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THE BRIEFING FOR OCTOBER 17-31, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· New Discounter to London: Norwegian Air Shuttle
· Amex Opens DFW Club, Waives Fee for Platinums
· Hyatt Adds Three More Hyatt Place Properties
· American Airlines Juggles Asia Flight Network
· A New Runway Should Reduce Delays at ORD
· JetBlue Will Fly Between Boston and Detroit
· An Injured Kangaroo Hops Into an Airport ...


The New Discounter on London Routes? Norwegian Air Shuttle
Before this summer, American business travelers probably never heard of Norwegian Air Shuttle, a carrier that SAS cast off two decades ago. But its launch of flights between key U.S. markets and Scandinavia this year went so well that it has already announced a huge expansion next summer. Now comes more startling news: Norwegian says it will launch flights between the United States and London's Gatwick airport. Starting in July, Norwegian will fly its Boeing 787 Dreamliners between London and Los Angeles, New York/Kennedy and Fort Lauderdale. The service won't run every day, but the buy-in prices are exceptional: as low as $239 each way from New York. That's about half the going summer rate from the major carriers on the London route. Of course, Norwegian is one of those we-charge-for-everything European airlines, so your total price will certainly vary. The one potential fly in the ointment? Norwegian has had a fjord's worth of problems with its Dreamliners and any expansion rests on Boeing's ability to keep the troubled B787s in the air.

Amex Opens Another Lounge, Waives Fees for Platinums
Despite its claims to the contrary, American Express sure seems intent on building a network of swanky airport lounges. After opening the upmarket Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas earlier this year, Amex has now opened one in Terminal D of Dallas/Fort Worth. The 9,000-square-foot lounge offers cuisine from Dean Fearing, the much-honored Dallas chef; special cocktails; free WiFi; and personal computers and workspace. Amex has also changed entry rules to benefit business travelers. Originally, only holders of the black Centurion Card received free entry. Now Amex has extended free entry to Platinum cardholders, too. All other Amex members continue to pay $50 a pop, however. ... JetBlue Airways, the power player at Boston/Logan, is marking another milestone there. It will launch three daily Boston-Detroit/Metro flights on March 10. It will be JetBlue's 51st route from Boston and its first route into Delta's DTW hub. JetBlue says that it will use EMB-190s on the run. ... Separately, JetBlue has moved its Sacramento flights into Terminal A. They have been using Terminal B.

Hyatt Adds Three More Hyatt Place Properties in Major Cities
As the last major hotel chain to enter the so-called focused-service lodging category, Hyatt is playing catch-up with its Hyatt Place brand. This week, for example, it opened three more. The 213-room Hyatt Place Minneapolis Downtown is a $20 million remake of a property formerly known as a Comfort Inn and the Aspen Suites. Also new: the 172-room Hyatt Place Charlotte/Downtown, which will have a rooftop restaurant, bar and pool. Finally, there's the oceanfront Hyatt Place Daytona Beach where all 143 guestrooms have private balconies. ... Marriott has opened three new Residence Inn properties: a 106-room branch in Albany; a 101-room location in Largo, Maryland; and a 103-room outpost in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington. The Foggy Bottom hotel is a conversion of a former Doubletree Suites. ... New from Starwood this week: a 135-room Aloft in Beachwood, a Cleveland suburb. Starwood has also converted the 55-villa Evason Hideaway in Hua Hin, Thailand, into the Sheraton Hua Hin Pranburi Villas.

American Juggles Its Asia Flight Network
American Airlines is adding two routes to Asia from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub and dropping a route from its New York/Kennedy hub. The new DFW additions are daily flights to both Shanghai/Pudong and Hong Kong. Pending government approval, those will launch next summer. The DFW-Hong Kong run will be American's first route into the former Crown Colony and will be operated with the airline's new Boeing 777-300ERs. The Shanghai run will use B777-200s. Can DFW support the service? Not with local traffic only, according to Chuck Schubert, American's vice president of network planning. "There is a local demand, albeit not large," he says, "but DFW is our connect gateway and we can flow a lot of traffic from Latin America. The demand for Latin America-Asia service is growing fast." At the same time, however, American is dumping nonstops between JFK and Haneda, Tokyo's close-in airport. The "flight has been quite unprofitable," admits Virasb Vahidi, American's chief commercial officer. The last flight will be on December 1 and United Airlines has already applied to take over American's Haneda slots to launch service from its San Francisco hub. Don't be surprised if Delta Air Lines makes a play for the Haneda slots. too.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A new runway opened today (October 17) at Chicago/O'Hare. It is expected to reduce delays and/or allow airlines to add thousands of new flights a year. ... Thinking about heading to next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia? Lufthansa says it'll add a route between its Frankfurt hub and Sochi from January 24 to March 17. ... Aer Lingus now offers WiFi on its A330 aircraft. That means U.S.-Ireland flights. ... Air France/KLM says it would be interested in taking over Alitalia, but only under specific conditions. Earlier this week, the Italian airline's shareholders agreed to a cash injection to keep it operating. The Italian government also brought in the Italian post office as a financial partner. ... The dry-ice "bombs" that exploded several times this week at Los Angeles International were planted by a 28-year-old airport employee who said he meant them as pranks. He's being held on $1 million bail.

An Injured Kangaroo Hops Into an Airport Pharmacy ...
Parts of the airport terminal in Melbourne, Australia, were briefly closed on Wednesday (October 16) due to a kangaroo on the loose. The animal was injured and eventually cornered when he entered the terminal's pharmacy shop. According to news reports, the kangaroo was tranquilized and is now in veterinary care. Other than noting that he's subsequently been named Cyrus, I don't know what else to say that wouldn't sound like a really bad joke ...

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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.