The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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The Briefing for October 16 to 30, 2014
The briefing in brief: The only thing we have to fear is flyers fearful of Ebola. Hilton creates a hotel brand named for Walmart dishes. United ups the perks for SFO elites. Blackpool Airport closes. Pistole quits as TSA boss. High-speed trains will link Frankfurt and Vienna airports.
The Only Thing We Have to Fear Are Flyers Afraid of Ebola
There are big hurricanes bearing down on Bermuda and Hawaii. Airline on-time performance, lousy all year, has plummeted even further this month and we've had many snowstorm-like days of flight delays in October. And you're letting the ratings-obsessed mainstream media and the Conservative Entertainment Complex whip you into a frenzy over Ebola? C'mon, fellow travelers, you really are smarter than this. In case you haven't been able to separate the facts from the noise, some facts:
Ebola is not an airborne virus. It is only spread by direct contact with bodily fluids and only after an Ebola sufferer has manifested the symptoms of the disease.
Exactly one person in the United States (Thomas Earl Duncan) has died from Ebola. He arrived from Liberia before manifesting any symptoms, so the screening being implemented at five U.S. airports would not have stopped him from entering the country. In contrast to this singular U.S. death, about 90 people a day die on highways in car accidents and as many as 1,300 Americans die daily from smoking or smoking-related illnesses.
The last U.S. carrier to serve any of the most affected West African nations--Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone--was Delta Air Lines. It dropped flights to Monrovia. Liberia, on August 31 after a long, mostly unsuccessful attempt to build an Africa flight network.
During the last two months, government officials say about 36,000 locals left Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone by plane. About a quarter of them eventually came to the United States. Nearly half arrived at New York/Kennedy Airport. About 20 percent arrived at Washington/Dulles, the second-busiest port of entry. Except for Duncan, none of the other arrivals from the three countries developed Ebola.
Hilton Creates a New Brand Named After Walmart Crockery
For reasons known only to Hilton, it is creating a hotel chain and naming it after a private-label brand of dinnerware sold at Walmart. Canopy will be the hotel giant's entry in the "lifestyle" or "boutique" segment of the market. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because Hilton has tried it before. Five years ago, Hilton launched a brand called Denizen only to fold it after the creative team was caught with a huge cache of documents pilfered from Starwood. Hilton claims the first Canopy property will open next year and that at least 11 properties are already in the first stage of development. What do we know about Canopy? Pretty much nothing other than the standard meaningless marketing buzzwords. Or, as Hilton's John Vanderslice says, "Canopy is the energizing new hotel in the neighborhood offering simple, guest-directed service, thoughtful local choices and comfortable spaces, so guests simply feel better going forward." ... New from Marriott this week: Fairfield Inn hotels in Papillion, Nebraska (98 rooms). and Waterloo, Iowa (81 rooms). It also opened a 145-room Courtyard in Sunnyvale, California. The latest Silicon Valley outpost is located at 660 West El Camino Real, roughly equidistant from U.S. 101 and I-280.
United Ups the Perks for Super-Elite Flyers at Its SFO Hub
United Airlines this week unveiled a number of hard-product enhancements for super-elite flyers at its San Francisco hub. Global Services members of MileagePlus now have their own check-in facilities. The 1,100-square-foot lobby is across from doors five and six on the departure level of Terminal 3. It has five check-in stations and fast access to a TSA PreCheck security line. Meanwhile, Premier MileagePlus travelers have a new check-in area located near Boarding Area E. The old elite check-in area has been redeployed to serve group travelers. ... Blackpool International, which served the seaside resort town, Lancashire and the Lakes District in Northwest England, has closed. The airport served about 650 flyers a day. In the last year, Blackpool offered flights to a baker's dozen of destinations, including Belfast, Dublin and Spanish sun destinations such as Ibiza, Malaga and Lanzarote. ... An 81-room Hyatt Place has opened about two miles from Savannah Airport.
Pistole Is Out as TSA Administrator. The Nation Yawns.
John Pistole announced today (October 16) that he was stepping down as TSA Administrator. He'll leave at the end of the year and he's expected to become the president of Anderson University, a private Christian school in Indiana. Confirmed in June, 2010, after two earlier Obama Administration nominees withdrew, Pistole is the longest-serving boss of the agency. His tenure has been, how shall we say, controversial. His first major move, installing full-body scanners, was dogged by bad publicity and privacy and health concerns. He created PreCheck, built in an original sin, and then made the program even less useful by jamming thousands of unprepared travelers through the fast-access bypass lanes. He also had to backtrack from a plan to allow Swiss Army-type knives and similar tools to be carried through security. After he had a TSA swat team try to pat down travelers disembarking from an Amtrak train, the chief of Amtrak police banned TSA agents from railroad property nationwide. And Congress had to pass a special law forcing Pistole not to break existing law by unilaterally shutting down a procedure that allows airports to hire private screeners.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
United Airlines has apparently decided this in-flight Internet thing isn't a fad. It has announced it will add WiFi to about 200 of its two-class regional jets operated by United Express commuter carriers. United trails American Airlines and Delta Air Lines in WiFi installations. Only about two-thirds of United's traditional jet fleet is currently wired. United claims both the mainline fleet and the RJs will be fully wired by next summer. ... High-speed German ICE trains will add a direct route between Frankfurt and Vienna airports. Twice-daily trains launch in December and will take about 7.5 hours. Intermediate stops include Linz, Passau and Regensburg. ... Speaking of Germany, it's been a lousy week on the road there. On Wednesday, the national rail system was struck again by drivers looking for a new contract. And today (October 16), the Germanwings short-haul domestic division of Lufthansa was hit by a pilot strike. It is the seventh pilots' job action this year as the two sides wrangle over retirement benefits.
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