The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for June 25-July 9, 2015
The briefing in brief: Is United headed for another "summer of hell"? JetBlue adds Mint transcontinental service from Boston/Logan. Hyatt picks up two resorts in Latin America. Delta bails on two routes to London/Heathrow. Temporary peace at Love Field. And much more ...
Is United Airlines Headed for Another 'Summer of Hell'?
United Airlines has been running such a crappy operation for so many years that it's hard to know where rock-bottom may be. But many business travelers are worried about another "summer of hell" akin to the carrier's epic meltdown in 2000. And there's statistical support for the fear. In the last 30 days according to FlightStats.com, United's mainline operation has cancelled nearly 1,700 flights and racked up 20,200 delays. That's more than four times the number of flights Delta cancelled in the same period and more than twice as many as American Airlines dumped. Many of United's commuter carriers are also doing poorly. ExpressJet, for example, cancelled 2,080 flights and delayed 13,000 more. SkyWest cancelled 1,174 flights and delayed 10,000. (Of course, both carriers fly for other major airlines, so it's not clear how many of those cancelled and delayed operations were marketed as United Express service.) More ominous is that United has been pre-canceling flights in bunches in the next week to ten days. Insiders say United operations are running only about 65 percent on-time during June, far below the industry average and a huge decline from United's on-time performance of 77 percent in May. Another worrying note: United continues to squabble over contracts with its mechanics and there have been whispers of a work-to-rules slowdown.
Hyatt Gold Passport Players Get Two Enticing New Latin Options
Hyatt Gold Passport players tend to like their choice of hotels, the program perks and the richness of top-tier Diamond elite status. The downside: Hyatt has the smallest global footprint of the major chains. But there's good news for HGP fans this week. It has picked up the Carmelo Resort & Spa in Uruguay. If that sounds familiar, the property has been managed as Four Seasons until defecting to Hyatt. Even better, the hotel, with 20 bungalows and 24 suites, has been tagged Category 5, requiring just 20,000 points per night. At the same time, Hyatt has opened a beachfront Grand Hyatt in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The 114-room resort is also pegged at Category 5.
American AAdvantage is downgrading its choice of flights to Hawaii. Effective September 1, you won't be able to use AAdvantage miles for seats on Hawaiian Airlines flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. You'll still be able to use miles to claim inter-island flights, however. Complete details are here.
Hilton HHonors has devalued again, this time by increasing the award cost of 18 properties around the world. Several properties actually jumped two categories in price. The upcharges are effective July 8. Complete details are here.
JetBlue Will Bring Mint Premium Service to Its Boston Transcons
JetBlue Airways is going where no U.S. carrier has ever succeeded: expanding Transcontinental Triangle service to an airport that isn't New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles or San Francisco. The airline says it'll add its Mint premium-class service to Boston next year and fly it on routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Both cities will have Mint on as many as three flights a day from Logan, which is now JetBlue's second-largest city. Mint, the signature feature of JetBlue's Airbus A321s, features lie-flat beds, elaborate dining, 100 channels of live television and free in-flight WiFi. JetBlue's move was expected and comes a week after United Airlines announced it would move its p.s. transcontinental service to its Newark hub. Traditionally, however, premium flights that worked on the New York-Los Angeles-San Francisco runs have failed elsewhere. Just recently, for example, Delta scrapped plans to upgrade its Kennedy-Seattle flights to transcontinental status and service.
Porter Airlines, the Canadian carrier based at Toronto/City airport, is headed to Pittsburgh. Two daily Toronto/City-Pittsburgh roundtrips launch on September 21. Porter uses Q-400 turboprops configured with 74 coach seats.
JetBlue Airways is adding Nashville to its route map. Flights from Boston and Fort Lauderdale are expected to start in the spring using Airbus A320s.
Delta Bails on Heathrow Routes From Los Angeles and Newark
When Delta Air Lines purchased a 49 percent interest in Virgin Atlantic--and, boy, was Singapore Airlines glad to dump it--the stated goal was to bulk up Delta's presence at London's Heathrow airport. And in fairness, Delta has increased Heathrow operations from several hubs. But it has hit the wall on two routes it picked up from Virgin. Although it hasn't announced it, Delta will drop Heathrow flights from Los Angeles and Newark. The Newark run had been Virgin's morning flight to Heathrow, but Delta moved it to an evening departure. Meanwhile, it looks like Virgin will resume a second LAX departure after Delta drops its Los Angeles service. Delta flights on the two routes end on October 5.
Turkish Airlines is adding Atlanta to its route map. Daily flights to Istanbul begin May 16 using Boeing 777-200ERs configured with business class and coach. It's the third U.S. route Turkish has added this year. It began flights to San Francisco in April and is scheduled to add flights to Miami in October.
Copa Airlines will launch flights from San Francisco to its hub at Panama City, Panama, beginning September 17. Copa will use Boeing 737-800s configured with 16 business-class and 138 coach seats.
There's Peace at Love (Field), at Least for the Moment
The increasingly nasty legal battle between Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and the city of Dallas over gate space at Love Field has been settled--at least for the moment. Southwest Airlines says it will allow Delta Air Lines to keep operating its five daily flights to Atlanta while the conflicting court cases are resolved. Southwest had threatened to oust Delta on July 7. But this is hardly peace in our time. Southwest, which controls 18 or the 20 gates at Love, wants Delta gone. Delta wants to stay--and add flights to its Minneapolis, Detroit/Metro and Salt Lake City hubs.
Melbourne International in Australia no longer has a United Club. United has shuttered its lounge and United flyers now must use the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge or the Air New Zealand Koru lounge.
Hertz customers beware. Effective July 15, it will charge you $13.99 if you drive your rental fewer than 75 miles and do not refuel before you return the vehicle.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Lufthansa is now facing possible strikes from its cabin crews. The union says Lufthansa has until Tuesday (June 30) to come to terms or strikes will begin on July 1. Pilots have already struck the German carrier a dozen times in the last year.
The TSA has a new administrator. The Senate this week confirmed Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger. He'll be the second TSA boss during the term of President Obama.
LOT Polish claimed that hackers caused it to cancel 10 flights and delay dozens of others on Sunday (June 21). But Polish prosecutors say they aren't convinced and are examining the possibility that LOT's problem was a more pedestrian computer error.
Star Alliance gets a new member on July 22. Avianca in Brazil joins on that day and will add 15 new Latin American destinations to the alliance's route map.
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