By Joe Brancatelli

· Delta Raises the Bar on Premium-Class Travel
· Everywhere You Go, a New Courtyard by Marriott
· Another Airline-Killing Move From Frontier Bosses
· The Big Airlines Oppose an Expansion of O'Hare
· JetBlue Adding More Flights at Boston/Logan
· So Long, Red Carpet Club. Hello, United Club.
· Priority Pass Adds More Clubs at Global Hubs

Delta Ups the Ante on Premium-Class Travel
Delta Air Lines is expanding premium seating on virtually all of its domestic and international aircraft. Changes include more domestic first-class seats, an international premium-economy class and seat-beds on the Airbus A330s.
    The airline will add 1,200 first-class chairs on its domestic mainline jets. That'll mean about a million extra seats per year available for upgrades, purchase and frequent flyer awards, explains Wayne Aaron, a Delta vice president. The airline's 19 MD-90s will go to 16 seats in first class from the current 12. The 24 domestic Boeing 767s will get 30 seats up front from the current 24. Those additions will be done by the end of the second quarter. It'll take until the end of the year to retrofit Delta's 117 MD-88s and they will go to 16 seats from the current 14. The 134 Boeing 757s will go to 28 up front from the current 24, but it'll take until the second quarter of 2013 to get the work done. Delta says the changes are being accomplished by removing and reconfiguring items like closets and galleys and there will no reduction in legroom at either first or coach seats. But one thing Delta refuses to talk about: the percentage of the new seats that will be devoted to SkyMiles elite upgrades. But at least some will be part of an as-yet unannounced effort by Delta to "monetize" first by upselling travelers into the front cabin
    Delta will add an Economy Comfort section on longer-haul international flights. It will offer chairs with about 35 inches of legroom and 50 percent more recline than Delta's coach seats. Travelers in Economy Comfort will also get early boarding. The cabin will first appear on Delta flights this summer. What's it going to cost? It'll be a free upgrade from coach for SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum Medallion members or for travelers who purchase full-fare coach (Y, B or M) tickets. Others will pay an additional $80-$160 one-way. Economy Comfort will be available on virtually all international routes except for flights to Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean. You can get more details here.
    Delta also plans to add fully flat seat-beds on its fleet of 32 A330s. There will be 34 chairs per plane and each will convert to a bed that is about 82 inches long and 20.5 inches wide. Delta says the A330 seat-bed is similar to the one used on its Boeing 777s. The A330s will be converted by 2013 and means that Delta will have fully flat beds on all of its 150 international jets.

Everywhere You Go, a New Courtyard by Marriott
Those of us old enough to remember the early days of the Courtyard by Marriott brand also recall that it was mostly an office park kind of chain and that its big "amenity" was a boiling-water pump in the bathroom so you could make your own instant coffee. These days, however, Courtyard is more upscale and you'll find properties everywhere, including cities around the world and resort destinations. So you will not be surprised by the new 170-room Courtyard in the Paris suburb of Arcueil; the 118-room Courtyard in Bridgetown, Barbados; or the 150-room Courtyard in downtown Atlanta on Carnegie Way. Elsewhere in the Marriott empire, the last piece of the massive Marriott Place development in Indianapolis has opened. The JW Marriott joins a Courtyard, a SpringHill Suites and a traditional Marriott on a 7-acre site on the west side of town. There is a total of 2,250 rooms and all four properties are connected to the Indiana Convention Center.

Another Airline-Killing Move From Frontier's Owners
You have to wonder how much longer Frontier Airlines will survive now that its owner, Republic Holdings, has pulled off another stinker. Republic, which makes most of its money on commuter carriers like Chautauqua and Shuttle America, is pulling eight Embraer 170 jets out of the Frontier fleet. Where are the planes going? To Delta to fly as Delta Connection flights beginning in May. Republic will then replace the missing Frontier planes with smaller, older EMB-145s and turboprop Q400s that the company had been trying to sell off. But what do you expect from Republic? These are the same guys who chose the Frontier name over the Midwest Airlines name when it merged the two carriers last year. Republic's reason? The Midwest name carried a cachet of quality from its days as Midwest Express and Republic boss Bryan Bedford admitted that the merged Frontier Airlines wouldn't be that good. JetBlue Airways is growing again in Boston. Beginning on June 17, it'll launch three weekly flights to Santiago, Dominican Republic. It'll also add seasonal service to Portland, Oregon. Both routes will use JetBlue's Airbus A320s. By the summer, JetBlue will operate 100 flights a day from Logan.

On Second Thought, Let's Not Build More Airports
It was just a few years ago that the nattering nabobs who run the nation's big airlines were blaming rampant flight delays on the lack of new airports and new runways around the nation. Except for folks in Chicago, no one listened to them. And more fools the citizens of Chicagoland have been proven to be. United and American Airlines, the two carriers with a hub at O'Hare Airport, are suing to stop the second phase of the city's expansion plans. A meeting this week in the office of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood thrust outgoing Chicago mayor Richard Daley into negotiations with United chief Jeffrey Smisek and American boss Gerard Arpey. The result? United and American continue to oppose the $3.3 billion plan and will keep the lawsuits going. The airlines' rationale? Delays at O'Hare are down and new facilities are not needed. The Holiday Inn at Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport has been reflagged as the slightly more upscale Crowne Plaza after a $2 million upgrade to the 430-room property in Bloomington. Marriott is out at the only major hotel near Evansville Airport in Indiana. Effective February 17, the 198-room property becomes a Holiday Inn.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Continental Holdings, which runs United and Continental airlines, has settled on the name United Club for its networks of airport clubs. The United Red Carpet name will be first to be phased out, then Continental's Presidents Clubs will be rebranded. Delta Air Lines is switching in-flight coffee providers. Effective March 1, it will serve Seattle's Best coffee. Seattle's Best is a subsidiary of Starbucks. Priority Pass, the pan-global network of airport lounges, has added a slew of new clubs at major hubs. Included is the Menzies Lounge in Amsterdam, the Green Lounge at International Terminal 3 in Delhi; the T.E.I. Lounges at Narita in Tokyo; and the Galaxy and Classic lounges at Moscow/Sheremetyevo Airport. Here's something to think about while you watch the developments in Egypt. A Boeing subsidiary called Narus sold the Mubarak regimen the technology to spy on E-mail and Internet and mobile-phone use. The so-called Deep Packet Inspection equipment helped the Egyptian government shut down Internet and cell-phone networks earlier this month.

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 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.