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THE BRIEFING FOR JULY 25 - AUG. 8, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· TSA Will Expand PreCheck to All Flyers Who Pay
· Delta Will Launch Nonstop Seattle-Heathrow Run
· To Get Merger, US Air-American Will Shed Slots
· Detroit's Pontchartrain Reopens as Crowne Plaza
· A Few Flyers Generate the Most Transcon Dough
· Qantas Offers Limos to Some DFW, LAX Flyers
· Hyatt Will Open All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico


TSA Will Expand PreCheck to All Flyers Who Pay for the Privilege
If you've been bemoaning the fact that the frequent flyer-friendly PreCheck program has passed you by, the Transportation Security Administration has some good news. Starting this fall, you'll be able to enroll in PreCheck even if you don't hold elite status with an airline. The catch? You'll have to pay $85 for the privilege and show up at a PreCheck enrollment center to verify your identity and provide fingerprints. But that raises a practical question: Why wait until fall and give the TSA $85 when you can have PreCheck clearance right now? Joining Global Entry from the Customs and Border Protection service comes with PreCheck privileges. It also allows you to use automated kiosks at dozens of airports so you can bypass customs and immigration lines when you return to the United States. Global Entry costs $100 for five years and some credit cards (most notably, American Express Platinum) will reimburse the fee. Even if you don't get a credit card kickback, the extra $15 paid for a Global Entry membership seems more practical and cost-effective for most frequent flyers yet to get PreCheck clearance.

Delta Will Launch a Nonstop Route Between Seattle and Heathrow
Hot on the heels of a deal to acquire 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines is making another move to bulk up at London/Heathrow. Beginning March 29, Delta will launch daily flights from Seattle/Tacoma, an airport where it has also been building its presence. From Seattle, Delta already flies to five airports in Asia (Tokyo/Narita, Tokyo/Haneda, Shanghai, Beijing and Osaka) as well as Paris, Amsterdam and New York/Kennedy. It also has a code-share and frequent flyer partnership with Alaska Airlines, the major player at Sea/Tac. ... Here's a route you probably never expected to see: Air Canada will launch service between Calgary and Red Deer on September 3. The three daily flights will operate with 18-seat prop planes. In case you're wondering, Red Deer is a 90-minute drive from Calgary or Edmonton. ... Out in Hawaii, Mokulele Airlines will add a route between Waimea (MUE) on the Big Island and Kahului on Maui. Twice-daily flights on 9-seat Cessnas launch on September 21.

US Air, American Offer to Shed Slots for Philadelphia Competitor
US Airways chief executive (and American Airlines CEO in waiting) Doug Parker has been trying to double-talk U.S. regulators into keeping all of the merged US Air-AA slots at Washington/National Airport. He won't succeed, of course, and Parker has already folded in talks with regulators of the European Union. The European regulators are concerned that the merged US-AA and its Oneworld partner British Airways would control all of the service between US Airways' Philadelphia hub and BA's London/Heathrow fortress. Parker has offered to surrender a pair of slots at Heathrow to be used by a new carrier serving Philadelphia-London. That will probably satisfy the European regulators, but it does raise one big question: Who would the new competitor be? Neither United nor Delta has much "behind gateway" service to Philadelphia to help fill the daily flight to London. Virgin Atlantic, the other British competitor, is desperately trying to cut its heavy losses.

Detroit's Pontchartrain Rises From the Ashes as a Crowne Plaza
The never-ending soap opera that is the Detroit hotel market took another weird turn this week: Downtown's long-shuttered Hotel Pontchartrain has reopened as the Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown. The 367-room icon is across the street from the Cobo Center, one-time home of the Detroit Pistons. ... Marriott continues to open hotels in bunches. New this week: Courtyard properties in New Bern, North Carolina; downtown Cincinnati; and Leon, Mexico. It also opened a 97-room Residence Inn in Greenville, North Carolina, and a 92-room Fairfield Inn on Chincoteague Island, Virginia. ... Hyatt continues to expand its focused-service chains. New this week: a second Hyatt Place hotel in the Cottonwood Corporate Center in Salt Lake City and a 137-room Hyatt House in the North Hills area of Raleigh. ... Hilton has opened a 203-room Embassy Suites in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Just a Few Flyers Generate Most of the Dough on the Transcons
The fabled Transcontinental Triangle--the flights between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco--has long been the star of the U.S. route map and the nation's most ferociously competitive runs. The otherwise dull stories about the transcons in The Wall Street Journal this week nevertheless did have some statistics worth noting. According to Transportation Department numbers massaged by the Planestats Web site, just 9 percent of American Airlines' transcon customers pay $1,000 or more roundtrip on the JFK-LAX route. Yet those flyers contributed an eye-opening 45 percent of the $202 million in revenue American racked up on the route. Over at United Airlines, 14 percent of its JFK-LAX flyers paid more than $1,000 roundtrip and they accounted for 58 percent of United's $101 million in revenue on the route.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
After bulking up in Las Vegas via a recent deal with MGM Resorts, Hyatt is mounting an assault on the all-inclusive hotel market. An agreement with Playa hotels will mean 13 Hyatt-branded resorts in Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Some resorts will be newly built, others will be existing Playa properties that will be renovated and reflagged. The first two Playa-to-Hyatt conversions should be ready in Mexico later this year. ... Qantas now offers free chauffeur service for business- and first-class flyers in Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. The service is free within 40 miles of LAX or DFW. Complete details are here. ... American Airlines has opened a private Flagship Check-In facility at its Chicago/O'Hare hub. It's located near the first-class check-in counter at Checkpoint 8 on the upper level of Terminal 3. It's available to ConciergeKey members, first-class international flyers and travelers who've purchased Five Star Service.

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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.