The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for March 17-31, 2016
The briefing in brief: It's now officially okay to lie about why you are going to Cuba. Marriott wants to buy your loyalty with a two percent discount. WestJet goes (Canadian) coast-to-coast. JetBlue adds more Fort Lauderdale flights. Delta adds LAX-Beijing route. And more.

How to Go to Cuba Now? Lie About Your Intentions
President Obama is headed to Cuba next week and it probably won't surprise you to learn that he's got travel and travel-related industry poohbahs in tow. Besides a contingent from AT&T, executives from Marriott and Starwood hotels will be there. The goal? Get mobile service running and get approval for Marriott and Starwood to open (or rebrand) hotels in Havana and elsewhere in Cuba. Marriott chief executive Arne Sorenson will also be there although he's officially traveling as vice chairman of the President's Export Council. Convenient, eh? Meanwhile, with U.S. carriers chomping at the proverbial bit to fly to Havana, the State, Commerce and Treasury departments this week made it much easier for U.S. citizens to travel. Although "tourism" remains officially against the rules, all an eager visitor need do is claim that a person-to-person trip is for "educational" purposes. As one expert on Cuba laws told the Los Angeles Times this week: "They've essentially deregulated travel. This is a standing invitation to travel to Cuba for U.S. tourists." JoeSentMe contributor Carol Pucci wrote last year about how to visit Cuba on your own and she's now updated her guide.

WestJet Goes (Canadian) Coast-to-Coast, JetBlue Connects More Dots
WestJet continues to find routes that would otherwise flummox Mapleflot, er, Air Canada. The newest: a nonstop to connect Vancouver and Halifax. It's the first nonstop to link the West Coast of Canada with the Maritime Provinces. Four weekly WestJet flights will operate between June 29 and September 3. WestJet will use Boeing 737s. WestJet previously announced a seasonal slate of flights for the Halifax-Winnipeg route.
      JetBlue Airways is adding another logical route from its fast-growing Fort Lauderdale "focus city." Beginning September 29, there'll be daily flights to New Orleans using Airbus A320s.

Marriott Offers a 2 Percent Discount for Your Loyalty and Bookings
Marriott really, really, really wants you to join Marriott Rewards and it really, really, really wants you to book via Marriott.com. So it's unveiling what it thinks is a compelling inducement: Marriot Rewards Member Rates. Starting April 11, you'll get prices that apparently will offer as little as 2 percent off other rates. Don't move your bookings at once ...
      Hyatt Gold Passport players have a new award option on Florida's West Coast. The 183-room Hyatt House in Naples opened this week and is a Category 2 redemption.
      Hilton HHonors now has a third award destination in Monterey, California. A 48-room former LaQuinta Inn has been renovated and converted into a Hampton Inn. It's Category 6 redemption.
      Marriott Rewards has another hotel to offer in France. A 126-room AC Hotels has opened in Marseilles near the convention center and Velodrome Stadium. It's a Category 5 redemption.

Delta Adds an LAX-Beijing Route, TAM Bails on Orlando
The "power" route to China from Los Angeles is Shanghai and a half-dozen or more airlines vie for a slice of the LAX-PVG pie. LAX-Beijing, on the other hand, is less trafficked, less profitable and less crowded. But Delta Air Lines announced this week that it'll take on Star Alliance partners United Airlines and Air China and add a route between Los Angeles and the Chinese capital. Daily flights launch December 16. Delta will use Boeing 777-200ERs configured with 37 business class, 36 premium economy and 218 coach seats.
      TAM, the Brazilian arm of Latam, the Oneworld Alliance mash-up that includes LAN of Chile, isn't immune to the carnage that is the Brazilian economy. The latest casualty: TAM's three weekly flights between Orlando and Brasilia. The last flight is June 3.
      Emirates unveiled its new business class seat for Boeing 777 jets. And if you're one of those folks who think the Gulf airlines offer the best of everything, consider: Emirates' layout remains a 2-3-2 configuration. That means there's no direct aisle access for all customers. The seats are an improvement over Emirates' angled-flat seats, however, and they will come with 23-inch video monitors and a chilled-beverage compartment built into the sidewalls of the pods. The new seats will appear beginning in November, but Emirates will not retrofit its existing 777s.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines flyers take note: Domestic first class and international business class flyers will now be limited to two free checked bags. The lower luggage limit is effective with tickets purchased beginning March 29. That aligns American with baggage policies in place at Delta and United.
      Cincinnati airport authorities have confirmed that they will demolish Concourse C later this year. Built in 1994 for a predecessor to Delta Air Lines, the $50 million facility was closed in 2008 after Delta downsized its Cincinnati hub. Delta had originally leased the concourse through 2025, but Delta will remind you that it's at a competitive disadvantage against those heavily subsidized Gulf carriers. You know, the ones whose governments build and demolish airports at the whim of their airlines ...
      Priority Pass has added two more lounges. Effective immediately, cardholders have access to the Travel Club Lounge in Mumbai Terminal 2 and the Skylounge at Warsaw airport.
      Best airport restaurants? According to an airport trade publication and the 10Best.com Web site, Phil's BBQ in San Diego and Cafeteria 15L in Sacramento are tops in pops. Your mileage may differ. I know mine does.

This column is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2016 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.