By Joe Brancatelli

· Oh, Woe Is the Dollar...and Woe Is Us
· Domestic Expansion for Alternate Carriers
· Boy, We Sure Need Another Hotel Brand
· Boy, We Sure Need More NY-London Airlines
· Westjet Steps Into the Gap in Vancouver
· Another Annoying Fee From Northwest Airlines
· United Does the Right Thing While Killing Ameniti

Oh, Woe Is the Dollar...and Woe Is Us
That crashing sound you heard this week was the U.S. dollar plummeting through the metaphoric floor against both the British pound and the euro. At the end of trading today (April 19), the pound was worth slightly more than US$2, the worst showing for the greenback in more than 15 years. (It's also a far cry from the near parity of US$1 = £1.04 reached in the spring and summer of 1985.) Meanwhile, the euro closed today at US$1.36, which is at or near the dollar's worst showing ever against the 13-nation currency. In the first few months of trading when it became a street currency in 2002, the euro was commanding as little as 85 U.S. cents. Needless to say, with the dollar at these depths, European business trips will be pricey indeed. Even luxury flyers and businesspeople on big expense accounts get pinched when the dollar is this woefully weak.

Endless Opportunity for the Other Guys
The major carriers admit they are looking overseas for growth and are reducing domestic flying. So guess what? The alternate airlines are moving right into the domestic gap. Southwest Airlines, for example, will launch a daily flight between Norfolk and Tampa beginning on June 17. Effective June 15, Frontier Airlines will add a daily flight from its Denver hub to Jacksonville, Florida. JetBlue Airways will add a nonstop between Boston and San Diego beginning on June 28. And AirTran Airways will launch a slew of new flights from secondary markets to Las Vegas. Effective August 15, it will operate nonstops to Sin City from Dayton and Akron/Canton, Ohio; Flint, Michigan; and Rochester, New York.

Boy, We Sure Need Another Hotel Brand...
Well, gee, here's something we really need: Hyatt announced this week that it will be launching a new hotel brand. The Andaz name will be slapped on several properties this year, including the reflagging of the Great Eastern Hotel in London. That'll happen in September, followed by an Andaz in New York. (By the way, I was being sarcastic about a new hotel brand being needed.) ... The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, has reopened after a $50 million renovation. ... Fairmont Hotels says it will put its name on the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg, Germany. ... Westin picked up two new hotels this week. In San Francisco, the 676-room property that was once the ANA, the Le Meridien and the Argent is now known as the Westin San Francisco Market Street. And a 203-room property known as the Westin Beale Street has opened in Memphis. ... Doubletree has slapped its name on the 369-room North Shore Hotel & Executive Conference Center in Skokie, Illinois.

Boy, We Sure Need More New York-London Carriers...
Well, gee, here's something we really need: Canadian low-fare carrier Zoom Airlines says it will launch flights between New York/Kennedy Airport and London/Gatwick. The service is due to launch in June. (By the way, I was being sarcastic about the flights being needed.) ... Aer Lingus has gotten the nod to expand its flights between the United States and Ireland. Dublin-Washington/Dulles service begins on September 3 and flights from Orlando and San Francisco will launch on October 28. ... American Airlines says that it will launch daily flights between Chicago/O'Hare and Buenos Aires on October 28. ... Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of Abu Dhabi, is going nonstop on its flights to Toronto/Pearson. Right now, the service operates with an intermediate stop in Brussels. Effective June 1, however, Etihad will offer nonstop flights to both Toronto and Brussels.

Westjet Steps Into the Gap in Vancouver
The shutdown of Harmony Airways earlier this month left a service gap in Vancouver and WestJet is jumping in with new flights. Beginning next month, WestJet will add nonstop flights to Toronto. In November, WestJet says it will add seasonal service to Hawaii, Las Vegas and Palm Springs. ... I hope you haven't been holding your breathe for the opening of Terminal 3 in Manila. Completed in 2004, the facility has been in political, financial and design limbo ever since. The opening, once scheduled for March, 2006, was delayed after a portion of the building collapsed. Another attempt to open last month was foiled when an engineer's report raised further questions about the building's foundation and stability. Now airport officials say the project has been delayed indefinitely.

Business-Travel New You Need to Know
Here's another annoying fee from Northwest Airlines: $25 for standing by for an earlier flight. Everyone pays except the airline's WorldPerks Elite flyers. ... United Airlines has given up the ghost on Ameniti, its two-year-old luxury-travel program. The membership operation never gave real value for money or notable benefits. In fact, most flyers joined because buying a membership for as little as $250 a year also came with as many as 25,000 Mileage Plus miles. Ameniti bites the dust on June 30. But credit where credit is due: United is doing the right thing as it closes Ameniti down. Members will receive pro rata refunds of their membership fees or a choice of bonus miles, United discount coupons or Red Carpet Club passes. ... Clear, the only operating registered traveler program, says that Little Rock Airport will be installing Clear lanes toward the end of the spring.
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 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.