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THE BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 1-14, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· FAA's New Electronics Rule Isn't What You Think
· TSA Opens PreCheck Lanes at Five More Airports
· Alaska Air Increases Check-in Time to 40 Minutes
· JetBlue Expands Caribbean Network From FLL
· Western Hotels Continue Invasion of India Market
· Cathay Pacific Opens Another Hong Kong Lounge
· Turns Out United's Smisek Is Bad Tough Guy, Too


The FAA's New In-Flight Electronics Rule Isn't What You Think
The business-travel world was buzzing today (October 31) when the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on the use of in-flight personal electronic devices (PEDs) below 10,000 feet. But many media commentators rushed to judgment before carefully reading the FAA decision. This is what you need to know:
    The FAA essentially kicked the can and assigned responsibility to each carrier to make rules and ensure that their various aircraft meet government standards. Although Delta and JetBlue said they were nearly ready to allow PED usage below 10,000 feet, it could take until the end of the year for all airlines to get their ducks in electronic order.
    You still won't be able to use laptop computers below 10,000 feet because the FAA believes they could become projectiles as planes take off and land.
    WiFi won't be available below 10,000 feet on most domestic flights because the ground-to-air system used by Gogo, the leading provider, doesn't operate at lower altitudes.
    Although Ebook readers, tablets, smartphones, music players and other small PEDs will most likely be permitted on most carriers, the devices must be in airplane mode. Voice calls will not be permitted at any time in flight. And flight crews can bar the use of PEDs on any flight where they determine they might be a safety risk.

The TSA Opens PreCheck Lanes at Five More Airports
The Transportation Security Administration says it now offers the PreCheck security-bypass system at 97 airports nationwide. The five newest airports: Milwaukee; Manchester, New Hampshire; Tulsa; Tucson; and Portland, Maine. In other PreCheck news, the TSA is allowing some average travelers--in other words, flyers who don't have PreCheck via their elite status or Global Entry--to use the PreCheck lanes. Look for notification on your boarding pass. By the way, the TSA won't have its open-enrollment program for PreCheck ready until the end of the year. If it goes as the TSA promises, all flyers will be able to apply for an $85 fee. ... Alaska Airlines flyers take note: The carrier has increased the minimum check-in time for flights to 40 minutes from the current 30 minutes. Airports that already have a 45-minute check-in time on Alaska Air are not affected. Travelers still must be at the gate at least 30 minutes before scheduled departure time. ... Cathay Pacific has opened another lounge at its Hong Kong hub. Located on Level Five of the West Concourse near Gate 35, The Bridge Lounge covers 140,000 square feet. The lounge is open to Cathay's first- and business-class passengers, elite members of the Marco Polo Club and OneWorld Alliance elites with sapphire or higher status.

JetBlue Expands Its Caribbean Route Network From Fort Lauderdale
JetBlue Airways has made no secret of the fact that it expects to grow Fort Lauderdale into its third-largest city after its New York/Kennedy home and Boston/Logan. Now comes the Caribbean part of the expansion. On May 1, JetBlue will add three more destinations: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Port of Spain, Trinidad. There'll be a daily roundtrip on each route. The three new runs will bring JetBlue to 29 nonstops and 70 daily flights from Fort Lauderdale. ... Speaking of JetBlue, the carrier says that it has deferred delivery of two dozen new Embraer 190s. The 100-seat aircraft haven't exactly been winners for JetBlue because they aren't particularly fuel efficient and the airline has had a long series of maintenance issues. JetBlue says it will cap its EMB-190 fleet at 60 planes and up its order of new Airbus A321 aircraft. ... Hawaiian Airlines says it will add seasonal summer flights between Los Angeles and two additional Hawaii destinations: Lihue and Kona on the Big Island. The flights will run June 26 to September 19.

Western Chains Continue Their Invasion of India's Lodging Market
Hotel executives of the major Western hotel chains have been clear about their future growth plans: They expect to target the China and India markets with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new properties. This week it's the India part of the growth equation that is most notable. Marriott, for example, has opened three this week. The JW Marriott chain opened two new branches: the 297-room JW Marriott Bengaluru overlooking Cubbon Parks and the 523-room JW Marriott New Delhi. The former is in the Aerocity project adjacent to the city's airport. The hotel had been completed for some time, but security concerns about the Aerocity project's proximity to the airport slowed the opening. More than 4,000 more guestrooms are due to open soon in Aerocity. Separately, Ritz-Carlton opened a 277-room hotel in Bangalore, India's third-largest city. It is located on Residency Road in the downtown business district. And InterContinental has opened a 398-room Crowne Plaza in Noida, an upcoming commercial development just outside of New Delhi. ... And speaking of China, Ritz-Carlton has opened a 277-room/53-suite hotel in Tianjin. Tianjin is China's fourth-largest metropolitan area.

Turns Out United's Jeff Smisek Stinks at Being a Tough Guy, Too
We could spend hours talking about what's wrong with United Airlines, but it boils down to one root cause: Chief executive Jeff Smisek does not want to hear that his carrier stinks. Not only has Smisek been unable to rally United since the woebegone operational merger with Continental Airlines in February, 2012, but he's also a faux tough guy. Remember when the Transportation Department initiated the three-hour tarmac rule in 2010 and threatened to fine carriers as much as $27,500 per violation? Remember tough-guy Smisek's response? "The government, by God, says, 'We're going to fine you $27,500,' " he thundered. "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to cancel the flight. In the face of a fine like that, we're going to cancel a lot of flights." Apparently not. Last week the DOT slapped United with a record $1.1 million fine for stranding 13 flights on the tarmac at Chicago/O'Hare on July 13, 2012. According to the DOT, more than 900 United passengers were held on aircraft for more than three hours while United ignored its own rules and refused to ask the airport for assistance during a severe thunderstorm. United will pay the government $475,000 of the fine; the rest of the money can be diverted to improving United's storm systems.

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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.