The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for October 15-29, 2015
The briefing in brief: They're ba-a-a-ck! Cheap oil fuels the return of ultra-long-haul flights. The middle of the chart is the sweet spot for Marriott Cash + Points rewards. Airlines suddenly know the way to San Jose (airport) again. Hyatt abandons in-room porn. And much more ...
They're Ba-a-a-ck! Cheap Oil Fuels the Return of Ultra-Long-Haul Flights
Hundred-dollar-a-barrel oil ended the era of ultra-long-haul flights two years ago and no one really thought we'd see them again soon. But with oil back in the $45-a-barrel range, airlines are eyeing long nonstops again. Air India has set December 2 as the launch date for its nonstops between San Francisco and Delhi. The troubled Indian flag carrier will use a Boeing 777-200LR configured with eight first class, 36 business class and 195 coach seats. The 7,700-mile flight will take about 16 hours and operate three days a week in each direction. Meanwhile, Emirates plans to launch a Dubai-Panama City run in February. That 8,500-mile, 17.5-hour flight will also use Boeing 777-200LRs. But the big news came this week from Singapore Airlines. It plans to revive nonstops to Singapore from New York and Los Angeles in 2018 and retake the dubious prize of "world's longest hauls." More importantly, though, SIA desperately needs to resume nonstops to its Singapore hub because it has lost a ton of Asia connecting business to Cathay Pacific, which operates Hong Kong nonstops from six U.S. cities. Instead of its now-scrapped four-engine Airbus A340-500s, Singapore says it'll use a not-yet-built variant of the new Airbus A350. Although the usually circumspect Singapore Airlines was, well, circumspect about details, aviation geeks say the optimum configuration of the ultra-long-haul version of the A350 is 170 seats. That means SIA isn't likely to return to its all-business-class flights, but probably will offer a multi-class service similar to its 2004 launch configuration.
The Middle Is the Sweet Spot for Marriott's Cash + Points Rewards
Marriott Rewards still hasn't said when its new Cash + Points awards kick in, but this week it did release details of the prices. You can view the rates for both Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties here. There don't seem to be any values on the Ritz chart--although it's always a matter of comparing what the all-cash prices are on the day you want to book. On the other hand, the Cash + Points rates for Marriott properties in the middle--Categories 3 through 6--seem like decent values. But if you're planning to use them in 2016, do make sure you compare daily rates carefully. One other factor: All-points Marriott Rewards awards offer the fifth night's stay free. The Cash + Points rates have no such perk.
United Airlines is launching three summer routes from its East Coast hubs to popular European destinations. It'll add Newark-Athens flights between May 25 and October 5. Washington/Dulles-Barcelona nonstops will run May 25 to September 4. A Dulles-Lisbon run will operate between May 25 and September 6. All three routes will use United's aging Boeing 767-300s, aircraft that are hanging around because oil is cheap.
Starwood Hotels has three new properties that may be award magnets. Its Sheraton division has opened a 251-room beachfront resort in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and it is converting the former Wyndham Bay Point Resort in Panama City Beach, Florida. The refurbishment of the 319-room property should be done in time for summer stays. Meanwhile, its Tribune Portfolio soft brand next month adds the Riviera Palm Springs, a 398-room, 21-acre resort.
Airlines Suddenly Know the Way to San Jose Again
American Airlines' San Jose hub died by a thousand flight cuts in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the airport was left for dead. But with the Bay Area booming, international carriers are suddenly finding their way back to the airport closest to the heart of the Silicon Valley. All Nippon Airways launched nonstops to Tokyo/Narita in 2012. Hainan Airlines launched nonstops to Beijing in the spring. British Airways has announced a London/Heathrow nonstop that begins next May. And Lufthansa announced today (October 15) that it will launch five nonstops a week to its Frankfurt hub beginning April 29. The airline will use 298-seat Airbus A340s on the route. San Jose also has nonstop flight to Cabo San Lucas and Guadalajara, Mexico.
Denver is turning dross into Delta. As Frontier Airlines contracts its one-time hub, Delta Air Lines will be taking gates the low fare/high fee carrier is abandoning. Delta currently uses five gates on Concourse C, but, by January, will move to six gates on Concourse A that Frontier is leaving.
Phoenix/Mesa airport has a new hotel. A 99-room Courtyard by Marriott has opened on East Bay Road across from the airport.
Newburgh/Stewart in the Hudson Valley north of New York City has a new lodging option. A 124-room Four Points by Sheraton has opened in a building that once housed a Comfort Inn about two miles from the airport entrance.
Hyatt Is the Latest Chain to Abandon In-Room Porn
Now that high-priced porn on the hotel television system isn't a money-maker, major hotel chains are spinning their decision to dump it as a "family-friendly" move. The latest? Hyatt, which says it'll drop porn as its contracts expire. That's the same line used by Marriott (2011) and Hilton (2014).
Hilton continues to open interesting properties in England, where it already has a strong portfolio of hotels. Just behind the Tate Modern in London, for example, it has opened the newly built, 292-room Hilton Bankside. And up in Liverpool, an 87-room DoubleTree has opened in the recently restored Municipal Annex, originally built in 1865.
InterContinental has opened a 135-room Holiday Inn Express on Federal Street in Pittsburgh. That's easy walking distance to the Andy Warhol Museum and PNC Park.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Global Entry members who travel to the United Kingdom at least four times a year are now eligible for membership in Registered Traveller, Britain's customs-bypass service. It costs about $100 a year and allows travelers to use ePassport gates, UK/EU lines at British airports and a special lane at London/Gatwick. More information and application details are here.
WestJet flyers, both U.S. and Canadian citizens, are now eligible for TSA PreCheck. More details are here.
Air France employees involved in a near-riot on October 5 while the bosses were planning another round of cutbacks have been arrested. French police say five members of the CGT union are in custody.
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.