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THE BRIEFING FOR NOVEMBER 14-28, 2013
By Joe Brancatelli

· JetBlue, Southwest Will Go Head-to-Head on Slots
· Hyatt Raises the Cost of Awards at Its Best Hotels
· Delta Adding Flights at Sea-Tac and Boston/Logan
· Marriott Opens New Hotels in All Price Segments
· Southwest Airlines Joins the TSA PreCheck Plan
· More Carriers Allow PED Use Below 10,000 Feet
· Alaska Raises the Price of Many Flight Awards


Slot War Redux: JetBlue and Southwest Will Go Head-to-Head Again
When Delta Air Lines and US Airways swapped airport assets in New York and Washington in 2011, the federal government required a slot divestiture at LaGuardia and National airports. JetBlue Airways bested Southwest Airlines in that auction and they're likely to go head-to-head again as the government arranges for the sale of more LaGuardia and National slots as part of the Justice Department's approval of the American Airlines-US Airways merger. Four times as many slots at the two capacity-controlled airports will come up for bid this time compared to the 2011 auction. It will include enough slots to operate 17 roundtrips at LaGuardia and 52 roundtrips at National. "This is the mother lode of access to high-income flyers," one airline executive told me after the DOJ decision was announced on Tuesday (November 12). "If you want to be a serious player in the east, you want a huge chunk of these slots." That should put JetBlue and Southwest at the top of the list of bidders. There might also be interest from Virgin America, which reported its first back-to-back profitable quarters this week. Delta says it wants to bid, too, but Justice Department officials made clear that they will design the auction to benefit alternate carriers, not the three remaining legacy airlines. Stay tuned, fellow travelers. This'll be a hot one in 2014.

Hyatt Raises the Cost of Awards at Its Best Hotels
Depending on your hotel tastes, Hyatt Gold Passport is doing a gentle or ferocious devaluation of its award chart effective January 7. You'll be in the "gentle" camp if you mostly claim for focused-service properties or standard Hyatt hotels in less-expensive cities. But you'll be in the "ferocious" camp if you stay at the chain's best global properties or like claiming suites or Regency Club rooms. For starters, Hyatt has created a new top tier, Category 7, that requires 30,000 points a night for a reward. Six properties--the Park Hyatts in Beaver Creek, Milan, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo and Zurich--have been moved into Category 7. Hyatt also raised the price of awards in Categories 5 and 6 by two or three thousand points. Also increased: the price of awards you use for suites or Regency Club rooms. At the same time, Hyatt juggled classifications of more than three dozen individual properties. The chain moved 21 properties up one category and moved 17 down one category. Full details of the changes are here. ... Speaking of devaluations, the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is raising some award prices effective January 14. Prices for seats to Hawaii go up 2,500-5,000 miles and the price of Mexico and domestic last-available-seat awards will also be higher. The price of restricted domestic awards is mostly unchanged. ... Travelers who hold the American Express Hilton Surpass credit card now receive complimentary gold status in Hilton HHonors. Previously, the card only offered gold status during the first year.

Delta Challenging Airport Status Quo From Coast to Coast
Delta Air Lines had the least-contentious merger, it makes the most money and now it's taking on the airport status quo from coast to coast. At Seattle-Tacoma, where Delta has been challenging its code-share partner Alaska Airlines for months, there are even more new routes coming. Delta will add four daily flights to San Diego and four daily flights to Portland, Oregon. Flights will run with 76-seat jets flown by Delta Connection partner SkyWest. And at Boston/Logan, it looks as if Delta is preparing to take on JetBlue Airways, the current king of Beantown. Delta will add flights to Jacksonville, Florida, on March 3 and to Richmond on March 6. Both of those runs will be handled with 76-seat regional jets. Delta will also begin three daily flights to Las Vegas on March 6 using Boeing 737-800s. And one of its commuter carriers will begin flying 76-seat regional jets on a Saturday-only schedule to Turks & Caicos on March 8. ... United Airlines says one of its commuter carriers will launch 50-seat jet service to Atlantic City from its Chicago/O'Hare and Houston/Intercontinental hubs. Flights begin on April 1.

Marriott Opens a Burst of Hotels at Both Ends of the Price Spectrum
Marriott is quickly adding hotels at both ends of the price spectrum. At the top end, Ritz-Carlton opened a 145-room property in Almaty, the largest city in and former capital of Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, the Marriott brand opened a 111-room hotel in Quebec City. The property is on the Place d'Youville and is a full renovation of a former Courtyard hotel. There's also a 129-room Residence Inn in the lower Hudson Valley in Orangeburg, New York. At the lower-priced end of the scale, there's a 96-room SpringHill Suites in Ridgeville, Mississippi, and a 74-room Fairfield Inn in Natchitoches, Louisiana. ... A 109-room Homewood Suites by Hilton has opened near Sea World in San Antonio. ... A 255-room Hyatt Place opened in Nashville near the Country Music Hall of Fame. ... Holiday Inn has raised its flag over the 98-room Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota. ... Westin opened a 305-room hotel in Singapore's Marina Bay development.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
A few more airlines have gotten FAA approval to allow the use of personal electronics devices under 10,000 feet. Alaska Airlines is now approved as is its Horizon Air commuter carrier. Four other commuters--ExpressJet, PSA, CompassAir and Endeavor Air--also got the all-clear. Flights operated by American Eagle (as opposed to other American Airlines commuter carriers) are also cleared. ... Southwest Airlines flyers take note: The airline is now in the TSA PreCheck security bypass program. It is the last of the major carriers to participate. You can find more information here. ... Advantage Rent A Car, spun off by Hertz when it acquired Dollar Thrifty, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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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.