By Joe Brancatelli

· No, Business Travel Is Not Back to Normal
· Another Big-Deal Hotel for Midtown Manhattan
· BA, American and Iberia Get Antitrust Immunity
· The Mash-Up FKA as Frontier and Midwest Airlines
· No Airport Is an Island, Not Even in Lake Ontario
· Got Amex Platinum? Go to US Airways Clubs Free
· The Euro Bounces Back Fast Against the Dollar

No, Really, Things Are Not Back to 'Normal'
If you listen to the stenographers in the mainstream media, all is hunky dory again and business travelers have rushed back onto flights, especially since business has begun a tentative global recovery. Uh, no, really, it has not. According to the latest figures from IATA, the global airline trade group, international premium-class traffic is still 10 percent below its pre-recession peak. And fares (lucky for us) haven't recovered yet, either. The airlines' "yield" from premium-class traffic is 15 percent below the pre-recession level. Traffic to Asia, Latin America and the Middle East is rebounding fastest, with some regions seeing 20 percent improvements over last year's dire numbers. Transatlantic travel remains the global laggard, undoubtedly hurt by labor disruptions in Europe and the volcanic ash crisis earlier this year.

Another Big-Deal Hotel for Midtown Manhattan
Days after Hyatt opened its Andaz Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, InterContinental has opened a new branch on 44th Street just off Times Square. The 607-room property is the second Intercontinental in midtown Manhattan and located within walking distance of the InterContinental Barclay. Meanwhile, another InterContinental brand, Holiday Inn Express has opened a 112-room property just a few steps from Wall Street. That's coincidentally within a stone's throw (and please don't throw one) from Hyatt's Andaz on Wall Street. Hilton HHonors players take note: Doubletree has opened a 124-room property on the Italian island of Sardinia. The property is near Olbia on the northern coast. Shangri-La has slapped its mid-market Traders name on a 280-room property on Queen's Road in the Western District of Hong Kong. The property was formerly known as the Hotel Jen and before that the Novotel Century Harbourview. The hotel has a great reputation for value in pricey Hong Kong.

BA, American and Iberia Get Their Antitrust Immunity
European Union regulators have approved the merger of British Airways and Iberia and have also all but sealed the deal for BA and Iberia to get antitrust immunity with American Airlines. The three-way tie-up would give Oneworld the same kind of unified core that already exists at the SkyTeam and Star alliances, where the leading U.S. and European players already have similar immunities. The European action didn't come without strings, however, and the EU demands are a bit heftier than what U.S. regulators demanded. European regulators want the three carriers to cede seven pair of take-off and landing slots: three between London and New York, two between London and Boston and one each for Miami and Dallas flights. U.S. regulators asked for four slot pairs: two for London-Boston and two more from any other U.S. cities to London. For business travelers, of course, one issue to watch is when American and British Airways will offer more interaction between their respective frequent flyer programs. Lacking antitrust immunity, AA and BA have not offered the ability to earn and burn on all flights.

The Mash-Up Formerly Known as Frontier (or Midwest) Airlines
When Republic Airways, the big regional commuter carrier, bought Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines out of bankruptcy last year, the company made grandiose promises about the future. So far, however, Republic has been involved in a messy mash-up, swapping planes and routes and crews and concepts so chaotically that no one has a clue about what the soon-to-be-renamed Frontier will be about. Here are the latest bunch of changes: In comes new Frontier-branded service between Kansas City and Austin beginning November 18. Out go Frontier flights between Denver and both Rapid City (September 7) and Boise (December 1). At Midwest, in come flights from Milwaukee to Hartford (September 27) and San Antonio (November 19). Republic is also swapping out aircraft on many existing Midwest routes, so check your schedules. And if you want to check out Republic's "progress" in merging and melding the mash-up, surf to FrontierMidwest, the company's new propaganda site.

No Airport Is an Island--Or Something Like That
The Toronto Port Authority says it will build a $45 million pedestrian tunnel to link mainland Toronto to City Airport, the small facility that sits on an island in Lake Ontario. City Airport is the home of Porter Airlines, which has been stealing market share from Toronto/Pearson-based Air Canada. Canadian authorities recently ruled that Air Canada and Continental Airlines should be allowed to fly from City, too. However, since Porter owns the only terminal at the airport, well, access for other carriers is a bit tricky. Construction on the tunnel is due to begin in January. Construction work is scheduled to last two years and will include a 400-foot stretch under the lake. Speaking of Toronto, Air Canada says it'll begin flights to New Orleans on October 30. And you'll certainly enjoy the 1,100-mile trip in a 75-seat regional jet. The main runway at Kennedy Airport has reopened. While the four-month project actually came off on schedule and (at least by New York standards) on budget, the airport's on-time operation was hammered. Only 58.2 percent of flights operated on-time in June, down from about 65 percent in June, 2009.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Express Platinum and Centurion card holders take note: US Airways lounges are now available as part of Amex's club-access program. Unlike other clubs in the program, however, you won't need a ticket on the day of travel to use a US Airways club. So much for the "experts" who claim that the euro was on an inevitable slide back to parity with the U.S. dollar this summer. As currency markets closed today (July 15), the euro was back at $1.29, its highest level in more than two months. Good news for flyers using Philadelphia International: WiFi access in the terminals is now free. The airport's Internet provider had been charging $7.95 a day. Alaska Airlines continues its relentless Hawaii expansion. On March 27, the airline will launch flights to Lihue, Kauai, from both San Jose and Oakland.

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 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.