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THE BRIEFING FOR SEPT. 25-OCT. 9, 2014
By Joe Brancatelli

· Get Ready for the Big Winter Capacity Pulldown
· American Dumps El Al Frequent Flyer Partnership
· Southwest Gets Five New Gates at Denver Airport
· Just What We Needed: More Hotels in Atlanta
· New Places in the Florida Sun to Use Your Points
· WiFi Is Now (Mostly) Free at Houston Airports
· Must to Avoid: United Flight 125 From Berlin


Get Ready for the Big Winter Capacity Pulldown
The seat crunch in coach gets more publicity--Bill McGee's fine statistical analysis this week updates my column from two years ago--but something else is also shrinking: the flight network itself. According to government statistics, there will be 15 percent fewer flights this year compared to 2007, the last full year before the Great Recession. That translates to about 8 percent fewer seats. And coming months won't bring much relief. United Airlines will shrink its first-quarter 2015 capacity by more than 6 percent. United will pull down its Washington/Dulles hub by about 14 percent, cut capacity at its Denver and Los Angeles hubs by about 7 percent and slash flights at Tokyo/Narita by 17 percent. The airline hasn't confirmed these specific estimates, but United chief revenue officer Jim Compton said the strategy is undeniable. "That is just the right thing to do," he said this week about United's withered winter schedule. But United is hardly alone. Delta Air Lines, which has made many of its transatlantic routes seasonal, is pulling down winter service on its Seattle-Tokyo/Haneda route, too. That route, moved from its Detroit hub just last year, won't operate between October and March.

American Dumps Its El Al Frequent Flyer Partnership
If you've been using American AAdvantage miles to claim award seats on El Al Airlines, time to rethink your strategy. Effective November 1, El Al is out of AAdvantage. You won't be able to accrue AAdvantage miles on El Al flights. But while AAdvantage award tickets on El Al must be booked by October 31, you can claim seats for flights until October 31, 2015. ... Planning a little fun in the Miami area sun this winter and want to use hotel points? Here's some good news. Effective October 1, Ritz-Carlton is reflagging the 127-room One Bal Harbour Resort and that means it'll be available via the Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs. (One Bal Harbour was known as the Regent until 2009.) Meanwhile, Wyndham has put its flag on the Shelborne South Beach hotel on Collins Avenue. That means it is available via the Wyndham Rewards program. But beware: The 200-room hotel, first opened in 1940, redesigned by the legendary Morris Lapidus and remade just a few years ago, is undergoing still another renovation. ... IHG Rewards is picking up another Paris property. The 57-room Hotel Indigo-Opera has debuted in 9th Arrondissement. It had been operating as an apartment hotel for a French chain.

Southwest Gets Five New Gates at Denver International
As Frontier Airlines contracts at Denver International, it's beginning to look like a two-carrier battle for dominance. And Southwest Airlines, which only resumed Denver flights in 2008, now has a new weapon to fight against incumbent United Airlines: five new gates on Concourse C. The newbies are designated C23 through C27. But what Denver giveth, it also taketh away. The $46 million project now moves on to Gates C28 through C31, which are closed for renovation. And travelers will also have to make due with temporary bars, coffee shops and retail outlets. When the project is completed in November and C28-C31 reopens, Southwest will move the flights that currently operate from Concourse A. Meanwhile, Frontier is busily dismantling its Denver hub. By the end of the year, five more routes are disappearing: to Bismarck and Minot, North Dakota; and to Santa Barbara, Bakersfield and Fresno, California. ... Houston/Hobby and Houston/Intercontinental now have free WiFi access. All terminal areas at Hobby have complimentary service, but only Terminals A and D at Intercontinental have the free WiFi. Terminals B, C and E should get free WiFi by the end of the year.

Just What We Needed: More Hotels in Atlanta
After many years of oversupply and below-big-market nightly rates, Atlanta occupancy (and prices) has trended up this year. But fear not: There are so many properties in the Metropolitan area pipeline that rates shouldn't jump in the months ahead. This week's newbies: an 80-room Hampton Inn in suburban McDonough and a 122-room Homewood Suites on Bobby Brown Parkway about a mile from Hartsfield Airport. ... Hyatt has opened its first property in Anaheim in more than 20 years. The 178-room Hyatt Place is located within walking distance of the Anaheim Convention Center. ... New from Marriott this week: a 79-room Fairfield Inn in Benton, Arkansas, and a 99-room Courtyard in Phenix City, Alabama. ... A 125-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened in West Chester, Ohio. ... A 130-room Holiday Inn Express has opened in Spruce Grove, Alberta. ... New from Starwood: a 240-room Sheraton in Adana, Turkey, and the 133-room Element in the Gateway Gardens area near Frankfurt Airport. ... This week's notable conversions: The former Hampton Inn on Salisbury Road in Jacksonville, Florida, is now the Country Inns & Suites and the former Sheraton in Arlington, Virginia, has been renovated and reopened as the 220-room Westin Crystal City. It's about a mile from Washington/National Airport.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines travelers take note: Effective October 1, the carrier says it will check through bags on separate tickets only if your itinerary includes flights on Oneworld Alliance airlines. For other multi-ticket trips, you must recheck your bags with the other airline. ... United Airlines continues to find creative ways to infuriate customers. Over the last two weeks, United Flight 125 from Berlin to Newark has been diverted seven times. The Boeing 757s serving the route have gone to Gander twice, Bangor four times and Goose Bay once. ... The Congressionally mandated rise in TSA security fees in July is partially going to offset a reduction of levies on the airlines. According to The Hill.com, airlines will pay about $373 million less per year to the TSA.

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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.