ASTA seeks loans for small business
ASTA asked the Small Business Administration to provide direct loans to cash-strapped small businesses due to the credit crunch. It cited the SBA loans to agents after the 9/11 terrorist attacks as precedent, saying the move saved hundreds of agencies. In a letter to the SBA, ASTA's president and CEO, Chris Russo, said too many agents and other small businesses are "facing serious obstacles in obtaining credit."

Travelocity unit joins Radius group 
Travelocity Business, or TBiz, which manages more than $800 million in annual corporate travel spending, joined the 90-member Radius group, which does more than $20 billion in sales in 80 countries. The Sabre subsidiary said it joined Radius because its range of technology and on-the-ground options would best deliver a "localized" offering of TBiz's services to clients wherever they travel.

Silversea drops Tahiti program
Silversea has scratched the 2009 Tahiti itineraries of its 132-passenger Prince Albert II expedition ship to keep the ship closer to its core European and U.S. customers. The ship will return to the Arctic on June 1 for nine cruises before spending fall and winter in Antarctica. Undecided: where the ship will sail from March through May. 

DOT boosts cap on baggage liability
The Transportation Department ordered an increase in the airlines' minimum liability limit for domestic baggage, boosting the floor from $3,000 to $3,300. The periodic inflation adjustment goes into effect next month.    

Orient Lines delays April launch date 
Orient Lines delayed its inaugural season, set to start in April, and is refunding all bookings on the Marco Polo II, the former Maxim Gorkiy. Ten full-time employees were recently furloughed, and most of the sales force was let go. Wayne Heller, who relaunched the brand in July, said, "We are exploring possible options to relaunch our cruise program at a more favorable time."

UAL, Sabre renew GDS agreement
United agreed to a two-year extension of its full-content agreement with Sabre, making all the airline's inventory and published fares available to Sabre GDS subscribers through 2013. The agreement had been set to expire in 2011.

More lines drop fuel surcharges 
MSC and Crystal joined the growing list of cruise lines to phase out fuel surcharges. Matching Oceania and Regent, Crystal dropped the fee on all 2010 cruises. It will refund them on 2009 cruises as shipboard credits if the price of oil falls below $65 per barrel two weeks before the beginning of the calendar quarter of the cruise.  MSC will also refund the fees from Jan. 1 through March 31 with onboard credits if oil is at or below $65 per barrel on Dec. 18.

U.S airports open three new runways 
New runways opened at a trio of the country's busiest airports:  Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare and Seattle-Tacoma. The airports will handle an additional 330,000 takeoffs and landings annually, said Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. 

Friends & Colleagues

MGM Mirage's board of directors has elected James Murren to replace Terry Lanni as the company's chairman and CEO, effective Dec. 1. Lanni said he was retiring after 13 years to spend more time with his family. The announcement came on Nov. 14, the same day the Wall Street Journal reported he had never earned the MBA listed on his resume. Lanni said the degree from the University of Southern California was honorary, but the school could not confirm such a degree was ever bestowed. • • • Hotel heiress Penny Pritzker's name was being kicked around last week as Barack Obama's top choice for Commerce Secretary. But reports soon surfaced that her vast financial holdings might prevent her from being able to meet Obama's strict standards for service. Pritzker's grandfather founded the Hyatt Hotel chain and the industrial conglomerate Marmon. She is founder and current chair of the luxury senior living chain Classic Residences by Hyatt and was national finance chair for Obama's campaign. • • • MLT Vacations named Terry Williams to the newly created position of vice president of Continental Airlines Vacations. Williams spent 28 years at Continental Airlines, where most recently she was managing director of market development. • • • Aqua Hotels & Resorts announced the appointment of Benjamin Rafter as president and CEO of the Hawaii-based hotel firm. Rafter has spent more than 15 years guiding successful technology and travel companies. Most recently, he was president and CEO of JetAway/Travelworm, a Las Vegas-based online travel retailer.

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