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THE BRIEFING FOR MARCH 21-APRIL 4, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· Southwest and AirTran Finally Link Networks
· A New Terminal Opens in Birmingham, Alabama
· Just Like Old Times: European Airlines on Strike
· Everywhere You Look, More New Hotels Open
· Membership Rewards: No More Loaner Points
· JetBlue Will Fly from Chicago/O'Hare to San Juan
· American Launches Miami-San Diego Using a 737


Southwest Airlines Finally Links Networks With Its AirTran Subsidiary
Southwest Airlines purchased AirTran Airways in September, 2010, but the two carriers have mostly operated as separate carriers ever since. Why? Neither airline had a computer network that could handle the other's flights--and you know what happens when airlines try big-bang mergers of their so-called passenger service systems. But you can now purchase combined itineraries using both airlines for trips beginning April 14. The two airlines now code-share and their flights and other services are available at each carrier's Web site. Whose policies apply, one-class Southwest or two-class AirTran? That depends on where you buy your seats. Buy via Southwest channels and Southwest rules apply even if you're booking AirTran. Buy via AirTran channels and AirTran's rules apply. The exception: If your itinerary includes a Southwest-operated flight, your bags fly free even on AirTran segments of the trip.

A New Terminal in Birmingham, A New Airport in Sri Lanka
Alabama's largest airport, Birmingham, has a snappy new terminal, the first phase of a $201 million modernization program. There's a centralized security checkpoint, renovated ticketing areas, a children's play area and new concessions, including a pub operated by Good People, a local brewery. The Birmingham Business Journal has a picture show. ... Sri Lanka is still trying to recover from a vicious, decades-long civil war, but it's managed to build a second international airport with a Chinese loan. Rajapaksa International is in Hambantota, about 100 miles southeast of Colombo, the island's capital and home to its major airport. Critics of the new airport note that it is named after the current president and built in his home district. ... Boston/Logan has a new restaurant: Durgin-Park, a branch of the famous comfort-food joint in Quincy Market. The airport location is in Terminal E. ... A local Georgia dining favorite, Shane's Rib Shack, has opened a branch in the atrium between the North and South terminals of Atlanta/Hartsfield airport.

Just Like Old Times: European Airlines on Strike
Lufthansa cancelled nearly 700 flights on Thursday (March 21) in advance of wage talks with the flight union Ver.di. Most of the cancellations affected intra-Europe and intra-Germany flights. This strike is different from the one that has plagued some Lufthansa flights in Cologne and Dusseldorf in recent weeks. Those disruptions were caused by a dispute between security workers and the local airports. ... Pilots and flight attendants at Alitalia are planning a four-hour strike on Friday (March 22). The dispute involves management's outsourcing of certain operations to the Romanian airline Carpatair. The outsourcing arrangement was temporarily halted last month after a Carpatair flight operating as Alitalia suffered a runway accident at Rome/Fiumicino Airport. ... On the flip side, Iberia employees have cancelled their strikes after they and airline management agreed to layoff terms proposed by a government-appointed mediator. Thousands of flights have been cancelled in the last year as Iberia workers battled with Willie Walsh, the former British Airways boss who now runs the parent company of both BA and Iberia. ... Aer Lingus flyers take note: The carrier moves its New York/Kennedy flights into JetBlue's Terminal 5 on April 3. It will be the first international airline to fly from the JetBlue facility, the newest and best at JFK.

Everywhere You Look, New Hotels Around the World
This item could be headlined "Hotels, hotels everywhere and not a room for free," but that might be putting too fine a point on the much-discussed devaluation of the frequent-guest programs. But it is worth noting that the major chains are opening properties at what may be a record pace. So many, in fact, that there isn't room for more than a bullet-point presentation of what's new.
    Carlson opened the 500-room Radisson Blu Mall of America connected to that big shopping center in Bloomington, Minnesota.
    Hilton opened Homewood Suites properties in Victoria, Texas (109 rooms); Garden City, New York (150 rooms); Springfield, Virginia (165 rooms); and a 128-room branch three miles from Orlando Airport. It has also opened a 207-room Hilton in Miraflores, Peru, and a 248-room Waldorf Astoria in Panama City, Panama. Hilton also unveiled a two-hotel complex on Governor's West Drive in Huntsville, Alabama. It features a 98-room Hampton Inn and a 77-room Home2 Suites.
    InterContinental has opened three new Holiday Inn Express properties. It converted a 110-room LaQuinta Inn across Interstate 94 from Detroit/Metro Airport; converted a 184-room former Comfort Inn in the Penn's Landing area of Philadelphia; and opened a 120-room new-build property in Veracruz, Mexico. It has also opened two Candlewood Suites: an 84-room hotel in Manhattan, Kansas, and an 81-room hotel in Homewood, Alabama.
    Hyatt has opened a 185-room Hyatt Place hotel just off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. There's also a new, 296-room Hyatt Place in downtown Austin near the convention center. Separately, Hyatt bought the historic, 189-room Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin, too. It will remain the Driskill during a two-year renovation, but is already available for reservations at the Hyatt.com site.
    Marriott has opened a 532-room Ritz-Carlton in Abu Dhabi; a 539-room Courtyard in Sha Tin, in Hong Kong's New Territories district; and a 75-room Fairfield Inn in Athens, Alabama. The Autograph Collection also has three new members: the Lake Arrowhead Resort in Lake Arrowhead, California; the Hotel Adagio in San Francisco; and the recently reopened Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport, Iowa.
    Starwood has opened a 481-room Sheraton at the Dubai Mall in Dubai and a 123-room Aloft in Cupertino, California.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Express Membership Rewards will end its practice of allowing you to borrow points against your future accruals to claim awards. The no-borrowing policy goes into effect on June 30. ... JetBlue Airways is the dominant carrier at San Juan now, so this new route is no surprise: Effective November 20, it will start daily flights from Chicago/O'Hare to San Juan. JetBlue will use Airbus A320s on the route. ... Gee, just when you thought airlines couldn't downgauge any more longer-haul routes comes this news: American Airlines on June 12 launches nonstops between its Miami hub and San Diego using Boeing 737-800s. That's another 2,200+-mile route for the single-aisle 737. Meanwhile, United Airlines says that it will launch nonstops between its Newark hub and Edmonton, Alberta, on May 1. Six weekly flights start May 1 using Airbus A319s. That's another 2,000+-mile route for the single-aisle A319. ... Boingo, the WiFi aggregator, says it will offer Boingo service at three airports in Germany: Berlin-Tegel, Stuttgart and Nuremberg.

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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.