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THE BRIEFING FOR JULY 18 - JULY 31, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli
· There'll Always Be an England Fighting Over LHR
· Know That Hotel You Like? It May Have Changed
· Marriott and United Offer Reciprocal Elite Perks
· Atlanta/Hartsfield Gets First Public Club Lounge
· San Antonio Airport Gets Hot Mexican Restaurant
· United Tests Inter-Terminal Limo Runs at IAH
· JetBlue Upgrades Food on Some Transcon Flights
There'll Always Be an England Fighting Over the Future of Heathrow
There are only absolutes this summer: It's hot everywhere and something must be done about Heathrow, London's primary airport and bane of the global frequent flyer. Overwhelmed with nearly 70 million passengers a year, constantly under construction and short of capacity with just two runways, Heathrow's future took center stage this week with competing improvement propositions. London's flamboyant mayor, Boris Johnson, wants to scuttle Heathrow altogether. According to his plan, the British government would buy Heathrow and turn the 3,000-acre site into a new London borough with 100,000 homes and 250,000 people. Where would the planes and flyers go? To a new airport built on one of two sites in the River Thames estuary. If the so-called "Boris Island" airport won't fly, Johnson suggests a massive expansion of Stansted, London's third airport. About 35 miles from central London, Stansted currently has just one runway and one terminal, but plenty of room to expand in a comparatively sparsely populated corner of England. "We have squandered decades and other countries are now eating our lunch," the ever-blunt Johnson noted. "But we still have time to get this right." Needless to say, Johnson's proposal didn't go over well with Heathrow's Spanish owners. Their plan: Build a sixth terminal and add two more runways so that Heathrow's capacity would approach a million flights a year. The problem with that plan? It would require the demolition of as many as 3,000 homes and the tunneling of a portion of the M25, one of the region's busiest motorways. Besides, anti-Heathrow-expansion forces promise to fight a third runway--not to mention a fourth--"tooth and nail ... for a generation." If either plan is adopted, it would take at least 15 years and US$100 billion or more to execute.
You Know That Hotel You Like? It May Have Just Changed Names
The pace of conversions and reflaggings in the lodging industry continues at an astounding pace. Get out your scorecard for this week's big changes. ... The 334-room Hotel 71 in Chicago has become the Wyndham Grand Chicago. ... The Embassy Suites flag now flies over the 300-room property in Baltimore once known as the Tremont Suites. ... The former Sheraton East Hartford has now become the 215-room Holiday Inn East Hartford. ... The Hyatt Atlanta Midtown is the new name on the front door of the 194-room property that most recently was known as the Hotel Midtown and was once a Wyndham. ... A 117-room beachfront hotel in Grand Cayman that had previously been a Ramada and the Grand Caymanian is now a Holiday Inn. ... Looking for honest-to-goodness new properties? Try these: Holiday Inn Express has opened a 221-room property on Orchard Road in Singapore and an 81-room branch in Natchez, Mississippi. ... Marriott has opened Fairfield Inn outlets in Vernon, British Columbia (98 rooms), and Spring, Texas (85 rooms). It has also opened a 188-room Residence Inn in the Del Mar neighborhood of San Diego.
Marriott and United Offer Reciprocal Benefits to Elite Travelers
You don't have a bad bout of déjà vu. A new tie-up announced this week between United MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards does look and sound a lot like the Crossover Rewards scheme introduced in February by Delta SkyMiles and Starwood Preferred Guest. The so-called RewardsPlus arrangement seems skewed to benefit United flyers. If you're MileagePlus Gold Elite or higher, you'll now receive Marriott Rewards Gold status, too. Which isn't bad since it usually requires 50 nights of stays to make Rewards Gold and it gets you free Internet and continental breakfast at most Marriott-branded properties. Marriott Platinum or higher elites will receive MileagePlus Silver status, which offers a free checked bag and upgrades to EconomyPlus seating at check-in. There are also some improved points/miles transfer levels between the two programs. For more details, consult the United or Marriott RewardsPlus page.
Atlanta-Hartsfield Gets Its First Public Airport Lounge
Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport has nine Delta SkyClub lounges and a few other airline-sponsored clubs. Until now, however, there hasn't been a publicly available, pay-to-play club. That was remedied this week with the opening of the The Club at ATL on the mezzanine level of Concourse F. A day pass costs $35 or you can use your Priority Club, Priority Club Select or Lounge Club cards for free access. ... San Antonio is already blessed with a branch of the terrific Salt Lick barbecue restaurant and getting another interesting dining option. Chef Johnny Hernandez has opened an outpost of his LaGloria Mexican restaurant in Terminal A. You can also sample Hernandez's food at the Mission City Icehouse, a new bar that's also located in Terminal A. ... A 176-room Country Inns and Suites opened three miles from Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan. ... A 194-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel has opened at Aberdeen Airport in Scotland.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines is testing inter-terminal transfers using Mercedes sedans for elite-level flyers at its Houston/Intercontinental hub. In typical United fashion, there's no way to ask for the service or know if you'll receive it. It's a secret until you reach the airport. Delta Air Lines has been doing terminal transfers using Porsches at Atlanta/Hartsfield since late 2011. Limousine transfers for elite travelers originated with Lufthansa at its First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. ... Speaking of United, its attempt to raise fares $10 roundtrip last week crashed and burned. ... US Airways says it has installed Gogo in-flight WiFi on about 325 of its mainline aircraft and larger US Airways express commuter planes. ... Speaking of US Airways, it now offers online baggage-tracking service from check-in to touchdown. It's available here. ... Croatia became the 28th member of the European Union this month. It has not entered the Euro Zone financial mechanism, so the local currency is still the kuna. ... JetBlue Airways is testing more substantial food offerings on select transcontinental flights between its New York/Kennedy hub and California. The two-month trial is explained here.
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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.