RiverBarge line suspends service
New Orleans-based RiverBarge Excursion Lines is putting business on hold this year due to rising costs and soft bookings. The company said refunds for 2009 deposits will be made from its escrow account as required by the Federal Maritime Commission. The line's 196-passenger barge, the River Explorer, operated four- to 10-day excursions along the Mississippi and its tributaries and the Louisiana-Texas Inland Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; it had 48 departures scheduled for this year. RiverBarge did not declare bankruptcy and has the option to resume operations in 2010, according to the company.

Southwest to settle suit over refunds
Southwest is notifying passengers that it has agreed to settle a class action seeking the return of security fees and airport passenger facility charges that passengers paid for when they bought nonrefundable tickets that were not used. Under the proposed settlement, Southwest agrees to pay $4 to each eligible passenger for unused tickets purchased between Jan. 21, 2000, and June 30, 2006. It also agreed to revise its contract of carriage to make clear that forfeiture of a nonrefundable ticket includes forfeiture of those amounts. Details are online at www.southwest.com.

Rotana inks deal for Baghdad hotel
The Middle East hotel management company Rotana signed an agreement with Summit Hotels to manage a 250-room, five-star hotel opening in Baghdad in 2012. It will be located in the International Green Zone, the heavily guarded diplomatic/government area in central Baghdad.

YTB's day in court set for September
The Los Angeles County Superior Court set a Sept. 21 trial date for California's lawsuit against YTB. The state is accusing the company of operating an illegal pyramid scheme and engaging in deceptive business practices. When the suit was filed in August, Attorney General Edmund Brown Jr. said California wanted "to shut down the company's unlawful operation before more people are exploited by the scam." The state wants $10 million in restitution for California residents who bought into the business and $15 million in civil penalties. The Illinois attorney general is also investigating YTB.

Hyatt opens Andaz in L.A.'s 'Riot House'
Hyatt's first North American Andaz property opened in West Hollywood, a renovation of the former Hyatt on Sunset or, as it was known in its rock 'n' roll heyday, the "Riot House." The high-end boutique brand opened its first hotel in London in 2007. Two more will open this year in New York, and the Andaz Austin will open in Texas in 2010.

DOT reviewing data on tarmac delays
The Transportation Department removed data from its website relating to airline tarmac delays and canceled and diverted flights after learning that the data for October operations was corrupted by airline reporting errors. The snafu stemmed in part from differing airline interpretations of the DOT's revised reporting requirements, which were supposed to have made reliable tarmac delay data available for the first time in December. The DOT said it is now reviewing the entire reporting directive airlines use for delays, departures and arrivals.

Friends & Colleagues

Larry Pimentel resigned as CEO of SeaDream Yacht Club on Jan. 2 and was replaced by Atle Brynestad, SeaDream's owner and chairman. "Due to fundamental disagreements I had with SeaDream's principals regarding the direction of the company, I concluded it was appropriate for me to resign from my position with the company," Pimentel said. He would not elaborate on what the disagreements were about and said that he did not have any solid plans going forward. Brynestad said SeaDream would continue to operate as it always had and appointed Bob Lepisto as president, responsible for sales, marketing and day-to-day operations. Lepisto was most recently senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. • • • Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been reappointed to the board of directors of Marriott International. Romney previously served on Marriott's board from 1992 to 2002, when he resigned to run for governor. • • • Mumbai-based Jet Airways announced that Peter Luethi has resigned as vice president of Eastern and Midwestern USA and Canada. Luethi has spent more than three decades in the aviation industry and has been with Jet Airways since 2003, previously serving as COO. • • • Clive Edwards has been appointed director of rooms operations for the Solis Palmyra Resort & Spa in Rose Hall, Montego Bay, scheduled to open in March. Edwards formerly was manager of Sandals Royal Caribbean Beach Resort & Offshore Island in Montego Bay. • • • Hotelier Earl Powell has been elected president of the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association, replacing Patrick Henry, who died in September. Powell is general manager of the King Christian and Co. House Hotels on St. Croix.

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