The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for September 17-30, 2015
The briefing in brief: American shifting to business-travel markets from LaGuardia. SAS bails on all-business class flights from Houston. British Airways adds first class to San Diego flights. Delta and American drop their 'interline' deal. Lots more Hilton hotels. And much more ...

American Gets Serious About Business-Market Nonstops From LaGuardia
Delta Air Lines would have you believe it dominates not just the New York market in general, but much-maligned LaGuardia Airport in specific. In fact, however, American Airlines is nearly as large at LGA, carrying 21.6 percent of the passengers compared to Delta's 21.9 percent. The difference? American doesn't fly to as many key business markets, especially since its US Airways subsidiary has traditionally deployed precious LGA slots on frequent service to Philadelphia and Charlotte to accommodate connecting hub traffic. But quietly, and without Delta's bombastic tub-thumping, American is changing its LaGuardia flight mix, stressing more point-to-point (and higher yield) business routes and fewer flights to its other hubs. American revived LaGuardia routes to Cleveland and Atlanta earlier this year. In November, it adds two daily flights to Memphis and a daily roundtrip to Akron. The airline this week also loaded four more destinations into its LGA schedule. Beginning December 17, there'll be a daily roundtrip to Orlando using Boeing 737s. Starting on January 5, there'll be three daily regional-jet flights each to Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Indianapolis. American also says it'll add flights to Jacksonville, Florida, but hasn't announced a start date. As you surely noticed, many of these new flights are aimed directly at once or current Delta hubs. The Minneapolis flights are especially interesting because this will be American's third attempt in recent years to re-establish service from LaGuardia.

SAS Bails on Its All-Business Class Route From Houston
We discussed the revival of all-business class flights in the spring, but warned that the chronic lack of profits posed an existential threat to the concept. Ever-quirky Qatar Airways eventually dropped its all-business London-Doha flights on Airbus A319s and reverted to a traditional multi-class service. And SAS announced this week that it would scrap its all-business class flight between Houston/Intercontinental and Stavanger, Norway. The oil-center-to-oil-center route had been using a 44-seat Boeing 737, but ends on October 24. The aircraft is being moved to bulk up SAS' existing Newark-Copenhagen route. It'll run as an all-business aircraft until the end of the year, but then the plane will be configured with 20 business and 66 coach seats. (Oddly, Qatar didn't reconfigure its 40-seat A319s, just changed the branding. It now claims the planes are "all-first class" and flies them between Doha and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.)
    British Airways is adding a first class cabin to its San Diego-London/Heathrow flights. Effective March 27, BA will use four-class Boeing 777-300s configured with 14 suites in first, 56 seat-beds in business, 44 premium economy seats and 183 coach chairs.

Delta, American End 'Interlining,' Meaning More Lousy Service for Us
As if we needed the reminder, the computer meltdown at American Airlines today (September 17) reinforced how frequently legacy carriers screw up and leave us stranded. Traditionally, however, there was the "interline," an agreement between airlines to carry each other's passengers during irregular operations. But that decades-long comity came crashing down this week when Delta and American decided that they'd no longer interline or honor each other's tickets. That means when Delta or American has flight cancellations or long delays, you have virtually no chance of being sent to the other carrier to get out of Dodge. Why have Delta and American parted ways? Delta says it's because it runs so much better than American and has the right to charge American more when it accommodates an American passenger. Delta claims that American sends it five times more passengers than Delta sends to American. American points out that all other carriers except Delta work at industry-standard rates. Bottom line on this intramural squabble? We lose. Whether we fly American or Delta, when a flight disruption occurs, our alternate arrangements are now more limited.
    Heathrow Express, the dedicated train that connects London's major airport with Paddington Station, has added a super-cheap 7-pound one-way fare. That's a big discount off the walk-up 26-pound price, but there is a catch: You must book 90 days in advance.
    American Airlines now has an online, real-time tracking system for checked bags. You can access the system either with your record locator or your bag-tag number. Surf here for details and to track.

Another Hundred Hiltons Just Got Out of the Pipeline
Okay, not another hundred. But Hilton continues to spew new properties out of the development pipeline at a breathtaking pace. All of them are in the extended-stay or limited-service arena, too. From the Homewood Suites division, there are new branches in Greeley, Colorado (85 rooms), and Frederick, Maryland (117 rooms). There's also an 89-room Home2 Suites near the Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City. From Hampton Inn, there are new outlets in Douglas, Wyoming (100 rooms); Tyler, Texas (107 rooms), and Green Bay, Wisconsin (135 rooms). A 171-room Hilton Garden Inn near Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas has also opened.
    Marriott continues to bulk up internationally. It has opened a 132-room Protea in Takoradi, Ghana; a 341-room Marriott in the Guorui Center in Chongqing, China, and a 112-room Renaissance in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India.
    Starwood has opened its first two Aloft hotels in Germany. There's a 184-room branch across from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in Munich and a 165-room outpost in the European Quarter of Stuttgart.

Business-Travel News You Need to Know
Expedia closed on the $1.6 billion purchase of Orbitz. The deal was completed today (September 17), just hours after the Justice Department decided that it wouldn't reduce competition in the online travel agency sphere.
    Amtrak has a new credit card issuer. Bank of America has replaced Chase and now offers two cards tied to Amtrak Guest Rewards. More details and acquisition-bonus offers are here.
    New York City has opened its first new subway station in about 25 years. The Hudson Yards stop on the No. 7 line is near the Javits Convention Center and connects with the Port Authority Bus Station and Grand Central Terminal. By contrast, Beijing's Metro is planning to begin construction later this year on three new service lines and extensions for two existing subway lines.
    Choice Hotels says its Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites brands will be entirely smoke-free starting July 1, 2016.

This column is Copyright © 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.