By Joe Brancatelli

· Flying in Europe? Maybe You Should Carry On
· Doubletree Hotels Grows With Conversions
· Virgin America Launches With a Little Help
· Lufthansa Opens a First-Class Lounge in Munich
· More US Airways Baggage Woes in Philadelphia
· Air Canada Slashes the Value of Tango Fares
· Northwest Blinks in Its Route War With American

Gee, Maybe U.S. Carriers Aren't So Bad…
The skyrocketing rate of mishandled bags by U.S. carriers (see this week's Brancatelli File) is awful--but only if you don't compare it to the efficiency of European airlines. According to the Association of European Airlines (AEA), the 30 member carriers delayed 16 pieces of luggage for every 1,000 passengers they carried. Worst in class among the major Europe airlines: British Airways, which is delaying or losing 28 pieces per 1,000 flyers. TAP Portugal (23.5) is almost as bad. Alitalia (17.7 pieces per thousand) and KLM (17.8) are also below average. Lufthansa, SAS and Air France are around the AEA average. You'd be surprised at the best baggage handlers in Europe. First is Air Malta (3.2 delayed pieces per 1,000 flyers), followed by Turkish Airlines, Tarom Romanian, SN Brussels and Malev Hungarian.

Here a Doubletree, There a Doubletree
Let's hope you like chocolate chip cookies because Hilton's Doubletree Hotels brand is expanding fast. The chain added three new hotels this week, all of them reflags of existing properties. After a $6 million renovation, the former Holiday Inn in downtown Milwaukee is now the 243-room Doubletree Milwaukee City Center. The 155-room Sheraton Suites in Lexington, Kentucky, has been converted to a Doubletree Guest Suites. And the Wyndham Commerce in Commerce, California--located inside the iconic Citadel, whose Assyrian-style wall was used in Ben Hur--has been converted to the 201-room Doubletree Hotel Los Angeles/Commerce. … Fairmont is out in New Orleans. Until Hurricane Katrina almost two years ago, Fairmont managed the 114-year-old hotel that housed the famed Sazarac Bar. The hotel has been sold and will reopen under a new name. … Radisson SAS has opened a newly built hotel in Dublin. The 150-room property is located at Golden and Chancery Lanes. … The best-known hotel in Stockholm, the 133-year old Grand, is joining the InterContinental chain beginning on January 1.

They'll Get By With a Little Help From The Controllers
Eight years after British entrepreneur Richard Branson first conceived it, Virgin America Flight 1 took off from New York/Kennedy yesterday (August 8). Scheduled for a 10 a.m. departure, the plane left 50 minutes late and landed in San Francisco about 35 minutes late. The delay came in the face of a brutal summer storm in New York that even spawned a rare tornado in the city. But what's really interesting is how the Virgin America flight was delayed only 50 minutes. JFK-SFO flights operated by American, Delta, United and JetBlue yesterday morning were delayed anywhere from an hour and 50 minutes to more than three hours. Virgin "had a little help from their friends," says one New York air-traffic controller I spoke to this morning. Of course, that's not really odd since ceremonial flights often get special treatment. But Virgin wasn't able to finesse everything about its first flight. The hired celebrity, TV comic Stephen Colbert, was stuck in the storm and never made the flight.

A Snappy New Lounge for Lufthansa in Munich
Lufthansa has opened a First Class Lounge at its Munich hub. The two-level facility includes a restaurant, bar, cigar lounge, showers, lounges and workrooms. It also has separate check-in and security facilities. … US Airways claims that it has fired 25 baggage handlers for falsifying overtime records at its Philadelphia hub. The airline didn't say who it would hire now to try to fix the troubled hub, where bags go missing with infuriating regularity. … The main railway station in Kuala Lumpur now has check-in desks for flights operated by Malaysia, Cathay Pacific and Royal Brunei. The rail terminal already operates a nonstop, 30-minute express train to Kuala Lumpur International. … Flint, Michigan gets a nonstop flight to New York/LaGuardia this fall. American Eagle launches the daily regional-jet flights beginning November 4. … Italian authorities are demanding that Ryanair move out of Rome/Ciampino Airport. The low-fare carrier says it will leave the city if it is forced to switch to Fiumicino, Rome's major airport.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Air Canada continues to eat away at the benefits of its Aeroplan frequent flyer program. Beginning on September 15, the airline's lowest-priced fares, called Tango, will earn just 25 percent of flown miles. Tango fares currently earn 50 percent of flown miles. … EasyJet, the British carrier that flies throughout Europe, says that it will begin charging for all checked luggage on October 1. Each bag will cost about US$5. … Northwest Airlines, which announced that it would launch New York-Dallas service after American Airlines announced it was adding New York-Minneapolis flights, may be rethinking its plans. The LaGuardia-Dallas flights were due to launch on September 5, but now the service won't begin until at least November 4.
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.