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THE BRIEFING FOR MARCH 7 TO 21, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· Why We Pay So Much Attention to London Flights
· Delta Takes a Run at Los Angeles, the Open City
· Don't Count Your Moxy Hotels Before They Hatch
· The Flight Action Is in Canada's Western Provinces
· NTSB Can't Explain The 787's Battery Problems
· TSA Lifts Ban on Swiss Army Knife, Leatherman
· Don't Stand Between Willie Walsh and His Bonus


This Is Why We Pay So Much Attention to London Flights
Airlines and hotel chains were in New York City this week pressing the flesh and promoting their brilliance to mostly credulous crowds at an investment conference sponsored by JP Morgan. The most eye-popping presentation came from Delta, eager to make the case for its acquisition of 49 percent of and code-share arrangement with Virgin Atlantic. Although the information wasn't exactly new, Delta shed fresh light on why airlines and business travelers obsess over London flights--and New York-London flights in particular. Delta says eight of the top ten routes between the United States and Europe are tied to London. With the exception of New York-Paris (number three at 1.2 million flyers annually) and New York-Frankfurt (number 10 at 700,000 a year), the other routes are all about London. New York/Kennedy-London, the busiest route at 2.7 million passengers a year, is nearly twice as large as Los Angeles-London (number two with 1.4 million flyers). Taken together, the Kennedy and Newark routes to London handle 3.9 million flyers, nearly as much as four other top-ten routes to London (Chicago, Boston, Washington and Miami) combined. British Airways (39 percent) and its joint-venture partner American Airlines (23 percent) dominate London routes. Taken together, Delta (14 percent) and Virgin Atlantic (22 percent) would still trail BA's share of the U.S.-London market.

Delta Takes a Run at Los Angeles, America's Biggest Open City
With all due respect to Open City, the great Roberto Rossellini film, Rome isn't it. For business travelers, Los Angeles is open city, where no carrier dominates at LAX. According to government statistics, LAX traffic is evenly split between American Airlines (18.6 percent market share) and United (18.5 percent) with Southwest (15.75 percent) close behind. Now Delta Air Lines, number four at LAX, is making a run. Delta currently commands 13.3 percent of LAX traffic, but it'll be adding a passel of new flights and routes in the coming months. It introduces its own service to Nashville and Seattle on April 8, Spokane on June 10 and San Jose on July 1. Also new: flights from LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica, beginning on July 1. Delta will also add seasonal service to Boston, Anchorage and Bozeman, Montana. And Delta will add frequencies on existing routes such as Oakland, Phoenix, Sacramento and New Orleans. By the summer, Delta says it will operate 118 departures a day to 40 destinations from LAX, including long-haul international service to Tokyo and Sydney as well as its upcoming code-share with Virgin Atlantic's London flights (see Counter Intelligence above). ... Airport dining in general is improving, but the current hotter-than-hot trend is opening branches of local breweries and wine bars. At Atlanta/Hartsfield, for example, the Ecco Tapas and Wine Bar opened this week in the year-old international terminal. The 3,500-square-foot space is a version of Atlanta's popular midtown spot called Ecco. And in Colorado Springs, the Bristol Brewing Company has opened a taproom just before the security checkpoint. Bristol Brewing is best known for its Compass IPA and Laughing Lab Scottish Ale.

Don't Count Your Moxy Hotels Before They Hatch
Marriott and IKEA announced this week that they would build fashionable, inexpensive, three-star hotels in Europe. The hotels will be called Moxy and Marriott insists there'll be 150 open in the next ten years. The first is due as early as next year in Milan. In essence, Moxy looks to be a Marriott/IKEA take on Citizen M, a chain of cheaper-to-build, hip and casual hotels that have opened in Amsterdam, Glasgow and London. But you may want to take Marriott's claims with all of the grains of salt that fit into an IKEA Benunge shaker. Why? Marriott's last two partnerships haven't amounted to much. In 2001, Marriott teamed with Bulgari to create a luxury chain named after the Italian jeweler. Twelve years later, just three properties have opened. And Marriott's deal with Ian Schrager, the former Studio 54 impresario who created hotels such as the Royalton in New York and the Delano in South Beach, has been a disaster. Marriott and Schrager debuted Edition Hotels in mid-2007 and promised 100 would be in development within 10 years. But only one (in Istanbul) is now open. The second Edition, in Waikiki, disappeared after the owners staged a middle of the night coup and rebranded the hotel as the Modern Honolulu.

All of the Flight Action Is in Canada's Western Provinces
WestJet, the fast-growing Canadian discount carrier, is pressing Air Canada on all fronts, but especially around the Western provinces. Besides Boeing 737 flights from Calgary to Dallas/Fort Worth that begin on April 29, WestJet is launching a regional carrier called Encore. The commuter carrier will fly 78-seat Dash-8 aircraft starting on June 24. The first Encore routes will be from Fort St. John in northeast British Columbia to Calgary and Vancouver. A third new route: Vancouver-Victoria. Scheduled flight time: 30 minutes. ... And speaking of Western Canada, Lufthansa will begin a Vancouver-Munich nonstop on May 16. There'll be daily flights using an Airbus A330 configured with coach and business-class cabins. ... TAM of Brazil will leave the Star Alliance for Oneworld. The change will begin in the second quarter of next year and is no surprise. TAM has merged with LAN of Chile and LAN is Oneworld's major carrier in Latin America.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The National Transportation Safety Board said today (March 7) that it has no idea what caused the lithium-ion battery on a Japan Air Lines Boeing 787 Dreamliner to burn. As you will recall, the battery fire on the JAL aircraft on January 7 at Boston/Logan was the first in a chain of mishaps that led to the Dreamliner's global grounding on January 16. ... Third time's the charm: Flight attendants at US Airways approved a new contract last week, the first consolidated agreement since the carrier merged with America West in 2005. The flight attendants previously rejected two other contract deals. Meanwhile, the carrier's fractious pilots, who don't have a post-merger deal, are fighting again. The current union is suing to stop a group of US Airways pilots who came from America West from suing to stop the US Airways-American Airlines merger. Oh, yeah, this is gonna be some fun, this merger. ... Virgin America flyers take note: You can now earn miles and claim awards on Singapore Airlines flights. ... As you've surely heard by now, the TSA says it will allow some knives, bats and golf clubs in carry-on bags effective April 25. The new rules basically mean you can resume carrying your Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman tool in your kit bag or on your key ring. Unless you're one of those folks who always fly with their putter.

What Happens When You Stand Between Wee Willie and a Bonus
It's been another week of disruptive strikes at Iberia, where employees are resisting draconian cutbacks pitched by Willie Walsh, head of IAG, parent company of Iberia and British Airways. According to Reuters, about 1,300 Iberia flights and flights of related carriers have been dumped this week. Another round of job actions is planned for March 18-22. The first tranche of job actions in mid-February led to clashes at Madrid/Barajas Airport between workers and Spanish police. Walsh wants to cut about 20 percent of Iberia's workforce, cut salaries of remaining employees by 20 percent and is also demanding the kind of givebacks that led to years of disruptions at British Airways when Walsh was chief executive there. Wee Willie's my-way-or-the-highway approach to labor-management relations has another angle at Iberia, however. Weak results at the Spanish carrier led to IAG's remuneration board withholding Walsh's 2012 bonus. Wee Willie had to make due with his $1.7 million pay packet.

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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.