By Joe Brancatelli

· The Qantas-United Australia Duopoly Will End
· Starwood Loses Four Hotels in Pacific Paradises
· Northwest WorldPerks Adds Delta SkyMiles' Fees
· Continental's New Alphabet Soup on Fare Classes
· Frontier 'Invents' Three Classes of Coach Fares
· Raleigh-Durham Gets the Airport SuperShuttle
· What Will You Do With Those Slovakian Koruna?

The Qantas-United Australia Duopoly Gets Two New Competitors
For years, Qantas and United Airlines have shared a comfortable duopoly on direct routes to Australia. Well-regarded Qantas has good service, inventive offerings (including a premium economy class and the Airbus A380s on some U.S. routes) and insanely high prices. United is, well, United: aging planes, mediocre-to-awful in-flight service and insane prices. But 2009 will bring two new carriers into the mix: Delta Air Lines and V Australia, a spin-off of Virgin Blue, one of the stable of airlines aligned with and partially owned by Richard Branson. V Australia is first up. After an abortive launch announcement last month, V Australia will start service on the Sydney-Los Angeles route on February 27. The three weekly flights will ramp up to daily service on March 21. Brisbane-Los Angeles flights will begin on April 8. V Australia will use Boeing 777-300ERs configured with business, premium economy and coach classes. Delta joins the fray on July 1 with daily LAX-Sydney flights using Boeing 777-200ERs configured with lie-flat beds in BusinessElite and traditional coach. Let the competition (finally!) begin.

Starwood Loses a Bunch of Hotels in Pacific Paradises
If you hoard Starwood Preferred Guest points for free stays in Pacific Island paradises, there's bad news on the horizon. Starwood's brands lose four properties this year. Effective tomorrow (January 9), the W Honolulu, the former Colony Surf at the north end of Waikiki, is gone. The property will be renamed the Lotus by the new management company, the Hawaii-based Castle Resorts. Later this year, Starwood will pull out of the Sheraton Tahiti, the Sheraton Moorea and the Bora Bora Nui, an affiliate of the Luxury Collection. Speaking of Hawaii, the once-iconic Mauna Kea Beach Resort has reopened on the Big Island. The property, now run by Prince Hotels, closed for a renovation after an earthquake late in 2006. Back on the mainland, there's more flag swapping to report: The Holiday Inn near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland recently underwent a $15 million renovation and has emerged as the Doubletree Cleveland Downtown-Lakeside. The former Hyatt Regency St. Louis at Union Station in St. Louis has become the St. Louis Station Marriott and is being renovated. And the former Radisson near Islip Airport on Long Island in New York is now the Crowne Plaza Long Island-MacArthur Airport.

Northwest WorldPerks Adds Fees to Match Delta SkyMiles
The late 2008 Delta-Northwest merger includes the eventual submersion of Northwest's WorldPerks program into the surviving Delta SkyMiles plan. The two programs have already adopted a common three-tier award chart and it looks like travelers will be able to move miles between the two programs as early as next month. The other shoe? Effective January 15, WorldPerks will adopt SkyMiles' costly fee structure for supposedly expedited awards. Claim an award for travel within three days of departure and you'll be dinged for $150; claim four to seven days before departure and it'll be $100. Book up to 20 days before departure and you'll pay $75. Only WorldPerks Platinum Elite members are exempt from the new charges. ... On January 1, Slovakia became the 16th member of the "eurozone," which means it has traded in the Slovakian koruna for the euro. ... Continental Airlines flyers take note: The airline radically overhauls its fare classes on January 16. Virtually all existing fare classes are being recoded. If you want more information on this important alphabet soup, surf to a post by Continental on FlyerTalk. ... All-coach Frontier Airlines has regrouped its fares into three broad categories: Classic Plus, Classic and Economy. The chart of "benefits" is here. Classic Plus is what we used to consider coach. The Economy fare is essentially just the seat; virtually everything else (checked luggage, seat assignment, snacks and beverages) is extra.

More Services--and Less--at Airports Around the World
If 2008 was the year of new terminals at airports around the world, 2009 is likely to be much less notable. The changes will be incremental, not gigantic. To wit: Starwood has opened a 136-room Aloft hotel at 22390 Flagstaff Place in the Dulles North corridor near Washington/Dulles Airport. SuperShuttle now operates between Raleigh-Durham Airport, downtown Raleigh and the convention center. The company says it will expand service to Durham, Chapel Hill and other communities in the next month. Speaking of RDU, a 103-room Cambria Suites property has opened in Morrisville, a quarter-mile from the airport. A full-service spa has opened at the new Terminal 3 at Dubai Airport. The facility is operated by an affiliate of Emirates Airlines. The Budget Car Rental station at Idaho Falls Airport has closed. Newburgh/Stewart, the Hudson Valley airport that New York authorities believe will eventually be the city's fourth major jetport, continues to lose service. AirTran Airways recently departed, JetBlue slashed its schedule and now Delta Air Lines will dump one of its two daily flights to its Atlanta hub in March.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Washington travelers take note: Avoid the District of Columbia until after Inauguration Day. Besides the traffic (both automotive and foot) diversions caused by the traditional Inauguration Day ceremonies, President-Elect Barack Obama has taken up temporary residence at the Hay-Adams hotel, a block from the White House. That has led to further security restrictions. AirTran Airways has dropped all of its flights to Biloxi, Mississippi. A new carrier based in Kuwait, Wataniya Airways, is due to launch on January 24. It'll fly several times a day to Dubai. The notable news: Its Airbus A320s are configured with just 122 seats; the 26 first-class chairs will have 44 inches of seat pitch and the 96 so-called "premium economy" chairs will offer 34 inches of legroom, which is what JetBlue Airways offers in coach. The HelloMetro folks have dipped their corporate toe into business travel with the launch of HelloFlight.com. It cuts existing travel datapoints in some new ways. Check it out, it may appeal to your particular needs. The Islamabad Marriott hotel that was attacked last year by terrorists using truck bombs has reopened. Among the new security procedures: a 14-foot-high blast wall.
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 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.