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THE BRIEFING FOR SEP. 26-OCT. 10, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· Delta and Virgin Atlantic Do the Heathrow Shuffle
· They Just Keep Opening Focused-Service Hotels
· The Lounge Life Gets Just a Little Better at LAX
· Ancora! Alitalia Is Back on the Financial Ropes
· Southwest Raises Price of Its Cheapest Awards
· International Airlines Don't Love the Dreamliner
· China Has Quietly Revised Its U.S. Visa Policy


Delta and Virgin Atlantic Doing the Heathrow Shuffle
Delta Air Lines now owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic and this week they received antitrust immunity. That means they can coordinate schedules and airfares and run what the industry calls a "metal neutral" operation. (In other words, the two airlines will eventually share revenue on all flights between the United States and the United Kingdom.) It will also allow Delta and Virgin to put up a better flight against the American Airlines-British Airways alliance, the dominant players on the Anglo-American routes. Delta and Virgin also released their first revised schedule on the key New York-London run, by far the most profitable and prestigious route in the Western world. Effective March 30, the two airlines will operate seven flights a day each way between JFK and Heathrow. The earliest eastbound departure is 7:40 a.m. and the latest flight will be at 11:30 p.m. Westbound from Heathrow, the schedule will run from 9:05 a.m. until 10:05 p.m. Systemwide, the carriers will operate 32 peak daily nonstops between the two countries, 24 of which will originate or terminate at Heathrow. The others will use London's Gatwick airport. The two airlines recently launched reciprocal club-lounge access and earn-and-burn privileges in each other's frequent flyer plans.

They Just Keep Opening Those Focused-Service Hotels
The hotel industry is laser-focused on opening what seems to be an endless supply of focused-service hotels. Hyatt, for example, has opened a Hyatt Place in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 137-room property is located in the Shops at Stonefield. Meanwhile, Hilton has opened a 112-room Hilton Garden Inn in Knoxville. It is adjacent to the Knoxville campus of the University of Tennessee. InterContinental has opened a 104-room Holiday Inn Express in Scottsdale, Arizona. It's located at the intersection of Loop 101 and Tatum Boulevard. And Marriott has opened an 82-room Fairfield Inn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It's adjacent to the Sanford Pentagon Sports Complex. It also opened a 212-room Courtyard hotel in the Centre-Ville neighborhood of Montreal.

The Lounge Life Gets a Little Better at LAX
As officials slowly add additional services to the first phase of the renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International, the Star Alliance is the first to open a club lounge. The 18,000-square-foot facility, designed and operated by Air New Zealand, is open to business-class and Star Alliance Gold flyers. There is also a separate area reserved for first-class flyers. The club features an outdoor terrace with a fire pit and a water feature. ... Speaking of LAX, American Airlines international flyers take note: Ongoing construction means American must juggle international arrivals and departures. AA's overseas flights will leave from Bradley, but arrive at Terminal 4. Arriving flyers will then be bused to customs and immigration facilities inside the Bradley terminal. The only exception is AA's Shanghai flights, which will depart from and arrive at Bradley. ... Priority Pass cardholders take note: Your card is now valid for admittance to the Premium Plaza Lounge in the International Departures area of Terminal 1 at Toronto/Pearson; the Wingtips Lounge in Terminal 4 at New York/JFK; and the US Airways Club on Concourse C at New York/LaGuardia. Also new to the global network is the United Club in Terminal 2 West at San Diego. It is available only to full Priority Pass members, however.

Ancora! Alitalia Is on the Financial Ropes
Five years after Alitalia was rescued by a consortium of Italian investors and Air France-KLM, the airline is once again on the brink of bankruptcy and possible collapse. Buffeted by competition from high-speed rail services on its key domestic route between Rome and Milan and hit hard by low-cost competition on European routes from Ryanair and easyJet, Alitalia has lost nearly 1 billion euros since 2009 and run up another 1 billion euros in debt. The Italian government hopes that Air France-KLM, which owns 25 percent of Alitalia, will increase its investment. So far, however, Air France has been cool to the idea. The Alitalia board is raising fresh capital in the next few weeks in an attempt to woo Air France-KLM to pony up, too. ... The Boeing 787 Dreamliner continues to rile international airlines. Financially stressed LOT Polish, which deployed Dreamliners on U.S. routes to its Warsaw hub, has told Boeing that it wants compensation for the aircraft's delays. It wants a payment package by the end of the year. And Norwegian Air Shuttle, which launches a U.S. expansion next year based on the Dreamliner, this week demanded a private consult with Boeing. "We have not had the reliability that we expected from brand new planes," a Norwegian executive said. "Something must happen fast ... Clearly Boeing has not had good enough quality control."

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Southwest Rapid Rewards has increased the price of its cheapest award. Effective March 31, Wanna Get Away awards will cost 70 points, up from the current 60. No other award categories were devalued. ... US Airways and American Airlines have extended their merger agreement one month, until January 18. That should allow the judge in the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit to make her ruling. That trial is scheduled to begin on November 25. ... China has revised its policy on obtaining visas. If you are planning a trip soon, do not assume your old visa-acquisition method is valid. More details are here. ... British Airways has put an Airbus A380 on its Los Angeles-London/Heathrow route. BA has configured the double-decked behemoth with 469 seats. There are 14 suites in first, 97 seat-beds in business and 55 premium-economy chairs.

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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.