The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business Travel Briefing for November 19-30, 2018
The briefing in brief: Marriott Rewards loses major Hawaii resort. Paine Field near Seattle opens in February, but Southwest won't be there. Citi revamps the Prestige Card. Alaska Airlines is biggest loser in Amazon's HQ2 decision. O'Hare opens consolidated rental facility. And more.
You Can Now Buy Tickets to Fly to Paine Field--But Not on Southwest
Alaska Airlines is now selling tickets for flights to and from Paine Field (code PAE), scheduled to open on February 11. About 35 miles from Alaska's Seattle/Tacoma hub, the airport is expected to offer an alternative flight schedule to travelers based in North Seattle and some relief from overcrowded I-5 and I-405. The initial Alaska Airlines schedule will include 18 daily EMB-175 flights to airports in California, Arizona and Nevada. That's five more flights than Alaska Air originally announced and the reason for that is simple: Southwest Airlines has bailed on the new airport. Southwest announced this week that it transferred its flight rights at Paine to Alaska. That means Alaska's only direct competition at Paine Field will be United Airlines, which has announced four daily flights to its San Francisco hub and two to its Denver hub. Delta Air Lines, which bulled into Sea-Tac several years ago, has been mum on its plans to compete with Alaska Air at Paine.
Starwood's Former Owner Swipes Hawaii Resort From Marriott Rewards
Marriott Rewards players have just lost a big-ticket Hawaiian award destination. The St. Regis Princeville on the island of Kauai exited the system immediately after the $225 million sale of the property closed this week. The new owner? Starwood Capital Group, owned by Barry Sternlicht, once the boss of Starwood Hotels, now part of Marriott. Sternlicht has plans to add the lavish beachfront resort to his 1Hotels brand. In the meantime, however, the 251-room property has been renamed the Princeville Resort. The property opened in 1986 as a Sheraton and rebranded as St. Regis in 2009 after a $60 million renovation. Starwood says it will spend another $100 million in the years ahead. Meanwhile, the nearest Marriott for Rewards members, the Westin Princeville, is about three miles away
Delta SkyMiles members take note: Delta is launching a weekly seasonal route between New York/LaGuardia and Key West, Florida. Saturday flights using EMB-170 regional jets will operate between March 9 and August 31.
Citi Prestige Card is getting an overhaul. Short story: Fewer benefits, better ThankYou points earnings. Effective January 4, the card offers five points per dollar on airline and restaurant spend and three points on hotel and cruise spend. What gets cut? Effective September 1, the card's fourth night free hotel benefit is slashed. You'll now only be able to use it twice a year and reservations must be made online via Citi. The value of ThankYou point transfers to airlines is reduced to one from 1.25. Double points on entertainment spending also disappears. More details are here. If you already carry this card, check the changes carefully to see how they affect your earn and burn. If you don't have the card, you'll have to wait until Citi officially reintroduces it. The new annual fee will be $495 and the $250 annual statement credit will cover any travel expense, not just flights.
Uber has announced a new loyalty program called Uber Rewards. It rolled out in eight metropolitan areas and will go national in 2019. Full details are here. Lyft is also starting a loyalty program named--surprise!--LyftRewards. It starts next year. Initial details are here.
O'Hare Gets Consolidated Rental Car Facility, Temporarily Loses People Mover
Chicago/O'Hare giveth and taketh away. And by giveth I mean only if you like consolidated rental car facilities. The 2.5-million-square-foot Multi Modal Facility houses all 13 car rental firms at the airport, includes 2,600 parking spaces and offers a dozen electric charge stations. Starting next year, it should also be the hub for regional buses serving the airport. The $841 million structure will be connected to ORD's people mover, the Air Transit System. Therein is the taketh part. The system has been closing in phases in recent months and will be completely off-line starting in January. That means you'll have to use shuttle buses to Terminal 5 (the international facility), the new rental car building and parking lots--and you'll also have to hoof it between the airport's other terminals.
Charlotte/Douglas has a new beer option: NoDa Brewing, a local favorite, has opened in Concourse A. The bar and restaurant is operated by HMSHost, the huge airport dining operation.
Toronto/City, the close-in airport connected by tunnel to downtown Toronto, has eliminated a signature amenity: free perks such as soft drinks, coffee and snacks. The reason? The freebies conflicted with the airport's new bars and restaurants, which opened last month.
Biggest Loser in Amazon's HQ2 Decision? Alaska Airlines
If you've been through Seattle-Tacoma recently, you'll note how Alaska Airlines bends backward to accommodate Amazon.com, the region's 800-pound gorilla. Amazon gets its own check-in lines at Sea-Tac counters and all sorts of other perks. There was even speculation this summer that Alaska Air was adding flights to Columbus in anticipation of Amazon naming the Ohio capital as its second headquarters (HQ2). But now we know Amazon chose the New York borough of Queens and Arlington, Virginia, as dual HQ2s. It will also open a new operations center in Nashville. Forget for a moment how Amazon will add more stress to already overcrowded and deteriorating public-transit systems in New York and Metropolitan Washington. Forget that more flyers--Amazon promises 25,000 new jobs in both Queens and Arlington--will complicate messy situations at New York/LaGuardia and Washington/National airports. The irony is that Alaska Airlines has been slashing service at both of those airports. Earlier this year, for example, it leased to Southwest Airlines a passel of the LGA and DCA slots that it had picked up in the Virgin America merger. How's that for timing, eh? Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines wasted no time at all announcing a beefed-up schedule in Nashville. Effective June 9, it'll add daily nonstops to Burbank and San Jose, California. Southwest will also add additional frequencies on six additional routes. That will bring the Nashville schedule to 124 weekday flights. One other note about Amazon's choice: Atlanta's losing bid included the promise of an Amazon-only club lounge at Atlanta/Hartfield.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines joins its major competitors in restricting lounge access. Like American and Delta (see below), you now need a same-day boarding pass on United or Star Alliance carriers to enter a United Club even if you're a member or purchased a day pass.
Brightline, the new inter-city rail service in Florida, will change its name to Virgin Trains USA. It's part of a deal announced this week with Richard Branson, the bombastic British entrepreneur. Of course, if you talk to anyone forced to ride Virgin Trains in Britain, this might not be good news. Full details are here.
American Airlines is dropping flights between its Philadelphia hub and Mexico City on January 9. That means the route will have lasted six months since flights only began in July.
The Odd E-mails That Tumble Into Your Inbox Should Not Be Ignored
I've received queries from members about odd E-mail that has found its way into their inboxes, so allow me to clarify. Firstly, that spam-like mailing about an "airline settlement" is not spam at all. It's a legit notification about the proceeds of a class action suit against airline fare collusion. My guess is that virtually all of us are in the class and stand to get a piece of what will surely be a pittance after the lawyers take theirs. For complete details (as the E-mail said), surf here. Meanwhile, the E-mail from Delta Air Lines is real, too, albeit filled with previously covered news about new restrictions on Sky Club membership. Yes, you read it right. Delta no longer sells day passes, annual fees are rising and perks are being cut. Effective January 1, you'll need a same-day ticket on Delta or a partner airline to enter a Sky Club. Another restriction: You'll no longer be able to access Air France, KLM or Virgin Australia clubs. The changes are here.
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