The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for July 28-Aug. 11, 2016
The briefing in brief: The spoils of victory over ISIS? More terrorism. Virgin America adding more transcon flights to Newark. Airlines start slashing flights to England. Hilton plans more than 900 new hotels in the United States. The Oneworld Alliance's two-ticket mess. And more.
The Spoils of Victory Over ISIS? More Terrorism in the West
Even the most pessimistic observers of Middle East affairs say that ISIS (or, if you prefer, ISIL or Daish) is on the run in Iraq and Syria. Depending on the estimate you believe, the pseudo-Islamic thugs have lost 40-60 percent of their self-proclaimed caliphate. Battleground losses are mounting and even the justifiably ridiculed Iraqi Army is pounding the group and driving them back. Its collapse as a military and proto-government group seems assured. Now the bad news: As ISIS withers on the battlefield, its leadership is urging adherents and sympathizers to mount lone-wolf terror attacks in the West. The atrocities in France this month have been credited to ISIS supporters. The shooter in Orlando also pledged allegiance to ISIS. Worse, FBI director James Comey this week warned of a "terrorist diaspora" from Syria when ISIS is defeated. Crushing ISIS on the battlefield is inevitable, he said, "but through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of really dangerous people and they are going to flow" to Europe, and, eventually, the United States.
Alaska Airlines Is Really Serious About Newark Service
Alaska Airlines announced a big increase in transcontinental flights from Newark last week, but the carrier isn't done probing the weakness of United Airlines at its fortress hub. Virgin America, which is being purchased by Alaska, this week announced more flights on its nonstop routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The new runs start November 18 and mean Virgin America will fly four times roundtrip daily on each route.
Toronto/Pearson has adjusted U.S. pre-clearance procedures. Passengers headed to the United States now check bags before clearing security screening and U.S. Customs procedures. There are now 56 customs kiosks for non-Global Entry passengers.
Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX has a new lounge. Etihad has opened its own club for business and first class passengers. Two airlines that Etihad now essentially controls, Alitalia and Air Berlin, will soon use the lounge for their business class passengers, too.
It'll Be Harder to Get to Britain in the Months Ahead
A month after Britain voted to exit the European Union, there are still no details about when (or even if) the United Kingdom will begin the so-called Brexit process. But the chaos surrounding the political rupture is undeniable. The pound has plunged to 30-year lows in the $1.32 range and that has made the United States too expensive for many British visitors. Then there's the reality that business travel to London from the United States is disproportionately dependent on the British capital's dual role as the EU's primary money center. Add it all up and fares and traffic on U.S.-U.K routes are falling fast. And airlines are now responding with wide-ranging service cuts. Delta Air Lines and its vassal, 49 percent owned Virgin Atlantic, say winter capacity to the United Kingdom will fall as much as four percent. (Delta also said it took an immediate $40 million foreign-currency hit when the pound plunged 12 percent overnight after the Brexit vote.) Meanwhile, United Airlines will suspend flights between its Washington/Dulles hub and Manchester, trim flights to Birmingham from its Newark hub and use smaller planes on some Dulles-London/Heathrow flights. American Airlines and its partner British Airways have yet to say what they'll do with their U.K. capacity.
Hilton Plans for 900 More Hotels and 111,000 Additional Rooms Nationwide
Think you're spoiled for choice in the hotel landscape? Don't tell that to Hilton. It has plans for 946 additional hotels just in the United States. Those projects, a 26 percent unit jump from last year's development pipeline, represent another 111,000 rooms in the next few years. Top new market: Houston, where Hilton is adding 37 additional properties. Another two dozen are under development in the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, in the present, Hilton this week opened a 100-room Hampton Inn at 5000 Campbell's Run Road not far from Pittsburgh Airport; added Home2Suites branches in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Downington, Pennsylvania; and added a 150-room Embassy Suites in McAllen, Texas.
The Oneworld Alliance Creates a Two-Ticket Conundrum
With very little fanfare, the Oneworld Alliance now allows member airlines to refuse checked-through baggage if your itinerary is written on separate tickets and PNR numbers. Effective June 1, the Oneworld carriers can make their own choice about rules. American Airlines has rejected the change. It'll check your bags through to your final destination regardless of how many tickets or PRN numbers are involved. But British Airways and Cathay Pacific have changed their policies. Both carriers now require you to have your connecting itinerary on a single ticket or PRN. If you don't, they won't check your bags through and you'll have to claim them at the first point of entry and recheck them for the next leg of your journey. "It really is an operational thing," explains Erik Saywack, airport services manager for Cathay Pacific. "If you're [on separate PRNs] the airline doesn't know about your connecting journey. If we don't know where you're going, we can't give you the kind of service you expect." The problem, of course, is that business travelers don't always have their entire journey firmed up when they make their initial ticket purchase. The solution? When flying on Oneworld carriers, always make sure subsequent flights are put on the same itinerary and are always listed on the same PNR.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
If ever you needed a reason to never fly a commuter airline if you can find an itinerary without one, consider travel this past Monday, July 25. Rain and thunderstorms lashed many parts of the country and just 71.96 percent of the system ran on-time. About six percent of flights nationwide were cancelled. But not so the commuter airlines, notes FlightStats.com. ExpressJet cancelled 17 percent of its flights and ran only 68 percent on-time. Republic Airways cancelled 18 percent of its flights. Air Wisconsin dumped 20 percent of its flights and ran only 55 percent on-time. Shuttle America cancelled 18.5 percent of its flights. Piedmont Airlines was only 66 percent on-time with 20 percent of its schedule scrubbed. GoJet cancelled 33 percent of its flights and ran only 57 percent on-time. Trans States Airlines was also at 57 percent on-time with 15 percent cancellations. And CommutAir cancelled 30 percent of its flights.
Delta Air Lines says its switch to selling upgrades to Comfort+ class will generate $300 million in new revenue during the second half of the year. The airline says 46 percent of Comfort+ seats are now sold as paid upgrades, a 15-point jump since mid-May.
American Airlines is raising some international checked-bag fees. Complete details are here.
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.