The Tactical Traveler By Joe Brancatelli
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Business-Travel Briefing for Early October, 2016
The briefing in brief: Flying American in the next few days? Cross your fingers and plan for delays. More places to use your hotel points for fun in the sun. Delta and Air Canada expand international route networks. Hilton grows frantically even without a merger. And more.
Flying American in the Next Few Days? Cross Your Fingers and Plan for Delays
Planning to fly American Airlines during the next few days? You'd better hope the airline has its technological ducks in order. Although it hasn't bothered to mention it to us, American this weekend will shift all of its pilots to a single flight-operations computer system. It'll be the first time since the American-US Airways merger that all of the carrier's pilots will work from a combined system. That will cover about 15,000 pilots and around 1,500 aircraft around the world. The combination is more complex than it seems because it's actually a three-to-one mash-up. That's because US Airways pilots worked on two separate systems before the merger--a relic of the US Air/America West merger more than a decade ago--and pre-merger American pilots used a third system. Starting this weekend, all three groups will run on the American system. Will it work? American's pilots union is skeptical and the airline itself privately admits that all of the kinks haven't been worked out. In fairness to American, it did a good job last year when it merged the carriers' reservation systems and frequent flyer programs on separate dates. But American already runs the tardiest major carrier in the skies and a major undertaking like pilot integration can only complicate operations in the next few days. Plan accordingly, expect even more delays--and cross your fingers.
More Places to Use Your Hotel Points for Some Fun in the Sun
The frequency game has been fairly dreary lately, what with the airlines cutting back sharply and the Marriott-Starwood deal raising questions about the future of elite benefits for Starwood Preferred Guest players. Still, there is some good news: Two major hotel chains are adding new properties in prime sun destinations. Note these newbies if you want some "free" fun in the sun in the weeks and months ahead.
Marriott Rewards has a new property on Maui, the Residence Inn at the Wailea resort. The 200-unit hotel, with multi-bedroom accommodations featuring full kitchens, is a Category 8 redemption. There's also a new Courtyard in Sedona, Arizona. The 121-room property is a Category 7 redemption. Also new: a 103-room Fairfield Inn in downtown New Orleans. Located near Lafayette Square, it's a Category 6 redemption.
Hilton HHonors has a new Hawaii location, too. The 175-room Hampton Inn Kapolei has opened in the residential Ewa district of Honolulu. It's a Category 6 redemption. HHonors also has three new properties in the Miami area. The Gates Hotel in South Beach, at Collins Avenue and 23rd Street, is a top-to-bottom remake of an existing hotel. The 235-room property now flies the Doubletree flag and is a Category 9 redemption. Meanwhile, a dual-branded Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites has opened adjacent to the Miami Dolphin Mall on 111th Avenue in Sweetwater. Both are Category 6 redemptions. Doubletree is also the new name on the door of the 30-acre seaside resort formerly known as the Springmaid Beach Resort. It's a Category 7 redemption.
Delta and Air Canada Push Ahead With International Expansions
International traffic is falling--at least at the back of the aircraft--but that doesn't seem to be fazing some carriers. Both Delta Air Lines and Air Canada have announced they are bulking up overseas. The moves are more tactical than strategic, but interesting (and useful) nevertheless.
Delta says it will add three routes next summer. The new seasonal service will be from Boston to Dublin and from the airline's New York/Kennedy hub to Lisbon and Berlin. Delta will use Boeing 757-200s on the comparatively short runs to Dublin and to Lisbon, but Boeing 767-300s to Berlin. Daily flights start on all three routes on May 25.
Air Canada is basically rebuilding a network that has atrophied over the years. Vancouver-Taipei flights will resume on June 8 after a 15-year gap. There will be daily Boeing 787-9 flights. Air Canada is also resuming Toronto-Mumbai flights after a gap of more than 20 years. Three weekly Boeing 787-9 flights begin on July 1. Air Canada will also launch four routes as Rouge, the much-disliked "discount" service. Using Boeing 767-300ERs, the new routes are Toronto-Berlin; Montreal-Marseille; Montreal-Algiers; and Vancouver-Nagoya. Service on each route will operate three or four times weekly starting in June.
No Merger, But Hilton Is Growing Frantically on Its Own
The Starwood merger may have made Marriott the market leader with 5,700 properties worldwide, but Hilton Hotels is growing its own portfolio frantically without an acquisition. It's already above 4,700 locations and has added a passel of properties in the last few weeks. If you're a frequent Hilton guest, get out your scorecard to keep track. The Hampton Inn brand has added locations in Lewiston, Idaho; Thunder Bay, Ontario; Pulaski, Tennessee; Lockport and Yonkers, New York; Niles, Ohio; Palatka, Florida; Glendale, California; downtown Roanoke, Virginia; Humble, Texas; and the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul. There are new Hilton Garden Inn locations in Burbank, California, and Lubbock, Texas. The Home2 Suites division has new outposts in Greenville, South Carolina; Liberty Center in Cincinnati; Malta, New York; and Grovetown, Georgia. And Homewood Suites has opened branches in Trophy Club, Texas, and on Boylston Street in Boston.
InterContinental has opened a 202-room Even Hotel in downtown Brooklyn. It's adjacent to the Holiday Inn that the chain opened earlier this year. And a 112-room Holiday Inn Express has opened near the airport in Mexico City.
British Government Loosens Restrictions for Registered Traveller Program
The U.K Registered Traveller plan allows flyers to bypass entry formalities at ten British airports and at the Eurostar terminals in Paris, Brussels and Lille. The hang-up for U.S. flyers? The British government required four visits to the United Kingdom each year. But now the visitation restriction has been lowered to just four visits in two years. If you're looking for a speedy way through the lines on arrival at London/Heathrow and other key gateways, surf here for details, prices and eligibility.
Westchester County Airport in the New York City suburbs gets a new sun route this winter. American Airlines says that it will run two daily flights to Miami starting December 16. The route will operate with Republic Airlines EMB-175s.
Chicago/O'Hare is losing a JetBlue Airways route. On January 11, JetBlue will dump its flights to San Juan. That leaves its O'Hare network with flights only to its focus cities of Boston, Fort Lauderdale and New York/Kennedy.
Business Travel News You Need to Know
German carrier Lufthansa says it will buy the 55 percent of SN Brussels that it does not already own. Lufthansa also controls Austrian Airlines and Swiss International. Ironically, Swiss and SN Brussels were each created after Swissair collapsed in 2002, partially because it had purchased Sabena Belgian Airlines and other smaller European carriers.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-supported rebels in the Ukraine. That not-surprising conclusion was reached by a Dutch-led joint team investigating the 2014 downing of the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
British Airways is eliminating free in-flight meals, snacks and beverages on short-haul flights within Europe. Even a cup of tea will cost about $3. Free meals and snacks will disappear beginning in January, replaced by a paid menu created by Marks & Spencer, the British retailer. Complete details are here.
T-Mobile says its mobile customers will receive free 4G data while traveling in South America and parts of Europe. A twist on a similar promotion that ran this summer, the offer will run between October 1 and December 31. More details are here.
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