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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of, a
non-commercial Web site for business travelers.


JetBlue adds more room to its coach seats: JetBlue Airways has reconfigured its fleet of Airbus A320s for the third time in its eight years of operation. In the summer of 2003, the airline removed a row of seats, reducing capacity to 156 seats and increasing the legroom at some chairs to 34 inches. Late in 2006, JetBlue removed another row. That left 150 seats and pitch of 34 to 36 inches at every chair. Now JetBlue has created a virtual premium-class section. Beginning April 1, six rows (2-5 up front and 10-11, the emergency rows) will offer 38 inches of seat pitch. All of the other rows will offer 34 inches. How do you snare a seat in those 38-inch rows?Pay a $10-to-$20 airfare premium each way, depending on the length of the flight. As your knees most surely know, the industry standard pitch in coach is 31 or 32 inches.


This hotel invented ‘smoke-filled’ room: The Blackstone Hotel on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago has reopened after a $128 million renovation and restoration. The 98-year-old building has been closed since 1999, but the property is now up and running again as a 332-room Renaissance Hotel. And in case you’ve forgotten, the term "smoke-filled room" originated at the Blackstone when Republican leaders met there and picked Warren G. Harding as the 1920 nominee while the party regulars were convening at the Chicago Coliseum. … Ritz-Carlton has opened its fourth hotel in China. The 351-room property in Guangzhou has six dining rooms, a fitness center and a spa. … The old Hilton Suites hotel in North Dallas is receiving a $10 million update and will be reflagged as a Le Meridien hotel. The 258-room property has most recently been called the Prava Suites. … Attention travelers to Vendorville: Doubletree has opened a new property in Bentonville, Arkansas. The 140-suite operation also has a 24-hour business center, a restaurant and a bar.


Going extra-long on the Arab carriers: The well-financed, fast-growing Arab carriers continue to blaze new routes between the United States and Arabian Gulf destinations. On September 1, Emirates will add its longest nonstop haul yet, linking Los Angeles and Dubai. The 8,339-mile route will run about 16.5 hours to LAX and 16 hours to Dubai and will be flown with Boeing 777-200LRs. The daily flights will be configured with eight private suites in first class, 42 lie-flat seat-beds in business class and 216 seats in coach. And Qatar Airways will launch three daily flights between Houston/Intercontinental and Doha on November 10. The service will go daily in December. Qatar will also use Boeing 777-200LRs, but will outfit the aircraft with 42 business class seat-beds and 217 coach seats. … Delta Air Lines  launches its first flights to China on March 30 with daily service between Atlanta and Shanghai. … Hawaiian Airlines will begin four weekly flights between Honolulu and Manila on April 14. … Alitalia has been shedding service to its shrinking Milan hub and redirecting flights to Rome. Beginning June 1, the carrier resumes its nonstop flights to Los Angeles. …


Fewer airport clubs, but lots more flights to Calgary: What’s the hottest new route in North America? Apparently it’s Newark-Calgary, which has never had nonstop service before. But Air Canada announced it would begin flying the route on June 16 using Airbus A319s. Then WestJet decided it would begin service between the two cities on June 2. … Delta Air Lines is closing nine of its Crown Room airport clubs beginning this month. What’s going? The clubs in Seattle, Honolulu, San Juan, Phoenix, Denver, London/Gatwick, Kansas City, the old lounge at Boston Logan and one of the clubs at Delta’s Cincinnati hub. The airline is also closing the separate lounges it has been operating for BusinessElite international passengers. Meanwhile, United Airlines is dumping two clubs. It already has closed the Red Carpet Club in Sydney, Australia. And on April 1, United will close the Arrivals Suite for premium-class customers arriving at Paris/DeGaulle Airport. … Clear, the struggling registered-travel program that is trying to reposition itself as a security line-cut plan, has opened at Washington National and Washington Dulles airports.


Checking bags? You’ll have to carry less and pay more: Delta Air Lines has raised some excess baggage fees. Checked bags above the 50-pound
free limit will cost $80 (up to 70 pounds) or $150 (up to 100 pounds).
Extra bags, which had cost a flat $75 each, now cost between $80 and
$180 each. And while it has not yet officially posted the change, a top
Delta executive told an investment conference in late March that the
airline would begin charging passengers to check a second bag. The
second-bag fee, $25 each way, matches the charge already imposed by United and US Airways. All of those fees go into effect in May. … Effective April 1, Singapore Airlines
will reduce the checked-bag allowance for passengers to and from the
United States. The airline says bags cannot weigh more than 50 pounds
each, down from the current 70-pound limit. The change affects fliers
in all cabins.


On-the-road intelligence to help you travel smarter: Although
the United States switched to Daylight Saving Time in early March, most
of the rest of the world didn’t switch until the end of the month. So
be sure to check your international flight times and connections to
make sure you really know what time it is. … Aloha Airlines
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 20. It’s the second
time since 9/11 that Aloha has entered bankruptcy. Aloha blamed
"predatory pricing" from go!, the start-up inter-island carrier owned
by Mesa Air. A federal bankruptcy judge last year ordered Mesa to pay
$80 million to Hawaiian Airlines because it used proprietary
data to launch go! in 2006. … Most of the legacy carriers reduced
fuel hedging programs in the first quarter of the year. So now that oil
prices have settled in at the $100-a-barrel mark, they face additional
fuel bills of about $10 billion this year. That has sent them into a
frenzy of fleet and staff reductions. Delta, United and US Airways
announced that they would dump dozens of less fuel-efficient planes and
slash domestic seat capacity by as much as 5 percent. Delta also
offered a buyout to 30,000 employees and hopes that 2,000 people will

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Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

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