The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for June 18-30, 2015
The briefing in brief: United jilts JFK and sets up a shuffle on Transcon Triangle routes. Southwest plays defense at Dallas/Love Field. Delta dumps Seattle-Tokyo/Haneda run it fought to keep but didn't want to fly. Ramadan starts the month of fasting for Muslims. And more ...
United Shuffles the Transcon Deck by Moving P.S. Service to Newark
United Airlines has admitted the obvious--that it's the loser on transcontinental flights between New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco--and doing the obvious: moving its p.s. transcon service across the Hudson River to its fortress hub at Newark. After slashing any connecting or international flights at JFK over the last 15 years, the United transcon service was an orphan. Meanwhile, its huge Newark hub was stuck with less-than-premium service on the LAX and SFO runs. So, you know, logical. The move takes place October 25 when United's p.s.-configured Boeing 757s start operating from Newark. United also claims that it will increase the number of flights in the Transcon Triangle by adding some other Boeing 757s configured for international service. (Of course, United now claims it has been losing money on p.s. flights for years, a reversal of its earlier assertions, so take everything the carrier says with a full shaker of salt.) Meanwhile, United's jilting of JFK has set off a frenzy among the remaining players. JetBlue Airways has already announced it will add more transcon flights beginning the day United departs. JetBlue stormed the higher end of the transcon market last year with its successful (and slightly lower priced) Mint premium service. Delta and American airlines also say they will add flights on JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO routes. The upshot of it all? Higher fares, of course. United has a virtual monopoly on transcon nonstops from Newark, so adding p.s. flights will allow it to increase prices. And with one fewer player in the JFK market, the other players (including Virgin America, the sole carrier without lie-flat beds) can bump up fares, too.
Southwest Plays Defense in Dallas
Southwest Airlines last year won the long war against the Wright Amendment that limited its ability to fly from Dallas/Love Field. But now that it has grown to 166 flights a day and 18 gates at the revitalized, remodeled Love, it has to play defense against Delta Air Lines. As you recall, Southwest recently grabbed two gates that once belonged to United Airlines. Delta has been using one of those gates for its five daily flights to its Atlanta hub. Southwest told Delta it had to go next month because it has plans to increase to 180 daily flights. But Delta doesn't want to leave, so Dallas city officials filed suit in federal court this week asking for judicial advice. Why? The Transportation Department has repeatedly told Dallas officials that it must find space at Love for Delta. Of course, Southwest has asked a different court to vacate the DOT ruling. Stay tuned, folks, this is an only-in-Texas thing. Separately, Southwest is bulking up in Florida. Effective November 1, it'll add daily flights to Orlando from Grand Rapids and Washington/National; begin winter-season flights to Fort Lauderdale from Albany, Columbus (Ohio), Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Raleigh/Durham; and begin winter service between Fort Myers and Akron, Flint, Hartford and Milwaukee.
Delta Takes Its Ball ...er, Planes ... and Goes Home
After the Transportation Department turned away a challenge to Delta Air Line's route between Seattle-Tacoma and Tokyo/Haneda in April, I called Delta the whiny bully of the skies. Why? Delta won the route fight, but then complained that the DOT's terms were "draconian." What were the DOT's demands? The agency insisted Delta actually fly the route, every day, instead of canceling service for weeks or months at a time. The DOT finalized that order this week and Delta promptly took its ball, er, planes, and went home. Calling the DOT's order that it actually fly the route it so desperately wanted to keep "onerous," Delta will abandon the route. The last flights will be September 30. Presumably, the DOT-designated "back-up" carrier, American Airlines, will now be given the nod to fly a Los Angeles-Haneda route. Even that is odd, however, since American abandoned its New York/Kennedy-Haneda route and that service was subsequently given to United Airlines, which flies to Haneda from San Francisco.
Chicago/Midway has a new lodging option. A 148-room Hyatt Place has opened at 6550 South Cicero, just outside Midway's fences.
Charlotte has a fancy new eatery. The 1897 Market is located between Concourses A and B in the space formerly occupied by a Chili's. The new marketplace-style restaurant has an open kitchen and features a raw bar, a carving station, a grill, a woodstone pizza oven and a bar.
New Hotels from Bangkok to British Columbia to Baltimore
The upsurge in hotel openings continues apace and there's hardly a place on earth that isn't getting some new lodging options. Here's what has opened since last we looked.
Marriott has opened Fairfield Inn properties in Kamloops, British Columbia (114 rooms), Akron, Ohio (98 rooms), and East Grand Folks, Minnesota, (67 rooms).
InterContinental Hotels has opened a 192-room Hotel Indigo on Wireless Road in Bangkok and a 162-room branch in Baltimore. The Baltimore outlet is on West Franklin Street in a building that once housed the city's first YMCA.
Starwood has opened a 174-room Four Points in Kaluga, Russia, and a 188-room Element Hotel in the Science and Technology Town development in Suzhou, China.
Hyatt has opened a 92-room Hyatt Place in Jermuk, Armenia. That's the second Hyatt Place in Armenia, which is more than Hyatt has in Arkansas or Alaska.
Hilton has opened a 100-room Home2 Suites in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and reflection, began today (June 18). A reminder: Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sundown and that sometimes makes for frayed nerves. Also, the restaurants in mostly Islamic areas are always crowded immediately after sundown as famished fasters rush in for the evening meal.
The Waldorf-Astoria in New York was sold to a Chinese insurance company in February and that has led the U.S. State Department to pull up stakes. State traditionally used the Waldorf for visiting officials and has leased an apartment for the U.S. ambassador to the UN for 50 years. The lease expires later this year and the Associated Press says the government is moving staffers to the Palace Hotel nearby. State is apparently worried that China will hack or bug accommodations at the Waldorf.
Delta Air Lines is resuming flights between its Tokyo/Narita hub and Osaka. Although it hasn't been announced, a daily flight beginning March 27 is showing up on schedules. Delta last flew the route in June, 2010.
Tourism to Kenya plunged by 25 percent during the first five months of 2015. The reason? Fears of continued attacks by al Shabaab terrorists based in Somalia. Visits to Kenya from Britain have fallen by 35 percent and dropped by 22 percent from the United States.
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