The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for Sept. 24-Oct. 8, 2015
The briefing in brief: Weak economy or not, more China flights and hotels. Four Air France lounges at U.S. airports now accessible via Amex Platinum and Priority Pass. United ditches moving walkways at O'Hare. Delta adds more Tel Aviv flights and a Raleigh-Paris route. And more ...
Tanking Economy or Not, China Gets More Flights and Hotels
Chinese business travelers are quickly becoming the world's big spenders, but the country's economic woes are giving everyone pause. Except, apparently, the travel industry, which is never quite in sync with global rhythms. How else to explain the news this week that both United Airlines and Air China will launch new routes between the United States and China. United wants to operate three weekly flights between its San Francisco hub and Xi'an beginning on May 8. Seasonal service will operate until October 27 pending government approval. And Air China, technically the Chinese flag carrier, is launching four weekly flights between Newark and its Beijing hub. The Boeing 777-300ER service, configured with first, business and coach cabins, will operate from Newark's Terminal B in direct competition with United's existing Newark-Beijing run. It's due to begin October 25. Meanwhile, Hilton has opened another China hotel, a 439-property on the east coast of Hainan Island. It is Hilton's sixth hotel on the resort island in the South China Sea. And Marriott has opened a 296-room Renaissance Hotel in the Wujiang District of Suzhou, a canal city about two hours from Shanghai. It's the 19th Renaissance property in China.
Amex Picks Up Four More U.S. Airport Clubs via Priority Pass
In the ongoing battle between the American Express Platinum Card and the Chase United Club Card for airport-lounge-access supremacy, Amex has bulked up its comparatively weak domestic lineup with additional facilities in four key hub cities. Thanks to its tie-in with Priority Pass, Amex Platinum and Priority Pass cardholders now can use the Air France departure lounges in Terminal One at New York/Kennedy; Concourse A at Washington/Dulles; Terminal D at Houston/Intercontinental and the International Terminal at San Francisco.
Alaska Airlines and Icelandair are resuming their code-share and frequent flyer program partnerships. Effective October 1, Mileage Plan members can earn miles on Icelandair flights. MVP Gold and Gold 75K members will also have access to the Icelandair lounge in the carrier's hub at Reykjavik airport. No date was given for when Mileage Plan members can use miles to claim awards on Icelandair flights.
Citi ThankYou points can now be transferred to the Virgin America Elevate program. Two ThankYou points equal one Elevate point.
Marriott Rewards players now have a new award option in the Greek Islands. The Domes of Elounda, a well-regarded seaside resort on Crete with 78 suites and 40 villas, has joined the Autograph Collection. It's a Category 9 redemption.
United Ditches the Moving Walkways at Its O'Hare Hub
At a certain point, airline cuts become parody. What else can you say about this one? United Airlines has confirmed that it will eliminate the eight moving walkways in the C Concourse at Terminal 1 at Chicago/O'Hare. Half have already been deactivated and all eight will be removed by the spring. United claims the walkways are bad for passenger flow and don't actually move travelers any faster than walking. But the move will add hundreds of steps to the journeys of connecting passengers at United's sprawling O'Hare hub. Walkways in the 850-foot pedestrian tunnel between Concourses C and B will remain in operation, however.
Detroit/Metro flyers using Delta Air Lines are in for changes, too. The Express Tram in the McNamara Terminal is out of service until at least October 12. Moving walkways at the long, connection-unfriendly terminal remain in operation. However, plan for longer times to the gate and consider longer connection times, too.
Asheville, North Carolina, has another lodging option. The 91-room Courtyard by Marriott has opened on Rockwood Road across I-26 from the airport.
Newark Airport now has its first public-transportation link to the New York City borough of Staten Island. The TAZ100 bus offers 14 roundtrips a day between the airport and three stops on New York's most isolated borough. More details are here.
Delta Adds More Transatlantic Flights at JFK...and Raleigh
Delta Air Lines has been trimming its transatlantic schedule as fares and traffic fell in recent months, but this week it announced two tactical additions. On May 12, it'll add a nonstop daily Boeing 757 flight between Raleigh-Durham and Paris/CDG, the hub of its SkyTeam partner Air France. Raleigh hasn't had a nonstop connection to Paris since American Airlines abandoned its RDU hub in 1995. And Delta is also adding four weekly Boeing 777-200ER flights to its existing New York/Kennedy-Tel Aviv route. Starting May 26, that will mean 11 weekly flights between JFK and Ben Gurion.
British Airways is making connections more difficult for flyers on four U.S. routes to its London/Heathrow hub. Effective October 14, flights to and from Denver, Las Vegas, Miami and Phoenix will be bumped out of BA's primary facility at Heathrow Terminal 5. Those flights will now use Terminal 3. That means you'll have to leave additional connection times if you want to use many onward BA flights at Heathrow.
Porter Airlines will run snowbird service between its Toronto/City Island hub and Melbourne, Florida, this winter. The weekly nonstop will operate between December 19 and April 30.
Japan Airlines is switching to Boeing 777-200ER aircraft on its Honolulu-Tokyo/Haneda route. That means the loss of a first class cabin but the introduction of premium economy seating. The aircraft and cabin change is effective on January 7.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
France, Netherlands and Belgium travelers take note: A 24-hour strike in Belgium will essentially shut down the tri-country Thalys train service on October 8 and 9. The strike starts at 10 p.m. local time on the 8th and continues until 10 p.m. on the 9th. More information is here.
European airlines are now required to offer compensation for long flight delays due to mechanical problems. The European Court of Justice ruled last week against KLM in a 2009 case. And earlier this year, a British court ruled against Jet2 in similar circumstances. You can read the KLM decision here.
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.