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THE BRIEFING FOR FEBRUARY 7-21, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· Forget Iberia--and AAdvantage Awards on Iberia
· Hyatt Will Reflag Four Iconic French Hotels in April
· Delta and Starwood Link Elite Programs...Sort of
· Air Canada Adds International Premium Economy
· Virgin America Adds SJC and Frontier Adds CVG
· Southwest Offers Double Rapid Reward Points
· India Gets Three More Big-Name Chain Hotels


Forget Iberia (and AAdvantage Awards on Iberia) for a While
Employees of Iberia have announced 15 days of strikes in the next 45 days. That not only means chaos for flyers headed to Madrid, Barcelona and other Spanish cities, it also means chaos for American AAdvantage members who use the Spanish airline for Europe award flights. The strike dates--February 18-22, March 4-8 and March 18-22--were announced this week after negotiations between Iberia management and unions collapsed. Now part of the International Airline Group, which also owns British Airways, Iberia wants to cut 4,500 jobs at the money-losing carrier. The airline has already been in crisis for more than a year, since management launched a low-fare, non-union subsidiary and the unions launched several days of strikes. If this sounds vaguely familiar, allow me to re-introduce you to Willie Walsh, former chief executive of British Airways, who now runs IAG. Walsh created several years of strikes and flight cancellations when he unilaterally imposed work-rule changes on BA employees. Now he says he'll push through the revamp at Iberia, too, which virtually guarantees long periods of instability there.

Hyatt Picks Up Four More Hotels in France
Hyatt Hotels will have four more properties in France by April when it reflags several iconic French hotels. The 950-room Concorde Lafayette attached to the Palais des Congrés in Paris becomes the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile. The 177-room Hotel du Louvre, just steps from the Louvre Museum, will initially be marketed under its own name, but eventually will be converted into an Andaz hotel. The 409-room Hotel Martinez in Cannes will become the Grand Hyatt Cannes and the 188-room Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice converts to the Hyatt Regency Nice. All four hotels were recently sold by Barry Sternlicht's Starwood Capital (he created Starwood Hotels, but left several years ago) to outside investors and they've brought in Hyatt. ... Marriott has opened two new Residence Inn hotels: a 100-suite branch in Gilbert, Arizona, and a 97-room outlet in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. ... Three more big-name chain properties in India: Hilton has opened a 99-villa hotel in Pune, on the grounds of the Shillim Estate. Marriott has opened a 101-room Courtyard in Bhopal. And InterContinental has opened a 269-room Crowne Plaza in Kochi.

Delta and Starwood Link Elite Programs...Sort of
Delta SkyMiles and Starwood Preferred Guest are linking programs...sort of. Beginning March 1, Crossover Rewards will allow members of one plan to get some of the elite perks offered to members of the other program. For example, SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum Medallion members receive priority check-in, 4 p.m. checkout and free in-room Internet when they use Starwood properties. All Delta Medallion members will earn one SkyMile per dollar spent as well as Starpoints at Starwood properties. When they fly Delta, SPG Platinum members will receive a free checked bag, priority check-in and priority boarding. SPG Gold and Platinum members will earn one Starpoint per dollar spent on Delta flights as well as SkyMiles. You must register to get the benefits of Crossover Rewards, however. Registration begins March 1. For more details, click here for Delta's comments and here for Starwood's patter. ... Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards is offering double points on all flights until May 15. You must register here.

Air Canada Adds Premium-Economy Cabin on International Flights
Air Canada says that it will add premium-economy service on international flights. The cabin will offer a 2x4x2 configuration and seats with 38 inches of legroom. Premium Economy passengers will also receive upgraded meals, free wine and spirits, priority check-in, priority boarding and two free checked bags. The service debuts on Montreal-Paris flights beginning July 11. Some preliminary information is here. ... Brussels Airlines, the Star Alliance carrier, is adding another transatlantic route to its Brussels hub. Effective June 18, it will operate five weekly flights to Washington/Dulles, a hub of United Airlines. The airline will use an Airbus A330 on the route, the same aircraft it uses on the New York/Kennedy-Brussels run it launched last year.

Virgin America Adds San Jose, Frontier Adds Cincinnati
Two airports desperate for new carriers and new flights--San Jose in the Bay Area of Northern California and the shrunken Delta hub at Cincinnati--finally get some good news. Virgin America says that it'll begin service at San Jose on May 1. There'll be four daily flights to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Frontier Airlines will launch six weekly flights from its Denver hub to Cincinnati beginning on May 16. Frontier will use 168-seat Airbus 320s on the run. On the same day, however, Frontier will drop service in Akron. ... Grand Rapids flyers take note: Southwest Airlines takes over service from its AirTran Airways subsidiary on August 11.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
JetBlue Airways flyers in Seattle take note: The airline has moved its ticket counter at Sea-Tac to the north end of the Main Terminal. But its gates and baggage-claim area are still at the south end, so plan accordingly. ... United Airlines says it'll add 50-seat regional-jet flights between Denver and Dickinson, North Dakota, on June 6. ... Don't expect to see the grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliner flying again until spring at the earliest. The National Transportation Safety Board says it'll be around 30 days before it completes its "interim" report on the Dreamliner's wonky lithium-ion batteries. The Federal Aviation Administration technically decides when the Boeing 787 will fly again, but, in this case, don't expect it to move any faster than the NTSB. ... Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have expanded their code-share deal. American will slap its code on 22 more Alaska Air routes and Alaska will add its code to 19 additional American routes.

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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.