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THE BRIEFING FOR JUNE 27 - JULY 11, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· Two More Paris Hotels Where We Can Burn Points
· Alaska Airlines Adds, Revives Routes Out West
· Air Canada Tweaks Aeroplan, Hikes Award Costs
· Delta, Virgin Atlantic Start Hooking Up Next Week
· A Burst of Marriott Hotels Opens in U.S., Canada
· DOT Fines Delta (Sorta) for Bumping Violations
· Gogo WiFi Goes Public, Then Tanks on Nasdaq
Two More Paris Classics Where We Can Burn Frequent-Guest Points
Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest players take note: You'll now have "new" central Paris hotel options where you can earn and burn. After a two-year renovation and restoration, Starwood's Luxury Collection officially reopened the Prince de Galles hotel on Wednesday (June 26). The Art Deco property features 115 rooms and 44 suites. Originally opened in 1928, the hotel is located just off the Champs-Elysees on the Avenue George V. Starwood designated it a Category 7 hotel, which requires 30,000-35,000 points per night. Meanwhile, Marriott announced today (June 27) that it is rebranding the Ambassador Hotel on the Boulevard Haussman effective Monday, July 1. The 298-room hotel in the 9th arrondissement has been trading as the Radisson Blu Ambassador Opera. Come Monday the property, first opened in 1927, will be known as the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador. The deal to switch brands must have happened fairly quickly. As of Thursday evening, the hotel wasn't yet listed on Marriott.com and Radisson.com was still accepting reservations for dates beyond July 1.
Alaska Airlines Adds (and Revives) a Rush of Routes Out West
Alaska Airlines has worked the last few years building up an impressive route network to Hawaii and Mexico. But now it seems to be pivoting back to its traditional base, the Western states. From Anchorage, it will launch Boeing 737 service to both Phoenix and Las Vegas. The Las Vegas route will run year round with three weekly flights beginning December 19. The seasonal Phoenix service will operate between December 18 and April 19 with three weekly flights. From Portland, there will be daily flights to Tucson beginning November 1 and daily Reno service starting November 8. Alaska dropped Portland-Reno in 2009, but this time will use 76-seat Q400 turboprops on the route. The Tucson route was dropped in 2003 and now will be served with 70-seat CRJs operated by Alaska's SkyWest commuter carrier. From its Seattle hub, Alaska is adding daily B737 flights to both Colorado Springs (beginning November 1) and Omaha, Nebraska (beginning November 7). There'll also be new daily commuter-jet flights from San Diego to Boise beginning November 1. The carrier also announced it will fly seasonally (December 21-April 12) from San Diego to the Mammoth Lakes ski area using Q400 turboprops.
Air Canada Improves Aeroplan (a Bit), Then Hikes Key Award Costs
Air Canada is constantly tinkering with Aeroplan and the results are rarely good for travelers. This time, however, Air Canada is throwing a few bones our way as it continues to hike the cost of key awards. First the good news. The annoying policy of expiring miles after seven years regardless of your activity in Aeroplan is ending. Your miles will remain valid in Aeroplan so long as you have activity in your account every 12 months. Aeroplan's equally annoying habit of charging 67 percent of a roundtrip award for a one-way award is also ending. A one-way award will now cost 50 percent of a roundtrip award. Also new: a recognition plan called Distinction. It'll offer perks and discounts based on your activity with all Aeroplan partners. Distinction status (pegged silver, black and diamond) is separate and in addition to any elite status you currently earn by flying with Air Canada. Now the bad news: Increases of as much as 25 percent in key awards, including flights to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. All of the changes, good and bad, are effective beginning January 1. You can see the details here. ... Speaking of Aeroplan, the Langham group of hotels is joining the program. That makes sense since Langham is reflagging a Delta Hotel in Toronto as the Eaton Chelsea. It'll be Langham's first hotel in Canada.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic Start Hooking Up Next Week
Delta Air Lines has completed its purchase of a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic and it won't take long for travelers to see some benefits from the hook-up. Effective Wednesday (July 3), Delta will begin code-sharing on 17 Virgin routes. That includes all Virgin flights into London as well as flights into Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester. Virgin recently began flying to those Scottish and Northern England destinations from Heathrow with a service called Little Red. Delta business-class customers and platinum and Diamond members of SkyMiles will also have access to Virgin Clubhouse lounges. And, yes, we'll earn SkyMiles and MQMs for flying on Virgin Atlantic. Delta's very detailed chart of what you earn when flying Virgin Atlantic is here. ... Air Canada launches its vacation airline called Air Canada rouge next week. The stripped-down service will fly from Toronto to three cities in Europe; Costa Rica; Cuba; Jamaica; and the Dominican Republic. More details are here. ... Emirates says that its Los Angeles-Dubai route will switch to Airbus A380 aircraft beginning December 2.
A Burst of Marriott Properties Opens in the U.S. and Canada
Marriott continues to add new properties in North America. This week's newbies: a 205-room Marriott on East Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee; an 82-room Fairfield Inn in Moncton, New Brunswick; a 100-room Residence Inn in Irmo, South Carolina, about 10 minutes from downtown Columbia; and a 120-room Residence Inn in Boston's Seaport District. That property, at 370 Congress Street, is a former warehouse built in 1901. ... A 134-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened on Admiralty Way in Marina del Rey, about six miles from Los Angeles International Airport. ... InterContinental has opened a 122-room Holiday Inn adjacent to the international airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Transportation Department this week fined Delta Air Lines $750,000 for involuntarily bumping passengers without offering the legally required compensation. In a weird twist, however, the DOT is allowing Delta to use $425,000 of the fine to purchase tablet computers to record bumping data and to train their employees. Weirder still, Delta had already committed to buying the tablets, so DOT is allowing the airline to skip out on more than half of the fine for nothing. Delta was also fined $375,000 in 2009 for similar violations. ... The FBI is probing the disappearance of $1.2 million in cash that was being transported this week on a Swiss International flight from Zurich to New York/Kennedy. If the money is found, Delta will get half of the dough to buy computers. (Okay, I made that last part up.) ... The IPO of Gogo, the WiFi supplier to several carriers, raised $187 million. The stock opened Wednesday (June 26) on Nasdaq at $15.22 and promptly dropped as low as $13.61. It closed today (June 27) at $14.
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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.