The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for June 23-July 7, 2016
The briefing in brief: Sitting in and running away on no-fly lists. Amex opens Centurion Lounge at IAH. Nashville and Raleigh-Durham doing fine 20 years after American Airlines bailed. More hotel rooms around the world. Meet the new United, same as the old United. And more.
Sitting In, Running Away, Due Process and Gun Rights for the Flightless
Democrats in the House of Representatives sat in last night (June 22), demanding votes on bills they claimed would deny guns to terrorists on "no fly" lists. Afraid to go on record voting down gun control again, House Republicans literally ran away. In the early hours of this morning, they hastily adjourned until after the Fourth of July. In other words, we're not safer, many of us still can't fly and terrorists are still free to load up on weapons. Confused? Of course you are, so allow me to offer some clarity. After 9/11, all manner of federal agencies frantically began compiling lists of possible bad guys. About 50,000 people have landed on the genuine "no fly" list that bars them from boarding a commercial flight. Perhaps two million more are on various "terrorist" and other watch lists. All of the indices are sloppy, ad hoc affairs compiled in secret. We have no right to protest our inclusion and precious little ability to appeal. Few politicians in the last 15 years have complained about this egregious lack of due process, however. But now that Democrats want to use the no-fly list so they can claim terrorists can't buy guns, Republicans howl that we can't revoke anyone's Second Amendment right to bear arms without due process. In other words, no due process when a bureaucrat tells you that you can't fly. But heaven forfend a potential terrorist is denied due process before he or she can buy weapons. Still confused? You should be. It makes no sense. Neither side wants to put in the real work required to differentiate between innocent travelers and potential terrorists and then get the innocents on planes and keep the guns from the terrorists.
Nashville and Raleigh Are Doing Just Fine 20 Years After American Bailed
Back in the day, when American Airlines wasn't a vassal of former America West managers who also gobbled up US Airways, it was intent on building hubs in the south and border states. So it simultaneously ramped up operations at both Nashville and Raleigh-Durham in the mid-1980s. Both hubs survived for about a decade before American bailed in an orgy of cost-cutting and downsizing. American has US Airways' old hub in Charlotte now, but it turns out that both Nashville and RDU have bounced back nicely. In Nashville, traffic in May reached its highest level--1.6 million passengers--since July, 1992. It also handled more than a million flyers every month in 2016, the first time Nashville has ever hit the 7-digit mark for five consecutive months. And in Raleigh-Durham, flight traffic is booming. Delta Air Lines is the big player now, but United Airlines relaunches flights to Denver in September and has announced a unique new route. United Express will launch three daily flights to New York/LaGuardia on October 30. It's one of United's few routes that doesn't touch one of its hubs on one end or the other.
Houston/Intercontinental now has an American Express Centurion Lounge. The club is accessible via elevators near Gate D6 in Terminal D. It is open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and features a menu created by Justin Yu, the owner-chef at Houston's Oxheart restaurant. Complete details are here.
Philadelphia and Phoenix are clearly falling out of favor as American Airlines hubs. According to the most recent government figures, comparing third quarter 2015 to 2014, American has reduced its seat count at Phoenix by 8 percent. AA has cut Philadelphia seats by 7 percent during the same period. By comparison, American has added 17 percent more seats at Los Angeles and 5 percent more seats at New York/LaGuardia. Seats are up about 3 percent at American's hubs in Charlotte, Chicago/O'Hare and New York/Kennedy.
Denver has a new airport lounge. Delta Air Lines has opened a Sky Club on Concourse A.
Are You Ready for Two Million More Hotel Rooms Around the World?
If you were wondering whether the hotel industry has run out of steam after years of building, the answer is no. According to Lodging Econometrics, a hotel statistic firm, there are more than 11,000 projects in the global pipeline. That represents 1.9 million new guestrooms, the highest on record. Few hotel chains are opening properties as fast as Hilton. In recent days, it has opened Hilton-branded hotels in Yantai, China, and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. A 247-room Conrad has opened in Manila as part of the Mall of Asia complex. It has also converted a former Jurys Hotel in Dublin into a 239-room Hilton Garden Inn. That property is located on the River Liffey in the city's financial district. Meanwhile, in Pune, India, InterContinental has converted a former Courtyard by Marriott into a 137-room Crowne Plaza. Starwood has opened a 301-room Sheraton in the Binjiang district of Hangzhou, China. It also converted a former independent property on Okinawa's main island into the Sheraton Okinawa.
Hyatt has another location for its embryonic Unbound Collection of independent properties. The 119-room Royal Palms resort in Arizona at the edge of both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley will join next month after Hyatt closes on the purchase of the property.
Starwood has opened a 144-room Aloft in the Brier Creek neighborhood of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
Air France pilots have called off the four-day strike planned for this weekend. The June 24-27 strike would have been the second work stoppage in a month.
T-Mobile customers take note: Data is free in Europe from July 1-August 31. T-Mobile already makes slow-speed data free for most customers, but the summer promotion includes speeds up to 4G LTE.
American Airlines says AAdvantage award travel on new routes to Cuba will require a roundtrip and cannot exceed 90 days. More importantly, the awards cannot be booked online and must be secured via telephone.
Meet the New United Airlines, Same as the Old United Airlines
United Airlines, led by a new chief executive, is desperate to convince travelers that it's going to be a brand new airline. But that's not the message the airline is conveying to security analysts. It held a conference call with analysts this week and chief executive Oscar Munoz served up warmed-over gruel. As you can see by its information deck, Munoz makes essentially the same promises as ousted predecessor Jeff Smisek. In short, Munoz says United will continue to cut costs, continue to squeeze flyers for more fees and continue to stuff more seats on aircraft. Munoz and his holdover chief revenue officer, Jim Compton, even admit that United still has no clues what each of its hubs do and how they fit into the airline's strategic plans.
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.