The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for June 9-June 23, 2016
The briefing in brief: American thanks you for your past business. Now pay up again. Even for France, it's an extraordinary season of strikes. Three mid-market brands represent 45 percent of hotel construction. T-Mobile gives customers free in-flight WiFi. And more.

American Airlines Thanks You for Your Past Business. Now Pay Up Again.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, American Airlines this week remade its AAdvantage frequent flyer program in the image of the Delta SkyMiles revenue model. (That's the same model United MileagePlus immediately aped, of course.) Beginning August 1, AAdvantage will junk earning based on miles flown and award between 5 and 11 miles per dollar spent. Starting January 1, AAdvantage will also add a minimum-dollar spend (called EQDs) for elite qualification. It'll also add a fourth level of elite status, called platinum pro, at 75,000 miles. Upgrade benefits will also change and be based on a 12-month rolling EQD total. (Complete details are here.) None of this is particularly unexpected. All travelers will earn fewer miles for the same amount of flying, and coupled with an award-chart devaluation earlier this year and American's reluctance to make awards available on its own international flights, AAdvantage is seriously devalued. But the biggest losers are lifetime AAdvantage elites. Your benefits, especially upgrade priority, have been slashed. Most lifetime elites will go from near the top of the upgrade lists to near (or at) the bottom. In other words, American thanks you for your previous business. But unless you pony up on a continuing basis, you're dead to them.

Even for France, It's a Season of Extraordinary Strikes
If you have to do business in France or are headed there for a holiday or maybe Euro 2016, the European soccer championship, be prepared to hear one word: la grève. The local, regional and national train systems are already hit with rolling strikes. There's uncollected rotting trash on the streets of Paris and Air France now warns of a pilots strike starting Saturday (June 11). As you try to figure out your schedules, note that Delta Air Lines, Air France's partner in the Skyteam Alliance, has posted a travel waiver for Air France-operated flights. And if your French stinks, follow the action at an English-language paper, The Local.
      Marriott has opened two branches of its AC Hotels chain in Mexico. There is now a 175-room branch in Querétaro and a 188-room outpost in Guadalajara.
      Air China will launch nonstop flights between San Jose and Shanghai on September 1. Originally planned for earlier this year, the service was mysteriously pulled from the Air China schedule, but was announced again this week. Air China, a member of the Star Alliance, will fly the route three times a week with A330-200s configured with business and coach classes.

This Is Why This Section Reads Like It Does
Ever wonder why this section of Tactical Traveler reads like a laundry list of mid-level chain hotels? Don't blame me. According to the Lodging Econometrics consulting firm, 45 percent of the new hotel construction in the United States will fly just three flags: Hampton Inn and Home2 Suites, two Hilton brands, and Holiday Inn Express. Throw in the Marriott mid-market brands and, well, it seems as if that's the only thing to talk about. Here are this week's newbies. For the aforementioned Hampton brand, it's new properties in Gilbert, Arizona (101 rooms); on Ashford Dunwoody Road in north Atlanta (132 rooms); in Pasco, Washington (121 rooms); Blue Ash, Ohio (118 rooms); North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (102 rooms); and on Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church, Virginia (159 rooms). Also from Hilton is the 112-room Hilton Garden Inn in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the 115-room Home2 Suites in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Meanwhile, Marriott has added Fairfield Inn branches in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (92 rooms); Niagara Falls, New York (76 rooms); Farmington, New Mexico (80 rooms); and Pecos, Texas (87 rooms). Marriott has also added TownePlace Suites outposts in Gillette, Wyoming (85 rooms), and in Latham, New York (114 rooms), near Albany Airport.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
T-Mobile customers take note: You now receive a free hour of Gogo Internet on flights. The promotion starts on Monday, June 13, and is valid on any domestic flight offering Gogo service. T-Mobile customers already got free in-flight texting.
      Delta Air Lines says it will make in-flight entertainment free on all two-class aircraft starting July 1. The freebie, which the airline says will be available on 90 percent of its fleet, covers movies, TV shows, music and live TV.
      Hawaiian Airlines is adding lie-flat seats in the business class cabin of its Airbus A330 aircraft. The planes fly between Hawaii and Hawaiian's West Coast destinations. As part of the reconfiguration, the A330s will be configured 2x2x2 in business class and have 60 seats in premium economy. The premium economy seats offer 36 inches of seat pitch.

Maybe He Just Got Caught in Really Bad Traffic on the 405 ...
Woody Allen's takedown of Los Angeles nearly 40 years ago in Annie Hall is nothing compared to what Thai Airways is saying these days about the City of Angels. After 35 years of serving LAX, Thai pulled flights last year as part of a major restructuring. The airline hopes to return to North America, but LAX won't be the destination, according to Thai president Charamporn Jotikasthira. "We need to look at cities such as Seattle and Vancouver," he told the Bangkok Post. "We are not looking at going back to Los Angeles because it is too far, gas-guzzling and crowded with competitors--and we never make money."

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