The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
Business-Travel Briefing for June 16-June 30, 2016
The briefing in brief: Some progress on the fate of Egyptair Flight 804. Marriott Rewards adds a slew of hotels in vacation destinations. First Cuba routes go to JetBlue, American and Silver Airways. Singapore Airlines is now playing catch-up with ... United Airlines. And more.

Nearly a Month Later, Progress on the Fate of Egyptair Flight 804
During a week of horrific terrorism, death and hatred in Orlando and Northern England, a ray of hope: The cockpit voice recorder from Egyptair Flight 804 was recovered on Thursday (June 16) from the Mediterranean Sea. As you recall, the Airbus A320 crashed on May 19 as it passed the Greek island of Crete en route from Paris to Cairo. As you will also recall, the literally ignorant Donald Trump immediately said he could "guarantee who blew it up." But, of course, there is no guarantee--no evidence at all, in fact--that Flight 804 and its 66 passengers and crew were victims of terrorism. Despite Trump's mindless comment, there has never been a claim of responsibility by any one or any group tied to terrorism. And the more closely that experts have investigated the available data--the first bits of salvage, radar and air traffic control records--the less it seems likely that the aircraft was attacked. But with the voice recorder recovered--it is damaged, but key memory components were salvaged--and the bulk of the wreckage located, we'll soon learn more. Investigators are still searching for the flight data recorder--the other so-called black box--near the crash site. (Friday, June 17 update: Egyptian authorities say they have now recovered the flight data recorder.)

Marriott Rewards Adds a Slew of Hotels in Vacation Destinations
Marriott Rewards isn't exactly known for elite benefits or a particularly rich award structure. Still, it is big thanks to Marriott's huge footprint and this week it can boast of even more redemption opportunities in prime vacation destinations. For starters, in Kissimmee, Florida, near the theme parks, there's a new 150-room Fairfield Inn. It's a Category 5 redemption. In the Bahamas, a formerly independent waterfront hotel has been renovated and reflagged as the 112-room Courtyard Nassau. It's a Category 6 redemption. And Marriott's Autograph Collection of independent properties has added several prime getaways. The 36-room Saint Hotel in Key West, Florida, has opened as a Category 9 redemption. The historic 196-room Q&C Hotel in New Orleans is a Category 8 property. And the 123-room Inn at Bay Harbor on the shores of Little Traverse Bay in Michigan has joined as a Category 7 redemption. If that property sounds vaguely familiar, you're not nuts. It has been operating as a Renaissance, another Marriott brand.

The Latest From the Airport-Fools-for-Clients Department
You're undoubtedly aware of that old legal saw, variously credited to Abraham Lincoln or British scholar Henry Kett, suggesting that you have a fool for a client if you represent yourself. So what are we to make of the Minnesota man who is representing himself in a lawsuit he's filed against the Transportation Security Administration and Minneapolis-St. Paul airport? The passenger, Hooman Nikizad, is demanding $506.85 compensation for missing a flight in March to Los Angeles due to long queues at the TSA checkpoint. The case will be heard in a federal court. Meanwhile, a California federal judge has dismissed a case against the TSA filed by a man named Justin Ngo. His beef? The TSA at Honolulu airport failed to stop a family waiting behind him in a checkpoint line. He claimed that they were kicking his luggage and annoying him. In tossing the case, the judge reminded Ngo, who also represented himself, that "the TSA has no duty to detain a family at his command."

Former Global Leader Singapore Airlines Now Plays Catch-Up With ... United
When Singapore Airlines dumped ultra-long-haul nonstops from Newark and Los Angeles in 2013, the carrier gambled that its image and one-stop routes to Singapore would keep it afloat in the U.S. market. The bet turned out to be a disaster. It lost much of its Asia connection business to Cathay Pacific, which flies nonstops to its Hong Kong hub from six U.S. cities. No one was impressed last year when Singapore announced it wouldn't resume U.S. nonstops until 2018. Then the unkindest cut of all: SIA's Star Alliance frenemy, United Airlines, earlier this month launched Singapore nonstops from its San Francisco hub. So Singapore this week hastily announced it would launch its own SFO-Singapore nonstops on October 23. The flights will operate with Airbus A350s, which can just barely make the 8,400-mile journey. The planes will be configured with 253 seats (42 business, 24 premium economy and 187 coach), but SIA admits that it won't be able to sell them all in winter, when headwinds are an issue. (United is using Boeing 787s from SFO and Boeing told me last week that United might have to sacrifice some cargo loads in winter.) Singapore is essentially matching United's SFO-SIN prices, too. Low-season coach fares start below $1,100 roundtrip, premium economy is around $1,900 and business class is about $4,500. To make room for the new flight, Singapore is dropping SFO-Seoul service and launching an LAX-Seoul flight. That route will use Boeing 777-300ERs and the existing LAX-Tokyo/Narita service will switch to B777-300ERS from Airbus A380s.

Business Travel News You Need to Know
The Transportation Department made the first route awards to Cuba last week, but no flights to Havana were included. American Airlines will fly from its Miami hub to four cities (Cienfuegos, Holguin, Camaguey and Varadero) starting on September 7. But the first commercial flights to Cuba in decades will launch on September 1 when commuter airline Silver Airways will fly from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara. It'll also add flights to other Cuban destinations in the fall. JetBlue Airways also won rights from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara, Camaguey and Holguin, but hasn't announced its schedule.
      Alaska Airlines created a stir this week when chief executive Brad Tilton said he was considering retaining the Virgin America brand after the $2.6 billion merger closes. Don't bet it on. Not only doesn't Virgin bring anything unique to Alaska Air, Alaska would have to pay a 70 basis point commission on every Virgin sale to Richard Branson.
      Air France says more than 1,000 flights were disrupted during this week's four-day pilots strike. There were also strikes this week against SAS in Sweden and EasyJet in Norway and at several airports in Greece. And Italian air traffic controllers have planned a strike tomorrow afternoon, June 17.

This column is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. 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.