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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 6 TO JUNE 20, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· Hyatt Fills Las Vegas Gap With MGM Resorts Deal
· Delta Officially Drops Its Shrinking Memphis Hub
· Marriott Opens Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota
· Want SkyMiles MQMs? Fewer Airlines Offer Them
· TSA Reinstates the Ban on Swiss Army Knives
· You Can Buy or Transfer Rapid Rewards Points
· United Sells Economy Plus Subscriptions Again
Hyatt Fills Its Las Vegas Gap Via Deal With MGM Resorts
If business travelers have a gripe with Hyatt Hotels, it's generally not with the chain's lodging products or its generous Gold Passport program. It's with the company's comparatively small global footprint. Hyatt is half the size of Starwood. Marriott and Hilton each have at least seven times as many hotels as Hyatt has in its 500-property portfolio. But Hyatt closed at least one geographic gap this week by striking a deal with MGM Resorts, one of the power players in the Las Vegas market. Beginning June 20, you'll be able to book a dozen of MGM's Las Vegas properties--including Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo and Excalibur--via Hyatt.com. More importantly, Hyatt Gold Passport members will earn Gold Passport points and receive elite-status credit for their MGM stays. Gold Passport members will also be able to cash points for free stays at the MGM properties. Beginning in August, Hyatt will also link with MGM's M life guest-recognition program. That means elite Gold Passport members who sign up will immediately receive equivalent elite status and on-property benefits from M life. "Our members told us they wanted more places to burn points," Gold Passport senior vice president Jeff Zidell told me this week. "And Las Vegas, where we didn't have any [Hyatt-branded properties], was at the top of the list." Complete details of the Hyatt-MGM deal are here.
Memphis Blues (Again): Delta Officially Drops Its Memphis Hub
From the moment that Delta and Northwest merged in 2008, you could look at the route map and see that the combined carriers' Eastern hubs--Northwest's Detroit/Metro nexus in the north, Delta's massive Atlanta hub to the south and Delta's Cincinnati and Northwest's Memphis complexes in between--made very little sense. Detroit and Atlanta were always secure, of course. And given Delta's progressive reductions at Cincinnati even before the merger, there were some who saw some hope that Memphis could survive. But it was never to be. Delta began whittling away at Memphis from the start and this week it dropped the other shoe: It will officially "de-hub" Memphis International right after Labor Day. Delta will cut the Tennessee city to about 60 flights a day, almost all of them to or from another Delta hub. That's down from the current schedule of about 90 daily Delta flights--and a draconian reduction from the high of nearly 300 daily flights when Memphis was the derided part of Northwest's Snow Town (Minneapolis), Motown (Detroit) and No Town hub lineup. ... Speaking of airports losing flights, Gary, Indiana, will again be without commercial service in August when Allegiant Air pulls twice-weekly runs to Orlando.
TSA Bows to Pressure and Reinstates Ban on Swiss Army Knives
The Transportation Security Administration and business travelers are rarely on the same side of a battle, but March was one of those times. That's when the TSA claimed it would lift the ban on Swiss Army Knives and other small folding blades. But a relentless--and factually baseless--attack by some in Congress, airline executives and flight attendants--has sent the TSA into hiding. This week it officially confirmed that it would retain the ban on Swiss Army Knives and other small, folding blades. One idiot analyst actually claimed the TSA's backtracking was "common sense." But the question remains: Can anyone, anywhere in the world, point to an incident where a Swiss Army Knife was used in a plot to threaten a plane? No, they can't, which is why the knives are permitted by airline-security authorities in most parts of the world. ... The TSA says that all of its full-body scanners in use at airport checkpoints are now of the millimeter-wave variety. All 250 of the first-generation "nude-o-scope" backscatter scanners--which were widely criticized for using potentially harmful amounts of radiation and for producing clear images of bodies underneath clothing--have been removed.
It Must Be Safe to Go to Deadwood. After All, There's a Marriott Now.
If you had lingering doubts about the safety of Deadwood, South Dakota, I think you can dismiss them. After all, Deadwood has a Marriott now. A 78-room SpringHill Suites opened this week. In fairness, there's already a Holiday Inn Express and a Hampton Inn in Deadwood, so, you know, it may be time to forget about the murder of Wild Bill Hickok and let bygones be bygones. ... Marriott has also opened the 73-room TownePlace Suites in Saginaw, Michigan. ... Speaking of Michigan, a 117-room Holiday Inn Express has opened in Troy, just off I-75. ... Speaking of limited-service hotels, Hilton has opened Homewood Suites outposts in Middletown, Rhode Island, and in Fort Worth, Texas, just off I-30 near the Medical Center District. ... Speaking of Hilton, the company's DoubleTree brand continues to reflag properties cast off by other chains. A 291-room former Marriott on North St. Joseph Street in South Bend, Indiana, is now a DoubleTree. So is the former 267-room Crowne Plaza adjacent to the convention center and sports arena in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. ... Speaking of reflaggings, the former Marriott at 5700 Westpark Drive not too far from Charlotte/Douglas Airport is now a 297-room Crowne Plaza.
Want to Earn SkyMiles MQMs? Delta Says Fewer Airlines Offer Them
Delta Air Lines will surely be the first legacy carrier to transform its frequent flyer plan into a revenue-based rather than mileage-based program. To that end, we've already seen Delta impose a minimum-spend requirement for future SkyMiles elite status. Now SkyMiles is sharply reducing the number of airlines that will issue MQM elite-status miles. Effective September 1, you'll only earn MQMs on Delta or Alaska Airlines flights, Delta's close revenue-sharing partners (Air France/KLM, Alitalia and Virgin Australia) and two carriers in which Delta has recently invested (GOL and Aeromexico). All others, including SkyTeam partners, will offer a reduced amount of MQMs per flight. Or, in the case of Korean Air and several others, no MQMs at all. Looking at the list (see details here), it's obvious that you'll only earn MQMs from partner airlines that contribute to or share revenue with Delta. Other partners will continue to offer SkyMiles credit for flying them, but not elite-status MQMs. ... Southwest Airlines has cut a deal with Points.com that will allow Rapid Rewards members to buy, gift and transfer Rapid Rewards points. The details are here.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines this week revived a pre-merger idea: annual subscriptions to Economy Plus seats and checked bags. Economy Plus subscriptions--which allow you to choose upgraded seats when you book--start at $500 a year. A subscription that allows you to check bags starts at $349 a year. Full details are here. United sold subscriptions to these services before the merger with Continental Airlines, but suspended them until it could straighten out the buggy software that has plagued the combined carrier. ... From the don't-make-me-turn-this-flight-around department: More than 100 high school students and adult chaperones were booted off an AirTran Airways flight this week when pilots and flight attendants decided they were too rowdy to carry. The early-morning flight was headed from New York to Atlanta. The students were on a class trip organized by Yeshiva of Brooklyn and the school's executive director has suggested that some anti-Semitism was involved. But business travelers on the flight quoted by CNN backed up the crew and said the students refused to sit down, buckle up or turn off their mobile devices.
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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.