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THE BRIEFING FOR JANUARY 10-24, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· Everything Coming Up China in Business Travel
· Airlines Start 2013 by Bulking Up at Their Hubs
· US Air Admits the Obvious: Awards Are Limited
· United Changes Its Boarding Process. Again.
· Alaska Air Offers Award Seats on Emirates
· Hilton's Out in Toledo; Hyatt's Out in Tampa
· The First Airfare Hike of the Year Goes South
Everything Is Coming Up China in Business Travel
Have any doubts that China is where all of the business-travel action is just now? Then consider some of the important developments that have unfolded in recent days. To make sure that no one ignores Beijing due to China's otherwise annoying visa process, authorities in the Chinese capital have created a 72-hour visa-free policy. You can now stay as long as three days in Beijing without a visa so long as you have a continuing airline ticket out of the country. (The full details are here.) If you're headed elsewhere in China, the nation's ever-expanding high-speed rail network will help you avoid the country's crowded commercial airspace. The Beijing-Guangzhou line is now complete, which means trains will cover the 1,200-mile journey in just eight hours. (If you need a U.S. equivalent, that's more than the distance between New York and Miami.) China now has 5,800 miles of high-speed track accommodating trains that operate at around 180 miles per hour. Meanwhile, major hotel chains are rushing to open new branches to capitalize on the boom. Marriott, for example, has just opened the 323-room Shanghai Marriott Pudong East, the company's 20th in China's financial capital. Starwood has opened its 11th Shanghai property, the 440-room Sheraton Waigaoqiao in the Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone at the northeast end of Pudong. Finally, Hilton has just opened two more China properties. The 337-room DoubleTree in Putian is in Fujian Province. And the 459-Hilton Zhongshan Downtown is part of the Lihe Plaza mixed-use development about 80 kilometers from Guangzhou and 100 kilometers from Hong Kong.
Airlines Start 2013 by Bulking Up at Their Hubs
I hope your New Year's resolution wasn't to avoid hubs because airlines are rushing to bulk up their major connecting complexes this year. You prefer point-to-point flying, but the airlines would much rather you connect through their hubs. So make note of these additions. ... At its Washington-Dulles hub, United Airlines will add weekly Capital-to-Capital roundtrips to both Guatemala City, Guatemala, and San Jose, Costa Rica. The flights begin on April 13 using Boeing 737-800s. On May 1, 50-seat regional jet flights begin between Dulles and Grand Rapids, Michigan. ... American Airlines adds daily service between its New York/ Kennedy hub and Houston/Intercontinental as well as daily flights between its Los Angeles hub and its former hub at Raleigh-Durham. Both routes launch on April 2 using Boeing 737-800s. American also will add two Caribbean routes from its Miami hub. Beginning April 6, there will be Saturday-only Boeing 737-800 flights to both Martinique and Guadeloupe. ... US Airways will begin flying from its Philadelphia hub to Salt Lake City on June 8 using Airbus A320 aircraft. ... Delta Air Lines will launch three daily flights from Los Angeles to Seattle, which the carrier is building as an Asian gateway. Two-class CRJ900 flights begin on April 8. ... Southwest Airlines subsidiary AirTran Airways will launch Caribbean flights from Southwest's Chicago/Midway hub. Four weekly flights to Montego Bay begin on April 14; four weekly flights to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on May 19.
A Raft of Notable Frequency-Program Changes for 2013
US Airways Dividend Miles has officially, and publicly, admitted what many savvy travelers have known for some time: A lot of awards on partner carriers simply are not available. First-class seats on Lufthansa, for example, cannot be snagged with Dividend Miles. You won't get business- or first-class seats on most Singapore Airlines flights, either. Dividend Miles are only valid for inter-island and South Pacific flights operated by Hawaiian Airlines. Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian are listed as partners, but you can't actually claim awards on them. And Virgin Atlantic will only give coach seats on Dividend Miles. ... The Alaska Airlines Dividend Miles program has now published award levels for seats on its newest partner, Emirates Airline. Effective January 16, coach seats will cost 85,000 (Middle East/India), 95,000 (Africa) or 105,000 (Asia) miles. A Business-class seat costs about 50,000 miles more. First-class awards costs 180,000 (Middle East/India) or 200,000 (Africa/Asia) miles. ... Hilton HHonors and Citibank Thank You points can now be transferred between programs. You'll receive 1,500 HHonors points for each 1,000 Thank You points you exchange. ... United MileagePlus had reduced the value of many full-fare and premium-class bonuses from partner carriers. The fare levels, which once generated 50 percent bonuses, now only accrue actual flying miles. Full details are in this FlyerTalk.com thread. ... Effective January 18, Priority Club, the frequent-guest program of the InterContinental Hotel family, will adopt a nine-tier redemption chart. Award nights will cost from 5,000 to 50,000 points.
Yes, Virginia, They've Opened More Hotels While We've Been Gone
Look away from the lodging scene for the holidays and suddenly a zillion new hotels opened. Okay, not a zillion, but a lot. ... Hilton opened a dual-branded property on 10th Street in Midtown Atlanta. The 12-story building includes a 136-room Hilton Garden Inn and a 92-room Homewood Suites. It also opened a 101-room Hampton Inn in Ocala, Florida; a 232-room Waldorf-Astoria in Berlin; and a 231-room DoubleTree in the western Istanbul district of Avcilar. Meanwhile, it took its name off what had been the Hilton Toledo on the campus of the University of Toledo Medical Center. ... Marriott opened a 120-room Courtyard in London, Ontario. It's a former Holiday Inn. It also added a 95-room Fairfield Inn in Stafford, Virginia. ... InterContinental has opened two new Holiday Inn Express properties: a 62-room outlet in Plainsboro, New Jersey, near Princeton; and a 70-room outpost near the Kennywood Amusement Park outside of Pittsburgh. ... Hyatt travelers take note: the Hyatt Regency in Tampa is no more. The property now trades as the Hotel Tampa and will become a Hilton-branded hotel next year.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines tried a fare increase to ring in the New Year. It failed when other carriers failed to match. ... Speaking of United, the airline changed boarding procedures again this week. It's now down to five boarding groups. Global Services members and special travelers (military and disabled flyers) get pre-boarding privileges. Group 1 includes MileagePlus 1K and Premier Platinum members and flyers in premium cabins. Everyone else is further down the scrum. ... New York/LaGuardia travelers take note: Delta Air Lines has opened a covered connector bridge between its C and D terminals. It's part of the airline's ongoing renovations at LGA after it acquired most of US Airways' assets there. ... Kingfisher Airlines of India has now officially lost its "flying permit." The airline has been grounded since October.
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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 © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.