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By Joe Brancatelli

Hilton Hotels is making some changes to its HHonors frequent guest plan. For starters, beginning January 1, elite status will now have to be earned in a calendar year rather than on a rolling, 12-month basis. It is also standardizing elite-status benefits at its Hilton, Conrad and Doubletree hotels worldwide. HHonors Gold and Diamond members can choose one of three options: an upgrade to the executive floor, free Internet access or 1,000 bonus points. The latter change takes effect immediately. … Frontier Airlines has joined the Big Six in trying to beat revenue from its most loyal fliers. Effective September 15, claiming an EarlyReturns award will cost $25. Awards claimed within 14 days of departure will also require a $75 "expedite" fee. And there’s more: domestic round-trip awards will cost 5,000 miles more and all other rewards will cost an additional 5,000-10,000 miles. … Also worth nothing: Effective October 1, American Airlines is raising the cost for upgrade awards in the AAdvantage program. A domestic upgrade will cost 15,000 miles and a $50 fee. Most international upgrades will now cost 25,000 miles and $350. And upgrades to India will cost 40,000 miles and $350.


Another burst of new hotels and flag switches: If you’re wondering who’s going to be staying at all of the new hotels that are opening, you’re not alone. So are the hotel companies, who’ve admitted that occupancy rates and room rates are softening along with the economy. So maybe some bargains are in the wind. … Meanwhile, here’s what’s new from Starwood: a 117-room Four Points in Victoria, British Columbia, and a new aloft property in the Mill District of Minneapolis. … Over at Hyatt, the first purpose-built Hyatt Place has opened in Malta, New York, near Saratoga Springs. All of the other Hyatt Place properties are conversions from Amerisuites. … At InterContinental, there are two new Hotel Indigo properties in New Jersey: one in Rahway and one in Basking Ridge. And a 102-room Candlewood Suites has openedin Houston. … Hilton has opened a 757-room property in Baltimore, just a block from Camden Yards. It’s also connected by pedestrian walkway to Baltimore’s convention center. … There are notable conversions, too. The old Fresno Hilton in California has become a Holiday Inn while the former Hilton in Lake Placid, New York, has undergone a renovation and emerged as the High Peaks Resort. The iconic Equinox resort in Manchester, Vermont, has become part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection. After a $12 million renovation, Hilton picks up the Key Largo Grande Hotel in the Florida Keys. The 200-room beachfront resort was most recently an independent property and is probably best known as the former Sheraton Key Largo. … Finally Dorchester, the luxury group built around the eponymous hotel on Park Lane in London, will now manage two more hotels in the United States. It has taken over at the New York Palace and the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles.


On-the-road intelligence to help you travel smarter: Effective September 2, United  will eliminate free snacks for coach passengers on more of its domestic flights. Effective October 1, it will stop serving meals in coach on flights from its Washington/Dulles hub to Europe. Instead, United will sell snacks, salads and sandwiches. And the prices will increase. Shelf-stable items will rise to $6 from $5; fresh buy-on-board (BOB) choices will increase to $9 from $7. If you’re sitting in business class on a domestic flight, you’ll still get a free meal, but you’ll have to choose from among the BOB options United is peddling to coach passengers. … Virgin America will charge up to $100 for the privilege of choosing a seat in a bulkhead or exit row. The seats have extra legroom (38 inches) and the new charge, dubbed "Main Cabin Select," includes complimentary food and beverages as well as free pay-per-view entertainment on the seatback audio-video system. … Remember Maxjet, one of the all-business-class trans-Atlantic carriers that tanked just before last Christmas? Several months ago, a sports-charter company had struck a deal to buy the carrier. Now the deal has tanked, too.

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

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

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