Don't reserve any holiday trips on Iberia. Airline employees plan five days of strikes next month. Expect the job actions between December 14 and December 17 and again on December 21. ... Marriott Rewards players take note: The hotel program is adding "seasonal rewards" that offer 25 percent off-peak savings at some of the chain's beach resorts and big-city hotels. Lower-priced awards vary by season and destination, of course. Click here for more details. ... The Wyndham Rewards says that Travelodge and Thriftlodge properties in Canada have joined the program.
There's Life (or at Least Frontier) After Death for Trenton
Trenton Mercer County Airport in central New Jersey hasn't had scheduled airline service since 2008 and hasn't had jet flights since Eastwind Airlines folded in 1999. Into that long gap comes Frontier Airlines, the Denver-based carrier that continues to thrash around for a profitable strategy. Frontier launched twice-weekly flights from Trenton to Orlando last week and now says it'll add Airbus A319 flights to four more airports: Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and New Orleans. Each route will be served twice or three times a week beginning on January 31. On the flip side, however, Frontier will pull out of Allentown, Pennsylvania, on April 7. ... Here's a perk that might have mattered back when Eastwind was still flying: Denver now offers free calls worldwide from the 200 landlines still in the terminals. The advertising-supported calls--phones are equipped with video monitors to display 15-second ads--are free for 20 minutes.
Hilton Opens A Billion New Hotels. Okay, Not a Billion, But a Lot. Hilton continues to open outlets at a rapid clip, so get out your scorecard (and check your HHonors balances) to keep track of the newbies. Hampton Inn has new locations at Luton Airport (188 rooms); off I-40 in Greensboro, North Carolina (109 rooms); in Columbia, Maryland (124 rooms); and in Beeville, Texas (70 rooms). ... The DoubleTree chain has added two international properties: the former Courtyard in Phuket, Thailand (250 rooms), and a new-build 152-room hotel in Zagreb, Croatia. ... Conrad has added properties in the Yeouido district of Seoul, South Korea, (434 rooms) and in Knysna, South Africa, the conversion of an existing 86-room resort. ... Hilton Garden Inn has opened a 113-room hotel in Cedar Falls, Iowa, just in time for the start of the 2016 Presidential election campaign.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
British Airways says that its in-flight videos will run the entire length of long-haul flights and will not be turned off during takeoffs and landings. ... The IRS says that the standard mileage-rate deduction for 2013 will be 56.5 cents. That's up a penny from the 2012 rate. ... The National Transportation Safety Board says that it will drop its BlackBerry phones and switch to Apple iPhones. The agency says BlackBerry "has been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate." ... KLM has added Economy Comfort service to its intra-Europe flights. The roomier seats will cost 20-30 euros per flight. ... A French appeals court has overturned the conviction of Continental Airlines in the 2000 runway crash of an Air France Concorde. Prosecutors had claimed that a stray part from a Continental flight that departed Paris/CDG before the Air France flight caused a tire blowout on the Concorde. More than 100 passengers and crew died when the supersonic jet crashed shortly after takeoff. ... United Airlines is suing the 15-year-old gripe site called Untied.com. The airline is claiming copyright infringement because the site redesigned itself earlier this year to more closely parody United's post-computer-merger look. United says it was forced to sue because unhappy flyers were complaining to Untied.com believing it was the actual United.com site. Because, you know, the customers who complain on United.com get such prompt responses to the gripes they lodge.
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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.