May 23, 2007

The Department of Transportation has granted approval for Virgin America, the new low-fare carrier, to begin operations. The company expects to launch midsummer, with flights from its hub in San Francisco to New York's JFK International Airport. Virgin America also will service Los Angeles International, Washington/Dulles, San Diego and Las Vegas airports in its first year. Within five years, executives hope the carrier will be flying to 30 cities.

The Elad Group, owner of New York City's Plaza Hotel, last week announced a $5 billion mixed-use development that will bring the Plaza brand to the Las Vegas Strip. Initial plans call for the demolition of the New Frontier Hotel & Casino early next year, followed by the construction of 3,500 new hotel rooms, 300 private residences, a casino, convention space, and retail and restaurant space on the 34.5-acre site. To be known as the Las Vegas Plaza, or the Plaza in Las Vegas, the new complex will open in 2011.

The $325 million headquarters hotel complex at the expanding Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis will include a total of 1,568 guest rooms in four hotels: a 1,000-room JW Marriott, a 250-room Courtyard by Marriott, a 168-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and a 150-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott. The JW Marriott will feature 110,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including a 45,000-square-foot ballroom. When the complex opens in 2010, the number of guest rooms at hotels connected via skywalk to the convention center will rise to 4,654.

The New York State Senate has passed the New York State Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights, which will require all airlines at New York airports to provide passengers with basic amenities including food, water, fresh air and working rest rooms when stranded on airplanes for more than three hours. The creation of an Office of Airline Consumer Advocate also is included in the measure, which will allow passengers to report problems in airline travel and service. The bill has been sent to the New York State Assembly for action.

After months of labor disputes between the 580-room Westin Los Angeles Airport and Unite HERE, the hotel workers union, a settlement has been reached. The conflict began last July; since then, more than 50 of the hotel's employees have been suspended for wearing union buttons and refusing to remove them. Under the settlement, workers who were suspended without pay will be compensated, and a complaint against the Westin issued by the Nation Labor Relations Board will be withdrawn. A spokesperson for Unite HERE called the settlement "a partial victory, not a complete one," saying the organization will continue its unionization efforts. The hotel's general manager was not available for comment.