The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for Aug. 20-Sept. 3, 2015
The briefing in brief: What does American have against flying to Tel Aviv? United causes a panic with a minor change to club-access rules. SAS will add nonstops to Miami and Los Angeles. Hilton opens another bundle of hotels. Two Tube strikes hit London next week. And more ...
What Does American Airlines Have Against Flying to Tel Aviv?
The first major change to US Airways' international network since the American Airlines merger was revealed this week: Effective January 4, American will dump US Airways' daily flights between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv. The decision wasn't announced publicly, but disclosed in a communiqué to employees. A flight attendant's union later published American's talking points on the decision. American was adamant that the route, launched in 2009, was never profitable and said PHL-TLV lost $20 million in the last year. Those claims, however, are in stark contrast to previous glowing statements about Philadelphia-Tel Aviv by US Airways management--which, of course, is exactly the same team that runs American now. What makes excision of this single route notable? History. Despite hubs in New York and Miami, areas with large Jewish populations, American has never flown to Israel. And then there's this: Just as American was wrapping up the deal to purchase TWA in 2001, TWA abruptly shuttered its JFK-Tel Aviv route with no advance notice. TWA did it four days before Passover and stranded thousands of passengers. It also abandoned its Tel Aviv station and left a trail of unpaid bills. It didn't pay employee salaries or make good on their pensions, either. Israeli courts repeatedly ruled against TWA and, according to the terms of a 2010 settlement, employees are still owned more than $15 million. Ironically, El Al announced this month that it would buy a fleet of Boeing 787s and hopes to use Dreamliners to resume its own flights to Miami and Chicago/O'Hare, another American Airlines hub.
United Changes Club Rules and Causes Unnecessary Panic
It is a testament to the total incompetence of United Airlines that it can screw up even a relatively minor rules change. Signs began appearing in United Clubs around the country last week that gave members one-year notice of "changes to the access policy." The signs said same-day boarding passes would be required even for members. A mass mailing this week to Club members and holders of two Chase credit cards that include lounge privileges made the same point: To access United clubs starting August 18, 2016, a "same-day boarding pass...will be required for United Club access." That caused a blizzard of complaints on frequent flyer message boards and dozens of you contacted me by E-mail. In fact, the new policy will not require you fly United Airlines or even a Star Alliance carrier. As long as you are flying that day and have a boarding pass, you'll still have access to the nearest United Club. And there will be a carve-out for red-eye and other flights that span multiple days. (United eventually posted a fuller explanation of its new access requirements here.) The reasons why United is making the change are a bit unclear. Except, of course, that Delta has the same rule for access to SkyClubs and we know that United eventually does whatever Delta does.
Boston/Logan has another lodging option. A 178-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened about a mile away. The hotel runs a complimentary 24-hour shuttle to and from the airport as well as nearby businesses and mass-transit stations.
Ontario Airport in Southern California's so-called Inland Empire has won back its independence from LAWA, the agency that operates Los Angeles International. The struggling airport about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles has been run by the LAX board for more than 30 years. Ontario politicians claim LAWA's neglect has caused the airport to lose nearly half of its traffic in recent years.
Denver may not get an outlet of Chick-fil-A after all. According to the Denver Post, local politicians are opposed to allowing a concessionaire to open a Chick-fil-A outlet because of the company's stance on gay and lesbian issues. Surveys of Denver passengers say Chick-fil-A is the second most desired fast-food brand after Chipotle.
SAS Scandinavian Adding Nonstops to Los Angeles and Miami
SAS Scandinavian is the quiet man of the Star Alliance, taking a secondary role behind United Airlines and Lufthansa. But if your goal is getting to or from Scandinavia fast, SAS is the way to go. Better yet, the airline announced this week that it will add three new nonstop routes and two cities to its U.S. route map. Effective March 16, it'll begin daily service between Los Angeles and Stockholm. (The flights will run five times weekly in the winter season.) SAS will also fly to Miami starting next fall, offering four weekly flights to Oslo and four weekly flights to Copenhagen. The airline also will add frequencies on existing routes from Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
Icelandair will add nonstops between Montreal and Reykjavík. But don't rush to book. The first of the four weekly flights won't launch until November 8, 2016.
Delta Air Lines is reducing its Atlanta-Dubai route to four or five flights a week beginning October 1. It has been flying the service daily and, of course, Delta management has been whining that Gulf Carriers are competing unfairly.
If It's Thursday, It Must Be Another Hilton Hotel Opening
Hilton may have taken a sledgehammer to its HHonors frequent flyer program, but that sure hasn't stopped it from opening new properties at a breakneck pace. Here's what has opened just in the last few days. From the Hilton Garden Inn brand, there are new branches in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Irvine, California. From the Hampton Inn brand, look for new properties near the Carrier Center in Syracuse, New York; in Merida, capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, and in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There's also a new Embassy Suites in Naperville, Illinois, and a DoubleTree resort in Malaga, Spain.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
London travelers take note: More 24-hour Underground strikes are planned for next week. The first will begin Tuesday evening (August 25) and the second will start on Thursday evening (August 27). Employees and management are fighting over rules and wages for an overnight Tube service planned to launch next month. Find updates and service changes here.
Washington airports were hit with massive delays and cancellations last Saturday (August 15) when a software upgrade went awry at a Federal Aviation Authority radar facility in Virginia.
Personal hotspot blockers got slapped again this week by the Federal Communications Commission. A company called Smart City Holdings, one of the nation's largest providers of WiFi at convention centers, was hit with a $750,000 fine for blocking personal mobile hotspots. Smart City claimed it was working to keep its networks secure, but the FCC said it found no evidence of any threats from personal hotspots.
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