Nov 21 2008

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Delta, JetBlue add international, Caribbean flights

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By Joe Brancatelli

Delta Keeps Expanding Its Overseas Presence: Since its 2005 bankruptcy, Delta Air Lines has slashed its domestic network and remade itself as an international carrier. And the new routes keep coming. Next June, it plans to launch nonstop flights to Paris from two new cities: Raleigh and Pittsburgh. The five weekly Raleigh flights start on June 2; the five weekly Pittsburgh flights begin the next day. Also next June, Delta will launch a new route to Africa: Atlanta-Cape Verde Islands-Monrovia, Liberia. Flights will operate weekly. … US Airways will bulk up its international network in May. From its hub in Philadelphia, it will add seasonal flights to Oslo and Birmingham, England. … Thai Airways has changed its mind again and will keep operating its Los Angeles-Bangkok nonstop flights. The service was due to end on October 31, but now will survive at least through January 31. … JetBlue Airways is branching out in the Caribbean. On December 18, it launches daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and San Juan. On February 1, it will add two daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas, and a daily flight from Orlando to Nassau. And beginning February 14, it will begin Saturday-only service between Boston and St. Maarten.

AIRPORT REPORT

Little Changes Mean a Lot: Continental Airlines and US Airways are trimming the size of allowable carry-on bags to 45 linear inches. Most U.S. carriers are already at 45 inches for carry-ons. … Global Entry, the Customs and Immigration Service’s trusted-travel program, had expanded to four more airports: Atlanta, Chicago/O’Hare, Los Angeles and Miami. The program launched earlier this year at New York/Kennedy, Washington/Dulles and Houston/Intercontinental. It permits returning U.S. travelers to skip passport-control lines. … Travelers who carry a Chase credit or debit card tied to the Continental OnePass program are now permitted to check one bag for free and are not charged the airline’s $15 first-bag fee. … Delta Air Lines, which merged with Northwest Airlines last month, has lined up the two carriers’ checked-luggage fees: $15 for the first bag, $25 for the second.

HOTEL HOT SHEET

Economy Be Damned: Another Burst of New Hotels Opens: If you thought the rocky economy would slow down the pace of new hotel openings, forget it. There are so many new properties in the pipeline that they just keep gushing forth. So get out your scorecard for these new outposts of your favorite brands. … In Boston, there’s a new 72-room Holiday Inn Express on Friend Street, across from the TD Banknorth Garden where the Celtics and Bruins play. … Sheraton has opened a 161-room property in the posh Chicago suburb of Northbrook, just 14 miles from O’Hare Airport. … Marriott has opened a 106-room TownePlace property in downtown Albany, the capital of New York State. … A former newspaper building has been converted to an 81-suite Candlewood Suites hotel in Terre Haute, Indiana. … W Hotels has opened its first hotel in Hong Kong. The 393-room property in Kowloon has a spa, fitness center, swimming pool and two restaurants. … Two new limited-service hotels opened in the Soho District of New York this week: The 150-room Four Points on Charlton Street and the 160-room Hampton Inn on Watts Street. … The former Radisson in Hampton, Virginia, has become a Crowne Plaza after a $4 million renovation. … Shangri-La has opened a 548-room hotel in Futian, in the Shenzhen province of China. … And there has been plenty of new action in the luxury sector, too. In the last few days, Four Seasons opened a 147-room property in Seattle; the Philippe Starck-designed SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills opened as part of the Starwood Luxury Collection; St. Regis opened a 120-room resort in Punta Mita, Mexico; and Inter-Continental turned the key on the 257-room Montelucia Resort, a swanky 34-acre spread in the Paradise Valley area of Scottsdale, Arizona.

ROUTE MAP

Southwest Introduces Something New in Minneapolis: Southwest Airlines, which already said that it would enter the Minneapolis market, has now launched something new to Northwest’s fortress hub: low fares. Southwest said this week that it would begin eight daily roundtrips between Minneapolis and Chicago/Midway on March 8 and the one-way fare is $69. That’s the 21-day advance-purchase price, of course, but consider that Northwest’s (and American’s and United’s) lowest one-way fare on the Minneapolis-Chicago/O’Hare route had been $426. The carriers’ cheapest fare before Southwest arrived was $376 roundtrip. Northwest isn’t sitting idly by, however. It is adding a few flights to its MSP-Chicago/O’Hare route. Northwest will operate about 20 flights a day in the market by February.

MILES & POINTS

More Cuts (and Upgrades) in the Major Frequent Travel Plans: Marriott Rewards couldn’t wait to tell folks that it was eliminating blackout dates on its hotel awards beginning on January 15. And Marriott was excited as all get out to say that the bonuses for Platinum Elite members would rise to 50 percent from the current 30 percent. But what it didn’t announce, much to the annoyance of sharp-eyed members, was that capacity controls on awards will remain, essentially negating the benefit of having no blackout dates. Also, the program added an eighth, and much more expensive, tier of hotels. The eighth tier includes more than a dozen of the most desired properties in major cities around the world. And the price of a popular choice of very frequent Marriott Rewards members, the 7-night-stay award, was raised. … And some good news: American has quietly dropped the $5 fee for claiming an AAdvantage frequent flier award. And Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines have eliminated fuel surcharge on award tickets. … On the other hand, United Airlines has increased the cost of some of its awards by as much as 40 percent. It has also switched its policy on upgrade awards: International tickets purchased at any fare can are now eligible for mileage upgrades. But the upgrades come with stiff cash co-pays of as much as $500.

NEED TO KNOW

On-the-Road Intelligence to Help You Travel Smarter: Remember all that crowing US Airways did earlier this year after it padded its schedule and shot to top of the on-time ratings? You are now cordially invited to forget it. The airline slipped to tenth among the 19 carriers in the Transportation Department’s on-time ratings for September. Also tumbling down the chart after a few months of improved operations: United Airlines, which finished 17th. Overall, the government says 84.88 percent of all flights arrived on-time (which is defined as within 15 minute of schedule). … United Airlines now wants to sell you luggage-shipping service. The airline’s new Door to Door service promises overnight delivery of luggage for prices that start at $149 a bag. But United isn’t stupid: The luggage will be shipped by FedEx, not United. … Detroit’s Book Cadillac, the hotel that once feted the kings of the car industry, has finally reopened. After a two-year, $200 million restoration, the hotel is now known as the Westin Book Cadillac. It originally opened in 1924, was one of Motown’s most notable hotels through the 1960s, fell into disrepair as Detroit cratered in the 1970s and tumbled into bankruptcy and closed in 1984. It stood empty, a blight in the heart of downtown Detroit, until reopening with a gala bash for charity last week.

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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

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