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THE BRIEFING FOR AUGUST 21 TO 31, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli

· Cathay Pacific Talks About Being 'World's Best'
· Planes, Trains and Korean Burgers at the Airport
· Iceland Warns of New, Flight-Killing Eruptions
· Hyatt Adds Two More Properties in New York City
· Two New Holiday Inn Express Hotels for Atlanta
· United Makes Minor Upgrades in First-Class Food
· Dallas/Fort Worth Now Has a Mass-Transit Link


Cathay Pacific Talks About Being the 'World's Best' Airline
No savvy business traveler cares when some organization or other names some airline or other the "world's best." And except for the public relations puffery, airline executives privately tell you they don't care, either. But I happened to be in Hong Kong last month when Cathay Pacific won the 2014 "world's best" designation from Skytrax. So I checked in with Toby Smith, Cathay's general manager of product, who's in charge of the carrier's in-flight product and lounges. What, I wondered, made an airline "best" in his mind? "It's not one thing," he explained. "It's a confluence of factors: the seats, the cabin interiors, the flight crews, the lounges. The overall combination of the experience is what flyers remember and what leads them to say you're better than another airline." And which carriers does Smith watch as he plans Cathay Pacific's premium cabins? "We're very happy with our business class, we think it is the best," Smith said without boasting. "I'm not a fan personally of private cabins in first class, so I'm happy with our approach to first class, too. But I do pay attention to Emirates when it comes to in-flight entertainment systems and the content it loads. And Qantas' first- and business-class lounges are something I am careful to watch."
(Friday, August 22, update: Cathay Pacific announced today that it would launch nonstop flights from Boston/Logan to Hong Kong on May 3.)

Planes, Trains and Korean Burgers at the Airport
A new burger joint at an airport doesn't normally generate much interest, but it is interesting to note that a branch of the Kraze Burger chain is now open on Concourse C at Baltimore-Washington International. Kraze is a much-discussed upmarket burger-and-sandwich joint that originated in South Korea. The company has expanded to more than 100 outlets there, including Seoul Incheon Airport, but the chain is also mired in bankruptcy. The U.S. operation hasn't been financially successful, either. Many U.S. Kraze Burger outlets opened since 2011 in Washington, Virginia and Maryland have closed after running up huge debts. Some burger aficionados are mad for Kraze's locally sourced ingredients and unique sandwich combinations. ... Speaking of controversial food options, a branch of Ben's Chili Bowl has opened before the security checkpoint for the Terminal B gates at Washington National Airport. Some folks adore the Washington institution, others wonder what all the fuss is about. ... The Orange Line of the Dallas DART mass-transit system has opened a station at Dallas/Fort Worth airport. The train arrives and departs from Terminal A. ... United Airlines continues to trim commuter routes to smaller airports in the West. The latest routes to get the chop: flights from its San Francisco hub to Chico, California; service from its Los Angeles hub to Yuma, Arizona; and intra-California flights from Arcata/Eureka to Crescent City and Sacramento. ... Starwood has converted a former Wyndham hotel just outside the gates of Nashville airport to a 101-room Four Points property.

It's Ba-a-a-a-ck! Iceland Warns of New, Flight-Killing Eruptions
Remember the volcanic eruptions in Iceland that spewed ash into North Atlantic skies and grounded flights in 2010 and 2011? Apparently, we're back to the future. Iceland's weather and seismic experts have raised the ash-alert level to orange, the highest they've got on the island. Airlines are monitoring the situation and may be forced to cancel flights in the days ahead. So it's back to the volcano watch. Plan accordingly. ... Marriott has opened a 271-room Marriott in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and a 117-room Protea in the Ikeja suburb of Lagos, Nigeria. Perhaps more importantly in traffic-choked Lagos, it's just 3.5 miles from the airport. ... Branches of Holiday Inn Express have opened in Culiacan, Mexico, (174 rooms) and Tegucigalpa, Honduras (108 rooms). ... American Airlines is splitting its service to Milan. Between January 6 and March 28, three flights a week will operate from its Miami hub and daily flights from New York/Kennedy will be reduced to four a week.

Hyatt Adds Two More Properties in New York
Hyatt has been playing catch-up in the New York City market for years and recently added a pair of Andaz properties in Manhattan, two Hyatt Place hotels and three traditional Hyatt branches. And this week it opened a Park Hyatt inside the 90-story One57 tower overlooking Central Park. Almost half of the 210 rooms are suites and standard accommodations are 475 square feet. All of the rooms, located on the first 25 floors of the tower, have floor-to-ceiling windows. You'll pay for all of that luxury, though. Rates start at $700 a night. Meanwhile, a two-year-old Holiday Inn in Herald Square has closed and it will reopen in October as a Hyatt. The 122-room property will get a top-to-bottom revamp to bring it up to Hyatt brand standards. ... Speaking of Hyatt, a 172-room Hyatt Place opened in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. ... InterContinental has opened its 200th StayBridge Suites, a 102-room property in Denver. It also added two Holiday Inn Express hotels in Atlanta. The 139-room branch is near the Galleria and the 123-room outpost is in the Buckhead neighborhood. ... New from Marriott this week: Residence Inn properties in Texarkana, Texas, (121 rooms) and Bloomington, Illinois (100 rooms); TownePlace Suites in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, (112 rooms) and Red Deer, Alberta (92 rooms); a 123-room Courtyard in Bensalem, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania; and Fairfield Inn hotels in Uptown Charlotte (196 rooms) and Monaca, Pennsylvania (82 rooms).

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines has been reaping a whirlwind of publicity today (August 21) for what is actually a minor upgrade in domestic first-class food service. On flights longer than 800 miles (and some highly competitive shorter routes), first-class customers will be offered new soup, salad and sandwich options as well as sparkling wine. The new meals begin appearing on September 1 and will be extended to 13 new United Express routes in February. ... The world's busiest international route is now Hong Kong-Taipei, Taiwan, which had 4.8 million passengers in 2013. Fastest growing of the ten busiest international routes? New York-Paris with 1.5 million flyers in 2013, up 16.9 percent from 2012. ... Priority Pass cardholders take note: You now have access to the SkyTeam Lounge in Terminal 4 of London/Heathrow.

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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.