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THE BRIEFING FOR APRIL 18 TO 30, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· Beware When Airlines Claim 'Back to Normal'
· Frontier Says Better Anywhere But Philadelphia
· The Nikko in San Francisco Opens a Nightclub
· New United Express Terminal Opens in Houston
· The Price of Crude Oil Drops Below $88 a Barrel
· New York/JFK Is King of International Flights
· You Get $19.5 Million! And You Get $19.5 Million!


Beware When Airlines Claim They're Back to 'Normal Operations'
Despite the computer outage that hobbled its global network on Tuesday (April 16), American Airlines generally did right by inconvenienced flyers. Unlike United Airlines, which routinely denies a problem as its planes stack up and then steadfastly refuses to apologize or offer make-goods, American did fairly well on all of those fronts. It was honest about the length and severity of the breakdown, both on social media outlets and in public statements. By Tuesday night, American chief executive Tom Horton was personally apologizing via a YouTube video. By Wednesday morning, many elite AAdvantage members found as many as 7,500 "sorry about that" bonus miles in their accounts. But never, ever believe an airline when it claims that "normal operations" have been restored. That's what American said about Wednesday (April 17) even though the day was almost as bad as Tuesday's disaster. On Tuesday, American operated at just 47.37 percent on-time and it cancelled nearly 500 of its approximately 1,900 flights. And 40 percent of its flights ran more than 45 minutes late. The American Eagle commuter network ran just 50.3 percent on-time and it cancelled 471 flights. On Wednesday, in spite of its claim of normalcy, American ran just 53.66 percent on-time. More than 27 percent of its flights ran more than 45 minutes late and there were 160 cancellations. American Eagle on Wednesday was just 47.81 percent on-time, 27 percent of its flights ran at least 45 minutes late and it cancelled 323 flights.

Frontier Says Better Anywhere But Philadelphia
Frontier Airlines continues to look for safe places to fly. And Frontier chief executive David Siegel, who made a hash of US Airways when he ran it, has apparently adopted what can only be called a W.C. Fields strategy. Siegel suddenly has Frontier flying anyplace in the MidAtlantic except Philadelphia, which, of course, is a major US Airways hub. Earlier this year, Frontier launched flights from Trenton-Mercer County Airport, about 40 miles north of Philadelphia. Until Frontier arrived, Trenton hadn't had scheduled service since 2008. And now Siegel has found another orphan airport near Philadelphia to serve. Beginning July 1, it will fly to New Castle Airport (ILG) in Wilmington, Delaware, about 40 miles south of Philadelphia. New Castle hasn't had scheduled flights since 2008, either, but the new Frontier service includes routes to Chicago/Midway, Denver, Houston/Intercontinental, Orlando and Tampa. Flights won't operate daily, however. Depending on the route, the service will run between two and four days per week using 168-seat Airbus A320s.

Nightlife Alert: The Nikko in San Francisco Opens a Nightclub
To hear hoteliers talk, business travelers are perfectly happy sitting at the hotel bar drinking overpriced cocktails or hanging around lobbies designed to look like coffee bars. The days of hotel nightclubs, as I wrote a decade ago, seem like a distant memory. But don't tell that to Michael Feinstein, the singer, pianist, chronicler of the American Songbook and nightclub maven. Even though his nightclub at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan closed last year, he has found a new home. Feinstein's at the Nikko, in the Hotel Nikko San Francisco, opens its doors on May 8. Already on the bill for the first two months at the 140-seat cabaret: Tony Award winner Sutton Foster; Mitzi Gaynor; the ageless Barbara Cook; and Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway, sisters who normally maintain separate cabaret and recording careers.

They've Been Working on the Airport, All The Live-Long Day
The incredibly convoluted traffic patterns of Paris/Charles de Gaulle have just gotten a bit easier. A new pedestrian path between Terminals 2E and 2F has opened. It'll allow flyers transiting between terminals to avoid the public areas and save about 10 minutes on connections to long-haul flights. ... The PHX Sky Train has opened at Phoenix Sky Harbor. It connects Terminal 4, the airport's East Economy parking lot and the Phoenix Metro light-rail station at 44th and Washington streets. There are baggage-check areas at both the light-rail station and the parking-lot station for flyers using US Airways or Southwest Airlines. There's more information here. ... The long-awaited Terminal B South Concourse at Houston/Intercontinental has opened for some flights. The $97 million, 225,000-square-foot facility is dedicated to United Express operations. United says the terminal will have 15 working gates by May 1 and 15 more gates by the end of the year. But, of course, United says lots of things... ... A 193-room hotel in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, eight miles from Pittsburgh International, has reflagged itself as the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. It was formerly known as the Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh Airport, which only goes to show that hoteliers have no idea of what constitutes an "airport" hotel.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The price of a barrel of oil dropped below $88 on New York markets this week and Brent crude, which more closely tracks the price of jet fuel, fell below $100 on London markets. That should mean less pressure on fares in the coming weeks. ... Swiss International resumes nonstops between its Zurich hub and Singapore on May 13. Swiss dropped the route in 2008. Swiss will use Airbus A340s, but Singapore Airlines flies Zurich-Singapore with an A380. ... According to government statistics, New York/JFK handled the most international passengers in 2012. Its 12.3 million enplanements far surpassed Miami (9.3 million) and Los Angeles (8.2 million). Combined with the passenger total for No. 4 Newark (5.5 million), the New York area accommodated 17.8 million international flyers.

You Get $19.5 Million! And You Get $19.5 Million!
The American Airlines bankruptcy judge last month barred a planned $19.5 million severance package for American chief executive Tom Horton, who will get kicked up to chairman before "retiring" after the carrier is reversed-merged into US Airways. The judge struck down Horton's payment because it violated bankruptcy laws on executive compensation. But guess what? Horton gets his payout anyway. Why? According to new information the two carriers filed about the merger, Horton will eventually be paid by the newly merged, post-bankruptcy American Airlines. But don't cry for Doug Parker, US Airways' chief executive who'll run the combined carrier after the merger. According to Reuters, Parker will receive $19.5 million in merger-related pay for being the new boss.

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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.