The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
HOME E-MAIL JOE PRINT SEND A LINK 2016 COLUMNS THE ARCHIVES SEARCH
Business-Travel Briefing for Mar. 31-Apr. 14, 2016
The briefing in brief: Security lines get longer and, of course, it's the TSA's fault. Hyatt adds locations in Miami and Rio. American and Delta both want to fly LAX-Beijing. American drops 24-hour free holds on ticket purchases. The real Fawlty Towers is no more. And more.
Yes, Security Lines Are Getting Longer. And, Yes, It's the TSA's Fault.
Even before the terror attacks in Brussels led airports around the nation to tighten their operations, security checkpoint lines were getting markedly longer. Hub airports such as Atlanta, Seattle and Minneapolis/St. Paul have even tried publicly shaming the TSA for the increased waiting time. Noting that TSA staffing at MSP dropped 15 percent while passenger traffic jumped 10 percent over the last four years, the chief executive of that airport called the situation "a recipe for unacceptable public service." The TSA's response? Tough nuggies. Stung by its 95 percent failure rate, the TSA admits to slowing down screening procedures in an attempt to miss less contraband. Couple the slowdown with reduced staffing (about 10 percent nationwide in the last three years) and you have the perfect storm of failure. The TSA claims the only solution is for more flyers to join PreCheck, the supposedly expedited service offered to elite business travelers or sold to the general public. But, of course, the TSA is a failure at PreCheck, too. As I explained nearly two years ago, the TSA makes PreCheck unpalatable by refusing to operate it as a business with posted hours of operation, nationwide coverage or even a guarantee of service. Bottom line? The TSA sucks at its job, takes it out on passengers and then denies those willing to pay for better treatment a reasonable value proposition.
Hyatt Gets Two Warm-Weather Resorts on the Day Marriott Gets All of Starwood
On the day that Marriott looks to be the winner of Starwood Hotels, news that Hyatt has picked up two new properties looks like very small beer indeed. Still, if you're looking for new places to use your Hyatt Gold Passport points, these properties are worth nothing. Hyatt is buying the 380-room Thompson Miami Beach, a three-towered property that started life in the 1950s as the Lord Tarleton Hotel. When the hotel joins Hyatt's new soft brand called Unbound next month, it will be renamed The Confidante. Separately, Hyatt opened a 436-room Grand Hyatt in Rio de Janeiro. The beachfront property in the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood is a Category Four redemption.
Southwest Rapid Rewards has a new partner: Lyft, the ride-sharing service. Southwest customers receive a one-time award of 1,100 points when they book a Lyft ride in 11 markets. More details are here.
IHG Rewards Club has lost a big one: the InterContinental Hotel de la Ville at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome has closed. The lease of the property was purchased several years ago by a Qatari hotel firm. No plans have been announced for the building.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan doubled the price of premium-class awards on Emirates Airline this week without notice. After a social media flap, Alaska Air explained its decision here. In essence, Alaska's excuse for the new prices and the lack of advance notice? People were actually claiming Emirates awards so, you know, they had to stop being affordable.
Hilton HHonors players once again have an award option on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. A former Aston hotel in Kapaa has been renovated into the 216-room Hilton Garden Inn. It's a Category 5 redemption.
American Will Battle Delta for an LAX-Beijing Route
Delta Air Lines announced earlier this month that it wanted to fly between Los Angeles and Beijing. This week, American Airlines decided it wanted to fly LAX-Beijing, too. That's something of a surprise since American had intimated it wouldn't be adding any more Asia routes in the near future. American says it wants to add the Beijing flights starting December 16. Since there are limited China-U.S. route opportunities based on the current aviation treaty between the two nations, it's highly unlikely that both carriers will be permitted to fly the route. Stay tuned for a government-chosen victor.
Hilton has opened several new hotels in international markets. There are newly built DoubleTree properties in Van, Turkey (94 rooms), and Yerevan, Armenia (176 rooms), and a second conversion in Bogota, Colombia. A 272-room Hilton Garden Inn has opened in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and a 199-room Hilton opened in Alexandria, Egypt.
Air Canada says it will install Gogo Internet's satellite WiFi service on its international flights. Planes will be equipped beginning this fall.
Southwest Tiptoes Into JetBlue's Long Beach Redoubt
Ever since JetBlue Airways arrived in 2001, Long Beach has belonged to the New York-based airline. Now the facility about 20 miles south of Los Angeles International is getting some competition. Southwest Airlines arrives at the slot-restricted airport on June 5 with four daily roundtrips to Oakland, a route already flown by JetBlue. Speaking of the incumbent, it'll add a Long Beach-Reno route on August 13 and add frequencies on its service to Las Vegas and San Francisco.
Airport hotels continue to open with surprising speed. Marriott has opened a 252-room Moxy about five minutes from Munich Airport via shuttle bus. It has also opened a 121-room Residence Inn across Interstate 95 from Philadelphia International. Starwood has opened a 225-room Four Points just south of Seattle-Tacoma on Pacific Highway South. And Hilton has opened a 110-room Home2 Suites on South Howell Avenue, a mile from Milwaukee.
Minneapolis/St. Paul is adding more local restaurants to its mix, including branches of Black Sheep Pizza, Lolo American Kitchen and the Republic pub. All of the outlets are franchised to SSP, a large airport food-service operator.
Hotel Chains Love New York, The State as Well as The City
In their relentless drive to cover every square inch of America with hotels, the major chains are happily building hotels all over New York, the state, not just the city. In Horseshead, New York, a suburb of Elmira, a 98-room Courtyard by Marriott has opened its doors. Up in Buffalo, an aging motel on the corner of Main and Chippewa streets has been renovated into the 146-room Holiday Inn Express. And in the heart of Manhattan's Garment district, a 348-room Renaissance Hotel has debuted.
Hampton Inn has opened two new properties in New Mexico. An 87-room property has opened in Las Cruces and an 81-room branch has opened in Artesia.
Hyatt Place has opened a 140-room property in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
American Airlines has ended 24-hour free holds on ticket purchases. Effective tomorrow (April 1), for travel booked more than seven days in advance, American will offer refunds rather than free holds.
Fares are rising sharply--if you use "circle fares" or multi-city and open-jaw tickets. These specialty buys usually involve multiple stops rather than point-to-point or connecting flights. The increase comes because major carriers have rejiggered how the fares are calculated. If you use these types of tickets regularly and have noticed a sharp price increase, check with a travel agent for better options.
Fawlty Towers is no more. The 41-room Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, England, has been demolished. In case you've forgotten, Gleneagles is the awful hotel that served as the basis for John Cleese's Fawlty Towers.
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.