The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for May 26-June 9, 2016
The briefing in brief: United Airlines says let's get small and slashes routes. AAdvantage flyers now have another sun route. Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to Flying Blue. It's Marriott's world, we just sleep in it. It's France's strike season. Your flights will be affected. And more.
United's New Strategy? Let's Get Small. Arrow Through the Head Optional.
United Airlines plans a dog-and-pony show in New York next Thursday (June 2) and the main attraction is likely to be Oscar Munoz, the chief executive who recently returned to work after a heart attack and heart transplant. A railroad executive with little knowledge of the airline, Munoz was elevated from the United board late last summer and remains something of a blank slate since he's missed so much work time. This'll be his first major public event not specifically aimed at the financial community. We do know one direction Munoz is taking United. It'll be a notably smaller airline going forward. Although the mainline jet fleet will increase to about 800 aircraft by the end of 2019 (there are about 715 now), the regional-jet fleet will shrink dramatically. There may be as few as 300 RJs by 2019 compared to more than 500 now. The result, of course, is fewer routes. United's lagging Houston/Intercontinental and Los Angeles hubs will take the most hits. Routes we already know will be purged include United's only Africa run, from IAH to Lagos, Nigeria. That service ends June 29. Also going from IAH by the end of June are flights to Ontario, California, and Montreal, Quebec. Other Canada routes getting the ax by the end of next month are flights to Edmonton, Alberta, from both San Francisco and Chicago/O'Hare as well as the O'Hare-London, Ontario, service. Also going: United's route between Los Angeles and New Orleans. It ends August 15.
AAdvantage Travelers Can Now Follow the Sun a Little More Frequently
If you've given up trying to claim American AAdvantage miles for premium class American flights to Europe--and you should, since American has made them all disappear--maybe you should focus on catching some sun. American said this week that it'll launch daily nonstop flights between its New York/Kennedy hub and Tucson, Arizona. Service launches October 6 using Boeing 737-800s.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has added a new points-transfer partner. Effective immediately, you can move your Chase points into Flying Blue, the frequency program of Air France and KLM.
WestJet Rewards and Qantas Frequent Flyer have linked. Effective immediately, Qantas flyers can use their points to claim awards on WestJet flights in the United States and Canada that carry the Qantas code-share. Unfortunately, WestJet flyers can't yet use their credits to claim on Qantas flights.
Seattle Gets Another Connection to the Chinese Mainland
While Delta Air Lines builds out its international hub in Seattle-Tacoma, other Skyteam carriers are anxious to get into the act. Case in point: Xiamen Airlines, another of the fast-growing, if little-known, Chinese carriers. Effective September 26, Xiamen will launch its first flights to the United States. It'll connect Xiamen in Fujian Province with Seattle using an intermediate stop in Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong. Xiamen will fly the route three times weekly using Boeing 787 Dreamliners configured with four first class, 18 business class and 215 coach seats.
San Jose gets more service from Southwest Airlines this fall. There'll be a daily flight to Baltimore-Washington and two daily flights to Salt Lake City.
Hong Kong has another swanky lounge. Cathay Pacific opened a renovated business class facility adjacent to Gate 65. The 35,000-square-foot club seats 550 people and features Cathay's signature Noodle Bar. Besides premium Cathay flyers and elite Marco Polo members, the lounge is open to emerald and sapphire-level members of Oneworld.
Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, has lost its last U.S. carrier. Delta Air Lines drops its two daily flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul on July 31. United pulled Regina flights last year.
It's Marriott's World, We Just Sleep In It
Everyone is paying attention to the looming Marriott-Starwood merger, but Marriott is busily expanding its global footprint independent of the upcoming combination. In Seoul, for example, a 409-room Courtyard has opened near the Namdaemun Market. In Bonn, Germany, a 336-room Marriott has opened not far from the former West German capital's Museum Mile. Meanwhile, a 199-room Marriott Suites has opened in Pune, India, in the Koregaon Park district. And the company's AC Hotels division has opened two properties in England. A 90-room branch is now operating in Birmingham as part of The Mailbox, a mixed-use development in a former Royal Mail sorting office. And a 142-room AC has opened in the Salford Quays district of Manchester. Here at home, Marriott has been furiously expanding its Fairfield Inn chain. There are new branches in Johnson City, Tennessee; San Antonio, Texas; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Omaha, Nebraska.
Business-Travel News You Need to Know
French travelers take note: What seems to be France's annual season of labor unrest is well underway. Besides strikes on regional rail and the Paris Metro, there may be labor stoppages at French airports and in air-traffic control operations. The target dates for those strikes are June 2-June 5, but the situation is volatile. You might want to check here for the latest updates. That's assuming the strike-information compilers don't go on strike themselves, of course.
Silvercar, the app-based rental-car service that uses only silver Audi vehicles, has closed its location at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. It's not Silvercar's first failure in the Lone Star State. It shuttered operations at Houston/Hobby in 2013.
TSA PreCheck has been extended to flyers on four more carriers: Aeromexico, Cape Air, Etihad and Seaborne. TSA promises the PreCheck indicator will appear on boarding passes of those carriers if the agency deigns to give you the service.
Island Air, the only substantial large-aircraft competitor for Hawaiian Airlines in the inter-island market, is launching flights on the crucial Honolulu-Kona run. Effective June 14, there'll be five daily flights using 64-seat ATR72 turboprops.
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.