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THE BRIEFING FOR JANUARY 17-31, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· Delta Begins Transition to Dollar-Based SkyMiles
· Frontier's Final Frontier Is, Apparently, Trenton
· Jameson Inn Dismembered, Then Plans Revival
· An American Hub No More, Eagle Flees San Juan
· FAA Warns About In-Flight Coffee Explosions
· A Spanx Store Opens at Atlanta/Hartsfield
· Would You Rent a Silver Audi From This Guy?


Here We Go: Delta Begins Transition to Revenue-Based SkyMiles
Three months ago, I told you several legacy carriers would switch to revenue-based frequent-flyer programs this year. Delta Air Lines gets to claim "first" with its announcement today (January 17) that reaching SkyMiles elite status will also require a minimum-spend component. This small first step begins the transition to rewarding flyers based on how much they spend with an airline rather than how many miles they fly. This change is a way off, though. It begins next year for 2015 elite status. To earn Silver Medallion for 2015, you'll not only have to accrue 25,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualification Miles) or 30 MQSs (Medallion Qualification Segments) in 2014, you will also have to spend at least $2,500. For 2015 Gold Status, it'll be $5,000 in spend as well as 50,000MQMs/60MQSs. For Platinum, it'll be $7,500 as well as 75,000MQMs/100MQSs. To hit Diamond Level, you'll have to spend $12,500 as well as rack up 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs. To keep the jargon flowing, Delta has dubbed the revenue component MQDs (Medallion Qualification Dollars). And there are quirks: Delta considers an MQD to be dollars spent on flights with a DL code or other carriers whose ticket numbers carry Delta's 006 code. However, you will not receive MQDs for revenue contributed via luggage fees or the upcharge for Economy Comfort seating. One more wrinkle: You bypass revenue requirements if you spend $25,000 or more on an American Express SkyMiles credit card. For more details, check Delta's FAQs. I guess no one at Delta thought to dub them MQFs...you know, Mileage Qualification FAQs.

Frontier's Final Frontier Is, Apparently, Trenton, New Jersey
It's been a long time since the slogan on the Lower Trenton Bridge--Trenton Makes, The World Takes--has been true, but Frontier Airlines thinks it can make money at Mercer County Airport. As I explained back in November, Trenton Mercer County (TTN) hasn't had scheduled jet service since 2008, but Frontier is planning a big build-up in the New Jersey capital. The airline recently launched flights to four Florida cities (Tampa, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando) as well as New Orleans. Starting in April, it'll add nonstops to five business destinations. Effective April 8, there will be four weekly flights to Atlanta; six weekly flights to Chicago/Midway; three flights a week to Columbus; and six weekly flights to Raleigh-Durham. Beginning April 9, there will also be four weekly flights to Detroit/Metro. All five routes will be operated with 138-seat Airbus A319s.

Jameson Inn Is Dismembered, Then Plans a Revival
Although the Jameson Inn chain didn't have a national profile, it was a wildly popular brand of economy hotels in the Southeast. Now it's no more. Sorta. The convoluted tale started when the chain filed Chapter 11 in 2011. A real estate investment company foreclosed and last week parceled off more than 100 Jameson Inn properties to a new management firm. That company promptly reflagged 49 as Baymont Inns, one as a Days Inn and six as Howard Johnson hotels. All three of those brands are part of Wyndham. Then the management company ripped the Jameson Inn flag off 48 other hotels and farmed those out to Choice Hotels. Forty-two now fly the Quality Inn flag, two are Comfort Inn properties and two more switched to the Econo Lodge brand. But about a dozen Jameson Inn hotels were individually owned and escaped the foreclosure. They'll remain Jameson Inn hotels because the name now belongs to America's Best, a hotel-franchising group that runs the America's Best Inns and Budgetel brands. America's Best says it will add Jameson Inn hotels in many of the same Southeast cities where properties have just been reflagged. Confused yet?

An American Hub No More, American Eagle Flees San Juan
American Airlines has traditionally dominated San Juan and maintained a Caribbean hub in the Puerto Rican capital for more than 25 years. But AA has been cutting back at San Juan for years, moving its Caribbean service to its Miami hub. American "de-hubbed" San Juan several years ago and now the final blow: Effective April 1, American's Executive Airlines division, which flies as American Eagle, is pulling out, too. The big player in San Juan these days? JetBlue Airways, which controls about 30 percent of the traffic there. Including the soon-to-be-ended Eagle flights, American is down to about 23 percent of San Juan's traffic. As recently as 2010, American accounted for fully a third of all passengers arriving at or departing from San Juan. ... San Jose, the Silicon Valley airport that continues to struggle in the shadow of San Francisco, has opened a new lounge. The Club is open to all flyers at a cost of $35 per visit, although it is part of both the Priority Pass and Lounge Club programs. The 7,400-square-foot-club is across from Gate 15 on the third level of Terminal A. ... Bruegger's Bagels has opened a 1,300-square-foot kiosk on Concourse B in Cincinnati. ... Body-shapers take note: The first-ever Spanx airport shop has opened in Terminal E at Atlanta/Hartsfield. That makes sense since Spanx in headquartered in Atlanta, but the Hartsfield shop itself is franchised to Paradies, the airport- and mall-retaling specialist.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines rolled out a new logo and livery today (January 17). Out is the Helvetica type and the red-and-blue capital As separated by a stylized American eagle. In is a geometric tail design and very large letters spelling out American. You can see American's video presentation here. Might as well look since American says the rebranding could take as long as five years. ... Delta Air Lines has substantially reduced the mileage bonuses you receive on many fares with its partner airlines. Look over the chart here. ... United Airlines says its first aircraft with satellite-based WiFi are now flying on a few international and domestic routes. Access prices range from $3.99 to $19.99. ... It's nowhere near as dramatic as the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but the FAA has also warned airlines that coffee filter packets have been exploding during flight. That's led to first- and second-degree burns to flight attendants. According to the FAA, the problem is caused when pressure builds up in the pre-packaged coffee while inside in galley coffee pots.

Would You Rent a Silver Audi From This Guy?
If you fail running a low-cost airline, might as well try the car-rental game. Bill Diffenderffer, who created the short-lived, extremely annoying Skybus, has launched Silvercar at Dallas/Fort Worth. Silvercar only rents silver Audi A4s and does most of its rentals and returns via smartphone texts and QR code swipes. You can learn more here. But remember: Diffenderffer was the guy who told you that you couldn't bring your own beverages and snacks aboard his plane because his business plan was partially based on selling you overpriced in-flight food and drink. So make sure tires are included in the price of any car you rent from him.

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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.