Flights By Joe Brancatelli

BIG-CITY BEAT

Southwest Airlines Decides It Can Make It in New York: It's the reverse of that song New York, New York: Having already made it anywhere, Southwest Airlines is hoping to make it "there," meaning New York. The 800-pound gorilla of discounters and the nation's only consistently profitable airline, Southwest adds New York's LaGuardia Airport to its route map on June 28. The initial schedule includes five nonstops a day to Chicago's Midway Airport and three nonstops to Baltimore/Washington. Although Southwest is trimming its total capacity this year, the LaGuardia launch is part of the carrier's push into big cities that it once shunned. In March, Southwest began flying from Minneapolis-St. Paul; it began with flights to Midway and adds three MSP-Denver flights on May 26. The carrier also launches flights at Boston's Logan Airport in the fall. About the only major metropolitan area still off the Southwest route map now is Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport.

COMFORT CHRONICLES

Air France Adds a Premium Economy Cabin: Air France is joining the ranks of carriers adding a fourth cabin, premium economy, on its long-haul flights. The so-called Premium Voyageur section launched April 1 on flights from Paris to New York's Kennedy Airport, Tokyo and Osaka. The cabin will feature a "fixed shell" seat that reclines in its own housing rather than into the space of the passenger in the row behind. The chair is 18.9 inches wide, reclines 123 degrees and offers 38 inches of legroom. In-flight service is a hybrid: Passengers in the new cabin receive a standard coach meal with some business-class perks such as an amenities kit. The chairs are equipped with 10-inch monitors and an on-demand audio-video system. Travelers who pay the premium economy fare, starting at an all-in price of about $1,430 roundtrip between New York and Paris, can use dedicated check-in desks and receive priority boarding and larger checked-baggage allowance. By the way, the launch cities for the premium economy cabin are not kismet. Air France's competitors on the Japanese routes, Japan Airlines and All Nippon, already have premium economy service. And OpenSkies, the British Airlines boutique carrier that flies to Paris from Newark and Kennedy, sells advance-purchase business-class seats for about the same fare that Air France will charge for premium economy. Speaking of OpenSkies, it has finished absorbing L'Avion, the French all-business-class carrier. The airline has also renamed its premium economy class the "Biz Seat" to differentiate it from the beds in its more traditional business class, which is now called — wait for it — the "Biz Bed."

HOTEL HOT SHEET

The Worldwide Hotel Glut Continues to Grow:
You
have to wonder whether hotel owners wish they had a gigantic cork to
stick into the lodging-development pipeline, which continues to spew
forth new properties despite the global glut of rooms. Here's what's
new: a 110-room Hampton Inn & Suites in Providence, Rhode Island, located in the historic Old Colony Bank building; a 150-room Aloft hotel Washington National Harbor
mixed-use complex on the Maryland side of the Potomac River; a 336-room
Shangri-La in Tainan, Taiwan; and the ninth Marriott in Beijing, this
one a 321-room property in the Chaoyang district. Meanwhile, a 120-room
Hilton Garden Inn has opened on the site of the old Milford jai alai in Connecticut. And a joint Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites has opened in Hanover, Maryland, not far from Baltimore-Washington Airport.
The complex offers 250 rooms and suites, 151 of which are branded
Garden Inn and 99 of which are considered Homewood Suites. Marriott has
long offered multi-brand complexes in some markets. … Hyatt Place,
the impressive limited-service brand Hyatt is building from the old
AmeriSuites chain, continues to expand. It has added new or renovated
locations in Estero, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville, Florida;
Lexington, Kentucky; and Herndon, Virginia.


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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

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