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THE BRIEFING FOR APRIL 3-APRIL 17, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli
· A Few Tremors as US Airways Shifts to Oneworld
· United Drops Still More Routes From Cleveland
· Delta Shuffles Terminals at London/Heathrow
· Stick a Pin in a Globe and You'll New Find Hotels
· SAS Adds All-Business-Class Route From Houston
· Dubai Slaps a Tourism Tax on All Hotel Guests
· Just Wait Until Justice Alito Gets Downgraded
A Few Tremors as US Airways Shifts to Oneworld
US Airways joined the Oneworld Alliance on Monday (March 31) and that caused several tremors of activity both in-flight and in our frequent flyer programs. On the flying side, there is some jargon juggling. To line up with American Airlines, US Airways has dumped Envoy as the name of its business class and adopted the much more prosaic Business Class. And economy (aka coach) adopts American's less-nasty sounding Main Cabin branding. US Airways has also aligned its food, beverage and in-flight entertainment policies with American. That'll result in some slight upgrades, not because American is so great, but because US Airways has been so awful. More substantively, US Airways is also trying to convince Dividend Miles members to fly its new Oneworld partners. The lure? A stair-step promotion that will award travelers between 500 and 25,000 miles depending on how many Oneworld carriers you fly before June 30. Full details and the required registration form are here. Meanwhile, at least one of US Airways' jilted Star Alliance partners is fighting back. Air Canada will match your elite Dividend Miles status if you make your request by April 30 and fly the carrier by May 31. Full details of that offer are here.
United Cuts in Cleveland Again, Delta Shuffles at Heathrow
Only two months after United Airlines announced it was slashing flights and "de-hubbing" Cleveland operations, the carrier is quietly slicing even more service at Ohio's busiest airport. United's June schedule shows that flights to Baltimore-Washington and Albany are also being dumped. The airline has also accelerated plans to dump flights to Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Those routes will now end on April 30 instead of June. ... Delta Air Lines, which owns 49 percent of London-based Virgin Atlantic, is moving some of its flights at Heathrow Airport. Delta flights from New York/Kennedy, Boston and Seattle-Tacoma will now arrive at and depart from Virgin's facilities in Heathrow Terminal 3. Delta's other London flights will continue to use Terminal 4, however. Separately, Delta decided it would not launch Chicago/O'Hare-Heathrow service this winter. It was due to run the service when Virgin's seasonal flights end in October. ... The former Hilton Norfolk Airport has switched flags within the Hilton Family and is now the 270-room DoubleTree.
SAS Will Fly an All-Business-Class Route From Houston
Ever heard of Stavanger, Norway? Unless you're in the oil and gas game, chances are Stavanger is as exotic to you as a glass of aquavit, the herbal liquor. But maybe you should order a shot of aquavit soon because SAS Scandinavian announced this week that it'll launch flights in August between Houston/Intercontinental and Stavanger. Better yet, the six weekly flights will be all business class, offering just 44 seats on a specially configured Boeing 737-700. In case you're wondering why this route makes any sense at all, you should know that Stavanger is a hub for Norway's North Sea energy industry. And Houston, of course, is a hub for SAS' Star Alliance partner United Airlines as well as being an energy town. In fact, Singapore Airlines runs a nonstop Houston-Moscow flight so Texas travelers have a direct connection to Russia's burgeoning energy business. ... Delta Air Lines says it is adding a few amenities for coach passengers on international flights. Each flyer will receive an amenity kit that contains eyeshades and earplugs. Coach travelers on some transatlantic flights will also receive upgraded meals, more snacks and bottled water. Also, mandatory in-flight beatings for not paying enough for your coach ticket will be ended. (Okay, I made that last part up.) ... Air China will launch service between Washington/Dulles and Beijing. Effective June 10, there will be four weekly flights using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft configured with lie-flat beds in first and business classes.
Stick a Pin in a Globe...and You'll Find Another New Branded Hotel
With the U.S. hotel market a bit saturated, the global lodging giants are, well, getting more global. This week's new properties are literally all over the place. In China, for example, there's the first Renaissance in Chengdu and the first Hyatt Regency in Shanghai. The Chengdu Renaissance has 348 rooms and is located north of the Tianfu Interchange Bridge. The Hyatt Regency has 235 rooms and is on Chongming Island. ... Speaking of Renaissance, Marriott's supposedly higher style full-service brand has also debuted in Santiago, Chile. The 181-room property is in the Vitacura neighborhood. ... Speaking of Marriott, it has opened new Courtyard properties in Tokyo; Cologne, Germany; and Bilaspur, India. The Tokyo branch has 150 rooms and is located in a 21-story tower in the Kyobashi district. The 106-room Bilaspur hotel is in the city's commercial center. The 236-room hotel in Cologne is in the Kunibertsviertel neighborhood. ... A 115-room Holiday Inn Express has opened in the Condado district of San Juan, Puerto Rico. ... The 235-room Melia Santo Domingo hotel in the capital of the Dominican Republic has been reflagged as a Sheraton.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Forbes magazine has agreed to slap its name on newsstands at major airports. The first one is open at Detroit/Metro. There will also be Forbes-branded kiosks by the end of the month at Washington/National and Washington/Dulles. ... Apparently Dubai, which builds lavish office towers, absurd communities in the sea and is the money behind Emirates Airline, needs cash to promote tourism. Effective immediately, hotel guests in the Gulf emirate will pay a sliding nightly tax based on the quality of their lodging. Five-star properties will collect 20 dirham (about US$5.50) and guests at four-stay hotels will pay 15 (about US$4) a night.
But Just Wait Until Justice Alito Doesn't Get His Upgrade
The Supreme Court has ruled for airlines in a case that pitted a Northwest Airlines frequent flyer against the carrier. Northwest unilaterally expelled the traveler in 2008 and confiscated all of his miles. His offense, according to Northwest? He complained too much. The expelled member, Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg, tried to sue under Minnesota contract law. But the justices decided that airlines essentially have the unfettered right to control the programs and run them as they see fit unless you are prepared to sue in a federal court. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the unanimous Supreme Court decision.
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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 © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.