By Joe Brancatelli

· Oneworld Grows in Europe, Star Shrinks in China
· Alaska Airlines Grows Hot and Cold, Profitably
· Continental Shuffles Check-In Positions at Newark
· Delta Grows in New York and DC, Cuts Cincinnati
· AmeriTel Inns Begin a Shift to the LaQuinta Brand
· FAA Fines Comair $275,000 Over Denied Boarding
· DOT Will Fine Continental for Bad Landing Gear

Oneworld Grows in Central Europe, Star Shrinks in China
The value, reliability and consistency of the airline alliances are suspect to business travelers, but it is long past obvious that the carriers do deals for their benefit, not ours. Keep that in mind when you hear that Oneworld thinks it is game-changing news that it has wooed Air Berlin into its alliance. Never heard of Air Berlin? Not a big surprise, since Air Berlin is a distant second to the Star Alliance's Lufthansa in Germany and it is an also-ran in the connecting market to Central Europe. Still, Air Berlin does boost the Central European coverage of Oneworld, since its current Europe anchors (British Airways, Iberia and Finnair) are on the continent's fringes. And even though you may never have heard of Air Berlin, it flies nonstop to Dusseldorf from several U.S. gateways: New York/Kennedy; Miami; Fort Myers; Los Angeles; San Francisco. (Air Berlin picked up most of those routes when it purchased LTU in 2007.) In a related development, Air Berlin struck a deal with American Airlines, Oneworld's U.S. anchor. American will put its AA code on Air Berlin's Dusseldorf-bound flights. Meanwhile, the Star Alliance has been dealt a blow in the fast-growing China market with the withdrawal of Shanghai Airlines. Shanghai was bought by China Eastern last year and both China Eastern and China Southern are part of Skyteam. That leaves Star with just one China player, Air China, the carrier formerly known as (shudder!) CAAC.

Alaska Airlines Grows Hot and Cold
All of the big U.S. carriers except American Airlines reported a profit for the second quarter of 2010 and you may be surprised to learn which was the nation's most profitable. It's Alaska Airlines. It turned in a second-quarter profit of $84 million on revenue of $976 million. That gives it a net-income margin of 8.36 percent, the best in the nation and far better than the industry's 2Q average margin of 5.87 percent. Making a profit certainly makes it easier to explain why an airline called Alaska is actually headquartered in Seattle, has 10 percent of its capacity going into Hawaii and flies a million passengers a year to Mexico. The airline will be adding still more service to Mexico on November 20 when it launches three weekly flights between San Jose, California, and Los Cabos. And Alaska isn't ignoring the cold weather, either. This week it announced a code-share and frequent flyer deal with Icelandic, which offers flights to Reykjavík from Seattle.

Continental Shuffles Check-In Procedures at Newark
Continental's massive and slightly messy hub at Terminal C in Newark has just completed a long-overdue shuffle of check-in procedures. The traditional upper-level check-in area has been turned over to coach passengers, with the exception of a few notable long-haul flights. The mid-level check-in area is now reserved for business- and first-class customers; flyers with EliteAccess (that's Continental speak for full-fare coach customers) and all travelers headed to Hong Kong, Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv. … Delta Air Lines is bulking up at three East Coast airports: its New York/Kennedy hub; New York/LaGuardia and Washington/National. At Kennedy, Delta is adding flights to John Wayne/Orange County and San Antonio on September 7. From LaGuardia, it adds flights to Nashville and St. Louis on September 7. And on October 31, it begins flights from National to Hartford; Columbus; Jacksonville; Orlando; Miami; Tampa; and St. Louis. At the same time, however, Delta will drop National-Huntsville service, Hartford-Los Angeles flights and make further cuts at its Cincinnati hub. Effective September 7, flights to five cities--Albany and Buffalo, New York; Charleston, West Virginia; Des Moines; and Little Rock--will disappear. That will cut Delta's Cincinnati presence to about 160 daily flights, down from a high of more than 600.

Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of AmeriTel Inns?
It's rare that lodging news comes out of Idaho, but it looks as if the AmeriTel Inns chain, which operates in Oregon and the Gem State, isn't long for this world. The chain's owners are converting three Idaho AmeriTels--in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and Boise--to the LaQuinta chain. LaQuinta says "additional agreements are expected," which sounds like the end of the road for the AmeriTel brand. … Starwood has opened a 119-room Four Points by Sheraton in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. … A 201-room Radisson has opened in Indore, India.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The Transportation Department has slapped a $275,000 fine on Comair, the wholly owned commuter-carrier subsidiary of Delta Air Lines. The DOT says Comair repeatedly failed to follow rules on denied boarding and went so far as to file inaccurate reports with the DOT about the number of bumped passengers. … The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to fine Continental Airlines $230,000 for operating 22 flights with a Boeing 767 that had faulty landing gear. … Here's a route announcement you might not have expected: Turkish Airlines says it will launch four weekly flights between Los Angeles and Istanbul beginning March 3. … The new international terminal (Terminal 3) at Delhi opened this week and the radar system promptly stopped functioning. But the glitches seem to have been repaired and American Airlines and Continental have moved their Delhi flights into Terminal 3.

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.